July 6, 2015 by Boris

German Idioms

After I recently changed the cover photo of my private Facebook account to the one you can see below, I was very positively surprised by the feedback of my friends. In total, my friends commented with literal translations of around 40 more or less commonly used German idioms.

This led me to write this little post about it.

Idioms exist in every language. But what is an idiom?

An idiom is a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words (e.g. over the moon, see the light ).

We rely on those little expressions in daily conversation to say precisely what we want to say in a quick and humorous way. We also rely on our conversation partner understanding precisely the meaning of the idioms we use.

To pay tribute to the German idiom, I have compiled some of my favourites, the direct English translation and then the English counterpart. Have fun and enjoy them!

German Idiom Literal English Translation English Counterpart
Jetzt haben wir den Salat! Now we have the salad! Shit has hit the fan
Ich mache mich jetzt auf die Socken. I make myself on the socks now. I’m setting off now
Das ist mir Wurst. That’s sausage to me. I don’t care.
Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof. I can only understand ‘train station’. It’s all Greek to me.
Daumen drücken! To press your thumbs. To cross your fingers.
Schwein haben. To have a pig. To have a stroke of luck.
In der Not frisst der Teufel Fliegen. In adversity, the devil eats flies. Beggars can’t be choosers.
Mein Englisch ist unter aller Sau. My English is under all pig. My English is really bad.
Ich glaube ich spinne. I believe I spider. I think I’m going crazy.
Jemanden Honig um den Mund schmieren. To smear honey around someone’s mouth. To butter someone up.