There doesn't really seem to be a German word with the exact same meanings and connotations as the English word "awkward". How would you translate it in a sentence like "He's an awkward person" or "That was an awkward situation."?

  • What is the exact meaning, and what are the connotations? Aug 27, 2011 at 13:56

5 Answers 5


A situation can be unangenehm or prekär. Similarly a person can be unangenehm. Or schwierig, seltsam or unbeholfen.

I agree that there doesn't seem to be a word that captures the connotation of awkward 1:1. It depends on the situation.

That being said without knowing more about the context I'd translate the first sentence as

Er ist eine seltsame Person.

It sounds a bit weird though. Using schon makes the sentence a bit more elegant but being a native speaker unfortunately I can't give you a rationale for that.

Er ist schon eine seltsame Person/Persönlichkeit.

The second sentence could be

Das war eine unangenehme Situation.

  • 2
    imo seltsam fits best, as it has the same unclear meaning and contextual character as awkward. awkward itself is a very weird term, not only because of spelling...
    – Hauser
    Aug 27, 2011 at 11:41

Regarding a situation:

  • heikel
  • unbehaglich
  • peinlich

depending on the context. For general usage, I think heikel fits best here together with unangenehm as suggested by musiKk.

As for a person, "linkisch" seems to fit as well.

  • 1
    I really like "linkisch" as a translation.
    – Cass
    Aug 27, 2011 at 10:21
  • I don't really care too much for linkisch. Maybe it's because I'm a lefty. ;)
    – musiKk
    Aug 27, 2011 at 12:18
  • 1
    @Cassandrexx: I find linkisch very strong and somewhat offending. In comparison, unbeholfen is a lot nicer. But of course it depends on the situation which connotation you want. Aug 27, 2011 at 14:06
  • @Hendrik: I'd say "awkward" is pretty strong and somewhat hurtful when applied to a person, too. But of course you're right, it depends on the context.
    – Cass
    Aug 30, 2011 at 13:30

What about merkwürdig in the sense of "somehow strange"?

The phrase

Er ist eine merkwürdige Person.

seems to fit, as well as

Das war eine merkwürdige Situation.

And for me, merkwürdig has - phonetically and also regarding usage - the exact same connotation as awkward.


If you are in an awkward situation your feelings might be defined as Verlegenheit, e.g.:

Du hast mich in Verlegenheit gebracht.

  • Man bringt jemanden in Verlegenheit.
    – Em1
    Feb 2, 2013 at 13:41
  • I see. You have put me in an awkward situation...is that right? Feb 2, 2013 at 13:54
  • The OP asked how you would translate "awkward situation" and I'm asking if "Verlegenheit" is a good match. Feb 2, 2013 at 15:54
  • Yes, awkward situation can be translated as being in an unangenehme or a peinliche Situation or simply being verlegen. What I just said is that in German you are brought into an awkward situation rather than put: "Du hast mich in Verlegenheit gebracht" - "jemanden in Verlegenheit bringen". This word, however, would not fit in context of awkward person. Schwierig (difficult) or unangenehm could be the right choice. When OP said there isn't really a German word, I disagree because unangenehm fits in most contexts. Well, this comment hast the quality of being an answer, now.
    – Em1
    Feb 2, 2013 at 16:47
  • Well, since you mention a "peinliche situation", I have to confess that although I am not a native speaker (or even reasonably fluent) I have had some extensive discussions on the nuances of these things, and I have the impression that a Peinlichkeit is more of an embarrassing situation than an awkward situation. Do you think German speakers would distinguish a Peinlichkeit from a Verlegenheit as I have suggested? Feb 2, 2013 at 16:53


Somewhat of a false friend with English. It means 'funny' but in the sense that funny can mean weird.

"Schau mal diesen komischen Typ an!"

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