German proverbs

From Quotes
Seek not happiness too greedily, and be not fearful of unhappiness.
Lao-Tzu
Jump to: navigation, search

Referring to German proverbs:

Wie das (alte) Sprichwort lautet,..... Wie das (alte) Sprichwort sagt,.....

  • Translation: As the (old) proverb goes,....

Wie ein (altes) Sprichwort lautet,.....

  • Translation: As an (old) proverb goes,....


A - B - D - E - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - R - S - T - V - W - Z

A

  • Adel verpflichtet.
    • Translation: Aristocracy obligates
    • Translation: Noblesse obliges
  • Alle Sünden in eine münden.
    • Translation: All sins flow into one
  • Aller guten Dinge sind drei.
    • Translation: All good things are three.
    • Meaning: Good things come in numbers of three
    • Meaning: [Said on third attempt, strike, or similar third-ness. It does not usually invoke luck.]
    • Equivalent: Third time is a charm.
    • Equivalent: Third time lucky.
  • Alles Gute kommt von oben.
    • Translation: All good come from above.
    • Meaning: God gives us all good things.
    • Or sometimes ironical, when something falls on someone's head.
  • Alles hat ein Ende, nur die Wurst hat zwei.
    • Translation: Everything has an end, only sausage has two.
    • Meaning: Everything must come to an end.
  • Alles neu macht der Mai.
    • Translation: May makes everything new.
    • Meaning: In spring everything starts anew.
  • Alte Füchse gehen schwer in die Falle.
    • Translation: Old foxes go with difficulty into the trap.
    • Meaning: The old and wise are less likely to get tricked.
  • Alte Liebe rostet nicht.
    • Translation: Old love does not rust.
    • Equivalent: Old flames never die.
  • Alter schützt vor Torheit nicht.
    • Translation: Age does not protect from foolishness.
    • Equivalent: No fool like an old fool.
  • Altes Brot ist nicht hart, kein Brot, das ist hart.
    • Translation: Old bread isn't hard, no bread, that is hard.
    • Meaning: It is better to have some food than no food.
  • Andere Länder, andere Sitten.
    • Translation: Other countries, other customs
    • Meaning: Foreigners have different customs [which may be perfectly normal there]
    • Similar: When in Rome, do as the Romans do.


  • Anfangen ist leicht, beharren eine Kunst.
    • Translation: To begin is easy, to persist is art.
    • Meaning: It is easy to start but hard to continue.
  • Angst verleiht Flügel.
    • Translation: Fear lends wings.
    • Meaning: Fear will make you do things you would deem impossible in a different situation.
  • Arbeit adelt.
    • Translation: Work ennobles.
  • Arbeit zieht Arbeit nach sich.
    • Translation: Work involves work.
  • Auf alten Pfannen lernt man kochen.
    • Translation: On old pots you learn cooking.
    • Meaning: Older women can teach you a lot in bed.
    • Similar equivalent: Women are like wine; the older the better.
  • Auf alten Pferden lernt man reiten.
    • Translation: On old horses you learn how to ride.
    • Meaning: see the one with the pots above.
  • Auf jeden Regen folgt auch Sonnenschein.
    • Translation: There is sunshine after every rainfall.
    • Similar: Every cloud has a silver lining.
    • Similar equivalent: April showers bring May flowers.
  • Aus einer Mücke einen Elefanten machen.
    • Translation: To make an elephant out of a mosquito.
    • Equivalent: To make a mountain out of a molehill.
    • Meaning: To blow things out of proportion
  • Aus Schaden wird man klug. (Darum ist einer nicht genug.)
    • Translation: From damage one becomes intelligent. (Sometimes you need more of these.)
    • Equivalent: One learns from their mistakes.

B

  • Bäume wachsen nicht in den Himmel.
    • Translation: Trees do not grow into the sky.
    • Meaning: There are natural limits to things
    • Meaning: Grandiose [career] plans may not realize [completely]
  • Beiß nicht in die Hand, die dich füttert.
    • Translation: Do not bite into the hand which feeds you.
    • Equivalent: Don't bite the hand that feeds you.
  • Bellende Hunde beißen nicht.
    • Lit. translation: Barking dogs don't bite.
    • Meaning: As long as talking (barking) continues, even albeit threatening, violence is averted.
    • Meaning: Cowards threaten a lot.
    • English version: His bark is worse than his bite.
  • Bescheidenheit ist die höchste Form der Arroganz.
    • Translation: Modesty is the highest form of arrogance.
  • Besser spät als nie
    • Translation: Better late than never
  • Besser ein Spatz in der Hand, als eine Taube auf dem Dach.
    • Translation: A sparrow in the hand is better than a pigeon on the roof
    • Meaning: A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
    • Proverb: A bird in the hand multilingual.
  • Besser eigenes Brot als fremder Braten.
    • Translation: Better your own bread than another's roast.
    • Meaning: What's yours, is yours.
  • Besser einäugig als blind.
    • Translation: Better one-eyed than blind.
    • Equivalent: Better something than nothing.
  • Betrug ist der Krämer Acker und Pflug.
    • Translation: Fraud is a shopkeepers field and plow.
    • Meaning: Shopkeepers deal in fraud.
    • Equivalent: Buyer Beware.
  • Betrunkene und Kinder sagen die Wahrheit.
    • Translation: The drunk and children tell the truth.
  • Blut ist dicker als Wasser
    • Blood is thicker than water.
    • Meaning: Familial ties are stronger than Monetary (water) ones.

D

  • Dankbarkeit und Weizen gedeihen nur auf gutem Boden.
    • Translation: Gratitude and wheat prosper only on good soil.
  • Das Ei will klüger sein als die Henne.
    • Translation: The egg wants to be smarter than the hen.
  • Das Rad, das am lautesten quietscht, bekommt das meiste Fett.
    • Translation: The wheel that squeaks loudest gets most of the fat.
    • Equivalent: The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
  • Das sitzt wie angegossen.
    • Translation: It fits like cast-on.
    • Meaning: Something - clothes normally - fits very good, like specially made just for that person
    • English equivalent: It fits like a glove.
  • Das passt wie Arsch auf Eimer. (not a traditional proverb - youth slang)
    • Translation: It fits like an ass on a bucket.
    • Meaning: like the one above, but in a more vulgarly way and actually not meant in case of clothes rather than in situations
  • De oama in de jeetzya tollt tue mole.
    • Translation: The poor and the stingy pay twice.
  • Dem Hahn, der zu früh kräht, dreht man den Hals um.
    • Translation: A cock that crows too early gets a twisted neck.
    • Equivalent: Patience is a Virtue.
  • Demut, diese schöne Tugend, ehrt das Alter und die Jugend.
    • Translation: Humility, this beautiful virtue, honors the age and the youth.
  • Den Bock zum Gärtner machen.
    • Lit. translation: Turn a billy-goat into a gardener.
    • Meaning: To disregard a trustee's harmful conflict of interests.
    • English equivalent: Setting a fox to guard the henhouse.
    • English equivalent: To trust the cat to keep the cream.
  • Den Ast absägen, auf dem man sitzt.
    • Lit. translation: To saw off the branch (bough) you're sitting on.
    • Meaning: To foolishly undermine one's own position of power or revenue stream
    • Equivalent: To shoot oneself in the foot.
    • Similar: To bite the hand that feeds you.
  • Den Letzten beißen die Hunde.
    • Lit. translation: The last one is bitten by the dogs.
    • English equivalent: The devil takes the hindmost.
  • Den Teufel nicht an die Wand malen.
    • Lit. translation: Not to paint the devil on the wall.
    • Meaning: Do not make it out to be worse than it actually is
    • Meaning: Do not maximize hypothetical problems [and through magical thinking make the situation worse]
    • Similar: Let sleeping dogs lie.
  • Der Teufel scheißt immer auf den größten Haufen.
    • Lit. translation: The devil always shits on the biggest pile.
    • Meaning: Where money already is, more money goes.
  • Der Teufel steckt im Detail.
    • Translation: The devil hides himself in details
    • English equivalent: The devil's in the details.
  • Der Apfel fällt nicht weit vom Stamm.
    • Translation: The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
    • Meaning: Like father, like son.
  • Der Appetit kommt beim Essen
    • Lit.: The appetite comes while eating
    • Meaning.: Just do it. You will find out that it's fun while doing it.
  • Der dümmste Bauer erntet die dicksten Kartoffeln.
    • Translation: The dumbest farmer harvests the thickest potatoes.
    • Meaning: Dumb luck.
  • Der erste Eindruck zählt.
    • Translation: The first impressions counts.
    • Equivalent: First impression is the last impression
  • Der Fisch stinkt vom Kopf her.
    • Translation: The fish stinks from the head.
    • Meaning: Corruption starts at the top.
  • Der Gesunde weiß nicht, wie reich er ist.
    • Translation: The healthy does not know how rich he is.
  • Der Knochen kommt nicht zum Hund, sondern der Hund zum Knochen.
    • Translation: The bone doesn't come to the dog, but the dog goes to the bone.
    • Meaning: You must pursue your dreams, they won't come to you.
  • Der Lauscher an der Wand hört nur die eigene Schand'.
    • Translation: The eavesdropper at the wall hears only his own dishonor.
  • Der Mensch denkt, Gott lenkt.
    • Translation: Humans think, God directs.
    • English equivalent: Man proposes, God disposes.
    • Variation/Extension: Der Mensch dachte, Gott lachte.
    • Lit. Translation: Humans thought, God laughed
    • The variation puts the 1st part of the proverb grammatically into the past.
  • Der Weg ist das Ziel
    • Lit.: The path is the destination / The destination is not important, but the path that leads there.
    • Meaning: Enjoy the present without always dreaming of a better future.
  • Deutsche Sprache, schwere Sprache.
    • Literally, German language, difficult language.
    • 1st Meaning: German language is hard to learn
    • Used when someone (usually German himself) has just made an embarrassing German grammar mistake.
    • General saying about the language.
  • Die Tat wirkt mächtiger als das Wort.
    • Translation: The action has a mightier impact than the word.
    • Similar: Actions speak louder than words.
  • Das Eisen schmieden, solange es heiß ist.
    • Strike the iron while it's hot / Make hay while the sun shines.
    • English equivalent: Strike while the iron is hot.
  • Die dümmsten Bauern ernten die dicksten Kartoffeln.
    • Literally, The most stupid farmers harvest the biggest potatoes
    • Meaning: Dumb people are often very lucky.
    • Equivalent: The sun shines on a dog's tail sometimes. from Sam Sneed, golfer
  • Die Katze im Sack kaufen.
    • Translation: To buy a cat in a bag.
    • Meaning: To pay for something you haven´t seen or you know nothing about.
    • English equivalent: To buy a pig in a poke.
  • (Zusammen oder mit XY) Durch Dick und Dünn gehen.
    • Translation: To go through thick an thin (together or with XY).
    • Meaning: To stay together no matter what.
    • Equivalent: They travelled through thick and thin.
  • Das letzte Hemd hat keine Taschen.
    • Translation: The last shirt has no pockets.
    • Meaning: Piling up money won't serve you anything once you're dead.
    • Equivalent: Money isn't everything.
    • Equivalent: You can't take it with you.
  • Der Blinde erklärt dem Einäugigen die Farben.
    • Translation: The blind man explains the colors to the one-eyed man.
    • Meaning: Somebody tries to explain something he knows nothing about.
    • Similar equivalent: Blind leading the blind.
  • Unter den Blinden ist der Einäugige der König.
    • Translation: Among the blind, the one-eyed man is king.
    • Equivalent: In the land of the blind, the one-eyed is king.
    • Meaning: Someone with limited means can only be considered superior by people with even more limited means.
  • Du siehst den Wald vor lauter Bäumen nicht.
    • Translation: You fail to see the forest because of all the trees.
    • Said when somebody fails to see the obvious solution to a problem.
    • Equivalent: You can't see the wood for the trees.
    • Equivalent: You can't see the forest for the trees.
    • Meaning: You only see the details, but not the big picture.

E

  • Eile mit Weile.
    • Translation: Hurry with leisure.
    • Meaning: Slower is faster.
    • Equivalent: Slow and steady wins the race. Haste makes waste. More haste, less speed.
    • English equivalent: Make haste slowly.
  • Einbildung ist auch eine Bildung.
    • Translation: Vanity is also an education.
    • Explanation: It's a pun: Bildung - > education; einBILDUNG -> Vanity So "Einbildung" is also some kind of "Bildung".
  • Ein blindes Huhn findet auch mal ein Korn.
    • Literally, A blind chicken finds a grain once in a while.
    • Meaning: Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.
  • Einem geschenkten Gaul schaut man nicht ins Maul.
    • Translation: Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.
    • Meaning: Do not look for faults when something has been received as a gift.
  • Eine Schwalbe macht noch keinen Sommer!
    • Literally, One swallow doesn't make summer.
    • Meaning: One spark of hope does not mean all is well
    • Equivalent: A single swallow doth not the summer make
  • Einmal ist keinmal.
    • Literally, Once is never.
    • Meaning: Used often as an excuse for trying something again after the first try or to make somebody prove him/herself again.
    • Meaning 2: A first time offence should be forgiven.
    • Meaning 3: "It's OK to try anything once." - As a rationalization or an excuse for doing something one perhaps shouldn't, one time.
    • Note: Sometimes extended to Einmal ist keinmal, aber zweimal ist dreimal
    • Translation: Once is never, but twice is thrice. It all rhymes in German, as you can see
  • Ein Unglück kommt selten allein.
    • Translation: A disaster seldom comes alone.
    • Equivalent 1: It never rains but it pours.
    • Equivalent 2: Bad luck comes in threes.
  • Ein Tropfen auf den heißen Stein.
    • Literally: A drop on a hot stone.
    • Meaning: Not enough to make a difference.
    • English Equivalent: A drop in the sea.
    • English equivalent: A drop in the bucket.
  • Ende gut, alles gut.
    • All's well that ends well.
  • Erst denken, dann lenken.
    • Translation: First think, then steer.
    • Meaning: Think before you act.
  • Erst kommt das Fressen, dann kommt die Moral (Dreigroschenoper)
    • Translation: First comes chow, then morals.
    • Meaning: A hungry man cannot afford a conscience.
    • Meaning: Higher ethics are not of much use to people whose basic needs are not met.
    • those were the original meanings from the Threepenny's Opera, however the saying got a life of its own and now in the semiliterate public means also and primarily: Morals can wait until pockets are full.
    • Similar: It's a dog-eat-dog world.
  • Es ist nicht alles Gold, was glänzt.
    • Not all that glitters is gold.
    • Meaning: Beware of superficial impression.
    • Similar: You can't tell a book by its cover.
  • Es ist noch kein Meister vom Himmel gefallen.
    • Literally: A master has never yet fallen from the sky.
    • Meaning: No one is an expert rightaway without any practice.
    • Similar: Practice makes perfect.
  • Es schüttet wie aus Eimern. (Es schüttet wie aus Kübeln)
    • Literally: It's pouring as if out of buckets.
    • Meaning: Describes heavy rain.
    • Equivalent: It's raining cats and dogs.
  • Es wird nichts so heiß gegessen, wie es gekocht wird.
    • Literally: Nothing is eaten as hot as it is cooked.
    • Meaning: Maximum theoretical damage (like from laws, statues, future problem) is not standard in practice, you usually get cut some slack.
  • Et kütt wie et kütt. (Es kommt wie es kommt.)
    • Literally: It comes as it comes.
    • English equivalent: que sera, sera.
  • Et hät noch immer joot jejange. (Es ist noch jedesmal gut gegangen.)
    • Translation: It went well everytime.
    • Meaning: Do not fear the future.
  • Eulen nach Athen tragen
    • Lit.: Carrying owls to Athens.
    • Meaning: A pointless exercise/activity.
    • Equivalent: To carry coals to Newcastle. (UK)

G

  • Gebranntes Kind scheut das Feuer.
    • Translation: The burned kid avoids the fire.
    • Once bitten, twice shy.
  • Gleich und gleich gesellt sich gern.
    • Translation: Like and like love to join.
    • Birds of a feather flock together.
  • Gehoppst wie gesprungen. OR Gehuppt wie geduppt. OR Gehupft wie gesprungen.
    • Translation: Hopped just as jumped.
    • Meaning: Two solutions are basically equivalent.
    • English equivalent: Six of one, half a dozen of the other.
  • Gelernt ist gelernt.
    • Translation: Learned is learned
    • If you really learned something you are good at it.
    • If you really learned something you tend not to unlearn it.
    • (usually spoken in boasting mode)
  • Geschenkt ist geschenkt - wiedergenommen in die Hölle gekommen" OR Geschenkt ist geschenkt - wiederholen ist gestohlen
    • Lit.: A present is a present - you'll go to hell if you are taking it back.
    • Meaning: Gifts are final. (Ironically, they are not always under German law.)
  • "Geschmacksache," sagt der Affe und beißt in die Seife.
    • Lit.: "A matter of taste" says the monkey and bites into soap.
    • Meaning: Personal tastes differ.

H

  • Hochmut kommt vor dem Fall.
    • Literal Translation: Arrogance comes before the fall.
    • Correct meaning: People tend to be arrogant until they fall
    • Equivalent: Pride cometh before the fall.
  • Hans Dampf in allen Gassen
    • Equivalent: jack-of-all-trades

I

  • Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof
    • Translation: I only understand Trainstation
    • English equivalent: It's all Greek to me.
  • Iss, was gar ist, trink, was klar ist, und sprich, was wahr ist. (obsolescent)
    • Translation: Eat what's been well cooked, drink liquids which are clear, and speak what is true.
    • More modern (and vulgar) form: Fressen was gar ist, trinken was klar ist, ficken was da ist.
    • Translation: Gorge what's been well cooked, drink what's available (alcohol) ["klar" -> clear OR available/ready (colloquial)] fuck what's around.
  • In der Not frisst der Teufel Fliegen
    • Translation: If in need, the devil eats flies.
    • English equivalent: Beggars can't be choosers.
  • In der Kürze liegt die Würze.
    • Translation: In briefness lies the spice.
    • Meaning: Be concise; don't ramble.
    • English equivalent: Brevity is the soul of wit (Shakespeare)
  • In der Not schmeckt die Wurst auch ohne Brot.
    • Translation: When in distress the cut tastes without bread.
    • Meaning: Enjoy luxury as long as you have it.
    • Meaning: Silly saying either ironically loathing the taste of bread or those who prefer the sausage.
  • Bei Nacht sind alle Katzen grau
    • Translation: In the night all cats are gray
    • Meaning: Human vision switches to monochrome mode in the dark.
    • Meaning: Used when explaining why you could not discern one thing from the other, either literally or as a metaphor. (Polite)
    • other Meaning: If it is late enough and I am drunk enough I don´t care what my one-night-stand looks like. (Vulgar)

J

  • Jacke wie Hose.
    • Translation: Jacket like pants.
    • Meaning: Six of one, half a dozen of the other.
  • Jeder Jeck ist anders. Used mainly in the Rheinland (Cologne etc.).
    • Translation: Every loony is different.
    • Meaning: Show some broad-mindedness.
  • Jedem Narr gefällt sei' Kapp.
    • Translation: Every jester likes his hat.
    • Meaning: Personal tastes differ.

K

  • Sich nicht um ungelegte Eier kümmern.
    • Literally: Don't worry about eggs that haven't been laid.
    • Meaning: Don't cross your bridges until you come to them.
    • English proverb: Don't count your eggs before they hatch.
  • Kommt Zeit, kommt Rat.
    • Literally: If time comes, advice comes.
    • Meaning: With time comes insight.
  • Kräht der Hahn auf dem Mist, ändert sich's Wetter oder 's bleibt wie's ist.
    • Literally: If the cock crows on the dung heap, the weather will change or stay the way it is.
    • Meaning : Do not rely upon proverbs! or The opinion of loud but insignificant people has no influence on the world.
    • Meaning: Ironizing bad science or peasant wisdom.
    • Romanian: Daca se urca un cocos pe un maldar de gunoi, poate ploua, poate nu ploua.
  • Kehre vor Deiner eigenen Tür.
    • Translation: Sweep the ground in front of your own door.
    • Meaning: Don´t mess with other peoples business, better take care of your own.
  • Kleider machen Leute
    • Clothes make the man.
  • Keine Antwort ist auch eine Antwort.
    • Literally: No answer is also an answer.
    • Meaning: Not responding to a question is still replying.
    • Similar: Silence equals consent.
  • Kindermund tut Wahrheit kund.
    • Literally: The mouthes of children proclaim the truth.
    • Similar: From the mouths of babes.
  • Klug zu reden ist doch schwer, klug zu schweigen noch viel mehr
    • Literally: It's indeed hard to talk cleverly, still harder to be silent cleverly
    • Meaning: Know when to keep your mouth shut
  • Koste es was es wolle.
    • Meaning: Achieve something by whatever it will cost
    • Similar: Come hell or high water.
  • Eine Kuh macht Muh, viele Kühe machen Mühe.
    • Literally: One cow moos, many cows make work.
    • Explanation: It's a pun: "macht Muh" is the german equivalent to "makes a moo (sound)". The grammatical plural form would be "machen Mühe" [make moo (sounds)] but "something macht Mühe" means "gives trouble", "makes work" ["Mühe = trouble, effort ...]

L

  • Leben wie Gott in Frankreich.
    • Lit. translation: To live like God in France. (Sometimes, other Countries/Regions/Cities etc. than France are used. The meaning stays the same: "To live like God in ...", or to live the comfortable life of people in ...")
    • English equivalent: To live the life of Riley.
    • English equivalent: To live in clover.
  • Eine Leiche im Keller haben.
    • Translation: To have a corpse in the basement.
    • English equivalent: Skeletons in the closet.
  • Leichter gesagt als getan.
    • Translation: Easier said than done
  • Lieber ein Ende mit Schmerzen als Schmerzen ohne Ende. or Lieber ein Ende mit Schrecken als ein Schrecken ohne Ende. ( Sophie Scholl )
    • Translation: Better an end with pain than pain without end. or Better an end with horror than a horror without end.
    • Meaning: Cut your losses.
  • Lügen haben kurze Beine.
    • Translation: Lies have short legs
    • Meaning: All lies come back to haunt you
  • Lieber das Messer ablecken als den Löffel abgeben.
    • Translation: Better to lick the knife than to give up the spoon.
    • Meaning: It is preferable to face adversity than to die.

M

  • Man soll das Fell des Bären nicht verkaufen, bevor man ihn erlegt hat.
    • Translation: One shouldn't sell the bear's fur before it has been killed.
    • Meaning: Don't count your chickens before they are hatched.
  • Man soll den Tag nicht vor dem Abend loben.
    • Translation: One shouldn't praise the day before the evening.
    • Meaning: Avoid premature judgement.
    • Meaning: There's many a slip 'twixt cup and lip.
  • Mit den Wölfen muß man heulen.
    • Translation: With the wolves one must howl.
    • Similar: When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
  • Mit solchen Freunden braucht man keine Feinde mehr.
    • Lit. Translation: With such friends, one doesn't need enemies anymore.
    • English Proverb: With friends like these, who needs enemies?
    • Meaning: Said if people considered to be friend behave in reality as the worst enemies.
  • Morgenstund hat Gold im Mund.
    • Translation: Morning hour has gold in the mouth.
    • Meaning: The early bird gets the worm.
  • Man schlägt den Sack und meint den Esel.
    • Translation: Hitting the bag, aiming at the donkey.
    • Meaning: An expression for indirect or proxy conflict. (?)
  • Man ist, was man isst.
    • English Proverb: You are what you eat. (This is a pun in German because isst [eat] and ist [is] are pronounced about the same.)
  • Mit Geduld und Spucke fängt man eine Mucke [actually: Mücke]. (humorous, obsolescent)
    • Lit. translation: With patience and spit one gets the midge (gnat/mosquito).
    • English equivalent: Softly, softly catchee monkey.
  • Morgen, morgen, nur nicht heute, sagen alle faulen Leute.
    • Translation: Tomorrow, tomorrow, just not today, all the lazy people say.
    • Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.

N

  • Neue Besen kehren gut ... (Part 1 often used without part 2)
    • Translation: New brooms clean well...
    • Meaning: New things may look good on the first glimpse...

or: A change may be an improvement...

  • ...aber der Alte kennt die Ecken. (Part 2)
    • Translation: ...but the old one knows the corners.
    • Meaning: ...but old things can still be better on the second look.
  • Nur tote Fische schwimmen mit dem Strom
    • Translation:Only dead fish swim with the stream
    • Meaning: People who do not possess willpower and individuality will simply follow the majority, doing what everyone else does, without thinking.

O

["ohne" = "without"]

  • Ohne Fleiß kein Preis.
    • Lit.: No diligence, no prize.
    • No pain, no gain.
    • No sweet without sweat.
  • Ohne Knete keine Fete (Not traditional)
    • Lit.: No money["Knete" is a colloquial form for money, lit: plasticine], no party.
    • No mon(ey), no fun.
  • Ohne Moos nix los. (Not traditional)
    • Lit.: No money["Moos" is a colloquial form for money, lit. "Moos" = "moss"], nothing going on.
    • No mon(ey), no fun.

P

  • Papier ist geduldig.
    • Translation: Paper is patient.
    • Meaning: Just because it is in writing doesn't mean it's true. Even when something is written down, it takes a while until it is executed.
  • Probieren geht über studieren.
    • Lit. translation: Trying is worth more than studying.
    • English equivalent: The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

Q

  • Quatsch keine Opern. (slang, derog, not traditional)
    • Translation: Don´t talk operas.
    • Meaning: Say it short.

R

  • Reden ist Silber, Schweigen ist Gold
    • Lit.: Talking is Silver, Silence is Gold
    • English Proverb: Talk is cheap, silence is golden.
  • Rein in die Kartoffeln - raus aus den Kartoffeln. oder Mal so, mal so oder ... wie das Fähnchen im Winde. oder Mal hüh, mal hott
    • Literal translation: [Jump] into the potatoes, [jump] out of the potatoes.
    • English equivalent: To chop and change.
    • English equivalent: To blow hot and cold.
  • Rom ist auch nicht an einem Tag erbaut worden.
    • Rome wasn't built in a day.

S

  • Schadenfreude ist die beste Freude.
    • Translation: Joy from others' misfortune is the best joy.
    • Meaning: Taking pleasure from someone else's misfortune is most enjoyable.
  • Schnee von gestern
    • Translation: Snow from yesteryear. (lit. yesterday)
    • Meaning: Something belongs to the past.
  • Schuster, bleib bei deinem Leisten.
    • Translation: Shoemaker, stick to your last.
    • Meaning: Just do what you can do best.
    • Meaning: Do not meddle in affairs or careers which are too high over your head or social standing.
  • Setz nicht alles auf eine Karte.
    • Translation: Don't bet on only one card.
    • English Equivalent: Don't put all your eggs in one basket.
  • Schlafende Hunde soll man nicht wecken.
    • Translation: One should not awaken sleeping dogs.
    • English Equivalent: Let sleeping dogs lie.
  • Stadtluft macht frei.
    • City air makes you free.
    • Meaning: In medieval times peoples living in free cities were free from a sovereign. They were not bond-slaves like the people in rural areas. So living in a city - ´breathing city air´- meant to be free from bond-slavery to a sovereign. People living in cities could express their own opinion without being harassed. If people escaped to a free city and lived there for one year and one day, they were free of any previous bond to a sovereign.
  • Steter Tropfen höhlt den Stein.
    • Translation: A steady drop will carve the stone.
    • Meaning: Continuous effort will eventually lead to success.
    • Meaning: Insignificant damage accumulates.
  • Das kommt mir spanisch vor.
    • Translation: It seems Spanish to me.
    • Meaning: There's something strange.
    • English Equivalent: That's a bit fishy.
  • Schwarz fahren, geld sparen.
    • Translation: Travel illegally, save money.
    • Meaning: The one who doesn't pay for a ticket is the one who saves money.

T

  • Taten statt Wörter! or Taten sagen mehr als Wörter. or Lass Wörtern Taten folgen! or Lass Taten sprechen!
    • Translation: Actions instead of words! or Actions speak louder than words" (lit. Actions say more than words.) or Let actions result from your words! or Let actions speak!
    • Meaning: A little less conversation - a little more action.
    • Practise what you preach!
  • Totgesagte leben länger!
    • Lit. Translation: Declared dead live longer!
    • Similar: There's life in the old dog yet.
  • Träume sind Schäume.
    • Translation: Dreams are foam.
    • Meaning: A dream has nothing to do with reality.
  • Trau, schau, wem.
    • Translation: Trust, (but)look, whom.
    • Meaning: One should be carefull whom one trusts.

U

  • Übung macht den Meister
    • Translation: Practice makes the master.
    • Meaning: Practice makes perfect.

V

  • Vater werden ist nicht schwer, Vater sein dagegen sehr (Wilhelm Busch)
    • Translation: It's easy to become a father, but hard to be one
  • Vertrauen ist gut, Kontrolle ist besser (coined by Lenin)
    • Trust is good, but verification is better
    • Trust but verify.
  • Viele Köche verderben den Brei.
    • (Too) Many cooks spoil the broth.
    • Meaning: Large teams are inefficient.
    • Meaning: Shared leadership does not work.
  • Viele Wege führen nach Rom.
    • Translation: Many roads lead to Rome.
    • Meaning: There may be more than one way to solve this problem.
    • Or: In the end, it doesn't matter how you reached your aim.
    • Or: You cannot really avoid or miss [whatever Rome stands for]
    • Similar: There's more than one way to skin a cat.
  • Viel Feind, viel Ehr'.
    • Literal: "Much enemy [sic], much honor"
    • Common proverb attributed to Georg von Frundsberg (1473-1528), a German Landsknecht commander
    • Meaning: "Who fights a lot will be honoured a lot". Also often used when refering to difficult non-military challenges.
    • Meaning: Honorable it is to have [made] many adversaries [implying: having spoken out for truth and cause]
  • Viele Hände macht leicht Arbeit. (obsolescent)
    • Many hands make light work
  • Vier Augen sehen mehr als zwei.
    • Four eyes see more than two.
    • English equivalent: Two heads are better than one.
  • Friss, Vogel, oder stirb! (also: Friss oder stirb!)
    • Lit. translation: Eat, bird, or die! (Eat or die!)
    • Meaning: You're in a sticky situation where you don't have much of a choice among a wide variety of gourmet meals. In a wider sense, you've got to make do with some unpleasant prospect because the alternative is even worse.
    • English equivalent: It's sink or swim.
  • Vom Regen in die Traufe.
    • Lit. translation: "Out of the rain and into the eaves.
    • Meaning: Going from one unpleasant situation into one that is even worse. The idea seems to be that you are coming from the rain to stand under the edge of the eaves, where the water collected from the whole roof is going to pour onto your head.
    • English equivalent: Out of the frying pan and into the fire.
  • Von nichts kommt nichts
    • Lit. translation: "From nothing comes nothing.
    • Meaning: The outcome of your effort is related to the effort you put into it. If you don't try, you aren't going to get any results.
    • English equvivalent: You can't make something out of nothing.
    • English equivalent: No pain, no gain.
    • English equivalent: There ain't no such thing as a free lunch (TANSTAAFL).

W

  • Was dem einen recht ist, ist dem anderen billig.
    • Translation: "What's right for one, is fair for the other."
    • English equivalent: "What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander."
    • English equivalent: One man's meat is another man's poison.
  • Was der Bauer nicht kennt, das frisst er nicht.
    • Translation: "What the peasant doesn't know, he doesn't eat."
    • Meaning: Used when criticizing someone for refusing to try new ways of doing something.,
  • Was du heute kannst besorgen, das verschiebe nicht auf morgen.
    • Translation: Don't postpone things you can do today to tomorrow.
    • Meaning: You should do tasks straightaway without any postponement.
    • English equivalent: A stitch in time saves nine
  • Was nicht ist, kann noch werden.
    • Translation: "What isn't yet can still become."
    • Meaning: "'It hasn't' doesn't mean 'it won't'."
  • Was man sich eingebrockt hat, das muss man auch auslöffeln.
    • Literal translation: "What one dishes out, he must also eat."
    • English equivalent: "You made your bed, now lie in it."
    • English equivalent: "You do the crime, you do the time"
  • Was Hänschen nicht lernte, lernt Hans nimmermehr.
    • Translation: "What Hänschen (diminutive, little Hans) didn't learn, (grown-up) Hans will never learn."
    • "You can't teach an old dog new tricks."
  • Wasser unter der Brücke.
    • Translation: "Water beneath the bridge"
    • Meaning: "'It is in the past."
    • English equivalent: What's done is done.
  • Wem der Schuh passt, der zieht ihn sich an.
    • Translation: "He whom the shoe fits puts it on."
    • Meaning: If something (usually bad) true has been said about you, better to accept it than to disagree.
    • Meaning2: If something bad has been said about someone, this person reacts angrily only if it is true.
    • English equivalent: "If the shoe fits, wear it."
    • English equivalent2: ??
  • Wenn der Reiter nichts taugt, ist das Pferd schuld.
    • Translation: If the horseman is bad, it's the horse's fault.
    • English equivalent: "A poor craftsman blames his tools."
  • Wenn Gauner sich streiten kommt die Wahrheit ans Licht.
    • Translation: When scoundrels argue, the truth is revealed.
    • Meaning: Secret or criminal acts can only be kept a secret as long as the perpetrators do not quarrel among themselves.
  • Wer A sagt, muss auch B sagen. (Plattdeutsche Variante: De A seggt, mut ok B seggen")
    • Translation: If you say A, you have to say B as well.
    • Meaning: No half-assed evading or cherry picking.
    • Meaning: If you want or assert A and it turns out to involve B, you have to put up with B too.
    • Meaning: Follow through [don't wimp out]
    • Similar: "In for a penny, in for a pound."
  • Wer den Pfennig nicht ehrt, ist des Talers nicht wert oder Wer den Cent nicht ehrt, ist den Euro nicht wert.
    • Translation: You aren't worth the Taler (ancient German currency) if you don't honor the Pfennig. (f. G. c.) or You aren't worth the Euro if you don't honor the Cent.
  • Wer nicht will, der hat schon.
    • Lit. translation: Who wants not, has already.
    • Translation: He who does not want something already has enough.
    • Meaning: Slightly oponionated reply to a refused offer. "So you are provided for already")
    • Meaning: Used in situations where somebody who desires something must make himself heard, or lose some benefit ("Who wants the last slice of pizza?").
    • Similar English idioms: "Use it or lose it." "Speak now or forever hold your peace."
  • Wer zuletzt lacht, lacht am besten.
    • "He who laughs last, laughs best."
  • Wer nicht wagt, der nicht gewinnt.
    • Translation: "Who wagers nothing, he wins nothing"
    • English equivalent: "Nothing ventured, nothing gained."
  • Wer anderen eine Grube gräbt, fällt selbst hinein.
    • Translation: "Who digs a pit for others falls into it himself."
    • Meaning: "Harm set, harm get."
  • Wer zuerst kommt, mahlt zuerst.
    • Translation: "Who comes first, grinds (his grain) first."
    • Meaning: "First come, first served."
  • Wes' Brot ich ess, des' Lied ich sing.
    • Translation: "Whose bread I eat, that's whose song I sing."
    • Meaning: "He who pays the piper calls the tune."
  • Wer die Wahl hat, hat die Qual.
    • Literally: "Who has the choice, has the suffering"
    • Meaning: Decisions can be painful.
    • Meaning: Having the choice also means having to choose.
  • Wein auf Bier, das rat' ich dir. Bier auf Wein, das lass' sein. (humorous)
    • Translation: "Wine on beer, I recommend to you. Beer on wine, leave alone."
    • Meaning: "Cider on beer, never fear; beer upon cider, makes a bad rider."
    • Alternate: "Liquor before beer, all is clear; beer before liquor, get sicker and sicker."
    • American: "Beer on whiskey, pretty risky; Whiskey on beer, have no fear." or "Liquor before beer, you're in the clear; beer before liquor, never been sicker."
  • Wie man in den Wald hineinruft, so schallt es zurück.
    • Lit.: "Just as one calls into the forest, so it echoes back."
    • Meaning: Do not expect friendly reply when being obnoxious.
    • Meaning: Bad language may have other causes than innate bad character.
    • Similar: "What goes around, comes around."
  • Wie man sich bettet, so liegt man.
    • Literally: "As you put yourself to bed, so you will lie."
    • Meaning: "You made your bed, now lie in it."
    • Meaning: Everyone makes his own fate.
  • Wie Pech und Schwefel.
    • Lit.: "Like pitch and sulphur."
    • Meaning: "E.g. good friends, who are inseparable or/and make all together, are like pitch and sulphur."
  • Wo gehobelt wird, fallen Späne.
    • Lit.: "Where you plane splinters fall."
    • Meaning: If something non-trivial gets done there are non-perfect aspects to it.
    • Meaning: "You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs."
  • Wenn zwei sich streiten, freut sich der Dritte.
    • Lit.: "When two quarrel, the third rejoices."
  • Wer nicht hören will, muss fühlen.
    • Translation: "He who doesn't want to listen will have to experience."
    • Meaning: "If you don't want to listen to what I tell you, you will get to feel a spanking." (as a threat to children)
    • Other Meaning: "I told you better but you didn't listen. Now you have to deal with the problem."
    • English equivalent: "Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other." (Benjamin Franklin)
  • Wer rastet, der rostet.
    • Translation: "He who rests, will be rusting."
    • Meaning: "If you stop moving (in both a physical and an intellectual meaning) it gets harder to start moving again."
    • English proverb: "A rolling stone gathers no moss."
  • Wenn das Wörtchen wenn nicht wär, wär mein Vater Millionär.
    • Lit. translation: "If there wasn't the little word if, my father would be a millionaire."
    • Meaning: a) "There is no use in thinking about impossible possibilities. Concentrate on reality."
    • English proverb: "If wishes were horses..."
    • Meaning: b) also used as an answer on an excuse meaning "That is a lame excuse!"
    • English proverb: "If I had a nickel for every time I heard that, I'd be a millionaire."
    • Meaning: c) Slight regret of missed chances or opportunities.
  • Wer poppen will, muß lächeln können. (vulgar) (nontraditional)
    • Translation: "If you want to score, you have to know how to smile."
    • Meaning: "If you keep this bad mood, you´ll never find a girlfriend."
  • "Wie der Ochs' vor'm Scheunentor"
    • Translation: "Like the ox in front of the barn door"
    • Meaning: Said when someone sees the way he must go (the obvious solution), yet he's afraid to go it.

Z

  • Zeit ist Geld.
    • Translation: Time is money. (Henry Ford)
  • Drei Z sind gern beieinander: Zecher, Zänker, Zungenschmied. (obsolescent)
    • Literal translation: Three Z like to be together: drinker, quarreller, tongue-smith.
    • Meaning: Drinking leads to arguments and loose talk.
  • Zwei Fliegen mit einer Klappe schlagen
    • Literal translation: Hit two flies with one fly swatter.
    • Meaning: Be efficient.
    • English equivalent: Kill two birds with one stone.
  • Zwei Seelen und ein Gedanke, Zwei Herzen, und ein Schlag. (obsolescent)
    • Translation: Two souls, one thought, Two hearts, one beat.
  • Zwei Kranke, ein Gedanke. (vulgar) (nontraditional), also: Zwei Dumme, ein Gedanke.
    • Translation: Two idiots, one thought.
    • English equivalent: Great minds think alike.
    • Explanation: Usually said referring to oneself and someone else who has had the same idea. Generally considered banter and thus not as offensive as it may sound.
  • Zwei Flaschen, ein Kühlschrank. (nontraditional)
    • Literal translation: Two twerps, one fridge.
    • Meaning: Two people had the same (dumb or obvious) idea at the same time.
    • Explanation: "Flasche" can mean "bottle" or "twerp" (idiot). Less offensive than "Zwei Kranke, ein Gedanke", but may not be understood as easily even by native speakers.

See also

External links