From the dictionary, both pomelo and grapefruit are translated into die Pampelmuse.

Does German differentiate between a pomelo:

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and a grapefruit:

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How are pomelo and grapefruit being referred to in a German supermarket?

  • 6
    I (from S-W Germany) know "Pampelmuse" exclusively as a synonym for grapefruit. Pomelo is something different to me. Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 7:03
  • 2
    Somewhat related: Grapefruit vs. Pampelmuse Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 12:37
  • 1
    In supermarkets you can buy Pomelo and Grapefruit, so yes, in some places there's a distinction between the two. Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 9:12
  • I think the only one I can spontaneously recall calling a grapefruit "Pampelmuse" is my grandma ;) Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 13:18
  • 3
    I think that dictionary entry is wrong. Grapefruit and Pampelmuse can be considered synonyms in German, Pomelo is something different, at least in standard (non-biologist) language.
    – tofro
    Commented Dec 24, 2017 at 12:54

3 Answers 3


It depends whether you are asking as a biologist, or as a normal person.

Technical terminology

The Pampelmuse (C. Maxima) is the fruit by crossing of which oranges (C.sinensis), grapefruit (C paradisi) and pomelo were made. Biologists don't confuse them. But the pomelo is, biologically speaking, just a variety, so the biologist will call it a "Pampelmuse mit einem Erbanteil von Grapefruit". So, yes, the academic differentiates pomelo and grapefruit because pomelos contain more Pampelmuse than grapefruit and are classified as the former.

Common usage

My aunt (German) differentiates all of them. My mother's aunt only taught me "Pampelmuse". Until 12 years ago, I only used this word and thought it described both Pampelmuse and Grapefruit. I thought "grapefruit" was the English equivalent. Had I known the pomelo existed, I would surely have called it the same. This mistake seems common, because Wikipedia states:

Die Grapefruit (Citrus × aurantium, Syn. C. paradisi)1, selten auch Grapefrucht, Paradiesapfel oder Pampelmuse genannt...

I think that many Germans don't even know the pomelo exists. My educated guess is most people don't differentiate them and the word old, Northern German people know is Pampelmuse

Grapefruit through the ages

My initial feeling was that "grapefruit" had replaced "Pampelmuse" in everyday usage, but such a case could not be made from the ngram data, looking just at these two words. But adding the terminus "Pompelmuse", mentioned in the comments, produces the expected picture. Strictly speaking, even if the graph contains sufficient data -which I cannot assess - additional effort would have to be made to exclude cases where biologists use the terms carefully.

Ignoring the above statistical problems, the following is suggested by the Ngram data:

  1. Around 1800 "Pampelmuse" and "Pompelmuse" appear almost simultaneously, but the latter spelling initially dominates
  2. Around 1920 a strong interest in these fruit is sparked.
  3. At more or less the same time the term "grapefruit" quickly rises and dominates the others.
  4. Shortly thereafter usage of "Pompelmuse" declines in favour of "Pampelmuse".
  5. The pomelo never became a big topic, even by the standards of citrus fruit. The term is used prior to 1910, but the fruit was created in 1970. So further conclusions are discouraged.

Google Ngram data for Grapefruit, Pampelmuse, Pompelmuse and Pomelo

Regional preferences in speech

The regional distribution of these words is shown in this Linguistic map, conforming that nowadays "Pampelmuse" is a northern German term. An explanation of the map is missing.


Well, I can tell you in Austria (and in the south of Germany – especially Bavaria) we don't use the word Pampelmuse neither for pomelo nor grapefruit. It is more used in the north of Germany.

In a supermarket they are easily referred as grapefruit or pomelo. But anyway, a pomelo is not so common in every supermarket.

  • 3
    For Austria this may be a rather new development similar to Germany where Pampelmuse (fomerly spelt with an 'o') is also increasingly being replaced by Grapefruit. See e.g. Österreichisches naturhistorisches Bilder-Conversations-Lexicon 1838 (set in Fraktur) with a nice overview on possible variants of Pompelmuse.
    – Takkat
    Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 8:37
  • 1
    Personally I'm not sure about the "rather new" part, and I would have considered Pampelmuse a teutonism in a hartbeat. Quite to my surpise, however, the Austrian dictionary has both Pampelmuse and Grapefruit listed as synonyms.
    – Ingmar
    Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 13:38
  • @Ingmar how do you mean "teutonism" here?
    – Ludi
    Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 14:05
  • A word that is chiefly or exclusively used in Germany, but not the other German-speaking countries like Switzerkland or (case in point) Austria. Like an austriacism in reverse, as it were. Related: german.stackexchange.com/questions/5387/…
    – Ingmar
    Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 14:14

I know Pomelo as a way larger fruit that you can pull to pieces. It's very sweet and usually comes from China or Vietnam when it's sold in stores. It has only recently shown up in supermarkets. We call it Pomelo in German, and I don't think many people know it, though it seems to get more common, as supermarket discounter chains like ALDI and LIDL usually carry it.

The Grapefruit has been around way longer. I've known it since I was a kid, which is more or less 25 years ago. It's common as juice, often also called Pink Grapefruit-Saft. You can also buy it in the discounters, where it's usually around 1 Euro per piece. It's very bitter, and you would normally slice it in half and eat it with a spoon or filet it and put it in a fruit salad.

Pampelmuse is a different fruit than Grapefruit and definitely not a Pomelo. Pampelmuse is also known as Citrus maxima. It is the parent that was hybridized with Orange to get the Grapefruit.

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