I was wondering what is the difference between Monster and Ungeheuer since they could be both translated as monster in English.

I did some researches and deduced that "Ungeheuer" would rather describe an especially "monstrous monster" or a huge legendary monster, but I'd like more details on these worlds and the context in which they should be used.

  • 1
    At first approximation: one is a loan word, the other a native word. However, thinking again makes me assume that they are not fully exchangeable.
    – Jan
    Jan 21, 2017 at 19:14
  • Seems that Monster is a more "millennial" thing. books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – UKDP
    Jan 22, 2017 at 12:17
  • I gather that the adjective ungeheure loses the sense of dread, like monster in English (That was a monster piece of meat). In these days when you have to deal with political questions, I find myself thinking of Nietzsche's advice: > Wer mit Ungeheuern kämpft, mag zusehn, daß er nicht dabei zum Ungeheuer wird. Und wenn du lange in einen Abgrund blickst, blickt der Abgrund auch in dich hinein. Aug 15, 2021 at 21:31

4 Answers 4


I am not sure there is any difference in meaning. However when talking about classical monsters (e.g. Nessie, monsters from greek mythology....) I'd more likely use the native word "Ungeheuer". Likewise for characters from recent movies I'd more likely use the (loan-)word "Monster".


The Ungeheuer is a noun made up from the phrase es ist mir nicht geheuer/es ist mir ungeheuer meaning it is scary. It is also an adjective (and adverb) meaning terrific (which is clearly related to latin terror.)

Ich habe ungeheuer viel Arbeit in diese Sache gesteckt.

I have put a terrific amount of work into this thing.

Sie ist ungeheuer hübsch.

She is terrificly pretty.

Du hast ungeheures Glück gehabt.

You had a terrific (amount of) luck.

The literal Ungeheuer is old-fashioned and seldom used. The only terms I know where it is preferred before Monster is Seeungeheuer, which is more common than Seemonster, and as a variation:

Ihr Mann war ein Ungeheuer. Ein Scheusal. Ein echtes Monster.

Her husband was a monster. A monster. A true monster.

  • 2
    This answer does not address the monster.
    – Jan
    Jan 22, 2017 at 1:53
  • The question was what is the difference between Monster and Ungeheuer. And my answer was Ungeheuer nowadays is just a seldom-used variation of Monster. So the answer does address the Monster.
    – Janka
    Jan 22, 2017 at 4:04
  • 6
    I would not say Ungeheuer is old-fashioned it is still very often used.
    – Thomas
    Jan 22, 2017 at 8:09
  • I remember how in school I misparsed "Ungeheuer ist viel, doch nichts ungeheurer als der Mensch."
    – Carsten S
    May 22, 2017 at 17:01

First a little tip, as you can see from Jankas answer she is looking for explanations by using the adjective or adverbial form. It helps to get finer nuances for sure. In general these kind of words have areas for which they might be used interchanged but sometimes the differences are really subtle. My answer is also not scientifically but simply spoken from experience as a native. I try to line out some of the differences as I know it personally:

Ungeheuer is a rather dangerous beast or bad person, it is also often used for people who behave very bad, being rude and not following any rules. In contradiction to a monster it does bad things by intention with a really bad mind. It could behave better if wanted. You can get a Ungeheuer from bad experience in life. If I speak from a Ungeheuer it make me or others a scary feeling. An Ungeheuer must not be big but it can.

Monster is rather the visual ugly or bad. A monster you can see in a movie. A monster implies it is bad shaped, looking extraordinarily, smells bad. A monster can also be very big destroying things. A monster is usually born like this. About a monster you can laugh sometimes because it is funny to see, this you can not say from an Ungeheuer. Also a person can be called a monster when it is fat or extremely bad behaving.

Conclusion: I think the visual aspect is very important. Also a Ungeheur is sometimes bad by intelligence/intention.

Lookup "ungeheuerlich" and "monströs" to get further differences. Also mind the word "Geist", it also belongs to this group.

  • In diesem Zusammenhang bitte "Horst Hrubesch, das Kopfballungeheuer" diskutieren. ;) Aug 17, 2021 at 1:56

The German "Monster" is just a physical monster, in the English sense of "monster." For instance, "Gentle Ben" (a large, friendly bear on American TV), would be a Monster, but not an Ungeheuer.

The German "Ungeheuer" is a reference to something large or "monstrous" in a psychological or metaphysical sense of the word. It could also be "physically" monstrous it meets the other requirements.

Example: Das war ungeheuerlich schlecht. (That was 'monstrously' bad.)

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