Best German expressions & their meaning
One of the best – and most fun – aspects of learning a new language is getting to know all the quirky little expressions that the natives use. German has plenty of interesting, endearing, and hilarious expressions. Some you might already have heard from a friend, or a German song, or maybe a film; and here are some more of the best German expressions to add to your knowledge of the German language.
Am Arsch der Welt
This means ‘at the end of the world’, as in when you’re somewhere so far away that it feels like you’ve gone to the end of the world to get there, in a negative way. Instead of saying ‘am Ende’ der Welt, however, the Germans decided to say ‘am Arsch’, which means ‘at the ass of the world‘. Why not add a little humour to the uncomfortable truth of long distance travelling?
And they say the Germans have no sense of humour! Another German expression similar to ‘am Arsch der Welt’, but more related to a place where nothing ever happens, is ‘wo sich Fuchs und Hase Gut Nacht sagen’, which literally means ‘where the fox and the rabbit say goodnight’. Can’t really explain that one.
Ich glaub mein Schwein pfeift
This is not only one of the best German expressions, but also one of the funniest. Literally, it means ‘I think my pig is whistling‘ – how great is that?! This German expression is commonly said when someone is really surprised. Example: a clown just jumps out of the bushes, and you say ‘ich glaub mein Schwein pfeift!’ because you’re really surprised about this occurence.
Du bist auf dem Holzweg
Literally, this means ‘You are on a wodden path‘. More colloquially, it means that you’re really not getting to the right conclusion, and you don’t understand what’s going on. So don’t be scared if somebody tells you ‘du bist auf dem Holzweg’; it doesn’t mean they’re going to make you walk the plank.
Einen Kater haben
It’s hard to describe why this German expression, which means ‘to have a cat‘ (and a male one at that) is used to describe the feeling of being hungover. If you have a Kater, you have a hangover, not a male cat. Maybe somebody who really didn’t like cats associated owning the pet with their awful hangover, and it just stuck.
So there you have it. Next time you think German is a purely complicated and strict language, think of some of the best German expressions and remember how funny, smart and useful the German language can be. There are plenty more out there, just grab yourself a German dictionary and allow yourself to have fun with it!