German Expressions, Idioms and Slang Phrases: 180 of the Best (2023)

Knowing formal German is helpful in the business world and should get you through small talk. But as soon as you listen to an informal German conversation between friends or colleagues, you’ll soon encounter colloquial words that the textbook hasn’t mentioned.

Language is alive and textbooks can never be updated as quickly as language changes. German slang phrases and words are different, from the South to the North, from Austria to Switzerland and often even from city to city!

If you truly want to learn the language, start with a German class, and then listen to what the natives actually say and pick up some fascinating German expressions.

Otherwise, we’ve collected a vast array of German colloquialisms for you - including some words, phrases and idioms that you may not have heard before.

German Expressions, Idioms and Slang Phrases: 180 of the Best (1)

Why you need to know German expressions and slang

Slang words are the way to build your practical language skills

Textbooks can give you a great foundation in terms of grammar and general speech. But if you find yourself in a practical speaking environment with people whose first language is German, you’ll soon learn ways to express yourself that are either locally or culturally unique. Nothing shows your language skills better than being able to converse with the locals.

Some of the most fun German words are slang words

German slang words include words like Pillepalle and Pusemuckel or Klackermatsch and Kladderadatsch, words that are rare and more fun to pronounce than any formal words. Slang words are young and sometimes a little weird, which makes them interesting.

Many of them don’t have literal translations. To fully grasp their meaning, you already need a basic understanding of the language. So become conversational in German first and when you get a grasp of the slang on top of that, you’ll feel like a total pro!

German expressions tell you a lot about the language

Expressions mirror a language’s culture, so they can actually tell you a lot about Germanic languages, Germany and what parts of social life are important to German-speakers.

In some languages, idioms borrow many expressions from food or the animal world, while others are based on sports or cars.

Download our free guide to German slang!

German Expressions, Idioms and Slang Phrases: 180 of the Best (2)

German slang

One characteristic of slang is that it is typically orally delivered rather than being written down and can vary vastly from German-speaking country to country and city to city, which makes German slang words harder to find and learn for language learners outside of a German speaking environment.

That's why we compiled a detailed list with German slang from different areas including their pronunciation in the International Phonetic Alphabet, so you know exactly what to say and how to say it.

German slang words

Slang words are informal and often associated with personal and sometimes taboo topics, which is why some of them might be a little rude.

They are favored by the young and enjoyed by language lovers, as they include fun words like “Quatsch” (Nonsense), “etepetete” (fussy), and “balla-balla” (cuckoo), as well as some very tame and loving ways to call someone an idiot.

Who knows? You might need those, too.

German slang word German pronunciation English meaning
Quatsch [kvat͡ʃ] Nonsense
Papperlapapp [ˌpapɐlaˈpap] Nonsense
Paps [paps] Dad
Mutti [ˈmʊti] Mom
Funzen [ˈfʊnt͡sn̩] To function
Abklatsch [ˈapˌklatʃ] A cheap copy
Abdrehen [ˈapˌdʁeːən] To go crazy
Horst [hɔʁst] Idiot
Pfosten [ˈp͡fɔstn̩] Idiot
Förster [ˈfœʁstɐ] Idiot
Hirni [hɪʁni] Idiot
Dulli [ˈdʊli]] Helpless or clumsy person
Lusche [ˈlʊʃə] Loser
Zocken [ˈt͡sɔkn̩] To play
Chillig [ˈt͡ʃɪlɪç] Relaxed
Büx (Northern) [bʏks] Pants
Blechen [ˈblɛçn̩] To pay involuntarily
Baggage [bagaːʒə] Rabble
Bespaßen [bəˈʃpaːsn̩] To make somebody have fun
Betüddeln [bəˈtʏdl̩n] To look after someone
Bummeln [ˈbʊml̩n] To take one’s time
Fachsimpeln [ˈfaxˌzɪmpl̩n] To talk shop
Etepetete [eːtəpeˈteːtə] Fussy
Bolzen [ˈbɔlt͡sn̩] To play soccer
Balla-balla [ˈbalɐˈbalɐ] Coo-coo
Brüller [ˈbʁʏlɐ] Very funny joke
Lachflash [ˈlaxflɛʃ]] Laughing fit
Faxen [ˈfaksn̩] Shenanigans
Bonze [ˈbɔnt͡sə] Rich person
Kohle [ˈkoːlə] Money
Betucht [bəˈtuːxt] Very rich
Betuppen [bəˈtʊpn̩] To cheat someone
Gewieft [ɡəˈviːft] Cunning
Flunsch [flʊnʃ] Pout
Schmollen [ˈʃmɔlən] To pout
Glotzböbbel [ɡlɔt͡sˈbøpl̩] Big eyes
Klackermatsch [ˈklakɐmat͡ʃ] Mud to play with
Kladderadatsch [kladəʁaˈdat͡ʃ] Mess
Putzig [ˈpʊt͡sɪk] Cute
Schnuffig [ˈʃnufl̩ɪk] Cuddly
Glipschig [ˈɡlɪbt͡ʃɪk]] Slimy
Sich kabbeln [ˈkabl̩n] To squabble
Hingucker [ˈhɪnˌɡʊkɐ] Eye catcher
Saugen [ˈzaʊ̯ɡn̩] To download
Snacken [snækn̩] To snack
Knuspern [ˈknʊspɐn] To crunch
Mampfen [ˈmamp͡fm̩] To munch
Kieken [ˈkiːkŋ̩] To look
Pusemuckel [puːɪ̯zəmʊkl̩] Any random place in the middle of nowhere
Keck [kɛk] Cheeky
Kess [kɛs] Cheeky
Versifft [fɛɐ̯ˈzɪft] Filthy
Räudig [ˈʁɔɪ̯dɪç], Disgusting
Kneipe [ˈknaɪ̯pə] Bar
Vorglühen [ˈfoːɐ̯ˌɡlyːən] To pre-game
Klette [ˈklɛtə] A clingy person
Knabbern [ˈknabɐn] To much
Pille-Palle [ˈpɪləˈpalə] Easy-peasy
Scheppern [ˈʃɛpɐn] To clank
Malochen [maˈloːxn̩] To work hard
Ranklotzen [ˈʁanˌklɔt͡sn̩] To work to the max
Naschis [ˈnaʃis] Sweets
Rabauke [ʁaˈbaʊ̯kə] Ruffian
Schlingel [ˈʃlɪŋl̩] Rascal
Kiddies [ˈkɪdis] Children
Nucki [ˈnʊki] Pacifier
Ruckzuck [ˌʁʊkˈt͡sʊk] Super fast
Etwas peilen [ˈpaɪ̯lən] To understand something
Perso [ˈpɛʁzo] ID
Prio [pʁio] Priority
Quali [ˌkvaliˈ] Quality
Telen [telən] To phone

General German slang phrases

Hallöchen, was geht? There are countless slang words in German, even just for saying hello. Depending on the region and who you speak to, you’ll hear different German greetings everywhere you go.

Do you actually say hello when you meet a friend? It’s much more common to use any phrase from “hi” or “hey” to “yo” and “sup”. Yet, most German learners don’t actually know many German greetings, which is why we listed them for you, along with some other handy colloquial phrases you might need in a casual conversation.

German slang phrase German pronunciation English meaning
Hallöchen [haˈløːçən] Hello
Was geht? [vas ɡeːt] What’s up?
Na [naː] Hey
Jein [jaɪ̯n] Yes and no
Nee [neː] No
Moin (Northern) [mɔɪ̯n] Hello
Moinsen (Northern) [mɔɪ̯nzn̩] Hello
Tach (Northern, Northrhein-Westfalian) [ˈtax] Hello
Servus (Southern) [ˈseɐ̯vus] Hello/Bye
Grüß Gott! (Austrian, Southern) [ɡʁyːs ɡɔt] Hello
Ei Gude! (Hessian, Rhineland-Palatinaten) [aɪ̯ ɡuːdə] Hello/Bye
Grüezi (Eastern and Northern Switzerland) [ɡʁyːt͡si] Hello
Grüessech (West Switzerland) [ɡʁyːˈzɛç] Hello
Eine Klatsche haben [ˈklat͡ʃə] To be crazy
Hast du sie nicht mehr alle? [hast duː ziː nɪçt meːɐ̯ ˈalə] Have you lost your mind?
Passt schon [past ʃoːn] Whatever
Happa-Happa [ˈhapaˈhapa], Food
Für Lau [fyːɐ̯ ˈlaʊ̯] For free
Babbeln (Hessian) [ˈbabl̩n] To talk
Sabbeln (Northern) [ˈzabl̩n] To talk
Lällebäbbel (Swabian) [lɛləbɛbl̩] Fool
Lällegschwätz (Swabian) [lɛləɡˈʃvɛt͡s] Chitchat
Bissel (Bavarian) [ˈbɪsl̩] A little
Blagen (Ruhr area) [ˈblaːɡn̩] Annoying children
Lütt (Low German) [lʏt] Small
Bölken (Ruhr area) [ˈbœlkn̩] To yell
Was für ein Prachtexemplar [ˈvas fyːɐ̯ aɪ̯n ˈpʁaxtʔɛksɛmˌplaːɐ̯] What a beauty
Boah [bɔːɐ̯] Wow
Igitt [iˈɡɪt] Urgh
Pfui [p͡fʊɪ̯] Urgh
Menno [ˈmɛnoː] Man (unsatisfied)

German slang for cool

The most common ‘German’ word for cool is actually cool. It’s a universal word, used in most regions and across generations.

There are many more though. So we have collected some more ways to say cool informally for you to use in case you see or hear about anything cool and want to casually comment like a German-speaker:

German slang for cool German pronunciation English meaning (if applicable, otherwise disregard)
Cool, kuhl [kuːl] Cool
Nice [naɪ̯s] Nice
Bombe [ˈbɔmbə] The bomb
Lässig [ˈlɛsɪç] Casual
Genial [ɡeˈni̯aːl] Genius
Geil [ɡaɪ̯l] Hot
Stark [ʃtaʁk] Strong
Mega [meɡa] Mega
Krass [kʁas] Rad
Fett [fɛt] Fat
Hammer [ˈhamɐ] Hammer
Super [ˈzuːpɐ] Super

German expressions

Some of these are very similar to their English counterparts. Others are rather unique.

You can either learn them like vocabulary or you can have a closer look at them and maybe some of them will give you a deeper understanding of the German language.

Common expressions and their English meaning

These expressions are commonly used by German native speakers. Pick and choose which ones to use in your next conversation and you’ll blend in effortlessly!

Expression Pronunciation Literally translated English meaning
Kein Ding [kaɪ̯n dɪŋ] No thing No problem
Kein Plan [kaɪ̯n plaːn] No plan No idea
Keine Ahnung [ˈkaɪ̯nə ˈaːnʊŋ] No suspicion No idea
Auf keinsten [aʊ̯f ˈkaɪ̯nstən ˈfal] In the least (of cases) No way
Abgespaced [ˈapɡəspeɪst] Spaced out Crazy
Abgefahren [ˈapɡəˌfaːʁən] Driven off Wicked
Durchkauen [ˈdʊʁçˌkaʊ̯ən] To chew through To talk something through repeatedly
Intelligenzbestie [ˌɪntɛliˈɡɛnt͡sˌbɛstiə] Beast of intelligence Egghead
Labertasche [ˈlaːbɐˌtaʃə] Talk bag Chatterbox
Backpfeife [ˈbakˌp͡faɪ̯fə] Cheek pipe A slap in the face
Fackeln [ˈfakl̩n] To flicker To hesitate
Pumpen [ˈpʊmpn̩], To pump To work out at the gym
Kopfkino [ˈkɔp͡fˌkiːno] Mental cinema Head game
Krawall [kʁaˈval] - Turmoil
Remmidemmi [ˌʁɛmiˈdɛmi] - Turmoil
Kreischi [kʁaɪ̯ʃi] Screamy A screaming fan
Blindfisch [blɪntfɪʃ] Blind fish Someone who doesn’t see well
Ferkeln [ˈfɛʁkl̩n] To bear a little pig To bear a child
Schnattern [ˈʃnatɐn] To gaggle To talk quickly
Büffeln [ˈbʏfl̩n] To buffalo To study
Aalglatt [ˈaːlˈɡlat] Smooth as an eel slick
Naschkatze [ˈnaʃˌkat͡sə] A munching cat Someone who loves sweets
Hosenstall [ˈhoːzn̩ˌʃtal] Stable of the pants Fly (of pants)
Faulpelz [ˈfaʊ̯lˌpɛlt͡s] Lazy fur Lazy person
Blitzmerker [blɪt͡s,mɛʁkr] A flash noticer (ironic) Someone who is slow to notice
Kleinkariert [ˈklaɪ̯nkaˌʁiːɐ̯t] Small-plaid-patterned Petty-minded

German expressions of excitement

Maybe getting excited doesn’t sound as cheerful in German as it does in some other languages, but there are just as many German expressions of excitement!

Here is a list of expressions to use when you agree with someone or want to voice your excitement.

Expression Pronunciation Literally translated English meaning
Ach wie schön [ax viː ʃøːn] Oh how beautiful Nice
Aber hallo [ˈaːbɐ ˈhalo] But hello Definitely
Auf jeden [aʊ̯f ˈjeːdn̩] In every (case) Definitely
Klaro [klaʁoː] Clear-oh Sure
Alles klar [ˈaləs klaːɐ̯] All clear All right
Wunderbar [ˈvʊndɐbaːɐ̯] Wonderful Wonderful
Klasse [ˈklasə] Class Great
Hurra [hʊˈʁaː] Hooray Hooray
Jippi [jɪpi] - Yippi
Juhu [juˈhuː] - Yay

German idioms

Sometimes German idioms translate quite literally, while other times their mysterious meaning leaves you seriously confused about its origins.

Why are Germans ‘adding their mustard’ to a conversation when they voice their opinion and why do they ‘only understand train station’ when they don’t understand a thing? You’ll be amazed by some of these beautifully weird expressions.

Expression Pronunciation Literally translated English meaning
Auf jemanden abfahren [ˈapˌfaːʁən] To drive off on somebody To be into somebody
Seinen Senf dazu geben [ˈzaɪ̯nən zɛɱf ˈdaːt͡suː ˈɡeːbm̩] To add one’s mustard To add one's two cents
Sich einen abbrechen [zɪç ˈaɪ̯nənˈapˌbʁɛçn̩] To break something off To try too hard
Dumme Nuss [ˈdʊmə nʊs] Dumb nut Dummy
Affentanz [ˈafn̩tant͡s] Monkey Dance Fuss
Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof [ɪç fɛɐ̯ˈʃteːə nuːɐ̯ ˈbaːnˌhoːf] I understand only train station I understand none of this
Nicht alle Tassen im Schrank haben [nɪçt ˈalə ˈtasn̩ ɪm ˈʃʁaŋk ˈhaːbm̩] Not have all the cups in the cupboard anymore To be crazy
Auf links waschen [aʊ̯f lɪŋks ˈvaʃn̩] To wash on the left side To wash inside out
Falsche Schlange [ˈfalʃə ˈʃlaŋə] False snake Someone who isn’t trustworthy
Komischer Kauz [ˈkoːmɪʃɐ kaʊ̯t͡s] Funny owl Weirdo
Für die Katz’ sein [fyːɐ̯ diː ˈkat͡s zaɪ̯n] For the cat To be all for nothing
Jetzt geht’s um die Wurst [jɛt͡st ɡeːt ɛs ʊm diː vʊʁst] Now it’s about the sausage It’s now or never
Die beleidigte Leberwurst spielen [diː bəˈlaɪ̯dɪçtə ˈleːbɐvʏʁstə ˈʃpiːlən] To play the offended liver sausage To be in a huff
Grottenschlecht [ˌɡʁɔtn̩ˈʃlɛçt] As bad as a grotto Terrible
Da haben wir den Salat! [daˈhaːbn̩ viːɐ̯ deːn saˈɫat ] There we have the salad There we have it!
Häufchen Elend [ˈhɔɪ̯fçən ˈeːlɛnt] A pile of misery Someone who is miserable
Sich in die Haare kriegen [zɪç ɪn diː ˈhaːʁə ˈkʁiːɡn̩] To get into each other’s hair To argue
Klarschiff machen [klaːɐ̯,ʃɪf ˈmaxn̩] To clear the ship To clean up
Sich vom Acker machen [zɪç fɔm ˈakɐ ˌmaxn̩] Get away from the field To leave
Bombenwetter [ˈbɔmbn̩ˈvɛtɐ] Bombing weather Clear weather
Knall och Fall [ˈknalː ˌɔ ˈfalː] Bang after the fall All of a sudden
Das ist doch assi [das ɪst dɔxˈazi] That’s antisocial That sucks
Pi mal Daumen [piː maːl ˈdaʊ̯mən] Pi times thumb Approximately
Mach mal halblang [max maːlˈhalblaŋ] Make it half the length Calm down
Alles paletti [ˈaləs ˌpaˈlɛti] All pallets Everything’s ok
Aus der Reihe tanzen [aʊ̯s deːɐ̯ ˈʁaɪ̯ə ˌtant͡sn̩] Dance out of the row To step out of the line
Jemandem auf den Keks gehen [jeːmandm̩ aʊ̯f deːn keːks ˈɡeːən] To walk on someone’s cookie To bug someone
Pipapo [pipaˈpoː] - With all the trimmings
Nicht die Bohne [nɪçt diː ˈboːnə] Not the bean Not at all

Free downloadable guide to German slang

We've created a list of popular slang words and phrases so you can start sounding like, and connect with German locals. This guide to slang will take your German learning to the next level.

German Expressions, Idioms and Slang Phrases: 180 of the Best (3)


German Expressions, Idioms and Slang Phrases: 180 of the Best (4)

What are some common German facial expressions that are useful to understand?

Compared to people from some other countries, Germans aren’t known for their unique facial expressions.

Germans wink and blink for flirting, pull down the skin underneath one eye if they doubt someone is saying the truth, purse their lips to think and smile as much as most others.

What are some well-known German expressions about happiness?

  • When German-speakers are excited, they say things like “Hurra”, “Jippi” and “Juhu”, common expressions of excitement.
  • Someone, who is lucky, is called a “Lucky Mushroom” in German (Glückspilz).
  • Words for “happy” include “froh”, “fröhlich”, “glücklich” and “freudig”.

What is some German slang to say goodbye?

Not everyone says “Auf Wiedersehen”, when saying goodbye in German, as it is quite formal. Some ways to casually say goodbye are:

  • Tschüß
  • Bis später
  • Tschö
  • Servus
  • Bis dann
  • Mach’s gut or Man sieht sich

Fun tips for learning German colloquialisms

German Expressions, Idioms and Slang Phrases: 180 of the Best (5)

Learn from a fluent German-speaker

Slang rarely makes it into the books, so native-fluent speakers are the best teachers. Find a German-speaker and ask them to teach you all their favorite slang words and slang phrases.

And if you’re ever unsure about a word you learn? Ask them if it’s actually used like that or used at all. Then, marvel at some of the words they know that might be unique to where they grew up or to their social circles.

Consume original German content

There is an abundance of accessible German movies, TV shows and songs, which are great for learning informal ways of talking.

Not all of them include the most natural language though, so if you want unscripted German language content, you can watch interviews or listen to rap music, for a more raw use of the language.

Is it an abbreviation?

If you don’t understand a word but it sounds kind of familiar, there is a good chance that it is just an abbreviation of a formal word. Oftentimes, locals use abbreviated slang expressions that just sound more natural to native ears.

You will hear words like “Prio” for Priorität (priority), “Quali” for “Qualität” (Quality), “Telen” for “Telefonieren” (to phone) or “Perso” for ”Personalausweis” (ID). We all know how long German words can be, so who can blame them? If you hear an unknown word, ask yourself if maybe it's just a short form of something you already know and maybe you can figure out the complete word yourself!

Untangle the Kladderadatsch of German

We listed countless German colloquialisms, some of which are very popular and some of which might not even be known to all German-speakers. Just try saying “Papperlapapp” or “Kladderadatsch” and you’ll see why German slang is so much fun.

Usually colloquial words like that, and especially German idioms have exciting origin stories as well. They are easy to research in case you are particularly curious about one or two of them. They can be weird and puzzling but often fascinating and there are so many of them.

So find your favorite ones and have fun!

Remember, practice makes perfect. Keep up the great work and keep building your confidence with German vocabulary. Check out our German language blog to maintain your momentum!


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