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written by
James Johnson

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So, you want to learn German slang? Sehr gut!

One of the best ways to build new vocabulary, and sound more like a native, is to learn the German slang words people use every day.

By sprinkling words from the German umgangsprache into your daily conversations, you can bring your sentences to life and display emotions you won’t find in German textbooks.

Today I want to show you 20 common German slang words, and how to use use them, so you can begin to sound more like a native today!

1. Alter!

This is one of my favourite German expressions. It can used to express surprise, informally greet someone or as an interjection.

It’s a shortened version of the term, “Alter Schwede” which translates to old Swedish man in English. I’m not sure what old Swedish men did to deserve this term, but you can hear it all over Germany.

You might hear Germans using it as a way to say mate or man to greet you, in a sentence like “Alter, was geht ab?”, which is man, what’s going on?.

You can also use it to express surprise or disbelief in something. For example one of my friends at Rugby asked me my age, and I told him I was 25. He laughed and said, “Alter! Nein, wirklich, wie alt bist du?”, or Man! No, really, how old are you?, which did nothing for my ego as he thought I was 32.

You can use it at the start of a sentence to express disbelief, or to add effect to what you’re saying:

  • “Alter! Ist das euer Auto?” – Man! Is that your car?
  • “Alter Schwede! Was hast du gemacht?” – My God! What did you do?
  • “Alter! Mach doch!” – Man! Get on with it.

2. Moin

Moin is the shortening of the phrase, “Guten Morgen” or good morning in parts of northern Germany. But lots of people have adopted this as a way of saying “Hello!” in German slang, regardless of what time it is.

I even receive emails from friends using “Moin” as a greeting:

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I find this term really helpful if you’re saying hello to a group of people – like if you’ve just walked into a party – and you’re not quite sure what to say.

3. Geil

Geil is a word used to describe anything you feel is cool, tasty or an interesting surprise. But it’s also an odd word because “geil” technically means, well…horny.

But Germans don’t think of it in that context when they use it. Kind of how people in English might use sick to describe something good, without thinking the word really means unwell or vomiting.

You’ll often hear geil in sentences like:

  • “Man, das Essen war so geil!”- Man, that food was amazing!
  • “Was hat sie gemacht? Geil!” – What did she do? Brilliant!
  • “Ich habe ein geiles Restaurant gefunden” – I found a really cool restaurant

4. Irre

Irre is used the same way in German as crazy! is used in English. It has both good, and bad, connotations depending on how you use it. But mostly it’s used to express bad situations, like:

  • “Der Typ is Irre!” – That guy is a lunatic!
  • “Ich fand es Irre, wie schlecht ihren Kundendienst war” – I found it crazy how bad their customer service was
  • “Es war total Irre, was sie gemacht hat” – It was crazy what she did

5. Krass

When the German language isn’t using five words to describe one thing, it’s using one word to try and describe everything. Krass is one of those words, because it can be used to portray both good and bad emotion in equal measure.

It’s often heard as a reply to something. For example, “Robert hat 500 Euro mit einem Rubbellos gewonnen” (Robert won 500 Euros on a scratchcard) could be met with, “Krass!” (Cool!).

But it could also be used as a response to something negative, such as, “Robert hat 500 Euro aus meiner Brieftasche geklaut” (Robert stole 500 euros from my wallet), “Krass! Der typ is Irre!”, (What!? That guy is a lunatic)

You can also use it to describe something; “Das Essen hier is krass! Ich liebe es”, (The food here is great! I love it), or “Das Restaurant is krass, ich finde es immer so dreckig”, (That restaurant is awful, it’s always so dirty).

The words around Krass will help to give it context about whether it’s good or bad.

6. Lecker

Lecker is a simple word you can use to say something is tasty. During a meal Germans will often ask you the question, “Schmeckt's?” which means, how is your food?.

You can simply reply by saying, “Ja! Lecker.”

7. Assi

Assi is short for asozial which means chav in British English. You can probably closely relate this to redneck or trailer trash in American English, although it doesn’t quite conjure the same image.

An Assi is someone who is uneducated, unemployed, from a low-income area, who wears fake designer clothes and spends their evenings drinking or doing drugs. This isn’t my opinion, however that’s what people are referring to when they say it.

Assi can also be used to describe something of poor quality or is undesirable. For example, “Ich wollte neue Jeans kaufen, aber alles was ich gesehen hab, war ein bisschen Assi”, (I wanted to buy new jeans, but everything I’ve seen was a little chavvy).

8. Hammer

Hammer is the tool you use to bang nails into wood. It’s the same word in German as in English. But the Germans also use it to describe that something is cool or outstanding.

It can be used simply as, “Hammer!” to respond to something cool you’ve heard or seen. But you can also expand a little bit.

Let’s say you’ve spent the afternoon at a soccer game and someone asked you if you saw the match-winning goal. You could say, “Alter, es war der Hammer!”, wich means Man, it was a doozy!

You can use that sentence on its own to describe lots of things you’ve seen or done.

9. Bescheuert

Bescheuert roughly translates to dumb or stupid in English. But it also comes with the connotation that someone is one sandwich short of a picnic, or their head is, well… up their arsch.

It’s not uncommon to hear Germans referring to particular politicians as “Total bescheuert!” when they disagree with their opinions or policy changes.

10. Quatsch

Quatsch is a fun word to say which comes with a few different meanings.

One of the most common ones is a light-hearted way of saying, Don’t be silly!. For example, “Ich wollte mich bei dir Bedanken, für das Geschenk” (I wanted to thank you for the present) could be met with “Quatsch! Ich wollte dir was schenken” (Don’t be silly! I wanted to give you a present).

Quatch can also be used when you think someone is saying something untruthful. “Was für Quatsch redest du?” (What are you talking about!?).

You can say it to release some frustration. Saying “Quatsch!” out loud when something bad happens is the same as shouting, Bollocks! in English.

Finally, you can turn it into the verb Quatschen to say that you’re just chatting away with someone. “Ich bin jetzt bei Ela. Wir quatchen nur. Ich komme bald nach Hause”, (I’m with Ela right now. We’re just chatting. I’ll come home soon.)

11. Jein

Jein is a mix of the words “Ja” for yes and “Nein” for no. Germans will often use this word to describe when when something isn’t clear cut, or they haven’t yet made a decision.

Let’s say you’re talking to a friend about their relationship status. They’ve been dating someone for a while and you want to know if they’re serious yet. You might ask, “Seid ihr jetzt in einer Beziehung?” Are you in a relationship now?, to which they could say, “Jein” (Yes and no. Maybe. Who knows!?).

12. Mensch!

Mensch means human in German, but it can also be a way of saying man! or oh man!. It’s often used to show dissatisfaction with someone or something. Or, in that moment where you’re two streets away from your house and you realise you left your mobile phone at home.

If you’ve got a friend who does something you’re not particularly fond of you can say, “Mensch!” followed by their name to express your dissatisfaction. “Mensch, Marie!” can be a good way of getting your point across.

And if you’re two streets from home and realise you’ve forgotten your mobile phone, you can exclaim “Mensch!” before turning around and going back.

13. Mist!

Mist is used in the same way as crap or bugger might be used in English. It’s relatively inoffensive and can be used to express mild negative emotions. You know, when something isn’t enough to ruin your day, but you wish it hadn’t happened.

You can slot “Mist!” or “Ach, mist!” in wherever you would say crap or oh crap in your normal everyday conversations.

14. Verarschen

Verarschen is a great word to express when someone is messing you around, pulling your leg or taking the piss.

This can be used in a light-hearted way like, “Ich verarsche dich nur” can be said like I’m just joking around with you. Or if you were to say, “Verarschen kann ich mich selber!” you’d be sarcastically saying, My eye!.

Or if you want to take a more serious standpoint you could say, “Willst du mich verarschen?” (Are you trying to take the piss?), when you feel that someone is doing something to wrong you.

15. Kater

Kater is the German word for hangover.

If you’ve had a heavy night drinking German beer or schnapps, you might wake up the next day and want to say, “Ich habe einen Kater”, meaning I have a hangover.

16. Prima!

Prima is a way of saying something or someone is great. When I hear Prima, it always sounds happy, like an early 19th century English gentleman saying, “Tip top ol’ chap”

Here are some examples of prima in action:

  • “Das ist prima” – That’s excellent
  • “Er ist ein prima Kerl!” – He’s a top bloke
  • “Sie macht das prima” – She does that so well

17. Besserwisser

Besserwissers are people who think they know everything, refuse to listen to advice, and can never be wrong, You’ll know this term in English as someone who is a Know-it-all, and it works as a direct translation.

18. Ausflippen

Can you use your powers of cognate-deduction to figure out what this word means? It’s close to its English relative.

Ausflippen means to flip out at someone, or about something. You know that moment when someone completely loses control and starts screaming and shouting in a moment of pure anger.

19. Verdammt

Verdammt is another close cognate to an English word. It can be used in the same way as the word damn.

Here are some sentences to give you an idea:

  • “Verdammt, ich hab mein Handy zuHause vergessen” – Damn, I left my phone at home
  • “Der verdammte Verkehr geht mir auf den Keks” – The damn traffic is getting on my nerves
  • “Verdammt, FC Köln haben schon wieder verloren” – Damn, FC Köln lost again

20. Sau-

Sau is a versatile prefix you can add to lots of adjectives to emphasise how extreme something is. A Sau is a female pig, but for some reason it’s also used as a slang.

The first time I heard this word it was the middle of summer at a wine festival in western Germany. It was boiling hot and the people around me would say that it was, “Sauwarm” which means it’s absolutely sweltering.

You can combine some basic vocabulary, and words you’ve learned on this list, to create some native sounding variations:

  • saulekker – Incredibly tasty
  • Saugeil – Insanely cool
  • Sauteuer – Really expensive

The Word On The Strasse…

By using these German slang words you’ll sound more native and add more colour to your conversations in almost no time at all.

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James Johnson

Social Media Manager, Fluent in 3 Months

As well as managing our Facebook and Twitter feeds, James teaches people how to learn German, and move to Germany, on his blog Deutschified.

Speaks: English, Spanish, German

View all posts by James Johnson

FAQs

Is quatsch a swear word? ›

Quatsch! This curse word stems from the verb quatschen, which means “to chat.” It's one of the most commonly used terms when expressing disbelief or anger. Despite there not being a literal equivalent in English, in essence it means “Nonsense!”

What does it mean when Germans say Alter? ›

Alter is a word with multiple meanings: it can be used informally to greet a friend or close colleague, to interject in a friendly conversation or to express surprise. Due to its colloquial nature, the phrase tends to only be used by the younger German generation.

What does Geil mean in German slang? ›

The best translation for 'geil' in its colloquial sense would be something like 'great,' 'cool,' 'awesome,' or 'wicked. ' It can also be used to compliment someone's appearance, similar to calling someone 'hot.

What is the most famous German saying? ›

1: “Ich kriege so eine Krawatte

And it comes from the pressure you feel in your throat when you get so angry you could scream. Germans use this saying when they find something makes them really angry.

What is the oldest swear word? ›

Fart, as it turns out, is one of the oldest rude words we have in the language: Its first record pops up in roughly 1250, meaning that if you were to travel 800 years back in time just to let one rip, everyone would at least be able to agree upon what that should be called.

What do Germans say when they're mad? ›

Ich bin verärgert. I'm upset.

Why do Germans say so? ›

So refers to a way of thinking that another person just laid out. Now, English tends to use like that or that way in these kinds of contexts and so would sound quite old fashioned. But in German, using so is the way to go.

What are some German cuss words? ›

Single-Word Swears
GermanEnglish equivalentVulgarity level
Scheiße (scheisse)sh*tmild/medium
Mistcrap/dangmild
Arschlocha*sholemedium
Schlampeb*tchhigh
9 more rows

Why do Germans say Hammer? ›

To English speakers, a hammer is nothing more than a useful household tool. For Germans, however, “Hammer” actually doubles as an incredibly popular colloquial term. It is a very common way of expressing surprise or disbelief toward something extraordinary, whether that be positive or negative.

What does BAE mean in German? ›

bae [Am.] [ coll.] [ short for babe, baby] [term of endearment] Schatzi {n} [ugs.] [ Kosename unter Liebenden] bae [Am.] [

What does OK mean in German? ›

In German, this would be 'Mir gehts es gut', or 'Ich bin ok'. If it's something they are asking about and you want to say that it's ok, then you say 'Es ist ok'. Mir gehts gut – I'm ok. Ich bin ok – I'm ok.

Do Germans say I love you a lot? ›

GERMANS DON'T SAY I LOVE YOU. They have each other's love – sie haben sich lieb. It means less than I love you, which they really save for special occasions. The thing is, this is what you have to realize: the English words “I love you” literally mean less than the German words ich liebe dich.

What is the hardest German word? ›

10 Difficult German Words and How to Pronounce Them
  • Freundschaftsbeziehungen (Friendship relations) ...
  • Rührei (Scrambled eggs) ...
  • Arbeitslosigkeitsversicherung (Unemployment insurance) ...
  • Röntgen (X-ray) ...
  • Quietscheentchen (Rubber duck) ...
  • Tschechien (Czechia) ...
  • Kreuzschlitzschraubenzieher (Screwdriver) ...
  • Schlittschuhlaufen (Ice skating)

What country swears the most? ›

Coming out on top as the most likely to use explicit language online is France. The French have 7.59% - or seven in every 100 people - using curse words online per year. A close second was Poland, with 7.31%. Further down the rankings are Australia, New Zealand and Spain.

Do Germans say sorry? ›

In German, you can say “Entschuldigung” or use the more informal abbreviation “'Tschuldigung”. The English word “Sorry” works, too. You'll hear it a lot, especially among younger people.

How does a German guy flirt? ›

Flirting In German: It's All In The Eyes

According to at least one Babbel insider living in Berlin, Germans have a tendency to stare and to hold intense eye contact. This doesn't mean all eye contact is sexy eye contact. It just means sexy eye contact could involve a little more “innuendo” than usual.

What do Germans call their pets? ›

Schatz is the most common German term of endearment, according to surveys. Couples all over the country call each other this pet name or one of its many cute forms, such as Schätzchen (little treasure) or Schatzi (little treasure). It's also very common to use with children.

Why do Germans say ah so? ›

Achso is a combination of ach which is generally translated as “oh”, or “alas” if you're feeling fancy, and so, which has a number of translations, including “so”, “right! ' and “yeah?”. The term ach so is used to express understanding.

Is it rude to stare in Germany? ›

Once the shock of people staring a little longer than expected wears off, it becomes clear that staring in Germany is actually a sign of politeness in certain circumstances. Staring into the eyes of others is an important part of saying 'prost' (cheers) before drinking a beer or a glass of wine.

What do Germans say before they drink? ›

Prost! Translation: Cheers! Toss on an “Ein Toast!” at the end to encourage a celebratory “bottoms up!” before drinking your Märzen with friends. Fun fact: if you find yourself in Switzerland with a beer in hand, you can substitute “Broscht!” for “Prost!” This is the Swiss-German way to say “Cheers!”

What is the Z word in German? ›

It's good to know that when referring to a German letter, you use the article das in front of it.
...
What are the German alphabet letters?
LetterName (Pronounciation)Example
XIx (iks)Xylofon (xylophone)
YYpsilon (oopsilohn)typisch (typical)
ZZett (tset)Zeit (time)
27 more rows

What is Frick in German? ›

Frick is a German shortening of the surname "Frederick". Notable people with the surname include: Albert Frick (theologian) (1714–1776), German theologian.

Why do Germans say old Swede? ›

During the 30 Years' War, Electorate Friedrich Wilhelm of Brandenburg recruited experienced Swedish soldiers as instructors to the Prussian army. These men were seasoned fighters and supposedly became well respected and liked by the German troops, earning the nickname 'alter Schwede'.

Why do Germans knock on tables instead of clapping? ›

It is now customary for students to knock on their desks after each lesson or lecture. It is also seen as a sign of respect, so much so that some German academics even consider clapping to be disrespectful. It has been suggested that the reason for knocking being a mark of respect is due to professional social status.

Why do Germans call it Sylvester? ›

Germans call New Year's Eve "Silvester," in honor of Pope Sylvester I, who died on December 31, 335. According to the legend, non-believers who were around him choked on fish bones. Some superstitious people therefore state that one shold avoid fish that night, or at least eat it very carefully.

What do Germans call their husband? ›

Schatz, meaning “treasure”, is one of the most common terms of endearment you'll hear in Germany, used equally among young lovers and couples who have been married for years, as well as for children. You can also mix it up by making it into a diminutive like “Schatzi” or “Schätzchen”.

Is bae a boy or girl? ›

It usually refers to a person's romantic partner, especially a boyfriend or girlfriend, but has also been used as a general term of affection for things, including inanimate objects. The word can be used in a gender-neutral sense.

What do Germans call their children? ›

German Terms of Endearment at a Glance
GermanEnglish
HaseBunny
Terms of endearment for children
KindchenSweetheart
MäusezähnchenLittle mouse tooth
16 more rows
28 Dec 2021

What does Oi mean in German? ›

„oi“: interjection

he!, he du! he!, he du!

What do Germans say after sneezing? ›

1. German. Interestingly, Gesundheit, the German response to a sneeze, is also the most common expression for English speakers who prefer not to say “bless you.” It simply means “health,” which is used in a number of languages when someone sneezes (makes sense).

Why do Germans say hi together? ›

The “together” in “hello together” refers to doing something collectively, expressed through “gemeinsam” in German. If I counted to three and we then said “hello” at the same time, we could afterwards say that “we said 'hello' together”.

Do Germans say bro? ›

This popular slang salutation has its origins in one German film. What does it mean? Digga is simply word you use when addressing a friend, like “mate”, “dude” or “bro”.

What is ABCD in German? ›

In German, the letters of the Alphabet are pronounced like this, and can be spelt phonetically as such: A = ah. B = bay. C = tsay. D = day.

How do I flirt in German? ›

21 TOP PHRASES USED WHEN FLIRTING IN GERMAN

Du bist mein Ein und Alles! Es war liebe auf den ersten Blick! It was love at first sight! Ich möchte nicht stören, aber ich musste dich einfach ansprechen!

What does it mean when a German says I like you? ›

Ich mag dich” is the German way of saying “I like you”. In most cases, it is used in more of a platonic context, but can sometimes be used to indicate a romantic interest, especially when you are too shy to talk about love (yet).

How do Germans say happy birthday? ›

The most common way to wish someone a Happy Birthday in German is by saying “Alles Gute zum Geburtstag!” (Literally: All the good things for your birthday). Other very common variations include: “Alles Liebe”; and. “Herzlichen Glückwunsch”.

What do you call a beautiful German girl? ›

Translation Matrix for beautiful girl:
NounRelated TranslationsOther Translations
Schnuckelchenbeautiful girl; doll; manequin; pretty girlcutie; cuties; little darling; sweeties; sweety
schönes Mädchenbeautiful girl; doll; manequin; pretty girl

What are the 3 most beautiful languages? ›

And the most beautiful languages in the world are…
  • FRENCH – MOST BEAUTIFUL SPOKEN LANGUAGE. If there is a language which draws a unanimous worldwide consent regarding its beauty, it is French. ...
  • GERMAN – MOST BEAUTIFUL SUNG LANGUAGE. ...
  • ARABIC – MOST BEAUTIFUL WRITTEN LANGUAGE. ...
  • ITALIAN – MOST BEAUTIFUL BODY LANGUAGE.
18 Aug 2016

What's the most cute language? ›

1. Italian. When it comes to the most attractive languages, for many people the native language of Italy likely springs to mind. Italian is a famously beautiful language with its rolled 'r's, round vowels, and melodic rhythm.

What words do Germans struggle with? ›

The 'zh' sound in words such as 'pleasure' and 'measure' is often difficult for native Germans to pronounce. The result is often a break in the middle of the word which makes it sound more like 'mease-her' than the English 'z' sound.

What is the coolest German word? ›

10 beautiful and memorable German words
  1. Sehnsucht. Amid different definitions, which vary from yearning, desire and/or craving, Sehnsucht is a feeling of longing for something unknown and indefinite. ...
  2. Weltschmerz. ...
  3. Torschlusspanik. ...
  4. Fernweh. ...
  5. Zweisamkeit. ...
  6. Backpfeifengesicht. ...
  7. Feierabend. ...
  8. Reisefieber.
9 Feb 2021

What words are hard for Germans to say? ›

Take the challenge and have a go at some of these hard to pronounce German words.
...
12 German Words Non-Germans Can't Pronounce!
  • Streichholzschächtelchen. ...
  • Brötchen. ...
  • Eichhörnchen. ...
  • Fünfhundertfünfundfünfzig. ...
  • Frucht. ...
  • Regisseur. ...
  • Schlittschuhlaufen. ...
  • Röntgen.
13 Dec 2020

What is quatsch? ›

“Quatsch” is a German word that can be used to describe all those things and more. It comes from the verb “quatschen,” which means to “talk nonsense.” It likely originated in the 16th century as a word that mimics a sound.

Why are swearwords offensive? ›

The reason swearwords attract so much attention is that they involve taboos, those aspects of our society that make us uncomfortable. These include the usual suspects – private parts, bodily functions, sex, anger, dishonesty, drunkenness, madness, disease, death, dangerous animals, fear, religion and so on.

What makes a word a cuss word? ›

For a word to qualify as a swear word it must have the potential to offend — crossing a cultural line into taboo territory. As a general rule, swear words originate from taboo subjects. This is pretty logical. The topic is off-limits, so the related words aren't meant to be spoken either.

Why is the F word the F word? ›

It is remotely derived from the Latin futuere and Old German ficken/fucken meaning 'to strike or penetrate', which had the slang meaning to copulate. Eric Partridge, a famous etymologist, said that the German word was related to the Latin words for pugilist, puncture, and prick.

Is the F word vulgar? ›

The f-word can be a very hurtful, offensive, mean, and/or vulgar word. However, in adults' conversations and certain situations, it can serve as a comic relief, a colorful method of expressing frustration, surprise, astonishment and friendly-exclamation amongst many other things.

What is the F word in UK? ›

The F Word (also called Gordon Ramsay's F Word) is a British cookery programme featuring chef Gordon Ramsay. The programme covers a wide range of topics, from recipes to food preparation and celebrity food fads. The programme was made by Optomen Television and aired weekly on Channel 4.

What cuss words are not cuss words? ›

What the cuss? 50 swear-word alternatives
  • Balderdash!
  • William Shatner!
  • Corn Nuts!
  • Dagnabbit!
  • Son of a monkey!
  • Barnacles!
  • Holy cow!
  • Poo on a stick!
19 Jul 2019

What's considered rude in Germany? ›

Germans are extremely punctual and well-mannered. Showing up late, losing your cool, or raising your voice are all considered rude and thoughtless. If you step out of line, don't be surprised or offended if someone corrects your behavior, as this is very common in the German culture.

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