Everyday German Idioms (that German speakers actually use!)

This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase through my partner links, I may receive a small commission for the referral at no additional cost to you. Please read the disclaimer for more info.

You probably use them every day in English, without even thinking about it. They enrich language, bring speech alive and make you sound like a native speaker. I’m talking of course about idioms.

This list is continuously updated as I discover new German idioms. Go ahead and bookmark this page and check back for regular updates.

Why Learn German Idioms?

Learning German idioms, Redewendungen, is a great way to improve the flow of a sentence and to get a meaning or feeling across that would otherwise be difficult to express. They will improve your fluency. You learn them as a ‘chunk’ which will give more thinking time for the rest of your sentence.

Because English is a Germanic language, you’ll notice that we share some idioms, or have some which are very similar. Have fun learning some of these, and make sure you try to use them in conversation to really fix them into your head.

All these German idioms have been tested on German speakers, who assure me that they are used in everyday life. ‘It’s raining cats and dogs’ – I’m looking at you. I’ve never met an English native speaker who has said that, well maybe my Nan!

Auf den Keks gehen

Literally: To get on the cookies

English equivalent: To get on one’s nerves

Usage: To express irritation at something or someone.

Example sentences:

Der Typ geht mir auf dem Keks = That guy is getting on my nerves

Das schlechte Wetter geht mir auf dem Keks = The bad weather is getting on my nerves

Einen Affenzirkus veranstalten

Literally: To put on a monkey circus

English equivalent: To make a mountain out of a molehill

Usage: To express frustration that someone is making something seem a lot worse than it actually is.

Example sentence:

Er veranstaltet einen affenzirkus wegen gar nichts = He is making a big thing of nothing

German idioms Einen Affenzirkus veranstalten

Etw. im Eimer

Literally: sth. in the bucket

Translation: sth. is totally knackered

Usage: To describe something or someone that is totally exhausted or broken.

Example sentences:

Mein Auto ist im Eimer = My car is knackered / broken

Ich hatte so viel zu tun, ich bin im Eimer = I’ve had so much to do, I’m totally exhausted

ich bin im Eimer

Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof

Literally: I only understand train station

English equivalent: It’s as clear as mud / It’s all Greek to me

Usage: To express complete lack of understanding over something.

Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof

Alles für die Katz

Literally: Everything for the cat

English equivalent: All for nothing

Usage: Used to express frustration when someone had made a huge effort, which was for nothing, unrewarded or unappreciated.

Example sentence:

Ich habe die ganze Woche an diesem Projekt gearbeitet und jetzt war alles für die Katz = I worked on this project all week, and it was all for nothing

Alles für die Katz

Ich habe die Nase voll

Literally: I have a full nose

Translation: I’ve had it / I’ve had enough / I’m fed up

English equivalent: I’ve had it up to ‘here’

Usage: To express irritation at having too much to do, or have had enough of something.

Example sentences:

Ich habe die Nase voll von dir = I’ve had enough of you

Ich habe die Nase voll von diesem Ort = I’m sick of the sight of this place

Ich habe die Nase voll

Nur ein Katzensprung entfernt

Literally: sth. is only a cat jump away

English equivalent: sth. is only a stone’s throw away

Usage: To describe something that is very near by, it would take no time at all to reach it.

Example sentence:

Der Strand ist nur ein Katzensprung entfernt = The beach is just a stone’s throw away

Wie ein Stein geschlafen

Literally: Slept like a stone

Usage: Used in the same way as the English version, to describe a great night’s sleep.

Example sentence:

‘Hast du gut geschlafen?’ ‘Ja ich habe wie ein Stein geschlafen!’ = ‘Did you sleep well?’ ‘Yes I slept like a stone!’

Wie ein Stein geschlafen

Do you have any German idioms that you’d like to add? Leave them in a comment below. I would love it if you could share or pin any of your favourite idioms images.

Like this post? Please share!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.