AskDefine | Define Boche

Dictionary Definition

Boche n : offensive terms for a person of German descent [syn: Kraut, Krauthead, Jerry, Hun]

User Contributed Dictionary



from French

Proper noun

  1. Kraut, German.


Proper noun

Boche m and f (plural Boches)
  1. (pejorative, French slang) kraut, Fritz



boche m and f (plural boches)

Extensive Definition

There are many alternative ways to describe the people of Germany, though the official designated nationality as well as the standard noun is German. (see also demonym). In practice, Germans are often referred to differently. Historically "German" has had some very different meanings. During the early renaissance "German" merely implied that the person spoke German as a native language. Until the time of the German unification most "Germans" were called after the region they lived in, examples include Frisians, Bavarians, Brandenburgers and Hanoverians. Some other terms are humorous or derogatory slang, and used mainly by people from other countries, although they can be used in a self-deprecating way by German people themselves. Other terms are serious or tongue-in-cheek attempts to coin words as alternatives to the potentially ambiguous standard terms.


Dutch (obsolete)

See also Deitsch and Dietsch.
The English word Dutch has also changed with time. It was only around 1550, with growing cultural and economical contacts and the rise of an independent country, that the modern meaning arose, i.e., 'designating the people of the Netherlands or their language'. Prior to this, the meaning was more general and could refer to any Germanic-speaking area or the languages there (including Germany). For example:
  • in four books containing the Chronography and History of the whole world, Vol. II (London, 1677: 154) contains "...the Dutch call Leibnitz," adding that Dutch'' is spoken in the parts of Hungary adjoining to Germany.
  • To this day, descendants of German settlers in southeastern Pennsylvania are known as the "Pennsylvania Dutch", especially those who are members of the plain sects. (Those who are not members of the plain sects often identify themselves as being Pennsylvania German).

Almain (obsolete/poetical)

Almain is a historical term for Germans (often specifically the ones living in the South of Germany) it is a borrowing from French (compare "Allemagne" Germany) and ultimately comes from the Latin name for the Germanic tribe of the Alamanni. It was used alongside "Dutch" but unlike Dutch had a more limited meaning. It gradually fell out of use when "German" was introduced but remained a poetical term (like Teuton) for quite a while.

Boche (offensive)

Boche entered the English language in 1914, from the French slang. In French it meant something close to "rascal," and was applied by French soldiers to Germans in World War I. Its origins can be traced to the French word "Allemand" meaning "German" in eastern French dialects, close to the German border the variant was "Al(le)moche", altered contemptuously to Alboche by association with "caboche", a slang word for "head," which literally meant "cabbage" (compare. "tête de boche", French for "German" in an 1887 French slang dictionary).

Fritz/Hun/Heinie (inoffensive)

British soldiers employed a variety of epithets for the Germans. "Fritz" was popular early in the war , with "Jerry" favoured later. According to Brophy, "Hun," a journalistic creation, was used almost exclusively by officers, as was the borrowed French "Boche." The Americans and Canadians referred to Germans, especially German soldiers as "Heinies", from the pet form of the common German male proper name Heinrich. Heinies is actually a common German slang word similar to guys, but usually with a slight degratory meaning similar to morons or idiots, but it could be of different origin.

Jerry (inoffensive)

Jerry was a nickname given to World War II German soldiers, the German armed forces, or collectively the entirety of Nazi Germany. Although the nickname was originally created during World War I, it didn't find common use until World War II.
Jerry has analogues from different eras in Tommy (British), Charlie (Vietnam), and Ivan (Russians).
The name is likely an alteration of the word German. Others have claimed that the World War I German helmet, shaped like a chamber pot or jeroboam was the initial impetus for creation, although this is almost certainly revisionist history. One ongoing use of 'jerry' is found in the term jerrycan.

Kraut (offensive)

In former times, Kraut was used as a colloquial expression for tobacco, especially loose tobacco for pipes. Today it is sometimes used for marijuana.
Since World War II, Kraut has, in the American English language, come to be used as a derogatory term for a German. This is probably based on sauerkraut, which was very popular in German cuisine at that time. The stereotype of the sauerkraut-eating German dates back to long before this time, though, as can for example be seen in Jules Verne's depiction of the evil German industrialist Schultze as an avid sauerkraut eater in "The Begum's Millions."
One possible explanation of the origin of this term is this: Raw sauerkraut is an excellent source of vitamin C. Captain James Cook always took a store of sauerkraut on his sea voyages, since experience had taught him that it was an effective remedy against scurvy. Later, on British ships, sauerkraut was mostly replaced by lime juice (for the same purpose). But German sailors continued with the use of kraut, calling their British colleagues "limies" and being similarly called "krauts."

Nazi (derogatory or offensive)

Taken from the political party that ruled Germany from 1933 to 1945. Used as a derogatory term for Germans in general or for people/items originating from Germany (for example, referring to a German made automobile as a "Nazi-mobile"). Also used of non-German peoples who act in an unduly harsh or menacing manner (for example, the "Soup Nazi" of the Seinfeld television series).

Teuton (poetic)

In a more poetical sense Germans can be referred to as "Teutons". The usage of the word in this term has been observed in English since 1833. The word originated via an ancient Germanic tribe, the Teutons. - see also teutonic and the Teutonic Order.

Other countries


Piefke (offensive)

The Austrian ethnophaulism for a German is Piefke. Like its Bavarian counterpart Saupreiß (literally: sow-Prussian) the term Piefke historically characterized the people of Prussia only. Its exact origin is unclear, but it was meant to be derogatory most notably because of the term’s Polish roots: Referring to every Prussian as Piefke, which is a typical example of a Germanized Polish family name (Piwka), suggested that all Prussians were merely Germanized Poles. The term increased in usage during the 19th century because of the popularity of the Prussian composer Johann Gottfried Piefke. Since Prussia and its eastern territories ceased to exist, the term now refers to the cliché of a pompous (Protestant northern) German in general and a Berliner in particular. However, the citizens of the free Hanseatic cities and the former northern duchies of Oldenburg, Braunschweig and Mecklenburg are quite offended by the terms Piefke and Saupreiß (offense for every German who is not native Bavarian), since they take some pride in having staunchly resisted Prussian expansionism as independent (federal) states and have no Prussian history at all. In 1990, Austrian playwright Felix Mitterer wrote and co-directed a TV mini-series, Die Piefke-Saga, about Germans on holiday in Tyrol.

Bavaria (Southern Germany)

Saupreiß (offensive)

While commonly put on a level with Piefke (thus thought of as being used for every German who is not native Bavarian), Saupreiß actually only refers to people born north of the river Main, and therefore especially not to people from Swabia (western neighbour of Bavaria) or further south (Austria, Switzerland, Bolzano-Bozen (Italy)). In this context, the river Main, as border between Saupreißen and Bavaria, is referred to as Weißwurstäquator (Bavarian-German spelling: Weißwurschtäquator; Weißwurst is a Bavarian, white veal sausage, literally: white sausage equator). Saupreiß literally means 'sow-Prussian', but the term is frequently used as an actually endearing nickname to Germans not from the southern region.


Švabe (friendly)

from Swabian—see Danube Swabians for more. The word also applies to, and is often adopted as a nickname by Croatian Gastarbeiters.

Czech Republic

Němec (official term)

From the Slavic etymology, meaning "mute".

Skopčák (colloquialism)

Originally meaning "the one who came from the hills". In medieval times, German inhabitants in Czech-German borderlands often lived in hilly, mountainous areas, and when they came to lowland Czech towns to buy and sell their wares, they were addressed as "those who came down from hills". "From hills" is "s kopců" in Czech, thus "skopčáci" (plural). When English language books and movies concerning World War II are translated to Czech, "Skopčák" is often used to translate "Jerry" or "Kraut".


Boches (offensive, historical, associated with Nazis)

Apheresis of the word Alboche, from Allemoche, slang for Allemand (German) since the end of the 19th century. Used mainly during the First and Second World Wars, directed mainly at the invading German soldiers.

Fritz (offensive, historical)

From the German Christian name, used since World War I. Frisés and Fridolins are variations of Fritz.

Doryphores (offensive, historical)

Doryphore means Colorado potato beetle in French. This term was used during WW2, but is less common than Boche, Fritz or Friosés.... It refers to the fact that the Germans during the Occupation took large part of the production of France's agriculture and industry.

Chleuh (slightly offensive)

From the name of the Chleuh, a North African ethnicity - a term with racial connotations. It also denotes the absence of words beginning in Schl- in French. It was used mainly in World War II but is also used now in a less offensive way like in the film Taxi.


Relative to the Teutons and is still used occasionally in a non-official way, to designate Germans.


Fritz, Fritsi (colloquialism)

From the first name Friedrich. This name is considered as colloquial, not very polite, but not offensive either

Hunni (derogatory)

Literally Hun. Extremely derogatory, containing allusions to Lapland War and sack of Lapland.

Niksmanni (offensive)

From German language negative word nichts/nix (nothing) and -manni for "man".

Saku, Saksmanni, Sakemanni (inoffensive)

From the Finnish word Saksa, meaning Germany (originally Saxony). Saku Is a Finnish male name; Saksmanni is a combination of "Saksa + -manni, referring to "man".


Crucco (offensive)

The common (especially Northern) Italian ethnopaulism for a German is crucco, which roughly translates as pighead. Etymologically, the term most likely derives from the Croatian word kruh, which means bread, because Austria-Hungary sent people of Croatian descent to garrison its Italian dominions. In World War II Italian soldiers originally referred to the Yugoslavian combatants as crucchi and the North-Eastern war zone was dubbed terra crucca. In the course of the war the term underwent a shift of meaning: During the German invasion the Italian partisans called the German soldiers crucchi. Today it’s a disrespectful way to address people from all German speaking regions in general (cruccolandia), even the German-speaking population of the the province of Bolzano-Bozen, who are themselves Italian citizens. The word has the distinction to be the only Italian derogatory word for people from another nation.

Mangiapatate (offensive)

Translated as potato eaters, this slightly offensive term refers to the alleged German habit of eating potatoes at every meal. It is not in current usage with ordinary people but is sometimes used in dubbed feature films as a translation for "Krauts".


It refers to their, supposed, eating habit/cuisine. It comes from the German word for potatoes (Kartoffeln).


Every so often used in the emphatic slang of the football commentaries: la squadra teutonica (as the German team), i giocatori teutonici or i teutonici (as the German players). Although not exactly derogatory (many nations are jocularly identified in Italy with their ancestors), it conveys some unwelcome associations because as an adjective, "teutonico" defines rigid, pernickety, inflexible attitudes.


Only used in old-fashioned poetic language.


Preiss (offensive)

Derived from the local name for Prussian. Used to describe any German since the establishment of a Prussian Garrison in Fortress Luxembourg in 1815. Still commonly used today but most popular with World War II survivors.


Švaba (offensive)

Švaba () (plural Švabi; ), from Swabian.


Mof (offensive)

In Dutch the most common term for Germans, after the regular/official one, is "mof". It is regarded as a derogative term, used exclusively for Germans and reflected Dutch resentment of the German occupation, and the German actions that happened during it, of the Netherlands during the Second World War. The use of the word has been gradually fading since the late 1990s.
In the late 16th century the area now known as East Frisia and Emsland and the people that lived there were referred to as ""Muffe". At the time that the Netherlands were by far the richest country in the whole of Europe, and these people were looked down upon greatly by the Dutch. The area of Western Lower Saxony was at that time very poor and a good source for many Dutch people looking for cheap labour. The inhabitants of this region were known to be rather reserved and were often described as "grumpy", "rude" and "unsophisticated" by the Dutch. Later the term was used to describe the whole of Germany, which, at the time, wasn't much better of economically than Western Lower Saxony, mainly due to the various wars waged on its territory by foreign powers. The term seemed to have died out around 1900 but returned following the German invasion of the Netherlands in 1940. .
A popular humorous (but false) etymology of the word "mof" by the Dutch is that it is actually a German abbrevation meaning "Menschen ohne Freunde" ("people without friends").

Oosterbuur (friendly)

In the Dutch language the word "Oosterbuur" (Eastern neighbour) nearly always refers to the German people or Germany itself as Germany and the Germans are located to the East of the Netherlands and Belgium. Similarly, the Flemish refer to the Dutch as "Noorderburen" (Northern Neighbours) and the Dutch use "Zuiderburen" (Southern neighbours) for the Belgians.


Szwab (offensive)

Szwab (plural szwaby; literally Swabian), is derogatory when referring to any Germans instead of just the inhabitants of Swabia. The origin of this usage remains unclear, as Swabia and Poland are relatively far apart.

Helmut (offensive)

Helmut (plural Helmuty) from formerly popular German name Helmut.

Szkop (offensive)

Another, similarly derogative term is szkop (original, now obsolete meaning: "castrate ram"); during World War II, it was first used for German soldiers and later for any German.

Fritz (offensive)

The name "Fritz" (short for Friedrich/Frederick), widely considered as typically German, is sometimes used as a noun for Germans, then often spelled fryc.


Boche (offensive)

In Portugal, the term Boche, a word derived from French, is popular as a slang term to refer to Germans, nearly always in a derogatory way.


Neamţ (colloquialism)

The formal term is German (plural germani). The traditional term, still widely used in common language, is neamţ (plural nemţi). The root of the term is originally Slavic, meaning "mute", because of the incomprehensibleness between the languages. The original meaning was not passed into Romanian, and the word is generally not used in a derogatory sense, although its colloquialism in contrast to the formal alternatives for "German" (German, pl. germani) and, rarely, "Austrian" (austriac, pl. austrieci) was used in certain offensive or polemic contexts. It appears in placenames like Piatra Neamţ ("The German rock").

Saşi/şvabi (friendly)

Other names for existed for specific German minorities, usually in relation with their place of origin. Transylvanian Saxons (immigrated starting from the XII century), were called "saşi". Germans in Banat were called "şvabi", in reference to Schwaben, even though only few of the immigrants came from there.


The term used in official contexts (and widely used elsewhere) is nemets (single, ) or nemtsy (plural, ). The roots of the term in Slavic etymology, meaning "mute". The term initially was used to designate any non-Russian-speaking person (foreigner), but now it is reserved for Germans only. A derisive inflection of nemets, nemchura ("немчура") is also in use. In general, Russian language abounds in suffixes that may bear derisive connotation, so one may also see such forms as "nemchishka", "nemchik", "nemchatina". In late 1980's early 1990's the term bundes was also popular (from Bundesrepublik Deutschland).

Frits/Hans (historical, a little unfriendly)

Since World War II the names "Fritz" and "Hans" (frits, Hans) have been widely used for "German".
After World War Two, settlements and camps sprang up around British garrisons in the former West Germany, and the colloquial term of "Boxhead" became common amongst British troops and their families. This term has its origins in 'square-heads' as a reference to the square-shaped helmets used by the Germans in the first and second World Wars.
Recently the term 'Eric' has become popular amongst British troops, apparently originating in an episode of the British TV comedy "Auf Wiedersehen Pet", in which the name 'Eric' was used instead of 'Jerry' in an attempt to confuse the Germans. After the Falklands conflict in the 1980s, British troops on those islands called the natives 'Bennies', partly due to habit of the islanders of wearing a small round knitted hat known in the UK as a 'Benny', itself deriving from a now defunct TV soap called 'Crossroads'.

Germanets (colloquialism)

In the meaning of "citizen of Germany" the word "Germanets" is also in colloquial use, together with a vulgarism German (pronounced with the last syllable accented: "germAn").


Švabe (colloquial)

means Swabians. A number of Swabians were re-settled in the Banat, then part of Austria-Hungary, by Maria Theresa to offset the Serb population predominance in the region.

Sasi (historic; almost obsolete)

Saxons were the miners in Mediaeval Serbia. The term was occasionally used by the press for ethnic German engineers working in Majdanpek mines in mid-19th century.


In Spain the official term for Germans is alemanes, originating from a Germanic tribe, the Alamanni.
In colloquial use, Germans are often called kartoffen, from the German word for potatoes (Kartoffeln) and refers to their, supposed, eating habit/cuisine. Also boches (from French) or cabezas cuadradas ("square heads", after the alleged German inclination for fixed rules instead of improvisation).
Germanos is mostly referred to the ancient tribes found by the Romans. Teutones, also the name of a Germanic tribe, is sometimes used as a literary synonym.
In Early Modern Spanish (for example in Don Quixote), tudescos (cognate with Deutsch and the Italian tedeschi) was used sometimes as a general name for Germans and sometimes restricted to Lower Saxony.

Non-Germans living in Germany

The term Kartoffel, meaning potato in German, is an offensive term commonly used by many foreigners (especially Turks and Russians) living in Germany.


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