15 Common German Idioms You Should Know – Part 1

15 Common German Idioms You Should Know – Part 1

What is an idiom? It is a group of words having a particular meaning that is different from the meanings of individual words. For example- ‘on cloud nine’. It means someone is extremely happy. Just like English, even German idioms can be quite confusing. The literal meaning rarely matches with the actual meaning of the idiom.

German idioms can be a fun way to learn new vocabulary and sound like a proficient. If you already know English idioms, then learning their equivalent German idioms is a bit easier as the meaning of the idiom remains the same in both the languages.

We have compiled a list of 15 commonly used idioms in German. These idioms will not only take your German to the next level, but they will also give you insight into German culture.

Here are 15 Common German Idioms For You

Tomaten auf den Augen haben

Literally – to have tomatoes on the eyes
English equivalent – to be oblivious to the things happening around
Meaning – someone is unable to see something that is right in front of them

Usage – Sein Sohn lügt immer aber er hat Tomaten auf den Augen.

über Gott und die Welt reden

Literally – to talk about God and the world
English equivalent – talk about everything under the sun
Meaning – to talk about anything and everything

Usage – Wir haben stundenlang über Gott und die Welt geredet.

Das ist ein Katzensprung

Literally – That’s a cat’s jump
English equivalent – It’s a stone’s throw away
Meaning – to be very close or not so far

Usage – Mein Büro ist nur einen Katzensprung entfernt.

Da liegt der Hund begraben

Literally – That’s where the dog is buried
English equivalent – That’s the crux or heart of the matter
Meaning – It is the most important point of an issue

Usage – Sie macht nie ihre Hausaufgaben und da liegt der Hund begraben.

klar wie Kloßbrühe

Literally – clear as dumpling broth
English equivalent – crystal clear
Meaning – something is perfectly easy to understand

Usage – Das ist doch klar wie Kloßbrühe!

German idioms- klar wie Klossbruehe

Himmel und Hölle in Bewegung setzen

Literally – to put heaven and hell in motion
English equivalent – to move heaven and earth
Meaning – to try very hard to achieve something

Usage – Anna wird Himmel und Hölle in Bewegung setzen um ihre Ziele zu erreichen.

gesund wie ein Fisch im Wasser

Literally – healthy as a fish in water
English equivalent – fit as a fiddle
Meaning – very healthy, strong and full of energy

Usage – Treiben Sie Sport um gesund wie ein Fisch im Wasser zu sein?

sich wie ein Fisch auf dem Trockenen fühlen

Literally – to feel like a fish on the dry land
English equivalent – feel like a fish out of water
Meaning – to feel uncomfortable or awkward in an unfamiliar situation

Usage – Sam ist introvertiert. Auf der Party fühlt er sich wie ein Fisch auf dem Trockenen.

Ich bin fix und fertig

Literally – I am quick and ready
English equivalent – I am dead beat or wiped out
Meaning – totally exhausted or fatigued

Usage – Heute habe ich so viel gearbeitet, dass ich jetzt fix und fertig bin.

eine Extrawurst verlangen

Literally – to ask for an extra sausage
English equivalent – to ask for special treatment

Usage – Er verlangt eine Extrawurst, weil er die Auszeichnung gewonnen hat.

German idioms- eine Extrawurst verlangen

sich zum Affen machen

Literally – to make a monkey of oneself
English equivalent – to make a fool of oneself
Meaning – to behave in a silly or foolish way

Usage – Während der Präsentation hat er sich zum Affen gemacht.

Mein und Dein verwechseln

Literally – to confuse mine and yours
English equivalent – to have sticky fingers
Meaning – to have a tendency to steal

Usage – Sei vorsichtig! Er verwechselt Mein und Dein.

Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof

Literally – I understand only train station
English equivalent – It’s all Greek to me
Meaning – something is very difficult to understand

Usage – Verstehen Sie Französisch? Nein, ich verstehe nur Bahnhof.

seinen Senf dazugeben

Literally – to add his mustard
English equivalent – to put in one’s two cents
Meaning – to give opinion

Usage – Tom ist zu scheu. Er kann nie seinen Senf dazugeben.

Das ist ein himmelweiter Unterschied

Literally – That is an enormous difference
English equivalent – That’s worlds apart
Meaning – to be completely different from each other

Can you make a sentence using this idiom? Please write your answers in the comment section below.


Now that you know these German idioms, it’s time to start using them in your sentences and sound like a native! Find the Part 2 of this article here.

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