Welcome to your ultimate guide to German slang words and phrases! In this post, we will break down 20 common and very useful German expressions and slang words that can make you sound more like a native.
As a German learner, you'll benefit from learning slang words and phrases as you gain a deeper understanding of the language and culture. Moreover, you deepen your German vocabulary and ability to express yourself clearly the more you know.
For more tips on how to learn German the fastest and most effective way head over to our Best Way to Learn German as a Beginner post.
Let’s dive right in.
The German Language
German is a West Germanic language primarily spoken in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. It is also the co-official language of Liechtenstein and the Italian province of South Tyrol.
One of the best ways to learn German is to go to Germany and immerse yourself in the language and culture. Try to read German, listen to music, and absorb the language organically.
You can also watch TV and movies in German to develop your language skills and pick up new expressions. Visit Lingopie to stream entertaining German language content optimized for language learning.
20 German Slang Words and Phrases
This first German slang word is a salutation that stems from the Latin phrase “at your service.” You will hear this greeting, which actually means “goodbye” and “hello”, in Bavaria, a region in the South of Germany with its own distinct vocabulary and accent.
This is a very casual way to greet someone you know well, and it is often used by teenagers.
- Servus, was geht ab - Hello, what's happening?
- Nicht viel. Was geht bei dir? - Not much, you?
Alter is a versatile slang word that can mean different things depending on the context. One of the translations of this term is "dude" or "mate". You can use this to greet a friend, or as an interjection in a conversation to convey surprise or grab attention.
- “Alter! Rat' mal, was ich gerade gesehen habe!” - Man! Guess what I just saw!
When paired with the word schwede, however, it becomes an expression of shock. The literal meaning of alter schwede is "old Swedish man", but it is used like "my goodness" or "gosh!".
- Alter schwede! Was hast du gemacht?” – My God! What did you do?
This is a German greeting that literally means "mealtime". However, when a German person greets you in this way, it is like saying "good morning" or simply "hey". The word comes from the more formal greeting Gesegnete Mahlzeit, meaning "blessed mealtime".
So, using the above three German slang words, we can make a short informal exchange between two friends.
- Mahlzeit Alter, was geht? - Hey dude, what's up?
- Servus! Bei mir läufts, und bei dir? - Hi! It's going good, and with you?
This slang term is an abbreviation of the German word asozial, meaning "antisocial". Assi is a pejorative slang word that roughly translates in English to "trashy" or, in British English, "chavvy".
This word is used as an adjective to describe someone's perceived personality traits or as a noun for a person who exemplifies these things.
For example, a German might use assi to talk down on a person for having bad manners, being uneducated, unemployed, or uncouth.
- Junge Leute, die rauchen, sind assi - Young people who smoke are trashy
This is another very versatile German slang word, which can be used to express extreme delight or displeasure. It is colloquial and informal and used among friends all over Germany.
- Du bist der Hammer! - You're the best!
- 15 Euro für ein Bier?! Das ist ja der Hammer- 15 Euro for a beer?! That is an outrage.
Hammer can also be added to a word like a superlative to emphasize it. For instance, hammergeil is "extremely cool", while hammerscheiße means "really sh*t".
- Ich ess nur hammerselten Döner - I eat kebab very rarely
6. Mach's Gut
Literally, this phrase means "make it good" or "do it well", but we would translate it in English as "have a good one" or "take care".
This is a casual farewell among people who are friends or family. You can say mach's gut instead of auf wiedersehen.
As a response, your friend might say du auch, “you too!”, or mach's besser, which literally means “do it even better”.
- Bis morgen, mach’s gut! - See you tomorrow, have a good one!
When a German person wants to express the feeling that they are going crazy, they can say they are making spider's webs, or spinnen. This term is used informally and it is similar to "I'm going nuts" or "I'm losing it".
- Ich glaube, ich spinne - I think I'm going nuts
Na is a super common German slang term that can mean "hi" and "how are you?". This short word is packed full of meaning.
In fact, saying na in isolation to your friend and having it repeated back to you constitutes a whole conversation.
If your friend greets you with an elongated naaa? this means "hey, how are you?", to which you can simply reply na, meaning "hey, I'm good, how are you?" This is similar to the English greeting "sup", which is used for "hey", but is also an abbreviation of "what's up?"
You can also add a "how are you?" after na if you want to give a more wordy salutation.
- Na, alles gut? - Hi, how's it going?
9. Na Ja
The versatility of the German word na is great. Na ja is a very useful little saying that roughly translates as "well" in English. You will often hear na ja at the beginning of a sentence to soften what comes next or to preface a disagreement.
- Hans ist so nett! - Hans is so nice!
- Na ja, so nett ist er auch nicht - Well, he isn't that nice
You can also use na ja as a response to "how are you?"
- Guten Tag! Wie geht es dir? - Hello! How are you?
- Na ja… - So-so…
There are several other little sayings that can be made from na, such as na, schön, meaning "okay then" and na klar, "of course".
10. Alles Klar
Klar is another useful one to know. This word means "clear", "plain", or "understood". You can use this word to ask "is everything okay?" colloquially.
- Na, alles klar? - Hey, all good?
- Ja, alles klar, danke, und bei Dir? - Yes, all good, thanks, and you?
11. (Ist) Gebongt
This is a quick way to say you agree with something and it is settled, rather like the English sayings "okay-dokey", "righty-o" and "ok, agreed".
The verb bongen refers to ringing something up on a register, thereby settling a transaction. If something is gebongt, it means it is booked, decided, or agreed upon.
- Treffen wir uns morgen früh im Café? - Shall we meet tomorrow morning in the café?
- Ist gebongt - Sure
12. Auf Jeden Fall
If you want to wrap up a thought, you can use this handy German saying, which translates as "in any case". You can also shorten it to auf jeden and the phrase has the exact same meaning.
What's more, if you change jeden to keinen, it means “in no case.” This is a super useful and natural-sounding phrase to have in your repertoire.
13. Aus der Reihe tanzen
Someone who acts a little outside of the norm and stands out from the crowd in Germany can be described as dancing outside of the line. This can be used both in a positive and negative way. Someone who dances outside the line might be a troublemaker, or simply quirky.
- Mein Cousin tanzt immer aus der Reihe - My cousin is always stepping out of line
German speakers might exclaim this word if they feel that someone is talking trash. It actually stems from the verb quatschen which means “to talk nonsense” and the British English equivalent would be "utter rubbish" or "absolute nonsense".
- Das ist Quatsch! - That is nonsense!
15. Bock Haben
This is a very useful little German phrase, which means you want something or you have an interest in doing something. More formally, Germans might say Lust haben, which means "feel like", and Bock haben is the more colloquial alternative.
Bock comes from an old language called Rotwelsch, used by people on the outskirts of society in parts of Germany and Switzerland. They borrowed the words der Bock from the Romani word bokh, meaning "hunger". So, Bock haben is to hunger for something.
- Ich hab' Bock auf’s essen - I really want to eat
16. Auf den Keks gehen
This translates literally as "you are getting on my biscuit", which means "you are getting on my nerves". Native speakers in any German-speaking country will understand this saying, so it's a great one to know.
- Dein lautes Kauen geht mir auf den Keks - Your loud chewing is irritating me.
This hilariously literal slang term is the German equivalent of "know-it-all". Besserwisser means "better knower" and it conveys the idea that someone always has an answer and feels superior in their knowledge to those around them.
- Der Besserwisser zeigt uns wie es geht - The know-it-all will show us how to do it
18. Moin Moin
Short for Guten Morgen, or "good morning" in parts of northern Germany, moin moin is a very colloquial and casual greeting.
This German phrase can actually be used to say "hi", "good morning" and "goodnight", depending on the context. It is yet another versatile greeting that is good to know if you are visiting Hamburg or the surrounding areas.
19. Hau Ab
If you are ever in need of German expressions that suggest anger or frustration, this is an easy one to start with. Hau ab means "get lost", or in British English, we might say "piss off".
- Wenn es dir nicht gefällt, hau ab! - If you don't like it, get lost!
Finally, this funny German slang word translates literally as "twilight", however, it is meant to describe something or someone as “shady” or “dodgy.”
- Er is ein zwielichtigen Kerl - He is a shady dude
Why It is Important to Know Slang
If you want to speak German like a native, you will need to learn colloquialisms, slang, and even curse words. This is the best way to sound authentic and natural in everyday conversation.
Knowing slang words and phrases will also help you to understand social situations better, as well as TV shows, movies, and music.
For instance, if a German person says to you ich verstehe nur Bahnhof, this literally means "I only understand train station."
This is confusing if you don't know it's a slang term that means you have no idea what someone is saying, similar to the English "it's all Greek to me."
See also: A Guide to German Verbs for Beginners
FAQs: Learning German Slang Words and Phrases
What is the most commonly used German slang word?
One of the first German slang words you should learn before visiting Germany, particularly if you're going for Oktoberfest, is prost! This means "cheers!" and is essential for everyday speech and social drinking situations.
What does Geil mean in German slang?
Geil is one of the most common and useful German slang words you will hear when visiting Austria, Switzerland, or Germany. It generally means "cool", but can also be used for "horny", so make sure you understand the context!
What is the funniest German slang phrase?
We have provided several practical German slang phrases to learn, but what about the silly ones? If you want to sound like a native and get a laugh, you can use alles hat ein Ende nur die Wurst hat zwei, which means "everything has one end, only the sausage has two."
In English, we would say "all good things come to an end". In 1987, German singer Stephen Remmel released a song with this title and turned the phrase into a common expression.
Summing Up: German Slang Words and Phrases
This list of German slang phrases and words is not exhaustive, but it is a great place to start building your colloquial vocabulary for small talk and casual settings.
Learn to use these words in a natural context to sound authentic when you speak with natives.
You can gain a deeper understanding of casual German by engaging with books, music, TV shows, and movies made by German speakers. Moreover, remember you can learn German skills like listening and pronunciation from streaming TV and movies in German. Lingopie is a great resource for learners.
See also: The 6 Best Songs to Learn German