Hallo, Deutschlerner. Welcome to Lesson #2 in my new Beginner German series. Today I’m going to introduce you to a bunch of different greetings in German. I’ll explain when to use each greeting and a little bit of the background of the greetings. Don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel so you never miss a video. Since you are reading this on my blog, you can also subscribe to my newsletter via the form at the top of this page.
You can also get the extra materials for this lesson about greetings in German including a worksheet with answer key and mp3 files along with the text guide to help you practice your pronunciation by clicking here.
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The first greeting on my list for today is the easiest, as it is basically the same as the English “hello”, but the Germans spell it with an “A” and, due to the two “L’s”, we use the short “A” sound when we say “Hallo”. It is used exactly the same as the English is, but is considered to be a bit more informal than other greetings on our list for today. This isn’t what I would use when greeting my potential boss at a job interview in German, but I might greet friends with “Hallo” and I even used it at the beginning of this video to greet you all. “Hallo, Deutschlerner”.
You can also greet more than one person without addressing them individually by saying “Hallo zusammen”, which is like “hello together”. This makes it so you don’t necessarily have to go around the group and shake each person’s hand and say hello. “Hallo zusammen” is again casual, but used in groups.
Hallo with flair
While “Hallo” on its own is casual enough, but you can make it even more casual by adding some flair to your “Hallo”. I personally find the following examples completely ridiculous, but some people use them, usually in an attempt to be humorous, so I kept them on the list. You can say “Hallöchen”, which is literally a “little hello”, because the suffix “-chen” is a diminutive, which is used to indicate that something is small. For example “eine Blume” is a flower, while “ein Blümchen” is a little flower. “Hallöchen” then is a little “hello”.
You can make it even more ridiculous by saying “Halli Hallo Hallöchen”, but that is basically like saying “howdily doodily”, which makes you sound like Ned Flanders from the Simpsons. If that’s the kind of personality you want to portray, maybe this is the greeting for you, but suffice it to say that “Hallöchen” and all of its other variations are very casual greetings and should be used with people you know well.
The “Gutens” – Guten Morgen, Guten Tag, Guten Abend
The standard three greetings in German follow a similar pattern to English greetings. In the morning you say “Guten Morgen” (good morning). From the middle of the day up until the afternoon you say “Guten Tag” (good day). In the evening you say “Guten Abend” (good evening). These are more formal than saying “Hallo”, but aren’t considered stiff in any way. I personally use these more often than any other greeting in German.
The times of the day are pretty flexible with “Guten Tag”, as you can use it most of the day, but you wouldn’t say “Guten Morgen” in the evening or “Guten Abend” in the morning. There isn’t a specific hour of the day that constitutes time to use “Guten Tag”. While it is pretty obvious that you can’t really use “Guten Morgen” after noon, there isn’t really a deadline for when you need to switch to “Guten Abend”. In fact, you can get away with never using “Guten Abend” and just say “Guten Tag” the entire day to everyone you see. It is that versatile. If you are unsure which greeting to use, use “Guten Tag” and you will be safe. If it is morning use “Guten Morgen”. In the evening “Guten Abend”.
If you are at work and your colleagues are going to lunch, you can greet them in passing with “Mahlzeit”. This basically translates as “mealtime”. This may sound like a weird way to greet people, but this is like saying “enjoy your lunch” as someone leaves to go to lunch. It is kind of a greeting for when people are leaving. “Mahlzeit” is not used to start a conversation or to end one necessarily. It is simply used in passing when you don’t really intend to talk.
Regional German Greetings
Now let’s get into some regional greetings. If you haven’t heard this yet, Germany is full of many different dialects and variations of how German is spoken. This leads to some fun ways to say hello, but you need to know where they are used so you can avoid using them in the inappropriate region.
“Moin” is used in northern Germany. The etymology of this word is disputed. My money is on the theory that it is a derivative of a dialect version of “Morgen”, which morphed into “Moin”, but there is also a theory that says it came from a Middle Low German word for “nice”, “bright”, or “shiny”, which indicates it could mean something like “have a good one”. Whatever the case, the greeting “Moin” is used in northern Germany and is considered to be a pretty casual greeting.
“Servus” is commonly used to greet people in southern Germany and Austria. This one doubles as a farewell, so it is basically like the Bavarian “Aloha”, as it means both “hello” and “good-bye”. “Servus”
Grüß dich & Grüß Gott
A casual greeting in southern Germany and Austria would be “Grüß dich”. Both “Grüß dich” and its more formal counterpart “Grüß Gott” share the same etymology. They both stem from the phrase “Grüß dich Gott”, which means something like “God bless you”. I generally translate it as “greet you” for “Grüß dich” and “greetings from God” for “Grüß Gott”. While these translations are less accurate than the previous one I just gave you, it does help to convey the difference in the casual nature of “Grüß dich” and the more formal nature of “Grüß Gott”. You will often hear “Grüß Gott” when you walk into a store in Bavaria and are greeted by an employee.
A third variation of this greeting is “Grüß Sie”, which basically just switches out the “dich”, which is a form of the informal “you” in German, for the formal version “Sie”. Again, I would translate it as “greet you”, but this time it is considered to be more formal than “Grüß dich” and doesn’t include the direct reference to God, although the origin sentence is the same for all of these greetings. “Grüß Sie” is also used in southern Germany and Austria.
If you travel to Switzerland you might hear yet another variant of this greeting as “Grüezi”. This is basically the same as “Grüß Sie”, as you can hear in the pronunciation, but the Swiss dialect, morphs this greeting just a bit more to make it “Grüezi”.
I don’t know why, but the southern Germans have a lot of casual greetings. Next up on the list is “Sei gegrüßt”, which is literally “be greeted”. It is considered casual, as “Sei” is the informal command form of the verb “sein” (to be). This greeting is also listed as archaic in some dictionaries, so it is unlikely you are going to encounter it, but some people still use it, so I thought I would include it. “Sei gegrüßt”
You can also say “Glückauf” (also “Glück auf”) in southern Germany. This one is listed as a “bergmännischer Gruß” in my dictionary, which means it is a “miner greeting”. It is thought to have originated as a way for miners to wish the others good luck and that they hoped the mine didn’t collapse. “Auf” means “up”, which indicates that they were wishing luck for the other miners to go back up when their work was done. “Glückauf”.
The last one on my list for today is the fantastic German word that Trixi from Don’t Trust the Rabbit made an entire video about, because it means everything and nothing in German. That word is, of course, “Na”. While there are a wide range of uses for this word which aren’t greetings, when it is used as a greeting, it roughly translates “well”.
I think of it as “yep” as used in the intro to King of the Hill when the guys are standing by the fence and just saying “yep” to each other. “Na” is kind of a prompt for more information. It is a conversation starter. It is a way of getting your friend to tell you about their day without having to go through the whole phrase of “how are you” or “what’s going on”. “Na” is the perfect casual greeting.
Are there more German greetings?
So what do you think? Did I get them all? I know the answer is “No”. I left one off for sure. You should tell me in the comments any German greetings that you know of that I forgot. I’m always excited to learn more and while I know of at least one, which I will tell you at the very end of this video, I want you to comment anything else I might have left out.
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Which German greeting did Herr Antrim leave out?
PS: The greeting that isn’t on my official list is “Ahoi”. It is a sailor greeting and is used exactly as it is in English when it is spelled “Ahoy”. It even shows up in the Rammstein song “Reise, Reise”. Now scroll down. Listen and enjoy. Now the video is really over. Tschüss.