1. Home
  2. Translation Challenges
  3. The Umlaut

The German Umlaut

There are 3 German umlauts:  Ä, Ö and Ü


An umlaut is a symbol which describes the sound made by 2 adjoining vowels ("um" = around / "laut" = sound).

They are not separate characters of the German alphabet.

  • Ä  =  A + E  ("ae")
  • Ö  = O + E  ("oe")
  • Ü  =  U + E  ("ue")

They are easy to pronounce, and sound like a combination of the initial vowel, plus “e”.

The 2 dots above the letter are called diacritic marks, and simply symbolize the “missing” e.


Typing German Umlauts on an English-language keyboard

German umlautUmlauts on the right-hand side of my German keyboard

It's fine to write “ae”, “oe” and “ue” when you don’t have a German keyboard, although you can insert them in the form of symbols.

However, if you're regularly working in the German langugage, this will quickly drive you nuts.

If you're tech-savvy you can programme easy shortcuts on your keyboard (so I read).

If not, consider purchasing a German language keyboard! - "QWERTZ"

For those of you using an English-language keyboard (UK - QWERTY), just use this list of commands on the numeric keypad to the right of your keyboard (or number-lock if you don’t have the keypad):

Umlaut ALT Key
Ä ALT 142
ä ALT 132
Ö ALT 153
ö ALT 148
Ü ALT 154
ü ALT 129

Now just to be really confusing, here we have codes for the US keyboard - which also works for my German keyboard:

Umlaut ALT Key
Ä ALT 0196
ä ALT 0228
Ö ALT 0214
ö ALT 0246
Ü ALT 0220
ü ALT 0252

And if you work on a Mac, according to my research you simply:

  • ä, ö, ü: press Option + u keys (u stands for Umlaut),  then type the vowel you want as an Umlaut (a, o, u)
  • Ä, Ö, Ü: press Option + u, and then press Shift + the vowel you want as an umlaut


German Umlauts on the web

The web doesn’t like non-standard letters, and so if there is an umlaut in a person’s name, for example, you should write their name out in full.

E.g.:  Herr Jörg Müller’s email address would be written out as  joerg.mueller@xxxx.xx


Where will I meet a German Umlaut?

1. Umlauts often signify that a noun is in its plural form, e.g.:

  • Hand – Hände
  • Apfel – Äpfel
  • Haus – Häuser


2. They are often found in the comparative form, e.g.:

  • groß – größer ( large-larger)
  • alt-älter ( old – older)


3. They also appear in the second and third person singular in the present tense of several strong German verbs, e.g.:

  • Backen ( to bake): ich backe, du bäckst, er/sie/es bäckt
  • Fangen ( to catch): ich fange, du fängst, er/sie/es fängt
  • Laufen (to run): ich laufe, du läufst, er/sie/es läuft


If you’re looking for more background and indepth linguistic information on the German umlaut and its origins, then Wikipedia (of course!) it probably a good starting point .

But if you just need to know how to use them, then I hope that, for most of us, the information above will suffice!


  1. Home
  2. Translation Challenges
  3. The Umlaut

Loading

You may also like...


Joanna Scudamore-Trezek

I'm a German to English translator living and working in Vienna,  Austria.  I turn German texts into clear and accessible English, allowing clients to present their stories, ideas and information to a completely new audience. My business and marketing clients rely on me to get their message across clearly and effectively.  How can I help you today?

Find this page useful? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.