German Word of the Day – “komisch”

Hello everyone,this cake smells komisch

and welcome to our German Word of the Day. This time we will look at the meaning of:

komisch

 

The origin of komisch is the Greek word κωμικός. Looking at that the meaning of komisch should be evident. So this was our STRANGELY (oh, strangely is capitalized… I wonder why) short Word of the Day. I hope you liked it and see you next time.


Ok ok, I admit it, the Greek word is but a few STRANGE (oh it is all capitalized again) letters also to me. In our alphabet it reads kōmikós. So komisch sort of has the same origins as comedy and comical. That strongly suggests that it means something like funny or amusing. But STRANGELY (so what’s up with this strange capitals all the time) the meaning of komisch has somewhat shifted.
Today, the main meaning is 

strange… now who saw that coming :)

Most dictionaries still give both concepts, funny and strange, as possible translations and it might be appropriate given that I don’t know how people in other parts of Germany perceive the word. But honestly I  would go as far as to say that komisch has almost entirely lost the original meaning of funny or comical and has instead become the number one choice to express that something is weird or strange. By the way, the very first translation Leo.org is offering is the word comic. That is clearly not the best choice so this is a really good example why you shouldn’t use Leo unless you are somewhat fluent. Anyway, let’s look at some

  • Deine Suppe riecht komisch.
  • Your soup smells strange.
  • Komisch. Ich dachte, ich hätte noch 20 Euro.
  • Weird. I thought I still had 20 Euros.
  • Es ist komisch, komisch als lustig zu verwenden.
  • It is odd to use komisch as funny.

You still could use komisch in sense of funny when you talk about a comedy or a clown. The context sort of makes it clear what you are trying to say but to me there is still some doubt as to whether you think the clown is funny or strange. Without any contextual hint however komisch does not mean funny to me at all.

  • Thomas ist ein komischer Typ.

This sentence means that Thomas is WEIRD. If you want to tell me that Thomas is a funny guy you would have to say:

  • Thomas ist ein lustiger Typ.

Another example:

  • Der Film war komisch.

To me that means the film was STRANGE. If you want to say that it was funny, lustig is the right choice of words.

  • Der Film ist lustig.

As I said, you might find examples contradictory to this in dictionaries but I would strongly recommend to use komisch as strange and lustig as funny. It is just more clear. The only occasion where komisch clearly means funny is when used ironic, so it means funny when it was actually not funny. You’ll need this phrase a lot on this site… you know… my puns aren’t the best ;)

  • Haha… sehr komisch!
  • Haha, how funny!

The other words that originate from the Greek  kōmikós have pretty much  kept their meaning. Der Komiker is the comedian, die Komödie is the comedy (as in a play) and die Komik is the humor, but most of the time the better translation for that is der Humor.

To wrap this up here are the forms for stranger and the strangest. It is komisch – komischer – am komischsten. Especially the last one has some tongue-twisting potential and you can use it to train your pronunciation skills … cohmish-s-ten. Just make sure you are alone and you have a dry mouth :).

So this was our Word of the Day komisch. It used to mean funny but now it has evolved and is now THE word for strange, odd or weird. If you have questions or suggestions, I’d be happy if you leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.

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Amina
Amina
1 year ago

Hi, how would you say in German “This is one of the strangest things I have ever seen!”
Das ist das komischte Ding dass ich gesehen habe?
Thx

SteveBead
SteveBead
2 years ago

Two cannibals eating a clown – “Does this taste funny to you?”

haton
haton
2 years ago

In French we also have this double meaning of the adjective “drôle”

haton
haton
2 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Absolut! “elle a une drôle d’odeur” and to mean the soup tastes strange we definitely say “elle a un drôle de goût”

Jack Tallent
4 years ago

In English, the oft-made distinction between “funny-strange” and “funny ha-ha”.

LisaH
LisaH
4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Well, I´m 55 and the question ´funny strange, or funny ha-ha´ has been around for as long as I can remember. But sentence context usually distinguishes what you mean, so it´s not used a lot.

LisaH
LisaH
4 years ago
Reply to  LisaH

Oh, and for instance, in the sentence – What happened at the party yesterday was funny – to distinguish which funny I meant I would probably emphasize the “fun” in funny by raising the pitch of my voice slightly. To emphasize that it was strange, my voice pitch would drop on “fun”, if that makes any sense.

Jen
Jen
6 years ago

Also, was ist denn der Unterschied zwischen komisch und seltsam? Können die beide immer synonym verwendet werden? Danke :)

Jen
Jen
6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Danke!

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago

funny that komik is same for komisch in turkish.

Schneida charles
Schneida charles
7 years ago

I would like word of day once a day or at leaste once week please please

Allen
Allen
8 years ago

Sometimes speakers of English will use a set phrase to clear up the ambiguity (and/or make make a sarcastic comment), as in A: “The vicar gave a funny sermon”. B: “Funny-funny, or funny-peculiar?” I wonder if there are phrases used by German speakers to clear up ambiguities in this way? Thanks so much for your funny blog.

demoneyes136
demoneyes136
6 years ago
Reply to  Allen

Yes, “funny” in English has very much kept the dual meanings that (I’m learning today that!) “komisch” has pretty much lost. Though in my experience the associated clarifying phrase is “Funny-haha or Funny-peculiar?” Or perhaps that’s an English regional variation!

I’m also wondering how recent this change to “komisch” is, because I’m sure when I was originally taught German, 35 or so years ago, it was always “komisch” for funny. I have no recollection whatsoever of ever encountering “lustig” back then.

Justin
Justin
8 years ago

FYI, in English the word ‘funny’ can also mean strange/weird. For example:

‘Your soup smells funny’ – this means that your soup smells strange, not that the smell makes me laugh.
‘He gave me a funny look’ – he looked at me in a strange way, which was not necessarily a humourous way.
‘Isn’t it funny how English and German words are often so similar’ – here it means strange, but also means interesting.

So in these cases I guess ‘funny’ would translate well to ‘komisch’? This might be British English only, I’m not sure….

Thank you for your website, I love reading your lessons and I am learning to love German as I love English.