German phrase of the day: Auf der Nase herumtanzen

Feeling nosy about the German language? Today's phrase of the day explains a colloquial German saying.

German phrase of the day: Auf der Nase herumtanzen
Photo: Depositphotos/assumption111

The literal meaning of the German saying “jemandem auf der Nase herumtanzen” is “to dance around on someone's nose.” However what this saying implies is not necessarily positive or fun.

This saying equates to the English phrase “to walk all over someone” or “to act up with somebody.” Both of these similarly indicate that an individual has taken liberties with someone and done whatever they want, regardless of the other person's opinion.

SEE ALSO: Quiz: How well do you know your German expressions?

If you are dancing around on someone's nose, you are doing whatever you want right in front of a person. As the nose lies directly under the eye, you can see very clearly anything that happens there, so this saying can also encapsulate the idea of being cheeky. 

A connected German phrase with the same meaning is “jemandem auf dem Kopf herumtanzen” (to dance around on someone’s head). Again, the implication is that a person is doing something thoughtless or deliberately irritating in plain view of the person.

Commonly, the verb lassen (to let) is added to this phrase. Lassen can have a variety of meanings in the German language but in this sense it implies that you have allowed someone to walk all over you, rather than it just happening passively.

Other nose-related German sayings include, “etwas auf die Nase binden” (to tie something on the nose), which means “to let somebody in on something.” This saying also plays on the idea that anything placed on the nose would be highly visible to the person but placing it on the nose of that person is precise, meaning other people would not know.

The saying “jemandem ist etwas an der Nase anzusehen” (to see something on someone’s nose) is the same as the English saying “something is written all over somebody’s face.”


Sie lässt sich von allen auf der Nase herumtanzen.

She lets everyone walk all over her.

Freche Kinder tanzen den Erwachsenen gerne auf der Nase herum.

Cheeky children like doing whatever they want right in front of their parents.

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German word of the day: Umgangssprache

This is a good word to be aware of when you're looking out for phrases to add to your everyday vocabulary in Germany.

German word of the day: Umgangssprache

Why do I need to know Umgangssprache?

We may be getting a little meta here, but we think it’s worth knowing this word so you can listen out for the words around it (or know when not to use this type of language).

What does it mean?

Umgangssprache, which sounds like this, means ‘colloquial language’ or ‘slang’. These are the kinds of words and phrases you might not find in a textbook, but they are heard in everyday life.

By using slang vocabulary, you’ll be able to bring your sentences to life and sound like a true local.

The term is said to have been introduced into the German language by the writer and linguist Joachim Heinrich Campe at the beginning of the 19th century.

Umgangssprache is shaped by the world around it, whether its regional factors or social circumstances of the time. 

Here are a few examples of colloquial phrases and words:

Geil means horny in German, but it is also used colloquially to describe anything you think is cool. In English, you might use the word ‘sick’ or ‘awesome’ in the same context.

Krass is another colloquial word that can mean lots of things. It is usually used to intensify the meaning of something very bad or something very good depending on the tone and context. So something disgusting is krass, and something amazing can also be krass

Das ist mir Wurst translates to ‘that’s sausage to me’, and means you don’t give a toss. 

Das ist doch Käse translates to ‘that’s cheese’ and expresses that you mean something is absolute nonsense. 

And a ruder one is: Das ist am Arsch der Welt. It means ‘that’s the arse of the world’ and refers to a place that is far away or very difficult to reach. In English you might say ‘back of beyond’. 

You would hear these kinds of phrases in relaxed conversations in cafes and bars, but they aren’t so common in formal situations. 

Use it like this:

Ist das Umgangssprache oder kann ich das bei meinem Chef benutzen?

Is that colloquial language or can I use it with my boss?

Mir gefällt die umgangssprachliche Floskel: auf dein Nacken!

I really like the colloquial phrase ‘this is on you!’