German phrase of the day: Auf der Nase herumtanzen

German phrase of the day: Auf der Nase herumtanzen
Photo: Depositphotos/assumption111
Feeling nosy about the German language? Today's phrase of the day explains a colloquial German saying.

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. 

(article continues below)

See also on The Local:

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.

Member comments

Become a Member to leave a comment.Or login here.