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Insects in German, Part I

Now that all the insects have come out to enjoy the nice summer weather, it seems like a good time to talk about different kinds of bug names in German. Most insect names in German are feminine with the definite article die in the nominative case, end in -e, and are made plural by adding an -n to the end of the word. This being German, there are some exceptions, of course, so keep your eyes open for those!

 

Katzen sind meistens faul, Ameisen am liebsten fleißig.

Cats are mostly lazy, ants prefer to be diligent.

Captions 38-39, Deutsch mit Eylin: Adjektive und ihre Gegenteile

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An ant (singular die Ameise) is also a German slang word for a forklift, as you can see in this video.That makes sense if you think about how ants are able to carry objects much larger and heavier than they are, just like a forklift can.

 

Bienen, Wespen und Hummeln verschwinden.

Bees, wasps, and bumblebees are disappearing.

Caption 2, Umwelt und Natur: Wo sind all die Bienen hin?

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banner PLACEHOLDER

Bees (singular die Biene, plural die Bienen), wasps (singular die Wespe, plural die Wespen), and bumblebees (singular die Hummel, plural die Hummeln) may buzz in English, but in German, Biene, Wespe und Hummeln summen

 

Wie lautet der Name Ihres ersten Autos? -VW Käfer.

What is the model of your first car? -VW Beetle

Captions 27-28, Kein Kredit: im Land der Klone 

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The old Volkswagen Beetle (or Bug) was also called der Käfer (plural die Käfer) in Germany. Of course, Käfer also refers the insect "beetle" in German. The ladybug—in British English called the ladybird—is called der Marienkäfer in German. It seems funny that ladybugs are called beetles in German, because even though ladybugs are indeed beetles, they always seemed very nice compared to big black beetles or other kinds of beetles with big pincers! 

 

Das Wort „Tausendfüßler“ kommt aus dem Lateinischen und bedeutet „tausend Füße“, aber die meisten Beine, die jemals bei einem Tausendfüßler gefunden wurden, waren 750.
The word "millipede" comes from the Latin and means "thousand feet," but the most legs ever found on a millipede was 750.
 

 

Das Wort „Hundertfüßler“ kommt aus dem Lateinischen und bedeutet „hundert Füße“, und obwohl er Hunderte von Beinen haben kann, ist die genaue Anzahl immer eine ungerade Zahl.
The word "centipede" comes from the Latin and means "hundred feet," and though it can have hundreds of legs, the exact number is always an odd number.

 

Note that der Hundertfüßler and der Tausendfüßler are common names for these insects, but the technical term for them has no L in the word: der Hundertfüßer and der Tausendfüßer. Either way, they’re pretty creepy!

 

Further Learning
Look for more examples of die Ameise, die Biene, der Käfer, and der Schmetterling on German Yabla to see the words used in different contexts. You can also watch the video Umwelt und Natur: Wo sind all die Bienen hin? and learn more about bees and the environment! 

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