When ‘Danke’ Just Doesn’t Cut It: Essential German Slang for Every Situation

Elly Kim8 min
Created: Jul 1, 2024Last updated: Jul 3, 2024
German Slang

So, you’ve mastered the basics of German. You’ve got your “bitte” and “danke” down, and you might even navigate a menu without accidentally ordering something terrifying. But then you step out into the streets of Berlin or scroll through a German meme page, and suddenly, it’s like you’ve been dropped into another dimension. “Alter?” “Geil?” What does that even mean? Actually, it’s nothing to worry about. You’ve just entered the world of German slang. And today, we’ll help you navigate through it. 

German Slang Words You Need to Know

When you finally decide to learn German slang, you’ll realize how different and versatile it is. There are numerous words, phrases, idioms, and yada, yada, yada. So, let’s start simple and focus on some easy yet popular slang terms. 

  • Geil – [ɡaɪ̯l] – Cool/awesome.

Originally conveying “horny” (yup, really), the geil meaning evolved to describe something super cool or awesome. So, if someone says your outfit is “geil,” take it as a compliment. Just be careful with the context! 

  • Quatsch – [kvatʃ] – Nonsense.

This word is your go-to when something just doesn’t make sense. Someone’s spouting off ridiculous theories? Just shake your head and say, “Ach, Quatsch!”

  • Abklatsch – [ˈapˌklatʃ] – Rip-off/copycat.

Use this term as slang for German way of describing something that feels like a cheap imitation or a knock-off. Like when that new movie feels just a little too familiar? Total Abklatsch.

  • Dulli – [ˈdʊli] – Dummy.

This one is a playful term for someone who’s being a bit of a goofball or isn’t quite getting it. It’s less harsh than some other options, so you can call your bestie this and still stay friends.

  • Chillig – [ˈtʃɪlɪç] – Relaxed/chill.

When you just want to kick back and relax, you feel exactly what this term describes. Think of it as the perfect word for lazy Sundays or when someone needs to take a chill pill.

  • Balla-balla – [ˈbala ˈbala] – Coo-coo.

If someone or something is acting totally bonkers, it’s when this term comes to the rescue. Remember when Joey brought the Chick and the Duck to his flat? Yeah, definitely balla-balla.

  • Hingucker – [ˈhɪŋˌkʊkɐ] – Eye-catcher.

It is another popular German slang for cool. Use it to describe something that really grabs attention, like a flashy car or a stunning outfit. If it turns heads, it’s a Hingucker. Use this when you’re impressed by someone’s style or a beautiful view.

  • Pusemuckel – [ˈpuːzəˌmʊkəl] – Middle of nowhere.

When you’re in the boonies, you’re in Pusemuckel. Perfect for describing that tiny village with more cows than people.

  • Alter – [ˈaltɐ] – Dude/bro.

This one is an essential word for any German slang for friend arsenal. It literally means “old man,” but it’s used like “dude” or “bro.” Great for getting someone’s attention or expressing surprise.

  • Assi – [ˈasi] – Antisocial/trashy.

Short for “asozial,” this word is used to describe something or someone that’s a bit trashy or uncouth. It’s like calling someone chavvy in British English. So, keep in mind what does Assi mean and try to use it on rare occasions, as it might be considered inappropriate in most circumstances.

  • Hammer – [ˈhamɐ] – Amazing.

This isn’t just a tool; it’s a way to describe something absolutely amazing or mind-blowing. You know, when something just nails it (pun intended).

  • Spinnen – [ˈʃpɪnən] – To go crazy.

Although literally this term translates to “to spin,” it is typically used to say someone is nuts or acting crazy. Perfect for when your friend suggests something totally outrageous.

The Best German Slang Phrases

Moving on! After learning some widespread slang terms, let’s complicate the task a little. Now, we want to discuss whole phrases and complete sentences popular among German native speakers to use in casual conversations. Here you go!

  • Auf dicke Hose machen – [aʊ̯f ˈdɪkə ˈhoːzə ˈmaχən] – To show off.

You know these people who always strike around like they own the place? Well, you can definitely use this German expression to describe this behavior. Literally, it means “to act as if you have thick pants,” and it is often used by natives as a way to call someone who’s bragging and pretending to be better than they actually are.

  • Was geht ab? – [vas ɡeːt ʔap] – What’s up?

This is the ultimate casual greeting among friends. It is one of the most informal ways to say what’s up in German, and it is widely used by natives regardless of their age.

  • Bock haben – [bɔk ˈhaːbən] – To be up for something.

Do you know that feeling when, all of a sudden, you’re clearly in the mood to do something? If so, now you know a perfect German slang term to describe it.

  • Einen dicken Hals haben – [ˈaɪ̯nən ˈdɪkən hals ˈhaːbən] – To be really angry.

And here’s another example. Have you ever been so angry that you’ve been able to physically feel it in your body? Specifically, when your neck was tensing up. That’s exactly what these German slang words mean. Verbatim, the translation is “to have a thick neck,” and you now know why it’s thick.

  • Mach’s gut! – [maxs ɡuːt] – Take care!

This one is quite simple – it’s just a nice and casual way to say goodbye. The closest English equivalents will be phrases like “See ya” or “Take care.” Just as simple as that!

  • Auf jeden Fall – [aʊ̯f ˈjeːdən fal] – Definitely/for sure.

When you want to agree with something and do it especially enthusiastically, this is the expression for you. Yet, beware of the context; in some cases, it might have an utterly opposite meaning, showcasing strong disagreement.

  • Sich einen abbrechen – [zɪç ˈaɪ̯nən ˈapˌbrɛçən] – To go out of your way.

This phrase describes when someone makes a huge effort or goes out of their way, often unnecessarily. Like, you know, trying way too hard to impress someone, etc. That’s the expression Germans use to pinpoint such behavior.

  • Der Rubel muss rollen – [deːɐ̯ ˈʁuːbəl mʊs ˈʁɔlən] – The money must flow.

Here’s a cool idiom in your German slang dictionary! Despite her origins (the phrase probably appeared quite a while ago in East Germany, given the Soviet Union currency), we can say that it’s oldie but goldie. It means that money must constantly flow, either due to work, side jobs, etc.

  • Angst und bange sein – [aŋst ʔʊnt ˈbaŋə zaɪ̯n] – To be anxious, stressed, or nervous.

This slang expression is another versatile one, perfect for describing the feeling you have when watching horror movies or during the night before a big exam.

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Bonus! German Slangs for Text Messages

Written conversation is as vital as verbal conversation, and it also has its differences. And, of course, modern chats among friends and acquaintances are full of various slang expressions. Here are the most essential abbreviations and slang words in German for online communication:

  • kA (keine Ahnung) – no idea;
  • hdl (hab dich lieb) – love you;
  • hdgdl (Hab' dich ganz doll lieb) – love you very much;
  • WG (Wohngemeinschaft) – shared apartment;
  • jaja (ja, ja) – yeah, right (sarcastically);
  • was los (was ist los) – what’s up;
  • lg (liebe Grüße) – best regards;
  • mfg (mit freundlichen Grüßen) – with kind regards;
  • WE (Wochenende) – weekend;
  • kp (kein Problem) – no problem;
  • bb (bis bald) – see you soon.

Of course, this is not a whole list. Yet, these expressions will be enough to maintain an online conversation without overusing slang. Just pick a few ones you know you’ll use the most, and you are ready to chat!

Learn Assi Meaning and More with Promova

So, after reading this article, you are familiar with dozens of slang expressions. But does it make you fluent already? Unfortunately, no. To become proficient in any language, not only German, you need to pay attention to mastering various skills, like speaking, reading, writing, general comprehension, etc. Luckily, with a convenient Promova app, conquering them all will be no trouble.

Within the application, you have plenty of options to choose from. In addition to German, you can learn English, ASL, French, Spanish, Italian, Korean, and many other languages. You can access them in a couple of minutes by going through the simple installation procedure. Here’s a quick guide for you:

  1. Install the Promova app on your iOS or Android device.
  2. Select the desired language you want to learn and the guidance language for your course.
  3. Provide some information about your current proficiency level.
  4. Start your course!

Just as simple as that. Only four steps, and you can already start your journey towards proficiency. And with our convenient, engaging, interactive lessons created by true language enthusiasts, studying the tongue will be a real pleasure.

Moreover, in Promova, we always prefer a bite-sized approach. It means that most of our lessons only take five minutes to complete, still covering plenty of essential information. No more feeling overwhelmed with tedious and unnecessary data! Focus only on the things that really matter and reach fluency at your own pace with the Promova application.

Conclusion

All in all, we can say that German slang is an integral part of a language. Yet, it’s always up to you to decide whether you want to learn it or not. But if you do, we hope this article will be quite helpful. And that’s it for today! We’re eagerly waiting to see you in the next article!

FAQ

How to say awesome in German slang?

Oh, there are a ton of expressions. In addition to the previously mentioned “gail” and “der Hammer,” you can say: abgefahren [ˈapɡəˌfaːʁən] (cool/outrageous), der Hit [deːɐ̯ ˈhɪt] (hit/big thing), krass [kʁas] (awesome/crazy), or mega [ˈmeːɡa] (awesome/mega cool).

Are there any regional slang expressions in German?

Absolutely! The German language has numerous dialects and regional variations. Hence, plenty of cool and exciting slang terms from different areas. For example, the word Kiez [kiːts] is a solely Berlin thing. Here, locals use it to call a small part of the city (typically just a few streets and blocks) with its own unique character.

Do all natives speak Germany slang?

Well, we can’t give a 100% answer to that. There are definitely some native speakers who don’t. However, we believe that most German-speakers do use some slang expressions to some extent. It all depends on various factors, from age differences to cultural backgrounds.

Is it essential to learn slang to become fluent in German?

We would say yes and no at the same time. Because, obviously, learning slang is not something you should do firsthand when learning a language. Yet, if you want to be able to freely communicate with other people, memorizing a few phrases and words might be quite beneficial.

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