Kanake (or Kanacke, Kana(c)k; pl. Kanacken or Kanaks/Kanax) is a German word for people from German-speaking countries with roots in Turkey, Arab countries and Persian speaking countries.[1] It is used as a derogatory word, but also as a self-denomination.

It was transferred with more ambiguous connotations to Southern European immigrants in the 1960s, and is now usually used with an exclusively derogatory connotation against people with roots in the "Orient" (German term for the area which includes North Africa, Middle East and Afghanistan).

The word is originally derived from the Hawaiian word for human, kanaka. Until 2009, several rough translations of the word "Kanak" were admitted: "man", "animal man", and "wild man" being the most used. In its resolution n°5195, the Academy of the Polynesian languages Pa ' umotu specified a definition more faithful to the primal Polynesian language Mamaka Kaïo of origin, that of "free man".

As is the case with the terms nigger or queer in English, Kanake has been re-appropriated by people of Turkish, Kurdish, Arab and of other Middle Eastern ethnic minorities in Germany and used proudly as a term of self-identification. In that context, Kanak Sprak is a term used for the German dialect and manner of speech used especially among these counter-cultures.

Despite this, the word is often used in common language and also in Hip-Hop, films (e.g. Kanak Attack [de]), etc. as a modified synonym to nigga. Similar to the use of nigga in the United States, this is often done to emphasize a flamboyant manner, violent tendencies, an affinity to crime and a status as an outcast from society, both used as a derogatory term and especially by young people who grew up in Germany and originate from predominantly Muslim countries.[2]

Some claim that the vernacular use of the word may be on the decline. In an interview on 26 February 2006 with the German weekly Die Welt, German-Turkish author Feridun Zaimoğlu was asked if the word Kanake still appeared in contemporary language. Zaimoğlu answered, "That is over. Also pleasant!" In his first book Kanak Sprak 1995, Zaimoğlu attempts to express the authentic, tough, and subversive power of slang language spoken by young Turkish male youth in Germany and calls for a new self-confidence.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Matthias Heine (2016-04-18), Kanake: Ein Südseewort wurde auf Deutsch zum Schimpfwort – Bedeutung des Lehnworts Kanaka aus Hawaii (in German)
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-02-23. Retrieved 2011-07-11.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)