I have been learning German on Duolingo for most of this year. I've also been watching some TV shows in German - Arthur und die Freunde der Tafelrunde and Dark. Both of these shows have featured a character exclaiming "Attacke!" and then... well in one show, the character attacked something, and in the other, he jumped into a lake, haha. I gleefully assumed it was the imperative form of the German word that our English word (and battle cry) came from. But then I actually looked it up in linguee.de and the only entry is for a noun. Is this what they are saying? Are they just copying something English-speaking TV says? Or perhaps it's actually in first-person and they are declaring that they themselves are attacking?

How is this one-word phrase understood to a German speaker?

  • 5
    It surprises me again and again that English speakers assume that English was the origin for all other languages. As for the German words Attacke and attackieren, they are of French origin and have existed for several centuries already. And I am quite certain that also the English noun attack and the verb to attack originate from French. Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 12:44
  • 1
    @BjörnFriedrich Isn't he actually saying that the English word came from the German one? You're probably right that both originated from French, though...
    – Lykanion
    Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 12:51
  • 2
    @Lykanion: in my understanding, the question "Are they just copying something English-speaking TV says?" describes, that the Germans are copying something from people in an english speaking TV would say. Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 13:15
  • 1
    "(....) he jumped into a lake". Yes, "Attacke" is the order to attack somebody. But this word is also often used for "let's go" or "here we go". So before jumping into a lake you could say "Attacke!" or for example you've had a meeting at work and decided to solve a problem in a specific way. Here you could also say "Attacke" for "let's do this!"
    – messerbill
    Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 13:19
  • 1
    You missed the verb "attackieren".
    – Carsten S
    Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 13:25

1 Answer 1


The word "die Attacke" is a German noun - indeed, it entered German as a loanword (from French), but it is by no means a recent addition.

Using a noun rather than an imperative is not unusual in German, especially when the intention is a brief (one-word) utterance rather than a sentence. Instead of "Attacke!", one could usually just as well yell "Angriff!", to mention a more or less synonymous noun. Other common examples include "Zugriff!" (the order given to a police squad to detain someone ... at least the way it's presented on TV) or "Schnitt!" ("Cut!" during film production).

Note that "attacke" is not a verb form at all; the verb for "Attacke" is "attackieren", so the imperative and the first person singular indicative would both be "attackiere" - though it is rather unusual to use that word intransitively.

  • 3
    It would be useful to mention that "Attacke" has its origin in the military, as a command to, well, attack.
    – tofro
    Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 13:51
  • @tofro And without checking, I therefore suppose that it has French origin Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 19:56
  • Thank you, "Using a noun rather than an imperative is not unusual in German" is exactly the explanation I was looking for.
    – Nacht
    Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 23:25
  • 2
    More examples: "Ruhe!", "Schluss!", "Hilfe!"
    – Uwe
    Commented Oct 31, 2020 at 11:19

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.