Promoting Excellence in HO Scale Vehicle Modeling

German to English Key Word Translations

In an effort to assist both English and German language modelers, we offer the following list of typical words and phrases likely to be encountered on German language web sites. We hope you find this helpful; if you have any questions of find words you think should be added to our list, do not hesitate to forward your suggestions to [email protected]!

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German Terms useful for vehicle model collectors:


Blau - Blue
Braun - Brown
Gelb - Yellow
Grün - Green
Hellelfenbein - Light Ivory (traditional color for ambulances)
Leuchtrot - Fluorescent Red (Day-Glo Red)
Leuchtorange - Fluorescent Orange (Day-Glow Orange)
- Purple (or heliotrope)
Purpur - Purple
Rot - Red
Schwarz - Black
- Violet
- White (the "ß" is equivalent to "ss" in English)

Notes: "Leuchtrot" and "leuchtorange" are commonly used by German fire brigades. The vehicles used to be painted in these colors, but durability problems were encountered (as well as rust), so the Germans are gradually switching to white vehicles with vinyl graphics in the fluorescent colors.


Deutsche - German
Deutschland - Germany
Frankreich - France
Französische - French
Österreich - Austria
Schweiz - Switzerland
Vereinigte Staaten - United States


ADAC - German Auto Club
AvD - German Auto Club
Berufsfeuerwehr - Professional Fire Brigade (i.e., not volunteer)
Freiwillige Feuerwehr - Volunteer Fire Brigade
Bundesheer - Austrian Army
Bundeswehr - German Army
DRK - German Red Cross
Feldjäger - German Army Military Police
Feuerwehr - Fire Brigade
Katastrophenschutz - Disaster Control or Disaster Relief. The THW is an example of a "Katastrophenschutz."
ÖRK - Austrian Red Cross
Polizei - Police
THW - Technisches Hilfswerk; this is Germany's quasi-military organization that combines the functions of the Army Corp of Engineers and Disaster Relief Agency.

Fachdienste des Katastrophenschutzes (nicht komplett) -Special Disaster Services (list not complete) Note: this list seems to apply to types of agencies rather than specific departments or ministries.

ABC-Dienst - literally "ABC Service"; Atomic, Biological and Chemical Emergency Service
Fernmeldedienst - Communications Service
Betreuungdienst - Support Service
Sanitätsdienst - Medical Service
Brandschutzdienst - Fire Protection Service
Bergungsdienst - Salvage Service
Instandsetzungsdienst - Repair Service
Luftschutzhilfsdienst - Air Protection Emergency Service. This seems to be an obsolete service somewhat like the American Civil defense with responsibilities for air raids. Primarily associated with fire brigades.
Nachkriegsorganisation der zivilen Verteidigung - Civil Defense
Bereitschaftspolizei - Auxiliary Police; the Bereitschaftspolizei conducts training for most, if not all German police agencies. In addition, these are the national reserves to help with special situations, including localized emergencies, civil unrest, state visits and such. They are quite different from the Bundesgrenzschutz, of German Federal Police, who are a quasi-military organization somewhere between the National Guard and a state police force.
IKRK (English: IFRC) Internationales Komitee vom Rotes Kreuz - International Red Cross (parent organization of all national Red Cross agencies).

General Vehicle Terms:

Achse - axle (singular), Achsen - Axles (plural)
Anhänger - Trailer
Auspuff or Auspuffgase - exhaust
Auspuffrohr - tailpipe
Beifahrer - Front-seat passenger
Cabrio or Cabriolet - Convertible. "Geschlossen" means the model is supplied with the top up. "geöffnet" means "open" or the top is down.
Dachreling - Roof Rack or Roof Rails
- Chassis
- vehicle
Felgen - Wheels or Rims, as in "mag wheels"; Felge - wheel (singular)
Gabelstapler - Fork Lift
Getriebe - transmission
Inneneinrichtung - Interior (literally "inside mechanism")
Karosserie - Body
- Usually used in combination, but means dump body
- Box Van body or Box Trailer
Kofferraum - Trunk ("boot" to our friends in the UK)
- fuel tank
KTW (Krankentransportwagen) - ambulance
Kühlergrill - radiator grill
Kühlkoffer - Refrigerated Box Van or Trailer
LHF - (Löschhilfeleistungsfahrzeug) - Fire Rescue Truck
LKW - Lastkraftwagen - Truck (in any size)
Lastzug - Full combination truck and trailer, what we might call a double-bottom or semi-truck and semi-trailer combo
Lenkrad - Steering wheel
- Panel delivery truck
Limousine - Sedan
Motorhaube - Hood ("bonnet" in Merrie Olde England)
NAW (Notarztwagen) - emergency ambulance with emergency doctor on-board
NEF (Notarzteinsatzfahrzeug) - emergency doctor's car (meets emergency ambulance on the scene)
- Passenger car
Pritschen - Flatbed Truck. Most European flatbeds actually have sides, but the term is used nonetheless. Also used for flatbeds with canvas tops.
Räder or Raeder - Generic term for wheels
Reifen - Tires
Rückleuchten - Tail Lights
RTW (Rettungstransportwagen) - emergency ambulance
- Tractor with Semi-Trailer
Scheinwerfer - Headlight
- Farm tractor
Sonnendach - Sunroof. "Sonnenfaltdach" refers to a cloth or folding sun roof
Spiegel - Mirror
- bumper
Tieflader - Lowboy trailer for tranporting equipment like bulldozers (Planierraupe), wheel loaders (Radlader) or excavator (Raupenbagger).
Tür - Door (zweitürig - 2-door, viertürig - 4-door)
- Literally "tournament" but used for Station Wagon.
Variant - Means the same as in English, but another term used for Station Wagon.
Weißwandreifen - Whitewall Tires

Commercial Vehicle Terms:

Allradantrieb - all-wheel drive
Baustelle - costruction site
Bruttogewicht - gross weight
Blattfederung - multi-leaf steel springs
Drehmoment - torque
Drucklufttank - air tank
Erntemaschine - harvester
Federung - suspension
Fernfahrer - long-haul truck driver
Fernfahrerlokal or Servicestation - truckstop
Fracht - freight
Frontlenker - C.O.E. (cab over engine)
Hauberfahrzeuge - conventionals
Kabine (Fahrerhaus) - cab
Kugellager - ball-bearing
Kupplung - clutch
Ladekran - Loading crane, like the truck-mounted Hiab
, Lieferwagen (pick-up and van) - truck
Lastwagenfahrer(in) - truck driver
Lastwagenfahrer - truckman
Luftfederung - air suspension
Marke - make
Motor - engine
Radstand - wheelbase
Rahmen - frame
Rahmenträger - frame rail
Sattelauflieger - semi-trailer; one that attaches with a fifth wheel
Spediteur or Transportunternehmer - carrier
Straßenbaustelle - road work
Tieflader - lowboy trailer
Tonkombination - Literally "tone combination" but refers to the two-tone horn used instead of a rotating-blade or electronic siren
- turbocharger
Transportunternehmer, Spedition - haulage contractor
Umbau - conversion
Verstärkung - reinforcement
Verteilergetriebe - transfer case
Warneinrichtung - Warning apparatus, like a light bar
Warnlicht - Warning Light
Wendekreisradius - turning radius
Zugmaschine or Traktor - Any truck tractor used for towing, like a Unimog or heavy-duty truck

Specialized Vehicles and Terms:

Abschleppwagen - Tow Truck
Avantgarde - Mercedes' highest trim level in a model
Bestattungswagen - Hearse
Betonmischer - Cement Mixer
Container - Container
DLK - Ladder Truck Body, usually for Fire Trucks
Gefangenentransporter - Paddy Wagon
Gerätewagen - Equipment Truck
KTW or Krankenwagen - Ambulance
Krankentrage - Stretcher
Löschzug - Literally "extinguishing train." This is the standard first response unit for a fire and depends on the emergency and the size of the responding department. It is usually two pumpers and a ladder truck.
- Crew Bus
Notarzt - Emergency Doctor (Like an EMS technician in the U.S.)
Operationswagen - Operations vehicle. There are various kinds of operations vehicles, including communications, command and others. These are generally classed as "Einsatzfahrzeug" or "applications vehicle"
Pferdeanhänger - Horse trailer
Preßmüllwagen - Garbage Truck
Reisebus - Touring Bus (like Greyhound)
Rettungsdienst - Emergency (Rescue) Service
Sanitätszug - Literally means "medical train." Based on "Löschzug," this would seem to refer to a first response team for a medical emergency. This would probably include a "Notarzt" and a "Rettungstransportwagen" (RTW)
Schneepflug - Snow Plow
Schnelleinsatzgruppe - Rapid Deployment Group
Silberpfeil - Silver Arrow, used to refer to Mercedes' racing cars
Sondersignal (Blaulicht und Martinshorn) - literally, Special Signal, Blue Light and Martinshorn. Refers to the standard German emergency apparatus of blue light and two-tone horn. What the Brits call, "Blues and Twos."
Stadtbus - City Bus
Straßenkehrwagen - Street Cleaner
Stromerzeuger - Generator
TLF - Pumper Body for Fire Truck
Wohnanhänger or Wohnwagen- travel Trailer
Wohnmobil - Recreational Vehicle

Military Vehicle Terms:

ARW. (Achtradwagen) - Eight-wheeled vehicle
E. or Einh. (Einheits) - Standardized type
Flak. (Fliegerabwehrkanone) - Anti-aircraft gun
Fu. (Funk) - Radio
gf. (geländefähig) - Off-road going
gl. (geländegängig) - Cross-country going
gp. or gep. (Gepanzert) - Armored
Gw. (Geschutzwagen) - Armored car
HK. (Halbkettenfahrzeug) - Half-track
Kfz. (Kraftfahrzeug) - Motor car
KP. (Kraftprotze) - Artillery tractor
Krad. (Kraftrad) - Motorcycle
Krkw. (Krankenkraftwagen) - Ambulance
LWS. (Landwasserschlepper) - Amphibious tractor
Pak. (Panzerabwehrkanone) - Anti-tank gun
Pz.Jag. (Panzerjäger) - Tank destroyer (literally "tank hunter")
Pz.Kpfw. (Panzerkampfwagen) - Armored fighting vehicle
Pz.Spahw. (Panzerspähwagen) - Armored scout car
R. (Raupen) - Tracked
R/R (Räder/Raupenantrieb) - Wheeled and tracked
Sankra. (Sanitätskraftwagen) - Ambulance
schf. or schwf. (schwimmfähig) - Amphibious
schg. (schienengängig) - Rail going
Schlp. (Schlepper) - Tractor
Sfl. or Sf. (Selbstfahrlafette) - Self-propelled gun
Sd.Kfz. (Sonderkraftfahrzeug) - Special vehicle
StuK. (Sturmkanone) - Assault guns
WS. (schwerer Wehrmacht Schlepper) - Heavy military tractor
trop. or Tp. (tropenfest) - Tropicalized
ve. (vollentstört) - Radio-suppressed
Vs.Kfz. or Vkz. (Versuchsfahrzeug) - Experimental vehicle
Wg. (wassergängig) - Amphibious
Zgkw. (Zugkraftwagen) - Tractor

L. or le. (leicht) - Light
M or mittl. (mittler) - Medium
S. or schw. (schwer) - Heavy

Handy Catalog Terms:

Bausatz - Kit (as opposed to a pre-assembled model)
Gesilbert - Silvered, usually means painted as opposed to plated
- Available
Neuheiten - News
Nicht mehr erhältlich - No longer produced or available
Sammler - Collector
Sonderfahrzeugfreunde - Special vehicle friends (i.e., fans of a certain type of vehicle like fire truck collectors)
- Special Model - Chrome-plated
Verchromt - chrome-plated
- Accessories

Translation of Weights & Measures:

1 meter (m) = 39.37"
10 Dezimeter (dm) = 1 meter (m)
100 Zentimeter (cm) = 1 meter (m)
1,000 Millimeter (mm) = 1 meter (m)
1000 Meter (m) = 1 Kilometer (km)
10,000 Dezimeter (dm) = 1 Kilometer (km)
100,000 Zentimeter (cm) = 1 Kilometer (km)
1,000,000 Millimeter (mm) = 1 Kilometer (km)
1,000 Kilogramme (kg) = 1 tonne (t) (metric - about 2,205 pounds)
1,000,000 grammes (g) = 1 tonne (t) (metric - about 2,205 pounds)


2.54 (cm) Zentimeter  = 1 inch
30.48 (cm) Zentimeter  = 1 foot (12 inches)
1.609 (km) Kilometer  = 1 mile
28.35 (g) Gramm = 1 ounce
453.59 (g) Gramm = 1 pound (16 ounces)
907.185 (kg) Kilogramm = 1 ton (2000 pound)
3.785 (l) Liter = 1 gallon
159.106 (l) Liter = 1 barrel (42 gallons)

Note: A very, very special thanks to Bill Cawthon and Ralf Grote who contributed all of this!