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From early modern German ungeziffer, Ungezieffer, a variant form of Middle High German ungezibere. These pertain to Old High German zebar (sacrificial animal) and hence originally meant “animals unsuitable for sacrifice”, ultimately from Proto-Germanic *tībrą (offering, sacrifice, victim). The word is rarely attested in medieval texts due to suppression of words reminiscent of heathen practices, but must have survived in lower registers.


  • IPA(key): /ˈʊnɡəˌt͡siːfɐ/, /ˈʊŋɡə-/
  • (file)


Ungeziefer n (genitive Ungeziefers, plural Ungeziefer)

  1. (uncountable) vermin; pests; restricted to small animals, usually insects or spiders, sometimes also mice, etc.
    Der Küchenschrank saß voller Motten und dieses Ungeziefer war in alle Dosen und Tüten eingedrungen.
    The kitchen cupboard was full of moths and these vermin had got into all containers and bags.
  2. (countable, rare) a vermin animal; a despised creature
    • Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis (1915):
      Als Gregor Samsa eines Morgens aus unruhigen Träumen erwachte, fand er sich in seinem Bett zu einem ungeheuren Ungeziefer verwandelt.
      As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into an enormous insect.


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