20: Things you wouldn’t know: More German Idioms

This is a series I’ve carried through a number of years of NaBloPoMo and I’ve been told that people always enjoy learning more German idioms, so I’ll attempt to find some more German sayings (along with their sometimes hilarious literal translations).

I tried to only pick idioms that are used pretty frequently in today’s everyday German (as far as I know). I use these pretty frequently and I also really enjoy teaching them to my non native German-speaking husband. He’s successfully dropped one or the other German idiom in conversation with me in the past and it’s always a bit of a fist-pump-kinda-moment. Hehe.

Make sure you check out the other round-ups of idioms here, here, here, here, and here.

Er ist nicht auf den Kopf gefallen. (He hasn’t been dropped on the head.) He’s a clever little guy.

Um den heißen Brei herumreden. (To talk around the hot porridge.) This is pretty self-explanatory, right? It means to not get to the point, but to beat around the bush.

Himmel und Hölle in Bewegung setzen. (To put heaven and hell into motion.) Oh hey, look, this one is always the same in both languages: to move heaven and earth.

Hier steppt der Bär. (The bear is tap-dancing around here.) We say that to say that it’s a good party and we’re having a good time.

Das geht weg wie warme Semmeln. (This goes like warm bread rolls.) What can I say, we Germans like our bread references, but this one is not far from the English translation. If something is very popular it goes like warm bread rolls or goes/sells like hotcakes.

Du kannst mich mal am A…bend besuchen. (You can come visit me at night.) Ok, this one is actually funny. The original saying goes “du kannst mich mal am Arsch lecken” (you can lick my ass!), but because that is very vulgar, someone started using “du kannst mich mal am Abend besuchen” (changing the sentence last minute from using “Arsch” (ass) to “Abend” (evening). The implication is still the same, it just sounds nicer: kiss my ass.

Ich komme in Teufels Küche. (I’ll get in the devil’s kitchen.) This means to “get into hot waters’, to get in trouble.

Er fällt immer mit der Tür ins Haus. (He always falls into the house with the door.) This is particularly German, I guess because it means “he always gets right to the point/blurts it out”. We Germans do like to be direct and oftentimes a bit blunt.

Gib ihm den kleinen Finger und er nimmt die ganze Hand. (Give him your little finger and he’ll take the whole hand.) Give an inch and they’ll take a mile.

Geh mir aus der Sonne. (Step out of my sun!) This could literally mean that someone is blocking the sun from you and you’re asking them to step aside a bit, but it’s often used figuratively to tell someone that they’re annoying you and that they’d rather have you shut up and disappear as not to dampen your mood.

Teach me an idiom! Or ask me for the translation of an English idiom into German!

  1. These are all so fun! I love idioms! I have to be careful using phrases like that around my son though, not because they’re inappropriate but because he is so literal! For example he’d be like, Why is the bear tap-dancing? Where is he? LOL

    1. Haha, I can totally see how that happens with kids… they’re so inquisitive :)

  2. Love your Idiom posts!

    1. Thanks friend. I am sure you know them all… sometimes I wonder if there are different idioms in different parts of Germany (there must be, right?)

  3. The bear is tap-dancing around here! I love these. Thanks for sharing.

    1. That’s one of my favorites ;)

  4. I took German diction in college (I was a voice major so we had to take Latin, French, and German) so I was trying to pronounce these idioms correctly in my head as I was reading. I am making my December lesson plans and one song I always do with my 4th graders is the German carol Lasst Uns Froh Und Munter Sein. I’m sure you know it? The kids love it!

    1. Oh, you took German diction… that is hard. Of course I know Lasst uns froh und munter sein… :) It’s a lovely Christmas Carol!

  5. I almost spit my tea out with the first one! That’s actually kind of funny. …also you can lick my ass….OMG…hahahaha!!!!I mean not literally….I’m just typing what you wrote. HAHAHAH!!!

    1. Haha. Idioms are fun, right?

  6. Hey San, they are always so fun.
    I didn’t know the “nice” version of the ass one though ;-)
    Guess in Berlin we are just rude HAHAHA

    Have a great evening.


    1. You did not know the “nice” version of the “kiss my ass”-one? Ha! You see, there are different idioms in different parts of the country I guess :)

  7. Idioms are kind of great- It’s interesting to learn where they came from too. Thanks for sharing! I kind of love the German language; I wish I was better at learning languages.

    1. Thank you – languages are so fun.

  8. Oh, my goodness… I LOVE THIS. SO VERY MUCH!!!!

    I can’t even pick a favorite, but I do love the first one. And I know the one about licking the a** because my family is classy like that so I was taught the correct idiom at a young age, LOL!

    My mom recently went to Germany and brought me back a little sign that reads “Hier kann jeder machen was ich will!” and it makes me laugh every time I see it :)

    1. I knew you would appreciate this :)
      Haha, that sign that your mom brought back is hilarious.

  9. I love the bear tap dancing one! That is excellent!

    1. One of my favorites :)

  10. What a fun list! I love the first one :)

    1. Thanks for stopping by :)

  11. Hier steppt der Bär is my favorite, obviously. I love these!

    1. Haha, right? I am telling you, idioms are the best.

  12. I’m going to share this with my husband, he was born in Germany, and he is always looking for german idioms.

    1. Oh yay, how fun. He’ll hopefully love those :)

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