5 German idioms you’re unlikely to forget

Ah, German… is there a more beautiful tongue? I’m no Berliners, but ich sincerely think nicht. What better way to cement your mastery of this melodic language than to add a few more idioms to your bag?

Learning German with idioms and expressions will not only help you understand the many nuances of the German language, but will make your speech more diverse and natural when chatting with native speakers. Acquiring common German idioms will take you to the next level of language proficiency.

We’ve dusted off 10 German idioms that intrigue, impress, baffle and astound, but most of all, will win you a Freund or two.

Du gehst mir auf den Keks 

A tasty expression you’ll find yourself using in every possible situation and we can hardly blame you. Du gehst mir auf den Keks literally translates as “you’re walking on my cookie/cake” but actually means that someone is getting on your nerves.

Example: Ich wünschte, die Kinder würden aufhören zu schreien; die gehen mir echt auf den Keks.

Translation: I wish the children would stop screaming, they’re really getting on my nerves.

That’s the way the cookie crumbles in German-speaking countries, we suppose.

Das ist mir Wurst 

Contrary to popular belief, a wurst isn’t just a tasty snack – it’s also a source of some very quirky idioms. German speakers most often use the phrase das ist mir Wurst to express their indifference or lack of concern about a situation or a problem. An English equivalent would be “I couldn’t care less” or “I don’t mind”.

Useful tip: For those living in southern Germany, wurst is spelled wurscht.

If you want to avoid any mention of a wurst, try Das ist mir egal or Das ist mir Schnuppe.

Example:

“Würdest du lieber etwas trinken oder essen gehen?”

– “Das ist mir Wurst / Wurscht.”

Translation:

–  “Would you rather get a drink or grab a bite to eat?”

– “I really don’t mind to be honest.”

Now that just sounds like indifference to the point of cruelty.

Das kannst du deiner Oma erzählen

Grannies belong in expressions -That much is self-evident. The German idiom Das kannst du deiner Oma erzählen literally translates as “you can tell that to your grandmother” and is used to express disbelief in reply to someone who is obviously lying or exaggerating something they have witnessed.

An English equivalent of this idiom might be “as if!” or  “tell it to the marines” (UK only).

Example:

“Ich hatte heute 100% in meiner Wunderbla-Lektion.”

”Das kannst du deiner Oma erzählen!”

Translation:

– “I got 100% on my Wunderbla lesson today.”

– “As if! I don’t believe you.”

Ich habe einen Kater

In French we have gueule de bois, in English “a hangover”, in Spanish the resaca and in German… Kater. If you’ve recently developed a pounding headache, a craving for greasy foods and a burning desire to stay in bed forever, look no further. You’ve got the Kater syndrome, and recovery is harsh. In German, the idiom ich habe einen Kater literally means “I have a tomcat”, but actually means you’ve got a significant hangover.

Did you know? The word kater comes from the Leipzig pronunciation of the word katarrh (“catarrh” in English), which refers to a build-up of mucus at the back of one’s nose. Close to the English “frog in your throat”, n’est-ce pas ?

Example: Ich habe einen schrecklichen Kater.

Translation: I’ve got the most terrible hangover.

Da wird der Hund in der Pfanne verrückt 

This next idiom isn’t fit for dog lovers, and our resident hound would take major umbrage. If a German native speaker tells you da wird der Hund in der Pfanne verrückt, you may be talking nonsense and should consider rephrasing.

This 20th-century idiom literally means “the dog in the pan will go crazy”. Native German speakers will use this phrase to express astonishment or outrageousness in response to some unexpected news.

Example:

– “Wusstest du, dass Luna und David sich getrennt haben?”

– “Nein! Da wird ja der Hund in der Pfanne verrückt!”

Translation:

– “Did you know that Luna and David broke up?”

– “No, I don’t believe it!”

Bonus: auf Wolke 7 schweben

Our last entry is worth waiting for. Auf Wolke 7 schweben literally translates as “to float on cloud seven” and lines up with the English expression “to be on cloud nine”. While we may number our clouds differently, we’re happy that the German and English see eye to eye on this one, at least as far as happy clouds are concerned.

Example: Ich habe diese außergewöhnliche Frau Betty kennengelernt und wir sind so glücklich miteinander. Ich schwebe auf Wolke 7.

Translation: I met this extraordinary woman Betty and we are so happy with each other. I’m on cloud 9. 


These idioms weren’t enough? You’re insatiable. Try our online German course Wunderbla for free for 7 days today.



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