German phrase of the day: Es geht um die Wurst

This phrase combines a winning resolution with the German love of processed meat.

German phrase of the day: Es geht um die Wurst
Photo: Francesco Ungaro / Unsplash + Nicolas Raymond / flickr

Why do I need to know Es geht um die Wurst?

Because you can’t truly understand German until you embrace its sausage culture. And this idiom is the hilarious and inspiring little pep talk that gets to the heart of Germany’s language, food, and history.

What does it mean?

Es geht um die Wurst or Jetzt geht’s um die Wurst (pronounced like this) is a colloquial phrase that translates to ‘it’s all about the sausage’ or ‘now it’s about the sausage’. In English, it means that something is very important – ‘It’s crunch time’, ‘now it’s getting serious’, ‘it’s now or never’ or ‘it’s the moment of truth’ .

This expression is used during a moment when you need to give it everything you have – whether it’s a competition, a game or a life-and-death duel. And the prize has always been, metaphorically speaking, sausages.

It’s the sort of phrase you would utter before you walk into the interview room for your dream job, or when you were down to your last card playing UNO, or perhaps when watching the penalty shootout of Germany at a World Cup final.

But why sausage? It’s down to the historical importance of sausages in Germany. 

READ ALSO: ‘More than a sausage’: Germany’s Currywurst Museum closing after 10 years

A Bratwurst coated in mustard.

A Bratwurst coated in mustard. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Hendrik Schmidt

The first documented use of this phrase was in Leipzig in 1881, but its origins are thought to date back much further.

Throughout this period in Germany’s history, fairs, beer festivals, and carnivals were becoming increasingly popular in many towns and villages across the country. 

Many games and competitions were set up for the occasion. Rather than a cash prize, large and high-quality sausages were awarded to the winner. Unlike today, sausages were labour-intensive and expensive commodities, rich in nutrients and fats, reserved only for the higher classes.

To the peasants of the time, it could easily be worth several days, if not weeks, of wages. Winning sausages was not only a great way to earn extra money but also a tremendous treat for the family, giving them a secure food source. It is the modern equivalent of a jackpot, so people were serious and put their hearts into it. Hence, the phrase highlighting that it really is all about the sausage!

Use it like this:

Ich habe meine Prüfungsergebnisse bekommen. Es geht um die Wurst!

I’ve received my exam results. It’s the moment of truth!

Deutschland steht im Finale, jetzt geht es um die wurst.

Germany is in the final, now it’s crunch time.

Member comments

  1. This always cracks me up how important sausage is in Germany. My grandfather was a Metzger which was listed on his immigration application as his professional qualification that got him into the US in the 1920’s and eventually US citizenship. My father said that his father being a butcher meant that they always had some meat, though never the good cuts. And that was usually stuff they wouldn’t put in the sausage. I’m a vegetarian now so I tend to shy away from German restaurants when in Germany. Did have a really good veggie schnitzel once in Köln. Still on the lookout for veggie sausage there. Is that a thing in Germany?

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German word of the day: Rücksicht

Here's how to take this thoughtful word into consideration.

German word of the day: Rücksicht

Why do I need to know Rücksicht?

Because it’s a commonly used word and knowing what it means – and practising it – will make you a better person.

What does Rücksicht mean?

Rücksicht is a feminine noun which means “consideration” or “regard”. It’s made up of the shortened form of the word zurück meaning “back” and Sicht – which means view. So literally, it means, back view, or looking back.

This literal meaning tells you something about how the word is used in German – if you look back to see what’s happened to your friend, you are taking them into consideration.

If you want to really make sure you don’t forget what Rücksicht means – you can watch the following video of Germany’s 1983 Eurovision song contest entry. The catchy ballad – called “Rücksicht” – came in place 5 of the competition that year. 

How to use Rücksicht

When using Rücksicht, bear in mind that it is usually paired with specific verbs and prepositions.

The most commonly used set phrase is Rücksicht auf etwas/jemand nehmen, which is used to mean “to be considerate of” or “to take care of” someone or something. For example:

Radfahrer müssen auf Fußgänger Rücksicht nehmen.

Cyclists must be considerate of pedestrians.

Er nimmt Rücksicht auf die Bedürfnisse seiner schwangeren Frau.

He takes care of his pregnant wife’s needs.

Rücksicht is usually followed by the preposition auf, but it can be preceded by a number of prepositions to compose different phrases. 

Mit Rücksicht auf for example, means “in view of” and ohne Rücksicht auf means “without consideration for”, while aus Rücksicht auf means “out of consideration for.” 

Here are some examples:

Führungen dürfen aus Rücksicht auf die Teilnehmer nicht aufgenommen werden.
Out of consideration of the participants, tours may not be recorded.
Er will tun, was er möchte, ohne Rücksicht auf die Anderen.
He wants to do what he wants, without considering other people.