An English-German Glossary of Idioms

"It's About the Sausage"

The best of the "Wurst." Many of German's most memorable sayings feature sausage. Getty Images / Credit: Sean Gallup / Staff

Ein Sprichwort, a proverb or saying, can be a fun way to learn and remember new vocabulary in German. The following proverbs, sayings, and idioms (Redewendungen) are some of our favorites. Enjoy!

Some of the expressions found in this glossary are more common than others, but we have made no attempt to rank them or to indicate how current or old-fashioned they may be. That is really something you have to learn "in the field" and not online.

Idioms About Sausage (Wurst) and Other Things to Eat

Alles hat ein Ende, nur die Wurst hat zwei. 

  • Everything must end.
  • Literal: Everything has an end, only the sausage has two.​

Das ist mir Wurst.

  • It's the same to me.
  • Literal: It's a sausage to me.

Es geht um die Wurst.

  • It's do or die/now or never/the moment of truth.
  • Literal: It's about the sausage.

Äpfel mit Birnen vergleichen ​

  • Comparing apples and oranges
  • Literal: Comparing apples and pears.

In des Teufels Küche sein.

  • To get into hot water  
  • Literal: In the devil's kitchen.

Dir haben sie wohl etwas in den Kaffee getan.

  • You've got to be kidding.
  • Literal: You've probably done something in the coffee.

Die Radieschen von unten anschauen/betrachten.

  • To be pushing up daisies (be dead)
  • Literal: See/view the radishes from below.

Idioms With Animals

Die Katze im Sack kaufen 

  • To buy a pig in a poke.
  • Literal: to buy a cat in a sack.

Wo sich die Füchse gute Nacht sagen.

  • The middle of nowhere, the back of beyond.
  • Literal: Where the foxes say goodnight.

Stochere nicht im Bienenstock.

  • Let sleeping dogs lie.
  • Literal: Don't poke around in the beehive.

Body Parts and People

Daumen drücken!

  • Keep your fingers crossed!
  • Literal: Press (hold) your thumbs!

Er hat einen dicken Kopf.

  • He's got a hangover.
  • Literal: He has a fat head.

Was ich nicht weiß, macht mich nicht heiß.

  • What you don't know, won't hurt you.
  • Literal: What I don't know won't make me heated.

Er fällt immer mit der Tür ins Häuschen.

  • He always gets right to the point/just blurts it out. 
  • Literal: He always falls into the house through the door.

Was Hänschen nicht lernt, lernt Hans nimmermehr.

  • You can't teach an old dog new tricks.
  • Literal: What "little Hans" didn't learn, adult Hans never will.

Wenn man dem Teufel den kleinen Finger gibt, so nimmt er die ganze Hand.

  • Give 'em an inch and they'll take a mile.
  • If you give the devil your little finger, he'll take the whole hand.