As I continue to self-study German by reading the German press, I keep encountering in newspapers more and more German words that look similar to and have the same meaning as English words. Some of the recent examples are:

koordinieren, explodieren, das Meeting, das Dokument, kriminell
coordinate, explode, the meeting, the document, criminal

So, I wonder if it is possible to approximate the percentage of such words in German (regardless of origin, be it English, Latin or other).


  • The corpus should be journalistic texts, not literature, spoken language, scientific or technical texts. COSMAS2 mostly consists of such, but one would have to exclude, e.g., Goethe’s works, Grimm’s fairytales and anything with Belletristik in the name of the corpus.
  • All types of words count except for high-frequency closed-class particles (e.g. in) and names, i.e. mostly verbs, adjectives and nouns.
  • We’re interested in lexemes that occur at all in the corpus (occurrence) and not how often they do (relative or absolute frequency). The ratio is based on lemmas, not inflected word forms.
  • Common Germanic origins do not count if the words were affected by the High German consonant shift (e.g. foot vs. Fuß/Pfote). No difference is made between Germanic, Romance, Greek or non-Indoeuropean etymology.
  • False friends do not count, but a slightly different meaning of cognates is okay as long as there’s overlap and they may be the less common synonym.
  • 3
    In order to address your question, I don't think you can tell. That said, I guess it's around 80-90%. Technically, words that are of Germanic roots probably have a counterpart. Words based on Latin may exist in both languages, too, but there's a good chance that Germans do not know the word. Many Latin-based words are of a very high register or technical terms. Considering this and looking only at words that are used in everyday language, the percentage drops to maybe 20% or 30%. Or maybe still 50%?! :D
    – Em1
    Apr 13 '16 at 21:46
  • 2
    I was looking for a term other than "formal", because "formal" wouldn't be quite correct either. Sometimes I look up an English word in a dictionary and it suggests the same word in German. German monolingual dictionaries second that it is a German word, but I've never heard it, much less used it. But I can also hardly think of any occupation where such a word would be a "technical term". I can't give you an example though, I always forget the words shortly after I looked them up.
    – Em1
    Apr 13 '16 at 21:57
  • 2
    Well known false friends, every one of them?
    – Ingmar
    Apr 14 '16 at 3:31
  • 2
    The linguistic term you for what you are looking for is cognate. Some etymological dictionaries list cognates, so you “only” need to find such a dictionary and count how many German words have English cognates listed (and maybe weight the results with the frequency of the word in everyday language).
    – Wrzlprmft
    Apr 14 '16 at 6:35
  • 3
    Here's a (probably everything else but exhaustive, but already quite long) list to start with: de.wiktionary.org/wiki/Verzeichnis:Englisch/… . Sometimes I wonder what you cannot find on the net....
    – tofro
    Apr 14 '16 at 9:26