So it struck me today that "chalet" may not be the word the Swiss-Germans use to describe same. It is Swiss-French word. Can anyone tell me what the German speaking Swiss use to describe a chalet / Alpine cottage?

  • 4
    It depends... What do you think is the meaning of chalet in Swiss-French? – IQV Nov 5 at 12:13
  • A little wooden cottage in the mountains. – cheznead Nov 5 at 12:23
up vote 16 down vote accepted

It depends which meaning of this word is meant.

If one thinks of a holiday home, it also is

Chalet

But if one thinks of the original meaning as a mountain shelter, it would be

Sennhütte

or only

Hütte

I am Swiss German, and "Chalet" just is a type of house, and has little to do with its location. It does not have to be in the mountains. For example, I grew up in a chalet in a city near Zurich, which is in the flatland.

The most important property of a chalet is that it's mainly built with wood, except the foundation. Also very typical is the gable roof with big overhang. A good example is this chalet.

Even though chalets are not explicitly linked to mountainous terrain, because they are so popular up there, one always thinks of mountains when hearing the term "Chalet". There are some mountain municipalities that do not allow construction of other houses than chalets, this is mainly for appearance and tourism.

To answer your question: Yes, Chalet is how we call this kind of house. There is no real synonym for it, for example "Hütte" (hut) is a more general term for house or a small house, sometimes even used derogatorively. A Hütte can be made of any material and can not be used as synonym for Chalet.

  • Wow. Which municipalities are those? – cheznead Nov 5 at 19:01
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    @cheznead for example Lenk, Grindelwald, Saanen, Zermatt, according to the german wiki page for 'chalet' – Cashbee Nov 6 at 8:09
  • Thanks for the beautiful description/definition of a chalet. But how would you address this type of a house in German (or Schweizerdeutsch)? Still Chalet? – Christian Geiselmann Nov 6 at 15:39
  • @ChristianGeiselmann Oh I indeed forgot to answer the actual question. Thanks for the feedback, I edited my answer accordingly. – Cashbee Nov 6 at 15:59

In Grisons (Graubünden) we mostly use Maiensäss which typically means a frugal but comfortable holiday-home in the mountains. Alphütte and Sennhütte are also in common use, but they imply that you live there to care for lifestock. Berghütte is more a shelter than a house for living in.

  • Thank you. Very helpful. – cheznead Nov 5 at 19:02

For me, from south Germany. Chalet is a natural word I'd use. Of course, south Germany isn't Switzerland, but from checking out Swiss-German websites, they use it just the same.

One example: https://www.traum-ferienwohnungen.ch/chalet/europa/schweiz/

An alternative would be "Berghütte". However, that word implies something much less comfortable - a Berghütte is something I'd spend a night in on a hike; but I might spend a two-week vacation at a Chalet.

  • 1
    I'm from South Germany too. People here say Hütte. It implies a small basic house where you can stay while doing a walking tour. Of course many of them are neither small nor basic, and you can get there by car... I stayed in one once and it had just mattresses and no hot water. That was the first and last time. – RedSonja Nov 6 at 7:39
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    There is also the sub culture of the Hüttenwochenende. Youth groups will book a big hut for the weekend and have a massive loud and wild party. There is often a kitchen for the guests and they make spaghetti together, then play party games. – RedSonja Nov 6 at 7:43

"Das Wort Chalet (frz.; von lateinisch cala «geschützter Ort») stammt aus der französischsprachigen Schweiz" ...the term chalet (French, from Latin cala «protected place») originates from French-speaking Switzerland.

This means, they may use the same term. In Bavarian there are also many French loan words. The term "chalet" is being understood here, but not commonly used, in dialect it would be a Hütt'n.

The most traditional Swiss Chalet I could find: Holzchalet Les Haudères (with a mixed German/French name, Holz is wood and Les Haudères is a place). that's at least where there term comes from - meanwhile larger structures, with whole other purpose, may fall under that term, based upon where they are located and how their roof looks alike (the same applies for a Hütt'n).

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