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I have this German friend who taught me some words in German, including how to say awesome, great or really really really good. But he wasn’t able to tell me how to spell it.

Maybe it’s slang and that’s why I can’t find it online. When he says it, it sounds like ga-yeah.

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  • Thank you so much for your answers. Yes I think it's "geil" not "genial" because if it was the latter I would probably hear the 'n' and it would have a different stress/sound (?) He is quite young so I guess it makes sense that he would use it.
    – Martin
    Apr 10, 2015 at 16:17
  • I also remember him telling me that it's not polite to use it especially with someone who's not close to you. (Like "le-kah" which he told me means "yummy" but you can't use it with just anyone) He told me to use it with friends. I also remember him using it like, "Du hast einen geilen arsch". So I guess using "geil" instead of "genial" makes perfect sense.
    – Martin
    Apr 10, 2015 at 16:23
  • Also he says it like "geiel", with two syllables. Like when he used "geilen", same, two syllables.
    – Martin
    Apr 10, 2015 at 16:31
  • If it is "geil" he says it like "gah-yell". Which makes perfect sense now.
    – Martin
    Apr 10, 2015 at 16:39

3 Answers 3

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I would imagine that the word mentioned by your friend is “geil”. In proper German it means “sexually aroused”, but in modern youth-speak it has become a vague term of approbation.

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    I'd like to add that you should NOT use it as awesome. I hear people doing it constantly and in 50% of the cases it sounds totally out of place. For example with people. "Maria ist echt geil"... that does not mean that she's awesome.
    – Emanuel
    Apr 10, 2015 at 12:46
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    I second that. A more emphaszed form of "geil" is pronounced in a way that Germans would write "geiel" (pronounced "guy-ell", with stress on both syllables), which seems closer to what you heard. You won't find it in proper written German, though, only in places like smsvongesternnacht.de/sms2892 or de-de.facebook.com/desgeiel Apr 10, 2015 at 12:47
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    Yes, excersize caution when using it as a non-native. For natives, it's no problem, they'll realise when it's out of place. A colleague of mine used it so often that her Doktorhut was decorated with Is gaaail! and Gei-jel!
    – Jan
    Apr 10, 2015 at 13:05
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    @Emanuel: It does mean that she's awesome, but only in a very special sense and Maria would likely disapprove if too many people talked about it … Nudge, nudge.
    – Jan
    Apr 10, 2015 at 13:09
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    @mbm29414: which will lead to replacing "geil" by "cool" (or something else I bet) in the next generation kids - at least in the school my kids go to "geil" already became old-fashioned parent's speek :)
    – Takkat
    Apr 10, 2015 at 20:53
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It could also have been "genial" which used to be the proper attribute of people like Einstein or Mozart and their works:

Die genialen Erkenntnisse Albert Einsteins führten die Physik in ein neues Zeitalter.

...but has somehow deteriorated, as nowadays it is likely to describe any experience from exceptional to significantly above average:

Deine Suppe ist genial. Gibst du mir das Rezept?

Genial, dass ich bei dem schönen Wetter einen Tag frei habe.

However, you would rather not call a woman "genial" if you think she's awesome, but some might choose to use it that way, too.

Others have come down, so it seems, to use it even for minor achievements like not leaving with wet pants after a visit in the bathroom (but you shouldn't take that last one literally :-).

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    "any above-average" - IMHO that's too weak. Even in today's usage, "genial" still carries a sense of uniqueness. "Deine Suppe ist genial." is a much stronger praise than something like "Deine Suppe schmeckt sehr gut." or "Deine Suppe würde ich gerne wieder essen." Apr 10, 2015 at 16:04
  • @O.R.Mapper Das stimmt, doch das Spektrum ist sehr breit, und Beispiele wie das zweite hört man mittlerweile auch ziemlich oft. Ich habe es etwas angepasst. Apr 10, 2015 at 16:08
  • I really do not see how an English speaker could have heard "genial" as "ga-yeah".
    – fdb
    Apr 10, 2015 at 16:50
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    @fdb That is equally true for "geil", I would say, and depends on how it is pronounced. We do not know if that friend had a special dialect, slang, or accent. By the way, as it was something like "geiel", as we now got to know, this is pretty close to "ge-ial" if you drop or suppress the "n" which seemed to have been indicated by the hyphen. Apr 10, 2015 at 17:53
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    @Emanuel Now that we know, it looks that way. But the effect described by and named after the British psychologist Harry McGurk (see ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4091305 or faculty.ucr.edu/~rosenblu/VSMcGurk.html) shows us that the result may be misleading if somebody tries to make sense of what he doesn't fully comprehend phonetically or doesn't recognize as a word. So it seemed reasonable to consider an alternative. Apr 11, 2015 at 5:38
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It's hard to see how it could be geil if your friend didn't know how to spell it. I'm going to suggest the word could have been umgeheuer and he just said it fast.

And that's a word someone might not know how to spell.

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    The word "umgeheuer" does not exist. Maybe you mean "ungeheuer"? But that doesn't mean "awesome", more like "terribly", as a modifier of another adjective. I fully agree with your initial statement, though, that there could be any doubt about how to spell "geil". Apr 12, 2015 at 17:52

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