German Idioms

Updated: May 17, 2021



Do you know any German idioms? Maybe you have already heard some and wondered what they meant. Idioms are not only a means of communication, but they also unveil much about a culture with its history and surroundings.


What are idioms?


First of all, idioms are part of imagery, and so they are culturally and historically tightly knit to each specific language. Speakers have always created idioms that had something to do with their environment, e.g. the weather.


The famous English idiom “It’s raining cats and dogs” is a lovely example here. As you can see, we don’t use idioms literally. At least not anymore! But this idiom creates a picture in our mind, and we understand that it must be raining hard when ”it’s raining cats and dogs”.

Morgenstund


“So as a beginner of German, would I even understand an idiom?”, you might wonder. Well, maybe not every idiom, it really depends on the vocabulary you have already acquired. Nevertheless, curiosity and perseverance go a long way!


Let‘a have a closer look at some German idioms. Can you decode their meaning?

How about:

Morgenstund hat Gold im Mund.

You may already know Morgen (morning) and Stund(e) (hour), so it’s the “morning hour”.

Now, close your eyes (yes!) and imagine Morgenstund. What do you see? What do you feel or hear? You may even have a taste in your mouth (hopefully you taste fresh coffee and not a foul taste of unbrushed teeth!).

If you were to draw a picture, what would you draw? Studies show that even a word like tree makes international speakers draw different kinds of trees, depending on their home country’s nature.


Gold im Mund


Speaking of taste: Gold. You may know this word in English even if you are not a native speaker. So you can guess that it means the same in German. Then im Mund: Hopefully you have already learned some body parts and know it’s in the mouth.

Naturally, gold is perceived as valuable and beautiful in many countries, so you know something good is happening in the Morgenstund when you have Gold im Mund.


The meaning

So, the idiom is again not understood literally but figuratively. To most German speakers it means that if they get up early (Morgenstund) they will be rewarded with gold. The earlier they get up, the more money they will be able to make, either because they will be the first on the job and get hired or because they can work longer hours.

Hence, this idiom displays the stereotypical German who is hard-working, punctual, and therefore successful. “Hopp, aus dem Bett! Morgenstund hat Gold im Mund!“, many German parents used to warn their children in the morning. Times have changed, of course, and it is not that necessary anymore to be up early.

Neugierig? Let’s have a look at some more!



Am Ball bleiben

This one might tell you about Germans' favourite sports: Soccer (or football). Stick to the ball and run towards the goal, that's how you win. So when a German tells you am Ball bleiben, it means he or she wants to keep going or encourages you not to give up. There is a chance of a goal after all! Weltmeisterschaft!

eine Nacht-und-Nebelaktion

Now you! What does eine Nacht- und Nebelaktion mean? Tell us in the comments!

Und immer daran denken: Morgenstund hat Gold im Mund!


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