German word of the day: Das Honigkuchenpferd

Nele Schröder
Nele Schröder - [email protected] • 26 Mar, 2019 Updated Tue 26 Mar 2019 10:36 CEST
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Today’s word of the day is one of these where the literal translation is quite confusing.

There are days where everything just goes right. Your job is fun, you had some really good lunch and maybe your partner gave you a bouquet – long story short, you walk around with a big smile on your face. Someone might look at you and say “Du strahlst wie ein Honigkuchenpferd.

Literally translated, that means: “You are smiling/shining like a honey cake horse.” Doesn’t make much sense, does it? Thought so.

So let me explain. The English equivalent is “to smile like a Cheshire cat.” The origins of the German version Honigkuchenpferd come from a literal “honey cake horse”, though: said horse is made from gingerbread, which in German can be called Honigkuchen. That baked good is quite popular around Christmas, just like gingerbread in general.

Perhaps the person who made this elaborate Honigkuchen display was smiling like a Honigkuchenpferd afterwards. Photo: DPA

There are two possibilities for connecting the Honigkuchenpferd to a smile.

One is that the cake has the form of an animal and therefore a face. But since nobody wants to eat a sad cake animal, the bakers started adding a smile to the horse’s face made from icing.

Another one connects the exclamation “strahlen wie ein Honigkuchenpferd” (“shine like a Cheshire cat”) to the shiny surface on the cake, which it receives from being covered in sugar icing. Strahlen is the German word for a very bright smile.


Ich denke sie ist verliebt, sie strahlt wie ein Honigkuchenpferd.

I think she’s in love; she’s smiling like a Cheshire cat.


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Nele Schröder 2019/03/26 10:36

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