Learn German slang

In order to properly speak German like a native, you need to know not just the basic vocabulary, but also idiomatic expressions and slang words. After all, slang words and phrases in German are often untranslatable into English, so it can be easy to misuse or misunderstand them.

So, in order to understand the context in which Germans use slang, you need to be familiar with common expressions and their meanings. Fortunately, this is not a daunting task – learning German slang words can be fun. Some of the expressions can be amusing and funny, which makes them even easier to remember.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most commonly used slang words and phrases in the German language. Read on, familiarize yourself with this interesting part of the German vocabulary – and have fun.

10 Everyday German Slang Words

Before we go to the long vocabulary lists, let’s discuss the ten words that native German speakers use most often. Knowing these will already help you boost your language skills and communicate more freely when visiting a German-speaking country.

Here they are:

Alter!

Alter is a German word that can be translated as “old man”. It actually comes from a longer term, “Alter Schwede” which translates to “old Swedish man” – but it’s mostly used in the form of the English colloquial “man,” “mate, or “dude.”

This word can be used in a variety of ways You can use it to greet someone, approach a friend, express surprise or disbelief in something, or to add effect to what you’re saying. For example:

German

English

Alter, ich habe schon wieder meine Schlüssel zu Hause vergessen!

Man, I forgot my keys at home again!

Alter, was hast du getan?

Dude, what have you done?

Assi

The closest English alternative to this German slang word would be “trashy” or “chavvy.” In German, it is short for “antisocial” and can be used both to talk about people and things.

When used with people, it is an insult used to show that someone is unemployed, uneducated, and without manners. When used with things, on the other hand, it shows that something is of poor quality or is undesirable. Remember that this word has a pretty negative meaning, so be careful when using it.

German

English

Diese Jeans sehen assi.

These jeans look trashy.

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Moin

This is a phrase that you might have already come across when learning German – either in our blog post about German greetings, or in a language class. This is a shortened form of the phrase “Guten Morgen” (good morning), used mostly in Northern Germany.

Today, many people use it regardless of the time of the day, when saying hello to a group of people, or even in informal emails.

German

English

Moin! Wie ist dein Abend?

Hi! How is your evening?

Irre

You can translate this as “crazy,” “messed up,” or “nuts.” You might hear it a lot in Germany – people use it to describe both things and people.

Irre can be used both in negative and positive connotations, just like the English word “crazy.”

German

English

Der Film war irre.

The film was crazy.

Ihr Ex-Freund ist irre.

Your ex-boyfriend is crazy (is a lunatic).

Krass

Krass in German is used to emphasize the intensity of an event or situation. You can say it to express how unbelievable, surprising, or extreme something is. Basically, people use this word to describe almost anything, whether good or bad.

A funny thing about this word is how you can use the same word to reply in two different ways.

German

English

Unser Team hat gewonnen. – Krass! Lasst uns feiern gehen!

Our team won. – Cool! Let's go celebrate!

Unser Team hat verloren. – Krass! Ich habe so viel Geld auf sie gesetzt!

Our team lost. – Shit! I've put so much money on them!

Sometimes, understanding what exactly krass means can be challenging – to figure that out, look at the words surrounding it and the context of the sentence.

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Quatsch

This is one of the least formal words on our list. It literally translates to “rubbish” or “junk,” and people use it when they think that what another person just said is nonsense. You may have already seen it in our article about German swear words.

German

English

Was Sie sagen, ist völliger Quatsch.

What you're saying is complete nonsense.

Na?

This word is similar to the English “well?” or “so?” and is the shortest way of greeting someone or asking how they are doing. If you ever meet a German who says “Na?” to you and then continues staring, know that the best response would be telling how you are.

Na? can be combined with other helpful greeting phrases or words, such as:

German

English

Na, alles gut?

Hi, all good?

Chillen

This funny word is basically the German equivalent for the English verb “chilling.” Just like the English slang words, it’s used to talk about the act of relaxing and doing nothing in particular, usually with friends or family.

German

English

Was machen Sie da? – Ich chille.

What are you doing? – Just chilling.

German also has a similar sounding adjective, chillig, which is used to describe the relaxing atmosphere.

German

English

Ich möchte nach dem Umzug etwas chillig machen.

I want to do something relaxing after moving.

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Jein

This is a very popular word in Germany, and it doesn’t have a proper English translation. It is basically a combination of the two German words ja and nein used when someone can’t decide whether they want to say “yes” or “no” to something. In English, we might say “yes, but” or “no, but,” or maybe even “yeah, no,” depending on the situation.

German

English

Hast du Lust, heute Abend ins Kino zu gehen? – Jein. Ich werde darüber nachdenken.

Do you want to go to the movies tonight? – Yeah, no. I'll think about it.

Bock Haben

This German slang phrase literally means “to have a goat,” but it is actually translated as “to be in the mood for something.”

You use it either in a negative or affirmative sentence to show your inclination or disinclination for doing something. If you’re completely against something, you can even say that you have “null Bock.”

German

English

Ich habe keine Bock, heute Abend zu dieser Verabredung zu gehen.

I am in no mood to go to that date tonight.

Hast du Bock, weitere deutsche Slangausdrücke zu lernen?

Are you up for learning more German slang expressions?

If you answered “yes” to the last question, let’s dive deeper into the topic:

Other Popular German Slang Words

If ten words are not enough (and if you want to communicate with the German speakers fluently, they are not), it’s time to learn some other slang words. Here they are:

German

English

Abdrehen

To go crazy

Abklatsch

A cheap copy

Balla-balla

Coo-coo

Betucht

Very rich

Betuppen

To betray someone

Betüddeln

To look after someone

Boah

Wow

Bonze

Rich person

Brüller

Very funny joke

Bummeln

To take one’s time

Dulli

Helpless or clumsy person

Etepetete

Fussy

Etwas peilen

To understand something

Faxen

Shenanigans

Funzen

To function

Gewieft

Cunning

Glipschig

Slimy

Horst, Pfosten, Förster, Hirni

Idiot

Igitt, Pfui

Urgh

Kess

Cheeky

Kiddies

Children

Kieken

To look

Kladderadatsch

Mess

Klette

A clingy person

Knabbern

To much

Kneipe

Bar

Kohle

Money

Lusche

Loser

Malochen

To work hard

Mutti

Mom

Naschis

Sweets

Papperlapapp

Nonsense

Paps

Dad

Passt schon

Whatever

Perso

ID

Pille-Palle

Easy-peasy

Prio

Priority

Pusemuckel

A place in the middle of nowhere

Putzig

Cute

Quali

Quality

Ranklotzen

To work to the max

Ruckzuck

Super fast

Räudig

Disgusting

Saugen

To download

Schlingel

Rascal

Schnuffig

Cuddly

Snacken

To snack

Telen

To phone

Versifft

Filthy

Vorglühen

To pre-game (to drink before going out to a party)

Zocken

To play

Unusual but Common German Slang Phrases

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While knowing German slang words can be helpful for many language learners, it often can be easy to misunderstand them when used outside or in a phrase. After all, literal translation can differ quite a lot from the real meaning of a sentence. So here are the most common and unusual colloquial expressions used in the German language.

Check them out and enjoy:

GermanLiteral TranslationEnglish
Aalglatt Smooth as an eel Slick
Abgefahren Driven off Wicked
Abgespaced Spaced out Crazy
Auf keinsten In the least (of cases) No way
Backpfeife Cheek pipe A slap in the face
Blindfisch Blind fish Someone who doesn’t see well
Blitzmerker A flash noticer Someone who is slow to notice
Büffeln To buffalo To study
Durchkauen To chew through To talk something through repeatedly
Fackeln To flicker To hesitate
Faulpelz Lazy fur Lazy person
Ferkeln To bear a little pig To bear a child
Intelligenzbestie Beast of intelligence Egghead
Kein Ding No thing No problem
Kein Plan No plan No idea
Keine Ahnung No suspicion No idea
Kleinkariert Smallplaidpatterned Petty-minded
Kopfkino Mental cinema Head game
Kreischi Screamy A screaming fan
Labertasche Talk bag Chatterbox
Pumpen To pump To work out at the gym
Schnattern To gaggle To talk quickly
GermanLiteral TranslationEnglish
Aalglatt Smooth as an eel Slick
Abgefahren Driven off Wicked
Abgespaced Spaced out Crazy
Auf keinsten In the least (of cases) No way
Backpfeife Cheek pipe A slap in the face
Blindfisch Blind fish Someone who doesn’t see well
Blitzmerker A flash noticer Someone who is slow to notice
Büffeln To buffalo To study
Durchkauen To chew through To talk something through repeatedly
Fackeln To flicker To hesitate
Faulpelz Lazy fur Lazy person
Ferkeln To bear a little pig To bear a child
Intelligenzbestie Beast of intelligence Egghead
Kein Ding No thing No problem
Kein Plan No plan No idea
Keine Ahnung No suspicion No idea
Kleinkariert Smallplaidpatterned Petty-minded
Kopfkino Mental cinema Head game
Kreischi Screamy A screaming fan
Labertasche Talk bag Chatterbox
Pumpen To pump To work out at the gym
Schnattern To gaggle To talk quickly

Regional German Expressions and Words

Finally, let’s tackle the topic of the German regional slang expressions and words. It’s a common joke that a German speaker from one part of Germany can’t often understand someone from another part of the country – simply because the language differs so much.

So here are the most common regional phrases that should help you communicate with German native speakers depending on the country or city you’re visiting.

German wordRegionTranslation
Babbeln Hessian To talk
Bissel Bavarian A little
Blagen Ruhr area Annoying children
Bölken Ruhr area To yell
Ei Gude! Hessian, Rhineland-Palatinate Hello, Bye
Grüessech West Switzerland Hello
Grüezi Eastern and Northern Switzerland Hello
Grüß Gott! Austrian, Southern Hello
Lällebäbbel Swabian Fool
Lällegschwätz Swabian Chitchat
Lütt Low German Small
Moin Northern Hello
Moinsen Northern Hello
Sabbeln Northern To talk
Servus Southern Hello, Bye
Tach Northern, Northrhein-Westfalian Hello
German wordRegionTranslation
Babbeln Hessian To talk
Bissel Bavarian A little
Blagen Ruhr area Annoying children
Bölken Ruhr area To yell
Ei Gude! Hessian, Rhineland-Palatinate Hello, Bye
Grüessech West Switzerland Hello
Grüezi Eastern and Northern Switzerland Hello
Grüß Gott! Austrian, Southern Hello
Lällebäbbel Swabian Fool
Lällegschwätz Swabian Chitchat
Lütt Low German Small
Moin Northern Hello
Moinsen Northern Hello
Sabbeln Northern To talk
Servus Southern Hello, Bye
Tach Northern, Northrhein-Westfalian Hello

German Slang – a Path to German Culture

Though it may be challenging to learn German slang at first, it is a fun and easy way to get closer to the culture of Germany. By understanding how Germans speak informally, you can not only communicate better with them, but also learn more about their unique culture and quirks through their expressions.

So go out there and start using some of these funny phrases – and when you use them in spoken language, native speakers will certainly appreciate the effort. Don’t know how to do that? Consider practicing with Langster, where you can get to learn new vocabulary in context by reading short stories and news from all over the world.