Talk:German proverbs

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This is the talk page for discussing improvements to the German proverbs page.


I added a section up the top explaining a way of referring to proverbs in German, as I found this a useful way of bringing such proverbs into an argument/essay/discussion. The formatting is a bit clumsy, however I tried to make it consistent with the rest. Also, the introductory statement is a bit obtuse - I was lacking inspiration, but someone else might have an inspired way to a choice, has a problem."

"problem" is IMO not a stupid translation. I can't find an exact translation but if I translate "problem" back to german "Problem" I don't find it fitting. "Qual" could maybe translate to "great pain", but it is not restricted to physical pain which could sound strange, but to intellectual pain. Also note that instead of "a", "the" should be used. --Florian Pesth

I deleted the two englisch proverbs (English Proverb: "Heavy is the head that wears the crown" or "With great power comes great responsibility.") cause their meaning differs clearly from the german one. I don't know a more fitting english proverb though. But better no translation than a wrong one I guess. (Explanation: The original is about the difficulties of choosing sth. and has nothing to do with responsibility or power or influence whatsoever)


My dictionary translates "qual" with "dolor" for am. engl. "dolour" for brit. engl. so, going by this I would translate the proverb as follows: "Who has the choice, has the dolor." I don't know if dolor is a commonly used word in english but this is the closest translation for the word that I can think of. Kiddycat

"dolor" is definitely not a commonly used English word. It's rather archaic sounding and most people wouldn't even know what it means. Possible close matches would be something like "torture", "torment", "anguish", or "agony". But I almost think the best, certainly the most idiomatic, would be "worry": "He who has a choice has a worry". Though "He who has a choice has a torment" is not too bad. Another similar English proverb is "With great power comes great responsibility."
Bhugh 07:22, 22 December 2005 (UTC)
  • Spoilt for choice

"Qual" is literally "torment". There's no exact equivalent I know of in English. It's similar to "spoilt for choice", referring to the difficulty one sometimes has choosing between two or more options. Dean

Wer zuerst kommt, mahlt zuerst[edit]

  • Wer zuerst kommt, mahlt zuerst.

used to be:

    • Translation: "Who comes first grains first."

Meaning: "First come, first served."

I changed it to

    • Translation: "Who comes first eats first."

since "mahlt" is 3rd person singular from "mahlen" which is an old word for "eating". It comes from the word "Mahl" which can be translated as dinner.

I'm not familiar with wikigroups or anything similar and I didn't bother to read the rules which I now, thinking about it, regret. I don't know if it was ok that I just changed it, but at least here is an explanation why I did it. If I wasn't supposed to change anything then please change it back.

Kiddycat

"Who comes first eats first." makes much more sense in English than the previous version. About rules: Good wiki's and good societies, often make their rules very gradually, slowly, and carefully. I think that the best people remain very reserved in making or asserting any rules. About the only rules that I think universally apply to any good activity anywhere is: Be honest and fair, and try to be as helpful as you can while being so. We certainly welcome anyone who can perform translations in different languages. Though this is the English Wikiquote, and a primary aim is collecting English versions of famous statements, having the orignal statements that have been made in other languages, as well as good translations into English, is one of the goals that have been established here. Thank you for your contribution. ~ Kalki 12:42, 5 Jun 2004 (UTC)

As an English speaker, "first come, first served" is certainly the accepted equivalent proverb in my context. To me, "who comes first eats first" makes little metaphorical sense. Perhaps they should both be up there?

  • Ouch! "mahlen is an old word for eating" ouch ouch ouch. This is totally wrong. It has nothing to do with eating. Here is the story: in the old days the farmers carried their corn to the mill. And the Miller served the farmer fist wo came at first in the morning. Thats all. Its like "first in - first out" in logistics. 84.63.56.251 20:23, 24 March 2006 (UTC)

Deutsche Sprache, schwere Sprache.[edit]

Deutsche Sprache, schwere Sprache. Literally, "German language, hard language."

Really? Is that what Germans think of their own language?

Really? Hard as is hard to learn, or hard as in hard on the ears?

Certainly that gothic typeface (Fraktur?), which looked as it one's pen was leaking, was very hard to read. Fortunately, Germany changed over to something more readable in WW2.


Deutsche Sprache, so schwere, makes you swear. (combined Deutsch und English).

User:syd1435 03:30, 21 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Hard as is hard to learn. We germans know that german is a difficult language.

My language is dutch and yes there are some difficult things in german but so there are in dutch and english. But that's part of the fun in learning other languages.


The only Germans I ever met who used this saying seriously, i.e. implying that they were smarter because they did not make grammar mistakes in German, were either some old folks (Bauern) who never learned any foreign languages or supreme idiots who didn't realize the limits of their own abilities in foreign languages. Perhaps the German who wrote, "We germans know that german is a difficult language" is one of the latter group. A German attempting to claim in incorrect English that German is "hard" is like the pot calling the kettle black.

When I do use this proverb "Deutsche Sprache ..." it is more to annoy other Germans who made an obvious mistake. It's usually not ment to be arrogant or self-righteous. --80.129.152.10 21:53, 1 October 2005 (UTC)

Yes. That's exactly it. It's commonly used to either excuse one's own mistakes or as a comment on a grammar mistake of someone else. Because it's true: It is a difficult language. There is a bestselling book ("Der Dativ ist dem Genitiv sein Tod") that deals with common mistakes...

Ich glaube Deutsch ist eine schoene Sprache und ist nicht sehr schwer zu lernen. aber die deutsce Prepositionen sind schwer. z.b. mit, nach, von, zu, an usw. sind immer dativ oder fuer, durch usw. sind immer Akkusativ und einige sind Dativ oder Akkusativ. :(

I also know only the use in the context of a grammatical mistake made by oneself or by others. I would not be suprised if other languages had equivalents. I could imagine that the perception of German as "hard" is because of a historical strong diversification by dialects and a comparatively late establishment of a specific language code, there are still many speakers today who prefer regional dialects with considerably deviant grammar. One might call it an adage rather than a proverb, and it is mostly used highly ironically. By the way "hard on the ears" would be expressed as "harte Sprache", not "schwer" which means only "hard" as in difficult, cannot mean "harsh sound" or "hard object".

I know this thread is nine years old, but as a German I have to point out that in "Deutsche Sprache, so schwere, makes you swear." 'schwer' is used as an adverb and should be 'schwer' and not 'schwere'. 87.189.141.190 22:45, 18 August 2013 (UTC)

Alles in Ordnung.[edit]

Using the Dutch proverb page as a template, the German proverb pages has been ordered in Alphabetic Order. This makes it much easier to find things, and looks under control at last.

User:syd1435 03:37, 21 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Wer zuerst kommt, mahlt zuerst.[edit]

German proverb: Wer zuerst kommt, mahlt zuerst.

English: First come, first gains. (Ie. first gains an advantage).

English: First come, first grains. (Ie. first has grain/grains to eat).

Note: (Grain is "bulk" noun as well as singular noun.)

Question: is it a conicidence that in English, grain and gain are very similar words?

Question: What are the equivalent words in other languages? German, Dutch, Italian, etc.


  • First comes, first gains.
  • First comes, first grains.
  • First comes, first attains.
  • First comes, first serves,
  • First comes, first deserves?


User:syd1435 03:42, 21 Sep 2004 (UTC) mahlen=to grind: wer zuerst kommt, is the first to get it's grain grinded

The early bird catches the worm. -- this is the best translation of it. Zweifel (talk) 23:11, 19 September 2013 (UTC)

He who has a choice, has the doldrums.[edit]

Kiddycat said 'My dictionary translates "qual" with "dolor" for am. engl. "dolour" for brit. engl. so, going by this I would translate the proverb as follows: "Who has the choice, has the dolor." I don't know if dolor is a commonly used word in english but this is the closest translation for the word that I can think of.'

As a native born English speaker, "Dolor" is a new word to me. It does not appear in my smallish dictionary. Looking at this dictionary, similar words which may or may not be related, include "Doll" and "Doldrums".

Dolls and Doldrums are both lifeless, and go no where on their own, a bit like someone with a lot of choices but unable to make up their minds - they may have to be taken, before they get anywhere. This lifelessness does partly fit the meaning Kittycat is after.

Perhaps you should have two versions:

He who has a choice, has the doldrums (like a sailing ship with no wind). He who has a choice, can get dumbfounded like a doll.

The meaning of this proverb is: He who can make a choice, can have aches to come to a decision (Qual = agony, pain, aches)

What might kiddycat native language be?

User:syd1435 04:04, 21 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Ein Spatz in der Hand move[edit]

I've moved Proverb: Ein Spatz in der Hand to Proverb: A bird in the hand because it makes more sense as an en:Wikiquote article title. A redirect remains from the German version. I've also changed the references here and in Finnish proverbs. — Jeff Q (talk) 08:03, 23 Apr 2005 (UTC)

The complete proverb is: "Besser ein Spatz in der Hand als eine Taube auf dem Dach"->translation: better a little bird in the hand than a big bird at the roof"-> it is better to have something little but safe than something big but very unsafe —The preceding unsigned comment was added by 2001:638:804:20d8:183:c419:373f:de71 (talkcontribs) 11:18, 22 Mars 2013 (UTC)

Wer nicht will, hat schon[edit]

  • Wer nicht will, hat schon.
    • Literal translation: Who wants not, has already.

I revised this entry by removing a recently added English "Ihave said over a million times im germanè I love Kyle!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What about ...[edit]

  • Jetzt schlägt's aber 13.

(meaning: approx. "it's really enough, now".)

  • "Eben ist aber Tag im Topf." hessian: "Ebe is aber Daach im Dibbe"

(similar meaning)

Lieber ein Ende mit Schmerzen als Schmerzen ohne Ende[edit]

This translation is IMHO more comprehensive: "Rather a painful ending than endless pain."

Agreed. The translation in the article now is literal and technically correct but could be phrased better in English. Also, the proverb "Lieber ein Ende mit Schrecken als ein Schrecken ohne Ende" is usually encountered translated as "Better a horrible end than horror without end." 209.107.127.43 03:50, 8 April 2006 (UTC)
No, Rather an End with Pain than Pain without End. Precedingly unsigned comment by 115.70.108.19 14:16, 30 October 2012 (UTC)

another proverb[edit]

Zum Gott hinken Hie Leute aber zum Teufel laufen Sie.

People limp to God but run to the devil.


OR: "Das ist das gleiche in grün" --> That's the same (thing) in green

Anyone else familiar with this one:

My Opa used it often, mostly in contempt for those (esp. weathermen) who attempted to predict the future:

Die alte Propheten sind alle tot und die junge wissen nichts.

Translation: The old prophets are all dead and the young ones know nothing.

Equivalent: God only knows.

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Auf jeden Regen folgt auch Sonnenschein[edit]

The equivalent "every cloud has a silver lining" is not correct. These two proverbs are actually very different. The German proverb says that after a sad/pessimistic/negative/bad situation, THERE WILL BE a happy/optimistic/positive/good situation. It basically says that there are ups and downs, or, more precisely, downs and ups. One incident occurs after the other. The English "equivalent" (every cloud has a silver lining), which is widely used in the U.S., says that a bad situation/occurrence can also AT THE SAME TIME bring with it a good occurrence (the silver lining). Something which is perceived as bad (cloud) can be SIMULTANEOUSLY good (the silver lining). I think it goes without saying that these meanings are very different. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Yellow magic marker (talkcontribs) 22:41, 29 August 2006 (UTC)

This, unfortunately, points out a serious that these proverb articles have: nothing in them is sourced, so people feel free to add anything they wish, without getting outside reliable sources for the texts, the translations, or the (sometimes incredibly long) explanatory comments. If we had more folks working to clean up Wikiquote, these proverbs articles would deserve a severe paring and cleanup effort.
The Wikimedia Foundation's basic philosophy about accuracy is that we editors cannot include our own statements about what is correct or incorrect in the article, because the community has no way to know who any editor is (and therefore why we should believe one person's statement over another's). The way we are supposed to avoid the problem is to cite evidence provided by responsible published sources.
I wouldn't be at all surprised if you're correct on this point, but rather than argue about it here, we should have a citation of a publication that provides both the original and its translation, so we don't need to argue it. You would help Wikiquote tremendously if you could cite such a publication, for this and any other proverbs (or any quotes, for that matter) that you find. Thank you for listening, and for calling attention to this problem. ~ Jeff Q (talk) 06:17, 30 August 2006 (UTC)

Angst verleiht Flügel[edit]

I corrected the meaning. Before: "Fear spreads quickly". This is not what the proverb is about. It means, that fear will empower you to do things you wouldn't or couldn't normally do.

-- also, "fear lends wings"

Vertrauen ist gut, kontrolle noch besser[edit]

I'm not sure that the stated provenance from Lenin is correct. I've always understood that it was Stalin who coined this one. Moreover, for either of those two, this quote doesn't properly belong here, since it is not an original German proverb. Stalin didn't speak German anyway and whilst Lenin did, it was not his mother tongue, so in my view the quote should go to Russian proverbs, if it is a proverb at all and not an attribuatble aforism, which is something entirely different. --Recoloniser 18:50, 20 December 2007 (UTC)

De oama in de jeetzya tollt tue mole[edit]

This is not Standard German. Im German and i don't know this proverb. I think its a strange dialect, could anyone please proove it? I would do it myself but i think my English is too bad.

The poor one (oama) and the greedy one (jeetzya) ... mole is either draw or grind. not sure about the rest, but the first words are in Plautdietsch, Mennonite Low German.

Der frühe Vogel fängt den Wurm[edit]

    • Translation: The early bird catches the worm
    • Meaning: Who get up early get's things done
    • Similar equivalent: ?

10:55, 28 July 2009 (UTC)

Besser eigenes Brot als fremder Braten[edit]

-> it might also mean "Better your own bread than someone else's roast" rather than "...a strange roast", making it quite similar to the "a bird in the hand"-proverb... ..just thought i'd mention it.. its more like "do it your self is always better than begging other" /parents often say it to their children —The preceding unsigned comment was added by 2001:638:804:20d8:183:c419:373f:de71 (talkcontribs) 11:20, 22 Mars 2013 (UTC)

Unsourced proverbs[edit]

NOTE: Sources must be provided for these before moving back to the main page.

A[edit]

  • Adel verpflichtet.
    • Translation: Aristocracy obligates
    • Translation: Noblesse oblige
  • 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, e.g. rain.
    • 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 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.
  • 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

B[edit]

  • 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]
  • Bescheidenheit ist die höchste Form der Arroganz.
    • Translation: Modesty is the highest form of arrogance.
  • Bescheidenheit ist eine Zier, doch weiter kommt man ohne ihr.
    • Translation: Modesty is an adornment, but you come further without it.
    • Translation: Modesty may be a grace; forget it if you want to win the race.
    • Meaning: Adornment is tought to the people but the succesful ones don't care. (The rhyme is achieved by false German grammar. This symbolises, that people, who don't care too much about rules will succeed).
  • 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.

D[edit]

  • 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 well, as if specially made just for that person.
    • English equivalent: It fits like a glove.
  • Das passt wie Arsch auf Eimer. (not a traditional proverb—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
  • 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.
  • 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 at the 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 biggest potatoes.
    • Meaning: Dumb luck.
  • Der erste Eindruck zählt.
    • Translation: The first impressions counts.
    • Equivalent: First impression is the last impression
  • 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.
  • Dumm fickt gut.
    • Translation: Simpleminded fucks well.
    • Meaning: self-explanatory
    • Equivalent: Blonds have more fun

E[edit]

  • 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.
    • Equivalent: Even a broken clock is right twice a day.
  • 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 Hand wäscht die andere.
    • Literally: One hand washes the other.
    • Equivalent: You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours.
  • 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.
    • Meaning 4: Something that happened once might as well never happened at all.
    • 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
    • Note: Sometimes extended to Einmal ist keinmal, aber zweimal ist einmal zuviel.
    • Translation: Once is never, but twice is once too often
    • Meaning: A first time offence should be forgiven, but a second one will have consequences.
  • 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 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 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 bucketing it down. (Colloquial English)
    • 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.
    • Spanish equivalent: que será, será.
    • English equivalent: What will be, will be.
  • Et hät noch immer joot jejange. (Es ist noch jedesmal gut gegangen.)
    • Translation: It went well everytime.
    • Meaning: Do not fear the future.

F[edit]

  • Freunde in der Not, gehen 1000 auf ein Lot.
    • Translation: In time of need, 1000 friends shrink to a lot (16.5 grams).
    • Meaning: In bad times you have very few friends.
    • Equivalent: A friend in need is a friend indeed.
    • Equivalent: Remember man and keep in mind: A faithful friend is hard to find.

G[edit]

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Gut Ding will Weile haben
    • Lit.: A good thing demands to take a while.
    • Meaning: It takes time to achieve good quality.
    • English equivalent: Rome wasn't built in a day.
  • Guter Rat kommt nie zu Spät
    • Meaning: Good advice never comes too late.

H[edit]

  • Hans Dampf in allen Gassen
    • Equivalent: jack-of-all-trades
  • Hast du Geld, muss du nicht beugen.
    • Literal Translation: If you have money, you need not bend.
    • Correct meaning: If you are rich, you need not bow.

I[edit]

  • 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: During hardship, 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: In hardship, the sausage is just as delicious 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[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • 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: Satirizing bad science or old wives' tales.
    • Romanian: Daca se urca un cocos pe un maldar de gunoi, poate ploua, poate nu ploua.


  • 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[edit]

  • "Langes Fädchen, faules Mädchen"
    • Lit. translation: Long thread for a lazy girl
    • English equivalent
  • 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.
  • 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[edit]

  • Mit den Wölfen muss man heulen. or mit den Wölfen 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.
  • Morgen, morgen, nur nicht heute, sagen alle faulen Leute.
    • Translation: Tomorrow, but not today, is what lazy people say.
    • Meaning: If you postpone something, you are lazy. Said usually to tease someone.
  • Man schlägt den Sack und meint den Esel.
    • Translation: Hitting the bag, aiming at the donkey.
    • Meaning: To punish someone for someone else's mistake.
  • Du bist, was du isst. or Man ist, was man isst.
    • Lit. translation: "You are what you eat." or "One is what one eats."
    • In German this is a pun: Man (one) ist (is), was (what) man (one) isst (eats).
    • English Proverb: You are what you eat.
  • Mit Geduld und Spucke wird das schon..
    • Lit. translation: With patience and spit it will go.
    • Meaning: Make haste slowly.
    • Originates from the fiddling of a needle: spit on the loose end and take your time, or you'll have to try it several times.
  • Mit Geduld und Spucke fängt man eine Mucke [actually: Mücke]. (humorous, obsolescent)
    • Lit. translation: With patience and spit one gets the midge (gnat/mosquito).
    • Meaning: like the original proverb, just put into a rhyme (and to get a midge you better are patient).

O[edit]

["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[edit]

  • Papier ist geduldig.
    • Translation: Paper is patient.
    • English equivalent: Paper doesn't blush.
    • Meaning: This writing isn't true.
    • Alternative meaning: Paper will listen when people won't. Write a diary.
    • Alternative meaning: Nobody reads what's on paper. Go and complain in person.
  • Probieren geht über studieren.
    • Lit. translation: Trying is worth more than studying.
    • English equivalent: The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

R[edit]

  • 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.
    • Meaning: If you aim high, allow time.
    • Usually an excuse for being slow.

S[edit]

  • Schadenfreude ist die schönste 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: A past occurrence, especially something unfortunate, that cannot be undone or rectified.
    • English Equivalent:: Water under the bridge.
    • Alternative meaning: A metaphore to express that something is old and not up to date.
    • English Equivalent: Yesterday's news.
  • 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.
  • Das kommt mir spanisch vor.
    • Translation: It seems Spanish to me.
    • Meaning: There's something strange.
    • English Equivalent: That's a bit fishy.

T[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • Übung macht den Meister
    • Translation: Practice makes the master.
    • Meaning: Practice makes perfect.
  • Unter Blinden ist der Einäugige König
    • Translation: In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king
    • Latin origin: In regione caecorum rex est luscus (Erasmus)
    • Meaning: To stand out doesn't neccessarily imply/require perfection, but to be better then others

V[edit]

  • 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]
    • English equivalent: The more danger, the more honor
    • English equivalent: More risk, more reward
  • 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.
    • English equivalent: Take it or leave it!
    • There's an outdated expression in English that was current at the time of the Civil War: "Root, hog, or die!"
  • 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[edit]

  • 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
    • Spanish equivalent: No dejes para mañana lo que puedes hacer hoy.
  • 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."
  • 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."
  • 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 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.
    • Meaning: If you dont respect small amounts of money, you dont deserve big amounts of money.
  • 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: If someone offers something and you dont speak up, the guy either remindes you that you need it real bad or that he wants more appreciation.
    • 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."
  • 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 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."
  • Wo Wäre da noch Geist zu Suchen.
    • Lit.: "Where there could be a mind you should search."
  • Wenn zwei sich streiten, freut sich der Dritte.
    • Lit.: "When two quarrel, the third rejoices."
  • 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: "Use it or lose it." "A rolling stone gathers no moss."
  • Wer poppen will, muss lächeln können. (vulgar) (nontraditional)
    • Translation: "If you want to fuck, you have to know how to smile."
    • Meaning: "If you keep this bad mood, you'll never find a girlfriend."
  • "Wie der Ochs' vorm 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[edit]

  • 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: To solve two problems with one sophisticated solution.
    • 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 Dumme, ein Gedanke. , also: Zwei Kranke, ein Gedanke. (vulgar) (nontraditional)
    • 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.

Alles ist seinen Preis wert.[edit]

Could this also translate to "You get what you pay for"? 173.79.103.231 04:28, 22 May 2013 (UTC)

No. It says "a matter's price does not arise from hazard, (even if it may look haphazardly,) it arises from somebody's evaluation of the matter. So, at least for this one seller, it is worth the crazy value stated in his price suggestion, for if offered less, he would not sell." WaldiR (talk)

Der gerade Weg ist der beste.[edit]

Article gives a wrong, banal, too literal meaning ("Shortcuts are often longcuts."), missing the allegory.
Correct meaning: "Straightforward approach is the best approach.", recommending to abstain from tricks, lies and the like, for such are not only unethical, but would even aggravate achieving one's goal.
No source, just my German.
And now tell me that sourced nonsense is valued over unsourced wisdom :-)
MY wisdom! WaldiR (talk)

Your meaning is now added, and the previous one removed. --Spannerjam (talk) 06:30, 19 October 2013 (UTC)