German phrase of the day: Schlafen wie ein Murmeltier

This phrase sums up exactly how we would like to sleep every night.

German phrase of the day: Schlafen wie ein Murmeltier
Photo: Francesco Ungaro / Unsplash + Nicolas Raymond / flickr

Why do I need to know Schlafen wie ein Murmeltier?

Because sleep is essential. It recharges our body and mind, fights disease and strengthens our immunity and metabolism. It’s what makes us feel alive and refreshed every morning. So just like other languages, German has its unique way of appreciating the beauty of deep sleep.

What does it mean?

The colloquial phrase ‘schlafen wie ein Murmeltier’ (or ‘wie ein Murmeltier schlafen’), which sounds like this, translates to ‘sleep like a marmot’. The equivalent in English would be to ‘sleep like a log’ or ‘sleep like a baby’. The analogy might be different but the idea is more or less the same: to experience a very deep and restful sleep without disturbance.

We all understand the metaphor of sleep with a still and motionless log, or with a baby who on average sleeps well over 16 hours a day. So why is it marmot in German?

First of all, marmots are large ground-dwelling squirrels, closely related to the groundhog or woodchuck. But exclusive to Germany are the alpine marmots which live throughout the mountainous European Alps. To survive the extreme changes in weather and food shortages during the winter, alpine marmots developed one of the longest periods of hibernation in the animal kingdom.

A woman sleeps like a marmot.

A woman sleeps like a marmot. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Wort & Bild Verlag | F1online

They would eat and store up as much fat as possible before hiding in their burrows for the winter. Once there, they hibernate for over nine months where their body temperature and heartbeat drop drastically to preserve energy. The alpine marmots would then wake up from their months-long sleep to the charming warmth of spring. It’s the deepest and most restful sleep anyone could dream of. So, the metaphor ‘schlafen wie ein Murmeltier’ truly lives up to its spirit. 

Next time when you think of a good night’s sleep, remember the marmots.

Use it like this:

Ich habe letzte Nacht geschlafen wie ein Murmeltier – fast 10 Stunden lang!

I slept like a log last night  – for almost 10 hours!

Er schläft wie ein Murmeltier nach einer sehr arbeitsreichen Woche.

He sleeps like a baby after a very busy week

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


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!’