To English speakers, a hammer is nothing more than a useful household tool. For Germans, however, “Hammer” actually doubles as an incredibly popular colloquial term.
It is a very common way of expressing surprise or disbelief toward something extraordinary, whether that be positive or negative.
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This word can be heard in a huge variety of contexts and you may well be surprised at just how flexibly it is slotted into everyday speech.
It can be used as a noun:
“Das ist (ja) der Hammer”
This is awesome!
As an adjective:
“Ich habe hammer Bauchschmerzen”
I have an awful stomach pains.
Or even as a way of intensifying another adjective:
“Das sieht hammercool aus!”
That looks super cool!
It is such a widespread term that it can even be spotted in popular culture.
Stores will often try to lure you in with a “Hammer-Angebot” (super deal/offer), or football commentators may speak of a “Hammer-Start” (great start) to the season for a certain team.
On the more negative side, you may see newspapers report of a “Hammer-Bußgeld” (huge fine) being issued to someone breaking the rules. It is most often used as a way of making something stand out, whether that be for good or bad reasons.
So, next time you go to an amazing concert, discover a delicious new dish, or experience a stroke of bad luck, be sure to take this word out of your linguistic toolbox!