Every German Word You Need to Know for Oktoberfest

24 Essential German Words for Oktoberfest

Revelers celebrate Octoberfest (Oktoberfest) inside the tents on Theresienwiese.
Dan Herrick / Getty Images

Oktoberfest draws in visitors from around the world. While the Müncheners are used to the siege of their city after close to 200 beer festivals, good travel etiquette is always appreciated. Find out how to order a beer, sing the Oktoberfest songs, and navigate the fest.

Learn this essential German vocabulary for Oktoberfest to have the time of your life.

  • 01 of 24
    Bavaria church stream

    GettyImages / AaronChenPs

     

    Known as "Bavaria" to English speakers, Bayern is the largest of the 16 German Bundesländer (states) with its capital in Munich. Known in German as München, this is the third largest city in Germany behind Berlin and Hamburg.  

     

  • 02 of 24

    die Bierleichen - Beer Corpses

    die Bierleichen at Oktoberfest
    GettyImages / Joerg Koch

    This colorful Oktoberfest phrase translates to "beer corpses", or - less morbidly - "snoozing drunks". You'll see plenty of these around the fairgrounds, particularly on Kotzhügel (puke hill).

    There's no shame in taking a break on the hill before heading back in. Just watch your step for the visitors who've needed to clear their system.

  • 03 of 24
    Oktoberfest prost

    GettyImages / golero

     

    This should be one of the first words you learn for Oktoberfest. Germans take their drinking seriously and bier should be treated with respect...and drunk in large quantities to appreciate. The hard part is restraining yourself from consuming too much.

  • 04 of 24
    Oktoberfest Hacker Pschorr beer tent
    GettyImages / Andreas Rentz

    There are 14 large beer tents at Oktoberfest, plus a number of smaller tents. Also called die Festhalle, each tent has its own personality with some catering to tourists, locals, the young, football fans, and everything in between.  

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  • 05 of 24

    Bitte - Please

    Oktoberfest Parade
    GNTB/Rainer Kiedrwoski

    "Please" goes a long way, even at a beer festival. Add schön to make it extra nice.

    And don't forget to say thank you! Ignore Wayne Newton's pronunciation and try a "danke schön".

  • 06 of 24
    Tracht Bavaria

    GettyImages / 4FR

     

    Dirndls are a traditional alpine dress which was once only worn by the proudest of Bavarians. Today, it is popular among all nationalities at Oktoberfest.

    The quaint bodice, blouse, skirt and apron are often adorned with hearts and plaid and can even indicate your relationship status. A dirndl tied on the left means you are available; on the right shows you're taken; in the center means virgin; and in the back means widowed or waitress.

  • 07 of 24

    Gemütlichkeit

    Oktoberfest Prost
    GettyImages / Alexander Kupka

    This word doesn't have a direct English translation. It is a heady mix of coziness, cheerfulness, friendliness, and social acceptance.

    This feeling encompasses the atmosphere of a successful Oktoberfest. After a mass or two you will feel it too as you clink glasses with a table full of new friends.

  • 08 of 24

    der Kellner / die Kellnerin - Waiter / Waitress

    Oktoberfest Waitress
    Johannes Simon/Getty Images

    Admire the stoicism of the servers as they deftly handle the drunk crowds and hoist armloads of massive beers to each table. In many tents, they wear traditional clothing.

     

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  • 09 of 24
    Oktoberfest Lebkuchenherz
    GettyImages / Felbert + Eickenberg

    These iconic gingerbread hearts can be found at any German festival, Weihnachtsmärkte, and Oktoberfest. Sayings like Ich liebe Dich (I love you) or Grüße aus München (Greetings from Munich) are artistically scrawled in frosting. 

    They make for a charming souvenir, but don't bother buying them for a snack as they're better for decoration.

  • 10 of 24
    Oktoberfest Lederhosen
    GettyImages / Alexander Hassenstein

    Though most Germans would never don a pair of these leather trousers, some Bavarians wear them year-round.

    Expect to see many men - locals and tourists - dressed in these (with or without suspenders) for Oktoberfest. Pair them with a button-up shirt (often in a blue or red plaid), knee-high socks, and a jacket and hat if you are fancy.

  • 11 of 24

    die Maß - Liter of Beer

    Oktoberfest beer

    GettyImages / Dan Herrick

     

    A maßkrug, or simply a mass (pronounced with a long “a” and not like church mass), is the container of choice for beers at Oktoberfest. Note that this is a full liter of beer as there are no half-measures at the biggest beer festival in the world.

    The most important phrase in the list, order a beer by saying Ein Mass, bitte! (A beer, please!).

    Non-alcoholic options like soda can also be found in liter amounts in the tents. Some people order a radler (half-beer/half-cola) to try to make it through the booze fest without losing their dignity.

  • 12 of 24
    Classic Munich view from 'Alter Peter' to 'Marienplatz' and 'Frauenkirche'

    GettyImages / Achim Thomae

    Don;t be confused if you hear people referring to München - this is just the German name for Munich. The city is the capital of Bavaria and the third largest city in Germany behind Berlin and Hamburg

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  • 13 of 24

    O’zapft is - It's Tapped

    Oktoberfest
    GettyImages / Alexandra Beier

    A Bavarian expression that signifies the opening of the festival. At noon on the first day of Oktoberfest, the Mayor of Munich taps the first keg of beer at the Schottenhamel tent. From here, the party is on for a full two weeks.

  • 14 of 24

    Prost - Cheers

    beer oktoberfest

    GettyImages / Frank Grtner - EyeEm

     

    There will be ample opportunity to practice your cheers at Oktoberfest. Whenever someone raises a glass you are obliged to raise yours, look in their eyes, clink glasses and shout "Prost"! Fail to meet someone's gaze, cross arms, or any other number of small offenses, and you curse both parties to 7 years bad sex.

    Besides the spontaneous clinking, most bands in the tents play Ein Prosit every 20 minutes for mandatory toasts. Sing along to,

    Ein Prosit, Ein Prosit, der Gemütlichkeit

    Ein Prosit, Ein Prosit, der Gemütlichkeit

    Eins, zwei, drei, g'suffa!

    Follow with a Prost, clink and drink!

  • 15 of 24

    Reserviert/Reservierung - Reserved

    party crowd at Oktoberfest tent
    Alexandra Beier/Getty Images

    Watch out for these table signs marking a reservation. Note the time, name and number of people for that reservation as it is perfectly fine to sit until the reservation shows up.

    If there are people seated at the table but room for your group, ask

    Ist hier frei?

    "Is here free?"

  • 16 of 24

    Schlager Musik - Hit Music

    Musicians at Oktoberfest Parade
    GNTB/Rainer Kiedrowski

    Until 18:00 the tents are officially family friendly and music is kept at a respectable decimal. However, bands take the stage sometime around noon and start cranking it up until they go full oompa in the evening.

    This is usually a mix of traditional German brass band (die Blaskapelle) favorites like Ein Prosit with "hits" like ABBA, "I Will Survive", "Highway to Hell" and - bizarrely - "New York, New York" added in. 

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  • 17 of 24
    Schnaps Munich oktoberfest

    GettyImages / STOCK4B Creative

     

    For reasons highly not recommended, some people feel compelled to drink shots at Oktoberfest. This has sent many a visitor straight to the Toilette or Kotzhügel. Imbibe in the robust German liquors with caution.

  • 18 of 24

    die Toilette - Bathrooms

    Oktoberfest toilet
    GettyImages / STOCK4B Creative

    This is a request you will inevitably need to make. Typical of German, the way to ask for the restroom is to directly ask for a toilet.

    Wo ist die Toilette?

    "Where is the toilet?"

     

  • 19 of 24
    Oktoberfest money
    GettyImages / push the button

    Show your Kellnerin your respect (and ensure swifter service) by paying a tip on each round.

    Payment will be expected as soon as your beers are delivered so have your cash ready. Typically, you should round up a euro or two when paying for drinks. For example, a €9.70 mass can be paid for with €15 euros saying "11 euros".  S/he will give back your change.

    However, while tipping more than 10 percent is not expected in Germany, tipping your server after the first round of beers at Oktoberfest can make sure you get served quickly.

  • 20 of 24

    Vorübergehend geschlossen - Momentarily Closed

    Oktoberfest closed
    GettyImages / Johannes Simon

    Later in the day, tents fill up and close due to overcrowding. You'll observe this sign which translates to, "Due to overcrowding temporarily closed".

    This can be short-term as people come and go so take a place in line if you really gotta get in. While it is difficult for groups to find a space, single or paired females - especially in drindls - may be allowed in without much trouble. You can also ask about seats in the biergarten where reservations are not allowed.

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  • 21 of 24
    Kufflers Weinzelt Oktoberfest

    https://www.weinzelt.com/en/

     

    While the festival is really all about beer, there are other drink options like the many wines found at the Weinzelt. This tent is not as crowded as others at Oktoberfest, making it popular among families. However, it is open until 1am so it also works for the late-night scene.

  • 22 of 24
    Oktoberfest rides

    GettyImages / Westend61

     

    The Bavarian name for Oktoberfest, Wiesn is an abbreviation of Theresienwiese. It may also be called Festwiese by locals.

    A Ferris Wheel is one of the mainstays of any German festival with the massive 50 meter high (164 feet) model offering an awesome view of the grounds. Also look out for classics like das Karussell (carousel) and die Achterbahn (roller coaster).

  • 23 of 24

    Zum Wohl - To your health

    Munich Beer and Oktoberfest Museum
    GettyImages / Alexander Hassenstein

    Sprinkled in with the numerous cheers of "Prost!", listen for the alternative toast of Zum Wohl ("To your health").

     

  • 24 of 24
    weisswurst, sweet mustard, bretzel and weissbier
    Getty Images / Maartje van Caspel

     This sausage is an essential start to a day at Oktoberfest. Just one of the delicious things you can eat at Oktoberfest, it is made of minced veal and pork back bacon, seasoned with parsley, lemon, mace, onions, ginger, and cardamom and appears pale white. Two fat sausages are usually served alongside brezeln (pretzel), senf (mustard) and a weissbier (wheat beer) for traditional Bavarian breakfast known as Weißwurstfrühstück.