Gemütlichkeit derives from gemütlich, the adjective of Gemüt, which means "heart, mind, temper, feeling" expressed by (and cognate with) English mood. The German abstract noun Gemütlichkeit has been adopted into English. The current meaning of the word derives from its use in the Biedermeier period. By the second half of the 19th century, it also became associated with a set of traits supposedly unique to the German culture. In the United States, the city of Jefferson, Wisconsin uses the phrase: "The Gemütlichkeit City" as its motto.
The word can be used in descriptions of holidays. In the 1973 English contract law case Jarvis v Swans Tours Ltd, a holidaymaker sued after not receiving the Gemütlichkeit promised by the promotional literature for a package holiday to the Swiss Alps.
The communal connotations of Gemütlichkeit are also emphasized in some uses of the term. For example, one academic described it as a tradition of "public festivity" (in the form of a "mixture of music, food, and drink"), which "promote community solidarity." The Harlem Renaissance was then cited as of how a sense of Gemütlichkeit arises from a "mix of music, art and politics in service of community consciousness".
Gemütlichkeit has been appropriated at least once to describe the tenor of an economic era rather than spirit of a social gathering. In analysing the "inflation dampening effects of globalization" a Georgia Southern University professor wrote that certain U.S. economic trends could "spell an end of the Gemütlichkeit — a situation in which cheap labor and money abroad as well as ever-increasing productivity at home had permitted an uninterrupted spell of controlled growth in overall prices".
English has no direct translation for gemütlich or Gemütlichkeit. Cosy captures an element of it but crucially lacks those of friendliness and belonging. Stemming from the Scottish Gaelic word còsagach, cozy means "1 Full of holes or crevices. 2 Snug, warm, cosy, sheltered. 3 Spongy", according to Edward Dwelly's Scots Gaelic - English dictionary.