German Idioms and Their Quirky Translations

German Language

Welcome to the ultimate glossary of German idioms and their English translations! Here you will find more than 700 idioms used in German-speaking countries, and their English meanings. For a bit of fun, the literal translations are also provided.

Um den heißen Brei herumreden

Literal Translation – Talk around the hot porridge.

English Meaning – Beat around the bush.

Although you may not need this phrase very often with your direct German friends, it could come in useful if you want to sound more like a native speaker. If you want someone to get to the point, tell them:  

  • Rede nicht um den den heißen Brei herum. (Don’t (you) beat around the bush.)

Da kannst du Gift drauf nehmen

Literal Translation – You can put poison on that!

English Meaning – You can bet your life on it!

This following German idiom doesn’t sound very friendly, but it means that something is a sure thing. For example, if someone asks if you think you’ll pass your next German exam, you can respond with this phrase.

Sich zum Affen machen

Literal Translation – Make an ape of yourself

English Meaning – Make a fool of yourself

Instead of making a fool of themselves, Germans turn into monkeys or apes. If you think someone is misbehaving, you can say:

  • Mach dich nicht zum Affen! (Don’t make a fool of yourself!)

Zwei Fliegen mit einer Klappe schlagen

Literal Translation – Hit two flies with one swat.

English Meaning – Kill two birds with one stone.

The next time you do two things at once, remember this German idiom that has been around since the 8th century. 

  • Du kannst zwei Fliegen mit einer Klappe schlagen. (You can hit two flies with one stone.)

Eine Extrawurst verlangen

Literal Translation – Demand an extra sausage.

English Meaning – Demand special treatment

Imagine the entitlement someone must have to demand an extra sausage! Although this German idiom includes a food reference, use this expression to speak about entitled individuals in a disapproving tone.

  • Warum verlangst du immer eine Extrawurst?! (Why do you always demand special treatment?!)

Himmel und Hölle in Bewegung setzen

Literal Translation – Set heaven and hell in motion.

English Meaning – Move heaven and earth.

When you think of a romantic phrase to say to your loved one, you probably don’t think about including the word “hell.” In German, it’s completely acceptable to say you’ll do anything to achieve a goal. 

  • Ich setze Himmel und Hölle in Bewegung. (I’m moving heaven and earth.)

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