The Best Slang Words to Know in German to Sound Like a Native Speaker

To truly speak German, you have to move beyond your textbook and learn what people actually say in conversation. Native speakers have a more casual, conversational approach than what comes across in formal language studies. So let’s dive in to some common German slang words that you can employ in informal conversations.

1. Tschüß! - Bye!

On the phone or in person, saying “Tschüß” is like saying, “bye!” or “see ya!” If you’re traveling in Germany, you’ll hear it from a shopkeeper when you leave a store, or amongst friends on the street saying goodbye to one another.

2. Auf Jeden Fall - In Every Case

Even though this expression technically means “in every case”, it’s closer to what we mean in English when we say “for sure!” or “yes indeed.”

3. Das Leben Is Kein Ponyhof - Life Isn’t A Pony Farm

“Life isn’t a place where you ride ponies.” In other words, you shouldn’t just expect everything in life to be easy for you.

4. Auf Den Sankt Nimmerleinstag - It Will Happen On Saint Nimmerlein’s Day

Saint Nimmerlein is a fictional saint. If you’re sure something will never happen, you can say it will happen on “Saint Nimmerlein’s Day.” Nimmer in German means “never.” It’s kind of like saying in English, “When pigs fly.”

5. Auf Dicke Hose Machen - To Act Like You Have Fat Pants

If someone is “acting like they have fat pants”, they’re bragging about something, usually how much wealth or money they have. “Fat pants” refers to the bulge in one’s trousers from a full wallet.

Photo Credit: AC Almelor / Unsplash

6. Was Geht Ab? - What’s Up?

A very informal way to say “How’s it going?” Avoid using it with superiors at work or people that you’re meeting for the first time. In response, you might say “alles gut” (all is good) or “nicht viel” (not much).

7. Aus Der Reihe Tanzen - To Dance Outside The Line

Someone who draws attention to themselves because they act differently than everyone else is “dancing outside the line.” It is neither positive nor negative, but can be either depending on the context in which it is used.

8. Die Nase Voll Haben - The Nose Is Full

When your “nose is full”, you’ve had enough. You’re fed up, you’re sick of it. Replace “die Nase” with synonym “die Schnauze” to be even more emphatic (and less polite).

9. Bock Haben - To Be In The Mood For

If you’re up for doing something - going out, seeing a film - you’d use this expression. Strangely, “Bock” is the German word for male goat, but as far as we’re aware, that has nothing to do with this expression.

10. Alter - Old One

You would use this word in the same way that we use “dude” in English. It’s very informal so reserve it for old and familiar friends.

Photo Credit: Matheus Ferrero / Unsplash

11. Sie Gleichen Sich Wie Ein Ei Dem Anderen - Seems Like One Egg Resembles The Others

When “one egg resembles the others” it’s saying that two things are similar. Kind of like “two peas in a pod” in colloquial English.

12. Mach’s Gut - Make It Good

This expression is a more informal way to say goodbye. Technically it means “make it good” but it’s more like saying, “Have a good one!”

13. Bescheuert - Annoying, A Pain

This word is a colloquial way of something is a pain, or annoying, or depressing. If you’ve missed your train by 30 seconds, you might use this word to describe the experience.

14. Jein - A Mixture of Yes And No

The words for “Yes” and “No” in German are “Ja” and “Nein, respectively. When you mix them together to say “Jein,” you’re expressing uncertainty or doubt, but you don’t want to come down really strongly one way or the other.

15. Ich Kann Nichts Dafür - It’s Not My Fault

If you want to emphasize that you’re not to blame for something that’s gone wrong, you can say “Ich kann nichts dafür.” It technically means “I did not cause this.”

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