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German Idioms and Expressions

Here are some German idioms and expressions you should know!

Some are hilarious and others have a historical background. With these idioms you will also get to know German culture and you will pick up some important words and phrases.

(Sich fühlen wie) ein Fisch auf dem Trockenen

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The literal meaning is: “(feeling like) a fish on the dry

The German meaning is: “Feeling out of place; different to other people.

German Idiom - Ein Fisch auf dem Trockenen

Ich habe Schwein gehabt

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Literally it means: “I’ve had a pig

In German we use this idiom to say: “I was dead lucky“.

It is said that someone has “Schwein gehabt” if they have been lucky without having done anything themselves to earn it.

The origin of this saying is uncertain.

But we suspect that the idiom originated in the Middle Ages.

At that time, sometimes the worst in a competition was given a pig as a consolation prize. This made them look ridiculous, but they also got something valuable, because pigs were considered valuable at that time.

Ich habe Schwein gehabt

Sie spielt die beleidigte Leberwurst

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The literal meaning is: “She is playing the insulted liver sausage.

And the German meaning is: “She is sulking because she didn’t get
what she wanted.

Sie spielt die beleidigte Leberwurst

Schlafen wie ein Murmeltier

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The literal meaning is: “Sleep like a marmot

The German meaning is: “Sleep very deeply

German Idiom - Schlafen wie ein Murmeltier

Guten Rutsch

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The literal meaning is: “Have a good slide

The German meaning is: “Have a good year

Guten Rutsch

Ich bin fix und fertig

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The literal meaning is: “I’m quick and ready.

The German meaning is: “I’m exhausted“.

Ich bin fix und fertig

Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof

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Literally it means: “I only understand train station.

And the German meaning is: “I don’t understand anything“.

German Idiom - Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof

Komm schon, spring über deinen Schatten

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Literally it means: “Come on, jump over your shadow

And the German meaning is: “Get out of your comfort zone!“.

German Idiom - Komm schon, spring über deinen Schatten

Du nimmst mich auf den Arm!

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Literally: “You’re taking
me on your arm!

In German the meaning is: “You’re joking“.

German Idiom - Du nimmst mich auf den Arm

Tomaten auf den Augen haben

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Literally: “To have tomatoes
on one’s eyes

In German the meaning is: “To be oblivious to what is going around you“.

German Idiom - Tomaten auf den Augen haben

Jetzt haben wir den Salat

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Literally: “Now we have the salad

In German the meaning is: “Now everything is a mess“.

German idiom - Jetzt haben wir den Salat -o

Öl ins Feuer gießen

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Literally: “Pour oil on the fire

In German the meaning is: “to make a bad situation worse“.

Expression Öl ins Feuer gießen

Du gehst mir auf den Keks

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Literally it means: “You’re walking on my cookie

In German we use this idiom to say: “You’re annoying me“.

Du gehst mir auf den Keks

Ich habe einen Kater

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Literally it means: “I have a male cat

However, in German we also use this expression as an idiom to say that we have a hangover.

Einen Kater haben

Da steppt der Bär

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Literally it means: “The bear dances there“.

In German we use this idiom to say that it is or will be a good party.

Da steppt der Baer

Das ist mir Wurst

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Literally it means: “This is sausage to me

In German you say that “if you are indifferent or don’t care about something“.

Expression Das ist mir Wurst

Das ist ein Katzensprung

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Literally, it means “that’s a cat’s jump“, but in German we use it to talk about
a place that’s close.

It is similar to “a stone’s throw away

Das ist ein Katzensprung

Wo sich Fuchs und Hase gute Nacht sagen

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Literally it means: where fox and hare say goodnight to one another.

However, in German we also use this expression as an idiom to say a place is very far away.

It’s similar to saying “in the middle of nowhere” or “out in the sticks.”

Wo sich Fuchs und Hase - German Idioms and Expressions

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