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
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 12:13
  • A little wooden cottage in the mountains.
    – cheznead
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 12:23

5 Answers 5


It depends which meaning of this word is meant.

If one thinks of a holiday home, it also is


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


or only


  • 1
    The "original meaning" of chalet is "mountain shelter", not "seasonal farm". cnrtl.fr/etymologie/chalet
    – fdb
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 13:34

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
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 19:01
  • 1
    @cheznead for example Lenk, Grindelwald, Saanen, Zermatt, according to the german wiki page for 'chalet'
    – kscherrer
    Commented Nov 6, 2018 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? Commented Nov 6, 2018 at 15:39
  • @ChristianGeiselmann Oh I indeed forgot to answer the actual question. Thanks for the feedback, I edited my answer accordingly.
    – kscherrer
    Commented Nov 6, 2018 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.


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
    Commented Nov 6, 2018 at 7:39
  • 1
    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
    Commented Nov 6, 2018 at 7:43

"Das Wort Chalet (frz.; von lateinisch cala «Feuerholz oder Rundholz») stammt aus der französischsprachigen Schweiz" ...the term chalet (French, from Latin cala «log to burn») 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).

  • Latin cala means "piece of wood", not "protected place". The correct etymology is here: cnrtl.fr/etymologie/chalet
    – fdb
    Commented Nov 6, 2018 at 19:52
  • the wiki reads "log to burn"; which implies the meaning of a Log Cabin.
    – user15822
    Commented Apr 6, 2019 at 23:21

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