German Proverbs

Learn my top 50 German proverbs and German sayings and sound like a native German in no time!

Top 50 German Proverbs

(Please bear in mind, literal translations of the German proverbs are provided in brackets where the English proverbs use significantly different words.)

1. Eine Hand wäscht die andere

You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours

(One hand washes the other)

2. Viele Köche verderben den Brei

Too many cooks spoil the broth

3. Hunde, die bellen, beißen nicht

Dogs that bark don’t bite

4. Aus einer Mϋcke einen Elefanten machen

Making a mountain out of a molehill

(Making an elephant out of a mosquito)

5. Morgenstund hat Gold im Mund

The early bird catches the worm 

(The morning hour has gold in its mouth)

6. Aller Anfang ist schwer

The first step is always the hardest

(All beginnings are difficult)

7. Was du heute kannst besorgen, das verschiebe nicht auf morgen

Don’t put off tomorrow that which you can do today

8. Besser zu spät als nie

Better late than never

9. Übung macht den Meister

Practice makes perfect 

(Practice makes a champion)

10. Alte Liebe rostet nicht

Old flames never die

(Old love doesn't rust)

11. Rache ist sϋß

Revenge is sweet

12. Der Zweck heiligt die Mittel

The end justifies the means

13. Man muss das Eisen schmieden, solange es heiß ist

Strike while the iron is hot

14. Geld regiert die Welt

Money makes the world go round 

(Money rules the world)

15. Zeit ist Geld

Time is money

16. Was Hänschen nicht lernte, lernt Hans nimmermehr

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks

(What Little Johnny doesn't learn, John will never learn)

German Proverbs - Part 2

17. Aus Schaden wird man klug

To learn from one's mistakes  

(Through injury you become clever)

18. Ende gut, alles gut

All’s well that ends well

19. Es ist nicht alles Gold, was glänzt

All that glitters is not gold

20. Wie du mir, so ich dir

Tit for tat          

(Like you to me, so I to you)           

21. Wer zuletzt lacht, lacht am besten

He who laughs last, laughs the longest 

(Who laughs last, laughs the best)

22. Beiß nicht in die Hand, die dich fϋttert

Don't bite the hand which feeds you

23. Wer zuerst kommt, mahlt zuerst

First come, first served  

(Who come firsts, mills first)

24. Leben wie Gott in Frankreich

Live the life of Riley 

(Live like God in France)

25. Wer die Wahl hat, hat die Qual

Spoilt for choice 

(He who has a choice has the torture)   

26. Der Klügere gibt nach

Lose a battle to win a war 

(The cleverer one gives in)

27. Wer im Glashaus sitzt, soll nicht mit Steinen werfen

People who live in glass houses should not throw stones

28. Arbeit allein macht nicht glϋcklich

All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy 

(Work alone will not make you happy)

29. Ausnahmen bestätigen die Regel

The exception that proves the rule

30. Wer den Pfennig nicht ehrt, ist des Talers nicht wert

Take care of the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves   

31. Steter Tropfen höhlt den Stein

Little strokes fell big oaks

(Constant dripping wears away the stone) 

German Proverbs - Part 3

32. Aus den Augen, aus dem Sinn

Out of sight, out of mind

33. Nicht nur auf ein Pferd setzen

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

(Don't back just one horse) 

34. Das Ei will klüger sein als die Henne

Teaching your grandmother to suck eggs 

 (The eggs wants to be cleverer than the hen)

35. Wer A sagt, muss auch B sagen

In for a penny, in for a pound

(Whoever says A, must also say B)

36. Besser zu viel als zu wenig

Better too much than too little

37.  Der Apfel fällt nicht weit vom Stamm

Like father, like son / A chip off the old block

(The apple doesn't fall far from the trunk)

38. Auge um Auge, Zahn um Zahn

Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth

39. Wer nicht wagt, der nicht gewinnt

Nothing ventured, nothing gained

40. Freunde erkennt man in der Not

A friend in need, is a friend indeed

(You realise who your friends are in an emergency)

41. Stille Wasser sind tief

Still waters run deep

42. Die Liebe ist blind

Love is blind

43. Kleider machen Leute

Clothes maketh the man

(Clothes make people)

44. Wo eine Wille ist, ist auch ein Weg

Where there’s a will, there's a way

45. Aller guten Dinge sind drei

All good things come in threes

46. Der erste Schritt ist der schwerste

The first step is the hardest

47. Alle Wege führen nach Rom

All roads lead to Rome

48.  Der Teufel steckt im Detail

The devil's in the detail 

49. Besser ein Spatz in der Hand als eine Taube auf dem Dach

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush

(Better a sparrow in your hand, than a pigeon on the roof)

Just before we finish...

A German proverb will help you express an idea much more effectively than standard words alone and, at the same time, you will learn about the German culture.

Take this German saying for example; it sums up perfectly the importance Germans place on punctuality, and even on arriving a few minutes early:

'Fϋnf Minuten vor der Zeit ist die deutsche Pünktlichkeit'

Literally translated: 'Five minutes before the (meeting) time is German punctuality'.

Now you have learned some interesting German proverbs, how about finding out which Long German Words are Guinness world-record breakers. Can you believe the longest German word has no less than 80 letters?!

In order to best help you learn German efficiently and effectively, I've partnered with a resource called the Rocket German Learning System.

Even if you live a busy life and don't feel like you have enough time to adequately learn how to speak the language fluently, this system is designed to help break down those barriers.

It's a lot of fun, too! Click here to learn all about it.

Return from German Proverbs to German Phrases

Return from German Proverbs to Learn German Homepage

Top Tips & Advice

Improve your German language skills today with my top tips for learning German. 

Longest German word?

Can you believe the longest German word contains no less than 80 letters?! 

Click here to find out which long German words are Guinness World Record breakers and which one involves this very famous European river! 

What's new!

Business German phrases for use in emails and letters as well as for presentations, meetings and phone calls. 

Learn German Numbers in this easy-to-follow online lesson. Lots of examples and tips on counting in German.