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.)