In English, the term "squarehead" used to refer to Germans and Scandiavians (1), due to their supposedly unusual cranial features (2, 3)

Does the German language have words for the stereotypically British, the stereotypically German (as shown) or other skull shapes?


(1) https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/squarehead

(2) https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=squarehead (I realize that urbandictionary is not a great source, but it has the only explanation of the etymology of the slur that I could find)

(3) https://www.alamy.com/stock-photo-comparison-of-british-german-skull-shapes-ww1-56691744.html (I do not know if this was an actual propaganda poster during WWI, but this is what they claim)

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    Please replace "supposedly" with "purportedly". The contents of the poster is just racist bullshit. Otherwise, your question is valid.
    – tofro
    May 3, 2019 at 10:52
  • 2
    @tofro Is there really any difference between "supposedly" and "purportedly"?
    – sgf
    May 3, 2019 at 15:03
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    @tofro "supposedly" is appropriate though: from M-W: "according to what is or was said, claimed, or believed by some". You might be thinking of "supposably", which means "capable of being supposed". Language aside, typical skull shapes do vary by geography. There's nothing racist about it.
    – MWB
    May 3, 2019 at 16:00
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    @vectory You've misunderstood my statement. I did not write that geography directly CAUSES anything (perhaps indirectly, it does, via adaptation). Only that the typical skull shape varies depending on the location.
    – MWB
    May 4, 2019 at 10:21
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    @vectory en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/geography 1.2 "a geographical area; a region"
    – MWB
    May 4, 2019 at 10:23

3 Answers 3


Common terms in popular everyday communication refering to skull shapes are

  • Quadratschädel
  • Eierkopf
  • Flachschädel

As a bonus, here are words used for head in general, without special reference to its shape

  • Rübe
  • Birne
  • Kürbis
  • Melle
  • Deetz
  • Dach (eins aufs Dach kriegen)
  • Nuss
  • Lampe
  • Omme

(I open this as a community wiki so that others can add terms)

  • 2
    Famously, former German chancellor Helmut Kohl was sometimes called Birne: "Birne muß Kanzler bleiben". May 4, 2019 at 13:06
  • @FrankfromFrankfurt Actually he was practically exclusively called Birne (not by his party members, but pretty much by the rest of the republic). This referred both to his skull and body shape. May 6, 2019 at 0:25
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    Notably the shape-related terms are typically used only metaphorically (and pejoratively), as in "Quadratschädel" = stubborn person, Eierkopf = nerdy scientist, Flachschädel = stupid person - no matter what physical shape the person really perhaps has May 11, 2019 at 13:13

Craniology is junk science, but I understand you are aware of that. There are nevertheless some typical expressions in German used to describe people's temperament by skull or head terms:

Er probiert es einfach nochmal? Ja. Er ist eben ein Dickschädel.

He's just trying it again? Yes. Gee, he's a pig-head.

Die Betonköpfe aus Moskau sagen zu allem "Nein."

The Moscow pig-heads are responding "Nyet!" to anything.

Then, there's the Pattkopp ("Pattkopf"), which is literally a deer which cannot grow antlers (due to some illness or old age). It's used to insult clueless people.

Klapskopf in contrary is someone who got slapped in the face one time to often and indulges into useless activities and foolishness.

But the most used term is probably kopflos, as in

Die Hintermannschaft agierte völlig kopflos.

The defense acted completely clueless.

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    Als Niederländer werde ich auch schon mal Käskopf genannt. Und da gibt es noch den Pappkopp. <g> May 3, 2019 at 12:52
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    craniology ≠ craniometry
    – MWB
    May 3, 2019 at 16:09

square has a metaphorical meaning (hip to be square, don't be a square, fair and square, square on point) and might relate here to the rigid rule thinking stereotypically attributed to Germany (or Prussia), e.g. punctuality. Ironicallly Ger. Querkopf means quite the opposite.

quer "diagonal, transverse" has a relation to En. queer. In Querdenker "lateral thinker, alternative thinker, opposition*" has a rather positive connotation, in comparison.

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