German Idioms

German Idioms German Language Coach

All languages have peculiarities with some expressions that are difficult to translate into other languages and, even when translated, don’t make a great deal of sense. When you do choose to learn German in the City of London you might not necessarily be taught these phrases, but you could well come across them when you socialise in Germany, so you hopefully won’t be shocked; here are a few idioms that might leave you a little perplexed:

Lügen haben kurze Beine

Lies have short legs, meaning that deception might get you out of trouble in the short term, but sooner or later, it could come back and, to use an English idiom, bite you on the bum – like an angry dachshund!

Ich drücke dir die Daumen

In English, to wish you luck, your friends will cross their fingers for you, but in Germany, you might hear them say, “I press the thumbs for you,” while showing you their fists with thumbs duly pressed.

Es ist mir Wurst

When you are given two or more options, whether it’s a decision on where to go or what to do, and you don’t care one way or the other, in German, you would say, “It’s sausage to me”.

Hopfen und Malz ist verloren

There would have to be a beer-related idiom in German! In beer making, when something goes wrong during the brewing process, the ingredients are good for nothing. So, if a German says, “Hops and malt are lost,” you might as well give up as you are chasing a lost cause.

Schwein haben

You wouldn’t think of a pig as exceptionally fortunate, especially in Germany, where they are a part of the daily diet. However, they are also a sign of luck, so if you have a piece of good fortune, you could be told, “you had a pig,” meaning “lucky you!”

Nicht alle Tassen im Schrank haben

There are many English idioms for someone who’s crazy such as; he’s not all there; doesn’t have all his marbles, a pork pie short of a picnic, etc. In German, he doesn’t have all the cups in the cupboard.

Ich habe die Nase voll

When a German says, “I have the full nose,” he’s not asking for a tissue but telling you that he’s had enough of a particular situation. It’s similar to the English, “I’ve had a bellyful of that.”

Do you recognise the idiom in the picture at the top of the page?

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