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German Proverbs





German proverbs provide a unique insight into the language, cultures, and societies of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. They are also rich with literary history and legend, and at times share origins with English proverbs. So browse for what you're looking for, or simply wander around to deepen your knowledge of German proverbs.

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


das Ei will klüger sein als die Henne
you're trying to teach your grandmother to suck eggs (lit.: the egg wants to be smarter than the hen)

Das Eisen schmieden, solange es heiß ist
strike while the iron is hot (also: make hay while the sun shines)

Das letzte Hemd hat keine Taschen
you can’t take it with you (lit.: the final shirt has no pockets)

das sind ungelegte Eier
we'll cross that bridge when we come to it (lit.: those are unlaid eggs)

Den Ast absägen, auf dem man sitzt
to bite the hand that feeds you (lit.: to saw off the branch one’s sitting on)

Den Bock zum Gärtner machen
setting a fox to guard the henhouse (lit.: to turn a goat into a gardner)

Den Letzten beißen die Hunde
the devil takes the hindmost (lit.: the last one gets bitten by the dogs)

dem Mutigen gehört die Welt
fortune favors the brave

den Seinen gibts der Herr im Schlaf
the devil looks after his own

Den Teufel nicht an die Wand malen
let sleeping dogs lie (lit.: do not paint the devil on the wall)

Der Apfel fällt nicht weit vom Stamm
the apple doesn't fall far from the tree (also: it's in the blood; like father, like son)

Der Appetit kommt beim Essen
appetite grows with the eating

Der Blinde erklärt dem Einäugigen die Farben
the blind leading the blind (lit.: the blind explains colors to the one-eyed)

Der Spatz in der Hand is besser als die Taube auf dem Dach
A bird in hand is worth two in the bush (lit.: a sparrow in hand is better than a dove on the roof)

Der Teufel steckt im Detail
The devil is in the details.

Der Weg ist das Ziel
enjoy the moment (lit.: the way is the goal)

Die dümmsten Bauern ernten die dicksten Kartoffeln
even a fool is right some of the time (lit.: the stupidest farmers harvest the largest potatoes)

die Katze in Sack kaufen
buy a pige in a poke (lit.: to buy a cat in a sack)

die Katze lässt das Mausen nicht
the leopard cannot change its spots (lit.: the cat cannot leave the mice alone)

die Nacht had (viele) Augen
the night has a thousand eyes (lit.: the night has (many) eyes)

Die Tat wirkt mächtiger als das Wort
actions speak louder than words (lit.: the act has greater force than the word)

die Zeit heilt alle Wunden
time heals all wounds (also: time is a great healer)

Dienst ist Dienst und Schnaps ist Schnaps
you can't mix business and pleasure (also: there's a time for everything; lit.: service is service, and schnaps is schnaps)

Du siehst den Wald vor lauter Bäumen nicht
to not see the forest for the trees


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