Are you learning German? Is the German language “getting on your cookie?”
In umgangsprache (German slang), this phrase means something is getting on your nerves. For a well-rounded understanding of the German language, you'll need to know some of the essential slang.
German slang words and phrases are a fantastic way to build your language skills. First, many of the expressions sound silly in English, so they're fun to learn and easy to remember.
Secondly, you can create entire conversations on slang alone!
In this post, I'll show you how to bring your German sentences to life with words and phrases that only natives use.
Stay tuned to the end for an example of one of those slang-only conversations. You'll be ready to start using authentic German slang in no time.
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Colloquial German Greetings
There are just as many ways to greet someone in German as there are in English. Let's look at the most common everyday greetings.
Moin, or good morning, is a hello you're most likely to hear in the far north of Germany, in cities like Hannover and Hamburg and all around the Nordsee (North Sea).
Adding –chen as an ending of a word makes it sound cuter or softer in German.
This greeting is a way to say hello during lunchtime, especially at the workplace, or when you see someone eating.
The time-saving, na, is the ideal greeting for productive and punctual Germans.
This greeting stems from the Latin, “at your service.” You'll hear this greeting (which actually means “goodbye” and “hello”) in Bavaria.
Colourful Descriptions In German
Up next are descriptive words, mostly adjectives, that could come in handy during a conversation with native speakers.
The closest meaning to Assi in English is “trashy.” This word is short for antisocial and is often used as an insult to talk about someone who you perceive as unemployed, uneducated, and without manners.
Example: Dein Verhalten ist Assi. (Your behavior is trashy.)
If you go out for a night on the town in Germany, you might end up breit, dicht, or in other words, “wasted.”
Example: Ich war gestern Abend dicht. (I was wasted last night.)
In English, we often say something is “amazing” or “awesome.” The German equivalent is Hammer, which is also a tool when used as a noun. The expression Hammer geil can be used to say how outstanding something is.
Example: Der Film war der Hammer. (The movie was terrific.)
Irre is a common way of saying that something or someone is crazy.
Example: Bist du irre? (Are you crazy?)
Jein is a favorite German colloquialism and is a combination of Ja and Nein, meaning an ambiguous yes and no.
Example: Hast du Zeit? Jein, macht's ganz kurz. (Do you have time? Yes and no, make it very short.)
In English, we might also say “yes, but” or “no, but.”
To express how unbelievable, surprising, or extreme something is, use krass.
Example: Es ist krass wie schnell die Zeit vergeht. (It's unbelievable how fast time flies.)
The word sau means “pig” in German. Adding sau to the beginning of a word is like adding “really,” or “so,” in English.
Example: Der Kuchen ist saulecker! (The cake is so delicious!)
Quatsch is a way of saying, “nonsense.”
Example: Was erzählt er mir für einen Quatsch? (What kind of nonsense is he telling me?)
German Slang Verbs
Next, let's look at some everyday slang verbs used in German.
Tell someone to “go away” by saying, hau ab!
Example: Ich habe gesagt, du sollst abhauen. (I told you to get lost.)
#15 Bock Haben
This expression literally means “to have a steer.” However, in German, this phrase is used to say whether or not you feel like doing something.
- Example: Hast du Bock ins Kino zu gehen? (Are you in the mood for the cinema?)
- Example: Ich habe keinen Bock. (I'm not in the mood.)
Many German slang words are taken from English, such as chillen.
Example: Heute Abend chillen wir zu Hause. (Tonight we're chilling at home.)
Sometimes, Germans feel ashamed on behalf of others. Experiencing this feeling is called fremdschämen. The literal translation of this word is “stranger shame.”
Example: Wie peinlich! Ich muss mich fremdschämen. (How embarassing! I feel so ashamed for that person.)
Mampfen is another way to talk about eating in German.
Example: Wir schauen einen Film und mampfen Erdnüsse. (We're watching a film and munching on peanuts.)
When Germans start to go crazy, they make spider webs, also known as spinnen.
Example: Ich glaube, ich spinne. (I think I'm going nuts.)
Use this phrase when you can't believe what's going on or what someone is doing.
The word zocken means “to play” in German. Depending on the context, zocken can also mean “to gamble” or “to play video games” more precisely.
Example: Wir haben am Wochenende gezockt. (We played video games on the weekend.)
German Slang Nouns
Below, you'll find common colloquialisms for German nouns, that will impress your native German speaking friends when you drop them into conversation.
Alter, or “the old one” is a common expression among teenagers. The English equivalent is “man” or “dude.”
Example: Was geht, Alter? (What's up, dude?)
This word means “better-knower” or know-it-all.
Example: Der Besserwisser zeigt uns wie es geht. (The know-it-all will show us how to do it.)
Add the ending –lein to say little brother or little sister.
Example: Ich liebe mein Schwesterlein. (I love my little sister.)
When Germans drink too much, they typically get a Kater, or “hangover.”
You can even get specific about the type of hangover you have. For instance, when Germans exercise too much, they get Muskelkater or “sore muscles.” The literal translation is “muscle hangover.”
- Example: Er hat einen Whiskey Kater. (He has a whiskey hangover.)
- Example: Ich sterbe an Muskelkater. (I'm dying from sore muscles.)
In English, we call money “dough,” but for Germans, it's Kohle, or “coal.”
Example: Ich habe keine Kohle mehr. Ich bin pleite. (I don't have any more cash. I'm broke.)
Do you know how some people cure their breakup blues with a gallon of ice cream? Kummerspeck, or “mourning bacon,” is the weight you gain through emotional eating.
Example: Ich habe zehn Kilo Kummerspeck zugenommen. (I gained ten kilos from emotional eating.)
Common German Slang Phrases
Some slang only comes in sentences. So, let's look at the most common German slang expressions, their translations, and meanings. Learning whole expressions like these is a good habit to get into, whether you're learning German or any other language.
Why? Well, it's great way to boost your vocabulary quickly, without worrying too much about German grammar.
#27 Hast du alle Tassen im Schrank?
“Do you have all your cups in the cupboard?” This phrase means something along the lines of, “Are you nuts?” or “What were you thinking?”
#28 Das Leben ist kein Ponyhof
“Life is not a pony farm!” Germans often remind you to take life more seriously with this phrase, which means, “Life is not a game.”
#29 Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof
“I only understand train station” is what you say when you have no idea what someone is saying. In English, we say, “It's all Greek to me.”
#30 Nun haben wir den Salat
“Now we have the salad,” is what most Germans say when they mean, “Now the mess is made,” or “It's too late now.”
#31 Mit dem falschen Bein aufstehen
“Getting up with the wrong leg” is the same as “getting up on the wrong side of the bed” in English.
#32 Jemandem die Daumen drücken
“Pressing your thumbs for someone” is the same as “crossing your fingers for someone,” in that we wish them luck.
#33 Es ist mir Wurst
“It's sausage to me,” is just one of the meat-related colloquialisms Germans love to use. This phrase means, “I don't care.”
#34 Das Blaue vom Himmel versprechen
“Promise the blue of the sky” is a phrase that means “making a promise you can't keep.”
#35 Es läuft bei dir
“It's running with you” means that you're doing well for yourself, and are on your way to achieving your goals.
#36 Einen Elefanten aus einer Mücke machen
“Make an elephant out of a mosquito” is a German way of saying “make a big deal out of something.”
Example Conversation With The New Words & Phrases
Now it's time to put all these words and phrases into a dialogue. Discover how you can use German slang words from this post (in bold) in the conversation between two brothers below.
- Thorsten: Mahlzeit Alter, was geht? (Hey man, what's happening?)
- Michael: Servus! Bei mir läufts, und bei dir? (Hi! It's going good. How about you?)
- Thorsten: Nicht gut, ich habe einen Kater. Ich war saudicht gestern. (Not good, I'm hungover. I was so wasted yesterday.)
- Michael: Bist du irre? Das Leben ist kein Ponyhof. (Are you crazy? Life isn't a game.)
- Thorsten: Das ist mir Wurst, Alter. Der Abend war der Hammer. Jetzt, mach keinen Elefanten aus einer Mücke. (I don't care, man. The evening was a blast. Now stop making a big deal out of it.)
- Michael: Du sollst lieber zu Hause chillen und lernen, so wie ich. (You should chill and study at home, like me.)
- Thorsten: Jetzt haben wir den Salat. (There's nothing we can do about it now.)
- Michael: Du kannst auf dein Brüderlein hören. (You can listen to your little brother.)
- Thorsten: Hau ab! Deine Besserwisserei geht mir auf den Keks. (Go away. Your know-it-allism is getting on my nerves.)
- Michael: Jemand ist mit dem falschen Bein aufgestanden. Ich dachte, wir wollen heute zocken. (Someone woke up on the wrong end of the bed. I thought we wanted to play today.)
- Thorsten: Ich habe auch einen krassen Muskelkater. (I have unbelievably sore muscles too.)
- Michael: Also hast du mir nur das Blaue vom Himmel versprochen? (So you were just making empty promises?)
- Thorsten: Quatsch! Nimm meine Kohle und hol uns was zum Mampfen. Danach chillen wir und lernen, so wie du gesagt hast. (Nonsense! Take my cash and get us something to eat. We'll chill and study, as you said.)
Enrich & Enliven Your German With Slang
So there you have it – 36 German slang words and phrases that will have you sounding like a native in no time.
Not only that, but these and other everyday slang phrases help you gain a better comprehension of the language. You'll not only sound more like a native when you speak, but you'll also have a better idea of what native German speakers are saying to you.
Also, the context of specific sentences will make a lot more sense when you know these everyday sayings.
As you make contact with the language, these words and phrases will become easier to learn, remember and use. And don't hesitate to try them out the next time you're chatting with a native German speaker – they'll be impressed!