–haft is a German adjective suffix. Examples of words with this suffix include dauerhaft (permanent; long-lasting), herzhaft (hearty), and grauenhaft (atrocious; morbid). Today, however, I want to talk about the German word fabelhaft, which I always missheard as farbehaft.
Fabelhaft means fabulous or mavelous. It comes from the word Fabel (fable). Add on the suffix –haft, and it becomes an adjective which basically means “like a fairy tale.”
Silly me has always understood the word fabelhaft as farbehaft, which is not a real word. To me, however, it meant “colorful” (Farbe = color).
I am pretty sure that I have been understanding the word as fabelhaft as farbehaft for years. Instead of using a word like “marvelous,” I simply thought that Germans used the word “colorful” to describe wonderful things. It made sense to me!
This mistranslation was brought to my attention recently when the German boyfriend was proofreading one of my term papers. The paper was about a research project I did on food fotography in Hamburg. Wanting to describe a group of pictures as colorful, I used the word farbehaft in my paper.
As he was proofreading the paper, Marco called me over to ask “What is this word supposed to be? Do you mean farbenfroh?”
“Farbehaft. Colorful. Yeah, farbenfroh means the same thing,” I replied, thinking that farbehaft was a synonym for farbenfroh.
“Ok. But farbehaft isn’t a word. Are you thinking of fabelhaft?!”
Then he kindly explained to me the correct spelling, pronunciation, and meaning of fabelhaft, and I was left pondering all of the times I thought Germans were describing things as colorful.