The word Toilette is pronounced /toalɛtə/ in standard German. It retains the original French /toa/, but its end is pronounced as it would be, were it a German word: /ɛtə/ instead of /ɛt/.

Are there more examples of this kind, or is Toilette unique?

Bonus points: Does this phenomenon have a name?

  • 5
    Prononciation of German words of French origin is very different in different regions.
    – Phira
    Jun 2, 2011 at 11:07
  • 1
    Not everything that is inhomogeneously used admits a "standard answer".
    – Phira
    Jun 2, 2011 at 11:23
  • 1
    In spoken German, there is some tendency to avoid the direct designation. There are a lot of periphrases like wo kann man denn hier mal verschwinden etc. It sounds a bit like the speech of educated ladies. In written language it looks better than WC, Klo or Bedürfnisanstalt.
    – bernd_k
    Jun 2, 2011 at 11:28
  • 1
    @bernd_k: That sounds very funny :) I think we might need a "How do I ask where the toilet is?" question.
    – Tim
    Jun 2, 2011 at 11:32
  • 1
    Depends on what you want to achieve. If you simple don't want to be misunderstood, or if you want to reach the level to move unrecognized as spy.
    – bernd_k
    Jun 2, 2011 at 12:02

5 Answers 5


It's actually not exactly true that the French don't say the final e. It's pronounced very weakly, whereas in German it is pretty strong and even emphasized. Furthermore there are many Germans who would rather pronounce Toilette fully germanized.

Similar words with a similar pattern of pronunciation of the ending are:

Etage/n = Stockwerk/e
Route = Strecke

  • 2
    Adding to that, in the Rhine area, there is an abundance of words with French origin,, like "Trottoir", "Plumeau" (pronounced "plümmo" and stressing the first syllable), "Portemnonnaie", and last, but not least "Scheng", which is the Cologne way of saying "Jean". This name is "Hans" in German and in the area in and around Cologne, a person named "Hans" is often referred to as "Scheng". And, of course, "Tschöö" from "Adieu". -- References? None. Just 40 years of hands on experience.
    – teylyn
    Jun 2, 2011 at 12:20
  • Wouldn't let me edit the comment, so here goes: Trottoir = Gehweg or Bürgersteig, Plumeau = Federbett, Portemonnaie = Geldbörse
    – teylyn
    Jun 2, 2011 at 12:26
  • 4
    Yeah, we have a lot more French words like that in Bernese German too. Among others we also use Trottoir, Lavabo, merci, and funny creations like 'Kellöretli' for watch, coming from 'Quelle heure est il ?'.
    – markus
    Jun 2, 2011 at 12:32
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    >> Kellöretli -- Nice. I especially like the consonant twist at the end. Adding to my list above: There's "Eau de Cologne", of course.
    – teylyn
    Jun 2, 2011 at 12:59
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    Those french words are known for the older generations in Salzburg/Austria too, and when learning French I learned how many words we had in use. However they came out of use in the last 20 to 30 years. You won't find many people knowing these words aged under 40 nowadays. Jun 2, 2011 at 18:34

There are plenty of examples of that topic.

Language changes over time, old words get abandoned, new ones raise often from other languages which are brought by migrants, tourists, military or economic connection.

In germany we have a word for the phaenomen about changing pronunciation of adapted terms: Lautverschiebung

The online dictionary dict.cc translates it as phonetic change or consonant shift.

It's not only the fact that we germans have adapted a lot of french, and lately English words in our daily use vocabulary. French was brought from french invaders under Napoleon and English,.. well it's the global trading language these days, and also the Allies did well integrating us in their political system after WWII with English as the dominating allied-language. Many people on eastern Germany, former DDR, speak Russian because they've been under soviet occupation until 1989.

But if we look back, English is grown out of older German language. The English language is grown from a phonetic change out of Westgermanisch and Niederdeutsch, so basically what we spread in the past, now comes back :D

Well noticeable examples of german terms in the english language are not hard to find:

und -> and ; haus -> house ; Tag -> day ; Weg -> way ; Straße -> treet and so on

Further, there are also direct adaption of modern german terms in english language like kindergarden (german: Kindergarten), *


Toilette is not unique. Just to add two more examples:

  • Paillette (a small piece of shiny, reflecting decoration, e.g. on a woman's dress or shoe, perhaps sequin or spangle in English)

  • Cassette (officially allowed spelling of Kassette)

Assuming that you are an English speaker, the latter one might be interesting for you because there is the same word with the same meaning and the same spelling in English. (I think in English it is pronounced like in French - please note that I am in no way an expert for the English language).

Interestingly enough, when thinking about your question, all words which spontaneously come to my mind are ending on "ette" ...


According to Wikipedia, french words in German are called "Gallizismen". There is a list of them at wikipedia. Your described phenomenon does not occur at every gallizism, I don't think there is a rule to follow.

Baguette (pronounced originally)
Barriere (last e pronounced "German", ie pronounced French)

There are various possibilities to integrate French words in German, their pronunciation even differs in different regions in Germany.

In addition, there are German dialects, especially in the west, that borrow even more words (there is a discussion about that below markus' answer).


Another one is


for sidewalk, and pronounced typically not the French way but like "Trottwahr" (with German w, not English w!)

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