fröhlich vs. glücklich

Discussion in 'Deutsch (German)' started by Hau Ruck, Feb 14, 2013.

  1. Hau Ruck

    Hau Ruck Senior Member

    United States - Midwest
    English - U.S.

    fröhlich and glücklich.

    I understand 'fröhlich' to be the visible appearance of happiness on someone else.
    As in "I can see how happy she is when you are near her."

    I understand 'glücklich' to be happiness the person feels.
    As in "I am happy."

    Is this a correct understanding? Is there more to it than that?

    Do you use the words in this way? Or do you use them interchangeably without any reason?

    Danke im Voraus
  2. Eirz New Member

    German, Turkish, Laz language

    Yep, your understanding is absolutely correct. Example: "Eine glückliche Ehe haben", "glücklich" is more an inner happiness. .. while "fröhlich" is more a visible thing.

    But generally - if you don't know better in a specific situation - you can use both interchangeably, it won't sound weird or sth.
  3. Hau Ruck

    Hau Ruck Senior Member

    United States - Midwest
    English - U.S.
    Thank you, Eirz. Welcome to the forums by the way. :)
  4. Perseas Senior Member

    Can both adjectives be used for persons and things/situations?

    For example:
    In diesem Buch geht es um eine fröhliche/glückliche Liebesgeschichte.
    Er sieht fröhlich/glücklich aus. Er hat wahrscheinlich seine Prüfung bestanden.
  5. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    I can't think of a context where fröhlich and glücklich would be interchangeable. Maybe you can think of one where cheerful (=fröhlich) and happy (=glücklich) would be.
  6. Frank78

    Frank78 Senior Member

    Yes, they CAN but don't mean the same.

    When reading "fröhlich" I automatically think of a smiling face. In the case of "fröhliche Geschichte" I think of "light entertainment", perhaps a bit funny.
    While "glücklich" implies inner satisfaction. The thing which ancient Greek philosophers called "Eudaimonia".
  7. Sowka

    Sowka Senior Member

    German, Northern Germany
    Hello :)

    I'm not sure...

    Here, I would say something like: "Sie sieht so glücklich aus, wenn du in ihrer Nähe bist".

    "Fröhlich" would not fit here, in my opinion.

    Yes. Ich bin glücklich.

    You can see that I would use "glücklich" in both cases. I would not use "fröhlich" in the first case. Why?

    To me, "fröhlich" is a momentary feeling, which indeed tends to express itself through smiling, singing, etc, whereas "glücklich" is a deeper feeling, perhaps rather the disposition of a person (in a certain environment or during an activity). You can definitely be "glücklich" without being "fröhlich".

    Ich bin glücklich, wenn ich in meine Terminologiearbeit versinken darf und nichts mich dabei stört. Fröhlich bin ich dann nicht (denn ich arbeite mit hoher Konzentration und Ernsthaftigkeit), aber glücklich.

    Als ich heute Morgen die Vorhänge aufzog, schien die Sonne -- zum ersten Mal nach vielen Wochen! Ich betrachtete heiter das Treiben des Eichhörnchens auf dem Baum gegenüber und hüpfte dann fröhlich unter meine Dusche.
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2013
  8. Hau Ruck

    Hau Ruck Senior Member

    United States - Midwest
    English - U.S.
    Thank you for that explanation, Sowka. That makes perfect sense and greatly helps my understanding. :)
  9. Sowka

    Sowka Senior Member

    German, Northern Germany
    You're welcome :) However, I think this is not the whole story (I'm still pondering...). My previous post shows my introspective view, how I would speak about myself.

    But I can also say: Mein kleiner Neffe ist ein fröhliches Kind.

    Here, it's my external, general perception of another person. I see him smiling often, his interest in everything -- and I feel that he is "fröhlich". I can't know if he is "glücklich". So I would not say: Mein kleiner Neffe ist ein glückliches Kind.

    But I could say: Mein kleiner Neffe sieht glücklich aus, wenn er an seiner Burg baut.

    There are many facettes...
  10. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    Out of curiosity, I would still be interested in an answer to my question (#5). Do you think that there is an aspect of fröhlich vs. glücklich that is not covered by the opposition of these word's English translations, i.e. cheerful vs. happy?
  11. Hau Ruck

    Hau Ruck Senior Member

    United States - Midwest
    English - U.S.
    Honestly, it would seem to me those two English words are very interchangeable.

    Native English speaker opinions may vary on this one, but I'd use either interchangeably most of the time; they are even listed as synonyms of one another in our dictionary.
    It is for this very reason that my confusion about the two (in German) has remained so long. :)

    Happy/cheerful, Happily/cheerfully are basically the same thing in English. :)
  12. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    Thanks Fil. That is most interesting. I would never have thought that the two could be interchangeable.
  13. Hau Ruck

    Hau Ruck Senior Member

    United States - Midwest
    English - U.S.
    Opinions could very well be different amongst English speakers, but the dictionary seems to agree. It lists the word happy in one of the definitions of cheerful and even lists the two as synonyms of one another.

    I very well could have not been using them exactly right all these years, but we Americans definitely tend to over-use the word 'happy' anyway. :)
  14. zarvox Member

    English - U.S.
    Just wanted to thank Filsmith for starting this thread, since I've wondered about this for a while.

    Glück/glücklich also mean luck/lucky, right? That seems potentially confusing.
  15. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    I don't think so. You might be able to construct sentences where Glück = happiness and Glück = luck are ambiguous. In real life, context always makes it clear or the difference doesn't matter; after all, you are lucky to be happy and when you are lucky you're normally also happy about it. We (Germans) sometimes find it difficult to remember using right word (happy or lucky) when speaking English. But that's not a big problem; the conceptual difference is not difficult to grasp. It is just remembering which word to use in which meaning and as one's English skills improve, the problem goes away quickly.
  16. ABBA Stanza Senior Member

    Hessen, DE
    English (UK)
    Interestingly, I also thought of cheerful vs happy when I saw this thread, and was also of the opinion that they are not really synonyms (although obviously closely related). For example, a robber can be happy because he's received his fair share of the dough after a raid, yet still be a miserable git. In contrast, others have the relatively rare ability to remain (apparently) in good spirits and to carry on cracking jokes even if they are in the middle of a personal crisis (and thus technically not particularly happy).


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