Is this term only well-known in Southern Germany or also in the deep North? Is there short alternatives for modern High German? Does anyone know a similar English short expression?

  • For the record: Never heard this in the deep North. – OregonGhost Aug 16 '11 at 20:45
  • In the hohen Norden or hoch im Norden. – user unknown Aug 18 '11 at 0:52
  • Here in Franconia, everyone will understand this, but you don't hear it very often. – 0x6d64 Aug 18 '11 at 6:33

The term isn't even well-known in all of southern Germany - a Bavarian, for example, might well not know it. According to Wikipedia:

Der Begriff wird insbesondere für einen Beigeschmack von Speisen und Getränken oder einen verdorbenen Geruch verwendet und im übertragenen Sinn für Sonderbarkeit, spezifische, anderen auffallende und widerwärtige oder lächerliche Art eines Individuums oder Standes benutzt.

The term seems to carry a connotation of an unpleasant or weird taste. I'm not aware of any single high German term with the exact same connotations. "Beigeschmack" probably comes closest, but isn't used in quite exactly the same way. In some cases, you can also use "anrüchig".

(Edited to add some suggestions, thanks, commenters!)

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    Ich würde Beigeschmack noch etwas hervorheben - das wird doch genau so benutzt. – user unknown Aug 16 '11 at 20:21
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    Very rarely, in literary language or on high literary levels, the french hautgout is used. – tohuwawohu Aug 17 '11 at 5:37
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    I think "anrüchig" actually hits it pretty well. – Katharina Nickel Aug 17 '11 at 6:43
  • @Katharina: I knew there is something more nosy than 'Beigeschmack', it was laying on my tongue! :) – user unknown Aug 18 '11 at 0:47
  • @tohuwabohu: I would use 'hautgout' more often, if I knew how to write it. :) – user unknown Aug 18 '11 at 0:48

Actually the German Wikipedia uses "anrüchig" as an expression for "Gschmäckle" for High German, which is what I have heard it as as well. The word "Beigeschmack" as mentioned in an earlier comment works too, but I think "anrüchig" nails it.

Leo.org suggests to translate "anrüchig" with "dingy".

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    Ich finde 'Beigeschmack' etwas schwächer, weil es Platz für einen Hauptgeschmack läßt, der bei 'anrüchig' nicht so präsent ist. – user unknown Aug 18 '11 at 0:50
  • I absolutely agree with that. – Katharina Nickel Aug 18 '11 at 1:10

In High German you could say

Die Sache stinkt. / Das ist oberfaul.

for the figuratively used Gschmäckle.

In English

It's fishy / not quite kosher.

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    "nicht ganz koscher" gibt's auch im Deutschen :) – OregonGhost Aug 16 '11 at 20:49
  • @OregonGhost stimmt! – splattne Aug 16 '11 at 20:53
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    "Das ist oberfaul." is a lot stronger than "Das hat ein Gschmäckle.". – user568 Aug 16 '11 at 21:19
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    While I'm not coming from the south and know the German term more in passing (I sure haven't ever used it myself, for example), I think 'fishy' is a pretty good English equivalent. That's exactly how I use 'fishy' in English. At least for those meanings of 'Gschmäckle' which aren't explicitly referring to food. – hheimbuerger Aug 18 '11 at 21:37
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    Are you sure "oberfaul" is standard German (Hochdeutsch)? It seems closer to youth language to me. – Kage Sep 5 '11 at 21:05

As was already stated Gschmäckle is definetely a bad aftertaste. "Beigeschmack" doesn't transport that for be. It would be "schlechter beigeschmack". Gschmäckle mustn't cover all taste. (I went to school in Stuttgart ;-))


Actually "Gschmäckle" is being used and understood across Germany in its metaphorical use. There, it describes something about a person's actions that might possibly be regarded as inappropriate, especially in political or economical contexts.

E.g. Shortly after Chancellor Schröder was voted out of office, he took on a highly-paid position with the Russian state-owned oil and gas company "Gazprom". Previously (as Chancellor), Schröder had brought about a deal between Germany and Russia concerning the building of a new gas pipeline.

So, people said that Schröder's move to Gazprom had a 'Gschmäckle'.

In that context, "Beigeschmack" is a close alternative in High German.


The non-regional term would be Geschmack, which could be translated as taste or flavour.

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    I think "Geschmack" is too neutral here, since "Gschmäckle" is supposed to express more than just taste but more like an aftertaste, in a bad way. – Katharina Nickel Aug 17 '11 at 3:34
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    "Gschmäckle" has absolutely nothing to do with taste, but rather with smell. Swabian dialect uses "schmecken" for "riechen" – tofro Jan 10 '17 at 14:47

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