Let’s be honest: learning insults is one of our secret first priorities when starting a new language.
And it’s no surprise why. As offensive as they’re meant to be, insults can be awfully funny when translated literally. Sometimes you even have to appreciate them for how downright clever they are.
German learners are in luck. It turns out German insults (Beleidigungen), besides being fascinatingly creative, are also quite a hoot.
In fact, if you weren’t familiar with them, you may not even initially process them as insults.
How to Use German Insults in Conversation
Using insults in German is quite like how you’d do it in English.
When you’re directly aiming an insult at someone, the typical insulting phrase would be a simple “You ____ !”
German has two pronouns for “you” and being mindful of which “you” you use remains important within the world of German interactions.
However, for insults you’ll almost always use du, the informal “you” pronoun, as opposed to the formal Sie. For example:
If you said “Sie Idiot!”, the respect implied by the pronoun would lower the offensive power of the insult to the point of sounding comedic.
The structure is slightly different when you’re talking about, not to, the person you’re insulting. For example, you may be complaining to a pal about a bratty child you had to babysit:
“Ich kann nicht mehr babysitten! Das Kind ist ein Rotzlöffel!”
“I can’t babysit anymore! The kid is a snot spoon!”
Want to complain about a lazy co-worker? You might say something like:
“Hans tut nichts für unser Projekt. Was für ein Dünnbrettbohrer!”
“Hans does nothing for our project. What a thin-plank driller!”
Of course, we don’t endorse regular use of insults in conversation. Even if the insults in our list are overall not as vulgar as other insults in the language, they still can cause offense. Keep them within your German vocabulary bank so that you’re more in-the-know, but if you’re going to withdraw them for the sake of humor, make sure the person you’re speaking to is a friend or someone who can take it.
Certain situations, such as an informal gathering, may also allow for a few teasing jabs. Still, we always advocate being respectful, especially if you’re still learning the ropes of the language!
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FluentU’s incredible German content will help you learn the nuances of German conversations—yes, even how and when to throw in an insult!
Why Learn Insults in German?
There’s more to learning insults besides just getting an edge and being able to duke it out verbally with a native speaker.
Insults are a part of common casual conversation. When you’re speaking with a native German speaker, you want to keep up with both the tone and content of your chat, which will motivate you to learn special features like German idioms and modern slang that pop up often in conversation. Gripes and complaints are an everyday thing, so it’s only natural that insults of some kind slip into daily chats as well.
That being said, insults can be very hard to identify unless you know them explicitly. Speaking generally, each culture has its own take on what’s offensive or not, and oftentimes foreign language learners learn the hard way that a certain word can carry another connotation.
Moreover, the German language has some very creative insults that can be lost in interpretation by a non-native speaker. Being left out in a conversation is already daunting enough, but misunderstanding an insult can lead to truly unfavorable consequences.
But one of the greatest pluses of learning German insults is that most of them are compound nouns. Plenty of fun can be had simply by exploring German compound nouns, which are famous for not just their bluntness in describing the object in question but also the sheer length they can reach. Insults are a great entry point into this aspect of German word usage.
Insults are also excellent opportunities to learn nouns individually. German insults that take the form of compound nouns are often composed of words you wouldn’t think to put together, which makes them very fun to pick apart.
17 Creative German Insults with Hilarious Translations
1. Erbsenzähler — “pea counter”
Meaning: someone who nitpicks or cares about small, insignificant things
We all know someone who has to pick everything apart. Counting peas is a tedious activity fit only for those who care enough about each one.
2. Spargeltarzan — “asparagus Tarzan”
Meaning: describing a skinny male, often one who doesn’t have visible muscles
This one’s an appearance-based insult with some hilarious thought put into it.
Perhaps, for some, the addition of Tarzan in the word makes it sound not too offensive, as it implies that regardless of the person’s lankiness they probably are still physically strong.
3. Heißluftgebläse — “hot air gun”
Meaning: a loud mouth, someone who chatters on about nothing
In English, we say someone is “full of hot air” when they blab on about nothing. If you knew that, then you could’ve probably guessed this German equivalent, which tacks on the gun (Gebläse) part.
An actual hot air gun does also make a constant whirring sound that can be quite obnoxious, hence its use in this insult.
4. Lackaffe — “varnished ape”
Meaning: someone (often male) who dresses or openly expresses wealth and prestige, but is arrogant or overconfident
In English, referring to someone as any kind of monkey or ape is usually meant to be taken as an insult. Similarly in German, an ape (Affe) often receives a negative connotation; calling someone Affe can mean you’re calling them an “idiot” or “fool.”
Add the noun Lack, which can mean “lacquer” or “varnish,” and you get an insult for a fool whose fancy get-up doesn’t cover their negative personality traits.
5. Stinkstiefel — “stinky boot”
Meaning: a grump
When we say someone is stinky, we’re usually saying they genuinely smell or they’re unpleasant. A stinky boot in German describes a grump and someone you wouldn’t want to be around to have a good time; it’s an apt descriptor since none of us want to be near foul-smelling shoes for any period of time.
6. Graue Maus — “gray mouse”
Meaning: a wallflower, one who works to be inconspicuous
Know someone that works hard to avoid the spotlight? You may choose to describe them as a gray mouse, a creature often unseen unless actively sought out.
7. Dünnbrettbohrer — “thin-plank driller”
Meaning: a slacker
If you want to call out someone who’s always taking the easy way out, accuse them of being a driller of thin planks and they’ll get the message. This insult is composed of an adjective and 2 nouns: dünn (thin), Brett (plank), and Bohrer (driller).
8. Warmduscher — “one who takes hot showers”
Meaning: a wimp
This refers to an old German belief that manly men take cold showers. In this case, someone who takes hot showers is one who doesn’t venture out of their safe space, making them seem a bit weak. Of course, taking hot showers in real life doesn’t actually tarnish your social integrity.
9. Jeansbügler — “jeans-ironer”
Meaning: an uptight person
Ever know someone so stiff-mannered that you’d imagine their own clothes are just as tense as them? Well, this insult encapsulates that kind of sentiment by describing such a person as one who’d iron their own jeans.
10. Tee-Trinker — “tea drinker”
Meaning: one who drinks tea amidst those drinking beer; basically, an uncool person
Beer is a big deal in Germany, and not just during Oktoberfest season. So within a group of people drinking beer, one lone person opting to drink tea would seem a bit uncool. Of course, it’s perfectly fine in reality to drink tea—don’t let social pressure get to you!
11. Rotzlöffel — “snot spoon”
Meaning: a brat
We too call impudent and cheeky children snot-nosed brats; actually, Rotznase is how you’d say “snot nose” and is basically the synonym of this insult. The use of “spoon” seems odd, but the word may be derived from the word Laffe, which was an archaic insult of some sort.
12. Miesepeter — “mean Peter”
Meaning: bad-tempered person, grinch
This insult is used to describe someone who can bring down the mood with their pessimistic or miserable attitude. It’s uncertain why Peter was the name chosen to be the butt of this insult, but we imagine that real-life Peters would be displeased by this.
13. Teletubbyzurückwinker — “one who waves back at Teletubbies”
Meaning: one who isn’t too bright, a wimp
This mouthful may be the one on the list that takes the trophy for creativity.
Certainly, it’d be amusing to imagine anyone besides a child genuinely waving at the colorful TV characters. The insult also can insinuate that the person is weak or cowardly.
14. Hustensaftschmuggler — “cough syrup smuggler”
Meaning: an incompetent person, who does pointless things
This amusingly specific insult does give a good picture of someone who just does senseless things not worth doing.
15. Schlaftablette — “sleeping tablet”
Meaning: a slow, non-energetic or unenthusiastic person
The English equivalent would be a “stick in the mud,” someone whose lack of energy can be bad enough to create a draining effect on everyone else. This insult would probably match anyone whose behavior can quite literally put you to sleep.
16. Frechdachs — “mischievous / sassy badger”
Meaning: a rascal, usually for a cheeky child
Frech is an adjective that can mean several things, including “sassy.” Apparently, the badger animal is meant to emphasize this trait. This insult is actually quite lighthearted and can be used endearingly in some situations.
17. Fußhupe — “foot honk”
Meaning: a descriptor for small dogs
This hilariously apt moniker is meant for very small dogs that are prone to being accidentally stepped on. Inevitably, this would cause them to bark, yap or vocalize their indignation in some way, and thus a “foot honk” is born.
Armed with these insults, you gain not only some fun new additions to your German vocabulary, but also an edge in casual lingo.
Remember to keep it respectful, but as an avid student of the German language, feel free to appreciate the creative work that goes into these insults and any others you learn!
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