Kraut is a German word recorded in English from 1918 onwards as a derogatory term for a German, particularly a German soldier during World War I and World War II. Its earlier meaning in English was as a synonym for sauerkraut, a traditional German and central European food.
In German, the term means "herb", or designates the leaves and stem of a plant as opposed to the root. The term is more often used in compound nouns for herbs, and also for cabbage and cabbage products:
- Weißkraut = white cabbage (also called Weißkohl)
- Blaukraut or Rotkraut = red cabbage (also called Rotkohl)
- Sauerkraut = fermented white cabbage or 'sour cabbage'
- Unkraut = weed
- Bohnenkraut = savory
- Rübenkraut = thick sugar beet syrup
The plural Kräuter is commonly used (herbs, weeds), but when talking about spices, the singular is often replaced by Gewürz which can refer to any spice.
Although recorded as a colloquial term for Germans by the mid-nineteenth century, it was during World War I that Kraut came to be used in English as a derogatory term for a German. In World War II it was used mainly by American soldiers and less so by British soldiers, who preferred the terms Jerry or Fritz. The stereotype of the sauerkraut-eating German dates back long before this time, and can be seen, for example, in Jules Verne's depiction of the evil German industrialist Schultz, an avid sauerkraut eater, in The Begum's Fortune.
Krautrock is a popularly accepted term for a form of highly experimental German prog rock of the late 1960s and 1970s. Krautrock was typified by acts such as Amon Düül, Kraftwerk, Neu!, Tangerine Dream, Faust, Can and David Bowie on his "Berlin Trilogy" albums Low, "Heroes", and Lodger, as well as many others.
The Swedish indie rock band Peter Bjorn and John composed the track titled "School of Kraut".
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- Oxford English Dictionary. Second edition, 1989. "1. = SAUERKRAUT, SOURCROUT. Also attrib. and Comb. 2. (Often with capital initial.) A German, esp. a German soldier. Also attrib. and Comb. Derogatory."