Brief Introduction to German

While English and German are both Germanic languages, German has several properties that are different or do not exist at all in English. To better understand the entries below, these are some of the most important differences.

Capitalized Nouns

The first letter of all nouns is always capitalized in German, not just those of proper nouns. This has two key effects:

  • It is possible to tell whether a word is used as a noun or an adjective. For example, in the phrase the figurine is ivory, it not immediately clear as to whether the figurine is only painted the color of ivory, or whether it is actually made of elephant tusk. In German, it would be possible to tell the difference, as the color is an adjective and written in the lower-case, while the material is a noun and therefore capitalized.
  • It is not always immediately possible to tell whether a word is a noun or a proper noun.

In the entries below, only the entries of nouns and proper nouns are capitalized, to make it clear whether that word should be capitalized.

Gendered Nouns

German nouns have one of three genders: masculine, feminine, or neuter. These genders are important when writing sentences, as they determine the grammar around those nouns. For example, while English has only one definitive article, the, and two indefinite articles, a/an, German has six and nine respectively, according to the gender and case of the word:

Gender Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
Nominative der die das die
ein eine ein meine
Accusative den die das die
einen eine ein meine
Dative dem der dem den
einem einer einem meinen
Genetive des der des der
eines einer eines meiner

Examples of these rules:

English phrase Gender of noun Article Case Translation
The soldier Masculine Definitive Nominative Der Soldat
A soldier Masculine Indefinite Nominative Ein Soldat
The weapon Feminine Definitive Nominative Die Waffe
A weapon Feminine Indefinite Nominative Eine Waffe
The soldier's weapon Masculine (soldier)/feminine (weapon) Definitive Genetive (soldier)/nominative (weapon) Die Waffe des Soldaten

The gendered nouns are also used for the ending of adjectives describing a noun (for example, heavy in heavy machine gun, and light in light machine gun).

Gender Ending Examples
Masculine -er
  • Schwerer Panzer (heavy tank)
  • Leichter Panzer (light tank)
Feminine -e
  • Schwere Waffe (heavy weapon)
  • Leichte Waffe (light weapon)
Neuter -es
  • Schweres Maschinengewehr (heavy machine gun)
  • Leichtes Maschinengewehr (light machine gun)
Plural -e
  • Schwere Panzer (heavy tanks)
  • Leichte Panzer (light tanks)

Compound Words

When several words are used to name a concept or an object, the words are compounded into one word, rather than being listed seperately. For example, Offizierssäbel (officer's sabre) combines the words Offizier (officer) and Säbel (sabre). When reading compound words, the native reader will uncompound the word subconsciously to determine its meaning.

If a compound word is used frequently, it will become a regular word in itself. At this point, the word can no longer be uncompounded. For example, Granatwerfer (mortar) was originally a compound of Granate (grenade) and Werfer (thrower, i.e., something or someone who throws). Translating it as grenade thrower would, however, be incorrect. The correct translation is always to what the equivalent word is English, not what the etymology of the word suggests.

When a compound word has become a normal word, it can be used as a single element of longer, compound words, which can then again become words by themselves. For example, Ersatzteillager (spare parts storage) is a word that used to be a compound word combining Ersatzteil (spare part) and Lager, where Ersatzteil also used to be a compound word combining Ersatz (replacement) and Teil (part). Even so, it would never be subconsciously uncompounded by a German-speaking person; they would simply read it as one word and immediately understand what it means.

As mentioned above, the first letter of nouns is always capitalized. This does not apply when a noun is used inside a compound word. For example, it is always incorrect to write OffiziersSäbel instead of Offizierssäbel (officer's sabre), or JagdTiger instead of Jagdtiger (Hunting Tiger). The first letter of compound nouns must, however, still be capitalized.

A

# Abteilung noun, feminineAbbreviation: Abt
Batallion; section; department

Used in a military context for units of about the same size as batallions.

Units referred to as an Abteilung generally had a greater level of independence than those referred to as a Bataillon. This could either be explicit, such as independent Tiger batallions, or implicit, such as the reconnaissance and tank destroyer battalions of a division. Conversely, units such as infantry battalions that were organised as part of infantry regiments were referred to as Bataillonen).

The word is or has been used more broadly to refer to subdivisions of different kinds, such as departments and divisions in companies and other organisations, bulkheads in ships, phylums in biology, and epochs in geology.

Also see Bataillon
# Abteilungsadjutant noun, masculine
Battalion adjutant; battalion aide
Also see Adjutant
# Abteilungsarzt noun, masculine
Battalion doctor
Also see Arzt
# Abteilungskommandeur noun, masculine
Battalion commander
Also see Kommandeur
# Abteilungsschreiber noun, masculine
Battalion writing clerk
Also see Schreiber (Writing clerk)
# Adjutant noun, masculine
Adjutant; Aide
# Arzt noun, masculine
Doctor

Different levels of doctors existed, such as:

  • Abteilungsarzt (Battalion doctor)
  • Hilfsarzt (Auxiliary doctor)
Also see Hilfskrankenträger (Auxiliary stretcher bearer)
# Ausführung noun, feminineAbbreviation: Ausf.
The way in which something has been carried out; model

Used to denote the sub-version of a vehicle, usually using a letter, for example Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausführung A. The system was analogous to the British "Mark" and the American "A" suffixes for equipment numbers.

The letters were often, but not always, used alphabetically. The letter I was not used, as the upper-case I was typographically identical to the upper-case J.

B

# Bataillon noun, neuterAbbreviation: Bat
Batallion
Also see Abteilung
# Batterieführer noun, masculine
Gun battery headquarters
# Batterieschlosser noun, masculine
Gun battery mechanic
Also see Schlosser
# Batterietroß noun, masculine
Gun battery train
Also see Troß (Train)
# Beifahrer noun, masculine
Co-driver

When referred to, the type of vehicle that the driver operated would typically also be specified, for example:

  • Beifahrer für Lkw.: Truck co-driver
  • Beifahrer für Pkw.: Car co-driver
# Beobachtung noun, feminine
Observation; artillery observation
# Beobachtungsoffizier noun, masculine
Artillery observation officer
# Beobachtungsunteroffizier noun, masculine
Artillery observation sergeant
# Bergepanther proper noun, masculine
Recovery Panther
# braun adjective
Brown
# Buntfarbenanstrich noun, masculine
Multi-colored pattern

D

# dunkel- adjective
Dark

Prefix for other colors, such as dunkelbraun (dark brown).

# Dienstvorschrift noun, feminineAbbreviation: Dv
Manual

E

# einsatzbereit adjectiveAbbreviation: e
Combat ready

Used in status reports to denote the combat ready strength of a unit, such as of soldiers or equipment.

Also see ist
Also see Soll
Also see Zuführung
# Elektriker noun, masculine
Electrician
# Elektromechaniker noun, masculine
Electrician
Also see Mechaniker
# Elfenbein noun, neuter
Ivory (material)
# elfenbein adjective
Ivory (color)
# Entfernungsmesser noun, masculine
Range finder; range finder operator
# erdgelb adjective
Earth yellow
# Erkundung noun, feminine
Scouting

F

# Fahrgestell noun, neuterAbbreviation: Fgst.
Chassis
# Feldkabeltrupp noun, masculine
Field telephone cable team
# Feldkoch noun, masculine
Field kitchen cook
# Feldkochunteroffizier noun, masculine
Field kitchen sergeant
# Feldzeuginspektion noun, feminineAbbreviation: Fz In
Campaign inspection

Office responsible for, amongst other things, creating tables of organisation and equipment, tracking the army's inventory and needs of equipment and ammunition, and distributing equipment and ammunition to units.

# Feldwebel noun, masculine
Staff sergeant
# Fernsprecher noun, masculine
Telephone; telephone operator
# Feuerwerker noun, masculine
Ordnance sergeant
# Flakpanzer noun, masculine
Anti-aircraft tank
# Flakvierling noun, masculine
Quad anti-aircraft gun
# Fliegerfunktrupp noun, masculine
Air force communication radio team
# Flugabwehrkanone noun, feminineAbbreviation: Flak
Anti-aircraft gun
# Flugzeug noun, neuter
Aircraft
# Führer noun, masculine
Leader; commander
# Funker noun, masculine
Radio operator
# Funkmeister noun, masculine
Radio sergeant
# Funktrupp noun, masculine
Radio team
# Funkwart noun, masculine
Radio mechanic

G

# Gasspürtrupp noun, masculine
Gas detection squad
# Gefechtsbatterie noun, feminine
Combat battery
# Gefechtsstab noun, masculine
Command group
# Gefechtstroß noun, masculine
Combat train
Also see Troß
# gelb adjective
Yellow
# geländegängig adjectiveAbbreviation: gel.
Cross-country

Used to denote cross-country (military) cars and trucks, as opposed to commercial ones.

Also see handelsüblich
# Gepäcktroß noun, masculine
Combat train
Also see Troß
# Gerätunteroffizier noun, masculine
Equipment sergeant
# Gerätverwalter noun, masculine
Equipment manager
# Geschütz noun, neuter
Gun
# Geschützführer masculine
Gun commander

The Geschützführer commanded a single artillery piece. Because assault artillery was part of the artillery branch, this title was also used for the commander of assault guns and howitzers.

# Gliederung noun, feminine
Organization; structure
Also see Kriegsgliederung
# Granate noun, feminineAbbreviation: Gr
Grenade
# grau adjective
Grey
# Granatwerfer noun, masculineAbbreviation: Gr W
Mortar
# Granatwerfer-Gruppe noun, feminine
Mortar section
# grün adjective
Green
# Gruppe noun, feminine
Squad
# Gruppenführer noun, masculine
Squad leader
# Gruppe Führer noun, masculine
Unit command

H

# Halbgruppe noun, feminine
Team; half group
Also see Trupp
# handelsüblich adjectiveAbbreviation: O
Commercial

Used to denote commercial cars and trucks, as opposed to cross-country (military) ones.

Also see geländegängig
# Haubitze noun, feminineAbbreviation: H
Howitzer
# Hauptfeldwebel noun, masculine
First sergeant

This was not a regular rank. Instead, it was a non-commissioned officer who had addition administrative duties within a company.

# Hauptwachtmeister noun, masculine
First sergeant

Artillery equivalent of Hauptfeldwebel.

# Heer noun, neuterAbbreviation: H
Army

Used to describe both a generic organisation (i.e., an army), and the German land forces as a whole with the exception of the Waffen-SS (i.e., the army).

# Hilfsarzt noun, masculine
Auxiliary doctor
Also see ---translation missing--- Arzt
# Hilfskrankenträger noun, masculine
Auxiliary stretcher bearer
# Hilfswillig nominalized verb, feminine
Foreign volunteer from occupied countries
# Hinterhalt-Tarnung noun, feminine
Ambush camouflage
# Hohlladung noun, feminineAbbreviation: Hl
Hollow charge
# Hornisse noun, feminine
Hornet

Suggestive name for the 8,8 cm Pak 43 (L/71) on Panzerkampfwagen III/IV chassis.

More information: Hornisse article.

Also see Nashorn

I

# Infanteriegeschütz noun, neuterAbbreviation: I G
Infantry gun
# ist adjectiveAbbreviation: i
Is; actual strength

Used in status reports to denote the actual strength of a unit, such as of soldiers or equipment. The number included both combat ready and damaged equipment, and healthy and wounded soldiers.

Also see einsatzbereit
Also see Soll
Also see Zuführung

J

# Jagdpanther proper noun, masculine
Hunting Panther
# Jagdpanzer noun, masculine
Tank destroyer
Also see Panzerjäger
# Jagdtiger proper noun, masculine
Hunting Tiger

Suggestive name for the tank destroyer based on the Tiger II.

More information: Jagdtiger article.

K

# Kanone noun, feminineAbbreviation: Kan
Cannon; gun
# Kanonier noun, masculineAbbreviation: Kan
Cannoneer
# Kampfwagenkanone noun, feminineAbbreviation: Kw K
Tank gun
# Kettenkraftrad noun, neuterAbbreviation: Kettenkrad
Tracked motor cycle
# klein adjectiveAbbreviation: kl
Small
# Kommandeur noun, masculine
Commander; commanding officer

The commander of a unit, for example Abteilungskommandeur (Battalion commander).

# Kompanieführer masculine
Company commander
# Kompanietrupp masculine
Company headquarters
# Kompanietruppführer masculine
Company headquarters leader
# Kraftfahrpark noun, masculine
Motor pool
# Kraftfahrzeug noun, masculine
Motor vehicle
# Kraftfahrzeuginstandsetzungsgruppe noun, feminineAbbreviation: Kfz Instandsetzungsgruppe
Motor vehicle maintenance section

These sections were assigned to motorized units. They would have crews and equipment necessary for the maintenance of the equipment for which they were responsible, such as mechanics, welders, electricians. They would also handle spare parts.

# Kraftfahrzeuginstandsetzungstrupp noun, masculineAbbreviation: Kfz Instandsetzungstrupp
Motor vehicle maintenance team

Smaller motor vehicle maintenance unit, with less equipment, than a Kraftfahrzeuginstandsetzungsgruppe (Motor vehicle maintenance section).

# Kraftrad noun, neuterAbbreviation: Krad
Motorcycle
# Kraftradmelder noun, masculineAbbreviation: Kradmelder
Motorcycle messenger
# Kraftwagenfahrer noun, neuter
Motor vehicle driver

When referred to, the type of vehicle that the driver operated would typically also be specified, for example:

  • Kraftwagenfahrer für gp. Kw.: Armored vehicle driver (including tank drivers)
  • Kraftwagenfahrer für Lkw.: Truck driver
  • Kraftwagenfahrer für Pkw.: Car driver
  • Kraftwagenfahrer für Zgkw.: Prime mover driver
# Krankenträger noun, masculine
Stretcher bearer
# Kriegsausrüstungsnachweisung noun, feminineAbbreviation: KAN
War-time table of equipment; war-time equipment allocation

Detailed list of equipment for a specific unit type, accompanying the Kriegsstärkenachweisung. These lists covered all equipment, from armored vehicles down to the number of gas masks and amount of different mechanical lubricants.

Also see Kriegsstärkenachweisung
# Kriegsgliederung noun, feminine
War-time organization
Also see Gliederung
# Kriegsstärkenachweisung noun, feminineAbbreviation: K St N
War-time table of organisation and equipment; war-time strength allocation

Table listing the organisation, personnel and key equipment of a unit. The units described were usually either staff or company level units. These were then used as modules when creating larger units.

Sometimes, platoon-level units were described, when a platoon-level rather than company-level unit was needed as a module.

The table only included the equipment needed to describe the units combat usage, specifically weapons and vehicles. Detailed equipment lists, such as the authorised allocation the ammunition, uniforms, and maps, was described in the Kriegsausrüstungsnachweisung.

Also see Kriegsausrüstungsnachweisung
# kurz adjectiveAbbreviation: kz
Short

Used to differentiate short-barreled guns from long-barreled ones in status reports, for example Pz Kpfw IV kz for the short-barreled version.

Also see lang

L

# Gun loader noun, masculine
Gun loader
Also see Ladeschütze
# Ladeschütze noun, masculine
Loader

A person who loads an artillery piece.

Also see Richtschütze
# Lage noun, feminine
Current situation; status; inventory
Also see Panzerlage
# lang adjectiveAbbreviation: lg
Long

Used to differentiate long-barreled guns from short-barreled ones in status reports, for example Pz Kpfw IV lg for the long-barreled version.

Also see kurz
# Laufwerkschlosser noun, masculine
Running gear mechanic
Also see Schlosser
# leicht adjectiveAbbreviation: le
Light
Also see mittel
Also see schwer
# Lastkraftwagen masculineAbbreviation: LKW
Truck
Also see Personenkraftwagen

M

# Marder noun, masculine
Marten; mustelidae

Suggestive name for several self-propelled anti-tank guns.

# Maultier noun, neuter
Mule

Suggestive name of several half-tracked tractors.

# Maschinengewehr noun, neuterAbbreviation: M G
Machine gun
# Maschinengewehrschütze noun, neuterAbbreviation: MG Schütze
Machine gunner
# Maschinenpistole noun, feminineAbbreviation: M P
Sub-machine gun
# Mechaniker noun, masculine
Mechanic

The type of mechanic was typically specified, such as:

  • Elektromechaniker: Electrician
# Melder noun, masculineAbbreviation: Kradmelder
Messenger
# mittel adjectiveAbbreviation: m
Medium
Also see leicht
Also see schwer
# Munitionskanonier noun, masculine
Ammunition bearer
# Munitionsschütze noun, masculine
Ammunition bearer

N

# Nachtichtenzug noun, masculine
Signals platoon
# Nashorn proper noun, neuter
Rhinoceros

Suggestive name for the 8,8 cm Pak 43 (L/71) on Panzerkampfwagen III/IV chassis.

More information: Nashorn article.

Also see Hornisse

O

# Oberfeldwebel noun, masculine
Technical sergeant
# Oberkommando der WehrmachtAbbreviation: OKW
High command of the armed forces

Joint command of the German army, air force, and navy from 1938 until 1945.

# Oberkommando des HeeresAbbreviation: OKH
Army high command
# Oberwachtmeister noun, masculine
Master sergeant
# Offizier noun, masculine
Officer
# Ordonnanzoffizier masculine
Orderly; batman
# olivgrün adjective
Olive green
# Ostwind noun, male
Eastern wind

Suggestive name for the turreted Flakpanzer armed with the 3,7 cm Flak 43.

P

# Panzer noun, masculineAbbreviation: Pz
Armor; tank
# Panzerabwehrkanone noun, feminineAbbreviation: Pak
Anti-tank gun
Also see Panzerjägerkanone
# Panzerbefehlswagen noun, masculineAbbreviation: Pz Bef Wg
Command tank
# Panzerführer masculine
Armor commander

The commander of an armored vehicle.

# Panzergetriebeschlosser noun, masculine
Armored vehicle gearbox mechanic
Also see Schlosser
# Panzergranate noun, feminineAbbreviation: Pzgr
Armor-piecing grenade
# Panzerjäger noun, feminineAbbreviation: Pz Jäg
Tank destroyer
Also see Jagdpanzer
# Panzerjägerkanone noun, feminineAbbreviation: Pak; Pjk
Anti-tank gun
Also see Panzerabwehrkanone
# Panzerkampfwagen noun, masculineAbbreviation: Pz Kpfw
Tank
# Panzerlage noun, feminine
Armor inventory; armor status
Also see Lage
# Panzermotorenschlosser noun, masculine
Armored vehicle engine mechanic
Also see Schlosser
# Panzerfunkwagen noun, masculine
Armored radio vehicle
# Panzerfunkwart noun, masculine
Armored vehicle radio mechanic
# Panzerschütze noun, masculine
Armored vehicle crewman
# Panzerspähwagen noun, masculine
Armored reconnaissance vehicle
# Panzersturmmörser noun, masculine
Armored assault howitzer
# Panzerwart noun, masculine
Armored vehicle mechanic
# Personenkraftwagen masculineAbbreviation: PKW
Car
Also see Lastkraftwagen

R

# Rechnungsführer noun, masculine
Unit accountant
# Reich-Ausschuss für LieferbedingungenAbbreviation: RAL
Reich committee for terms of delivery
# Reichsluftfahrtministerium proper noun, neuterAbbreviation: RLM
Reich ministry of aviation
# Reichministerium für Rüstung und Kriegsproduktion
Reich ministry for armament and war production
# Richtschütze noun, masculine
Gunner

The person who aims a gun. It comes from the word richte (aiming).

Also see Ladeschütze
# Richtunteroffizier noun, masculine
Gunner (non-commissioned officer)
Also see Richtschütze
# Richtkreisunteroffizier noun, masculine
Aiming circle sergeant
# rot adjective
Red

S

# Sanitätsoffizier noun, masculine
Medical officer
# Sanitätsunteroffizier noun, masculine
Medical sergeant
# Scherenfernrohrunteroffizier noun, masculine
Scissor telescope sergeant
# Schirrmeister noun, masculine
Motor sergeant
# Schlosser noun, masculine
Mechanic

The type of mechanic was typically specified, such as:

  • Batterieschlosser: Gun battery mechanic
  • Panzermotorenschlosser: Armored vehicle engine mechanic
  • Panzergetriebeschlosser: Armored vehicle gearbox mechanic
  • Laufwerkschlosser: Running gear mechanic
# Schmied noun, masculine
Blacksmith
# Schneider noun, masculine
Tailor
# Schuhmacher noun, masculine
Shoe maker
# Schützenpanzerwagen noun, masculineAbbreviation: SPW
Armored personnel carrier
# Schreiber noun, masculine
Writing clerk

A writing clerk could have a specific position, such as Abteilungsschreiber (Battalion writing clerk)

# Schütze noun, masculine
Rifleman
# schwartz adjective
Black
# schwer adjectiveAbbreviation: s
Heavy
Also see leicht
Also see mittel
# Schweisser noun, masculine
Welder
# Selbstfahrlafette noun, feminineAbbreviation: Sf; Sfl
Self-propelled carriage
# Soll noun, neuter
Should be; authorized strength

Used in status reports to denote the authorized strength of a unit, such as of soldiers or equipment.

Also see einsatzbereit
Also see Ist
Also see Zuführung
# Sonderkraftfahrzeug noun, neuterAbbreviation: Sd Kfz
Special purpose vehicle

Number system for tracked and half-tracked vehicles.

More information: Sd Kfz number table.

# Sprechfunker noun, masculine
Voice radio operator
# Sprenggranate noun, feminineAbbreviation: Sprgr
High-explosive grenade
# Staffel noun, feminine
Section
# Stellengruppe noun, feminine
Rank group
# stellvertretende adjective
Deputy
# Sturmgeschütz noun, neuterAbbreviation: Stu-Gesch
Assault gun
# Sturmhaubitze noun, feminineAbbreviation: Stu H
Assault howitzer

Used for both the vehicle and the gun on the vehicle.

# Sturmkanone noun, feminineAbbreviation: Stu K
Assault cannon

The gun on an assault gun.

Also see Sturmgeschütz
# Sturmpanzer noun, masculine
Assault tank

T

# Tankwart noun, masculine
Fuel attendant
# Tornisterfunktrupp noun, masculine
Backpack radio team
# Troß noun, masculine
Train (unit)

The type of train was typically specified, such as:

  • Batterietroß: Gun battery train (combined combat and battage train for artillery batteries)
  • Gefechtstroß: Combat train
  • Gepäcktroß: Baggage train
# Trupp noun, masculine
Team
# Truppenentgiftungstrupp noun, masculine
Decontamination team
# Truppführer noun, masculine
Team leader

U

# überschwer adjectiveAbbreviation: ss
Super-heavy
# Unteroffizier noun, masculineAbbreviation: Uffz
Non-commissioned officer

V

# Verbindungsoffizier noun, masculine
Liaison officer
# Verbindungsunteroffizier noun, masculine
Liaison officer (non-commissioned officer)
# Verbrauchsatz noun, masculineAbbreviation: VS; V.S.
Rate of consumption

One Verbrauchsatz was the amount of fuel needed to drive 100 kilometers. It could be used both for individual vehicles and for units. The measurement was used both for supply and reporting purposes.

# Verpflegungsoffizier noun, masculine
Rations officer

W

# Wachtmeister noun, masculine
Staff sergeant in the artillery
Also see Feldwebel
# Waffe noun, feminine
Weapon
# Waffen-SS proper noun, feminine
Armed SS
# Waffenamt noun, neuter
Office of armaments
# Wehrmacht noun, feminine
Combined armed forces
# Waffenmeister noun, masculine
Armorer
# Waffenmeistergehilfe noun, masculine
Assistant armorer
# Waffenunteroffizier noun, masculine
Weapons sergeant
# Wechselbesatzung noun, feminine
Backup crew
# Werferführer noun, masculine
Mortar commander
# Wirbelwind noun, masculine
Whirlwind

Suggestive name for the turreted Flakpanzer armed with the 2 cm Flakvierling.

Z

# Zeichner noun, masculine
Draftsman
# Zuführung noun, feminineAbbreviation: Z
In transit

Used in status reports to denote the soldiers or equipment currently in transit to a unit.

Also see einsatzbereit
Also see ist
Also see Soll
# Zünder noun, masculineAbbreviation: Z
Fuze
# Zugführer noun, masculine
Platoon commander
# Zugkraftwagen noun, masculineAbbreviation: Zgkw
Prime mover
# Zugtrupp noun, masculine
Platoon headquarters