• Germany's news in English
The Local List
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class

10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class

The Local · 1 Aug 2016, 10:21

Published: 01 Aug 2016 10:20 GMT+02:00
Updated: 01 Aug 2016 10:21 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

1. “Krass”, “Hammer”, “Wahnsinnig” and “Geil”

Photo: DPA

Do you have strong feelings about anything and everything? “Krass” can be used whenever you have an extreme emotional reaction towards something.

If you love it, it’s krass. If you hate it, it’s krass. If it makes you roll around on the floor laughing, it’s krass. If it makes your hair stand on end with fear, yes you’ve guessed it, it’s also krass.

The phrase “Das ist der Hammer!” in fact has nothing to do with hammers, but actually implies that something is completely extraordinary.

“Wahnsinnig” has quite a similar meaning. Feeling the adrenaline pump through your body as you plunge down a crazy rollercoaster? “Das ist ja wahnsinnig!” will convey that you think it’s insanely fun or even exhilarating.

Do you think something’s cool, awesome, great or amazing? Don’t stick with your textbook classics of “toll”, “spannend” or “ausgezeichnet” - why not try the less standard “geil” instead?

The adjective “geil” gained superstar status in Germany when “Supergeil”, a promotional music video by supermarket giant Edeka, went viral.

But just a word of warning: be careful as to when you use this word, as in some contexts it can mean “horny” instead.

2. “Quasi”, “sozusagen”, “naja” and "halt"

If you want to avoid umming and ahhing when lost for words, these fillers are your go-to. “Quasi” and “sozusagen” are the equivalent of “so to speak”, and “naja” (“well…”) can be used if you’re a bit hesitant about a statement.

Have you heard British and American teens throwing the word “like” into sentences as if a phrase is utterly incomplete without it? It’s exactly the same here in Germany, where “halt” is sprinkled into phrases like there's no tomorrow.

So next time you chat to your German friend, try throwing in a few fillers - you might end up with a bizarre sentence like “Naja...es war denn...halt...quasi schrecklich, sozusagen”.  

3. “Bescheuert”

Photo: DPA

While you were probably taught the adjectives “schlecht” and “schrecklich” over and over again until you could say them standing on your head, you probably haven’t heard of the more colloquial “bescheuert”.

Whether something’s rubbish, annoying, or depressing - if it brings you down, it can be described as “bescheuert”.

But when you get to Germany, you’ll hear anyone and everyone uttering the phrase “das ist total bescheuert!” as they dash onto the station platform only to have missed the train by a few seconds.

4. “Na?”

Forget “Wie geht es Ihnen heute?”, “Wie geht’s dir?”, or even “Was geht ab?”. Why trot out all those long phrases when you can stick to the one-syllable word “Na?” to ask how someone is?

You can also use “Na” to ask how something went. When your friend comes back from a date, no lengthy question is required, just a simple “Naaaa?” will get across that you want to know all the details.

But try not to confuse it with the rather more sarcastic “Na und?” (“so what?”).

5. “Alter”

Photo: Alexander Lyubavin, Flickr

In America you’d say “buddy”, in England you’d say “mate” and in Scotland “pal”. But how do you refer to a male friend very casually in German? “Alter” or "Alta" is the way.

“Alter, was geht ab?” (“Dude, what’s up?”) is often heard among German teens. As you can tell, this kind of slang is very colloquial, so it’s generally only used by younger people.

6. “Quatsch”

“Das ist totaler Quatsch”, you might think when someone shamelessly declares that they are an authority on a particular subject when they clearly don’t know the first thing about it.

If you say that something is “Quatsch”, it means that it’s utter nonsense or complete gibberish.

7. “Bock auf etwas haben”

Photo: d.neuman, Flickr

If you know the expression “Lust haben” (“to want to do something” or “to be up for doing something”), the phrase “Bock haben” means roughly the same thing.

Not really up for the day trip that your German friends are organising? “Ich habe keinen Bock darauf” will convey your lack of enthusiasm.

Completely down for a night out, though? “Ja, ich hab' Bock drauf” will show that you’re interested.

Story continues below…

8. “Auf jeden Fall”

“Bock haben” and “auf jeden Fall” go hand in hand on the enthusiasm scale.

Instead of using “natürlich” (“of course”), a piece of vocab which was probably drummed into you at school, try out the more casual “auf jeden Fall” (“definitely” or “for sure”).

And if you want to be really down with the kids, you can shorten it to a simple 'auf jeden'.

9. “Jein”

Another way of expressing uncertainty, “jein” is a mashup of, yep you’ve guessed it, “ja” and nein”.

So if you want to express that you’re quite doubtful about something, or you just don’t want to come down really strongly on one side or the other, “jein” is the one to use.

10. “Mach’s gut!” 

Photo: Oliver Quinlan, Flickr

Forget the textbook ways of saying goodbye - the casual “Tschüß” and the more formal “Auf Wiedersehen” - by throwing in a “Mach’s gut!” to your friends instead.

Literally translated as “Make it good!”, the phrase is the equivalent of “Have a good one!” in English.

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Outrage over ruling on 'brutal' gang rape of teen girl
The now convicted suspects, sitting in court in Hamburg. Photo: DPA.

A 14-year-old girl was gang-raped and left partially clothed and unconscious in freezing temperatures. Now prosecutors are appealing the sentences for the young men found guilty, most of whom will not set foot in jail.

Dozens of Turkish diplomats apply for asylum in Germany
Demonstrators holding a giant Turkish flag protest against the attempted coup in Istanbul in July. Photo: DPA.

Since the failed putsch attempt in Turkey in July, Germany has received 35 asylum applications from people with Turkish diplomatic passports, the Interior Ministry confirmed on Wednesday.

Hertha Berlin fan club criticised for 'anti-gay banner'
Hertha BSC beat FC Cologne 2-1. Photo: DPA

A 50 metre fan banner apparently mocking the idea of gay adoption has overshadowed Hertha BSC's win in the Bundesliga.

Germany stalls Chinese takeover of tech firm Aixtron
Aixtron headquarters in Herzogenrath. Photo: DPA

The German government on Monday said it had withdrawn approval for a Chinese firm to acquire Aixtron, a supplier to the semiconductor industry, amid growing unease over Chinese investment in German companies.

Politicians call for tough sentences for 'killer clowns'
File photo: DPA.

Now that the so-called 'killer clown' craze has spread from the US to Germany, elected officials are drawing a hard line against such "pranks", with some threatening offenders with jail time of up to a year.

Nearly one in ten Germans are severely disabled
Photo: DPA

New figures reveal that 9.3 percent of the German population last year were considered severely disabled.

The Local List
Germany's top 10 most surreal sites to visit
The Upside-Down House, in Mecklenburg–Western Pomerania. Photo: Olaf Meister / Wikimedia Commons

From upside-down houses on Baltic islands to a fairy-tale castle near the Austrian border, Germany is a treasure trove of the extraordinary.

Bavarian critics back Merkel for Chancellor again
Photo: DPA

The Christian Social Union (CSU) have long delayed backing Angela Merkel as their candidate for Chancellor in next year's general election. But now key leaders are supporting her publicly.

Four taken to hospital after hotel toilet bursts into flames
File photo: DPA.

Four guests at a Nuremberg hotel were taken to hospital due to smoke inhalation early Monday morning after a toilet there burst into flames.

Creepy clown scare spreads to Germany
Two of the clowns were apparently equipped with chainsaws. Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP file picture

Police said Friday five incidents involving so-called scary clowns had occurred in two north German towns, including one assailant who hit a man with a baseball bat, amid fears that Halloween could spark a rash of similar attacks.

10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd