Back when I studied German I found it to be a peculiar language with gendered nouns and highly-modifiable verbs. However, German's peculiarity makes for some interesting profanities and swear words. In this article we want to analyze a select few German profanities. And in the process we can only hope to get a sense of German culture and sensibilities.
Vulgar / Extremely Insulting Terms
Hackfresse - (Pronunciation: "Hug-fres-suh")
With “Hackfresse” an ugly person is meant. It literally means “face of ground meat” or described in other words it’s a face so ugly that it’s barely distinguishable from ground meat. It’s comparable to the English word “shitface”. Pronunciation: “Hack” sounds like “hug”, “fresse” sounds like “fres – suh”.
Arschkriecher - (Pronunciation: "Arsh-Criesure")
It’s a person who does everything for another person in order to feel liked. “Arsch” is the “ass” and “kriecher” means “crawling”. Literally it’s a person crawling up someone’s ass. In English you would say that someone is a bootlicker. However, the word bootlicker exists in German as well and means “Stiefellecker”. Arschkriecher is way more vulgar than bootlicker.
Pronunciation: “Arsch” sounds like “arsh” (you pronounce the “sch” like Engli”sh”). and “kriecher” sounds like “criesure”. “Arsh criesure”, with criesure nearly pronounced like creature.
Fickfehler - (Pronunciation: "fick-failer")
Someone whose birth was unplanned or in other words an accident during intercourse. Literally a fuck error. Pronunciation: fick – failer
Schlappschwanz - (Pronunciation: "schlub-schwans")
The English word for it is wimp. Literally it means a weak cock and describes a person that is weak-willed (a weakling).
Pronunciation: Shlub – schwans (you pronounce the “sch” like Engli”sh”).
Sackgesicht - (Pronunciation: "sak-guh-sicht")
A face looking like a scrotum. Literally scrotum face. It’s used to label a person as stupid or ugly.
Pronunciation: “Sack” like the English word “sak” and “gesicht” like “guh – sicht”.
Milder Curse Words
Arschgeige - (Pronunciation: "Arsch-Gai-Ge")
Literally means “arse-violin” and means something like idiot, arsehole. The violin as a lovely musical instrument seems - ironically or seriously meant - to soften the rough expression for the ass.
Pronunciation: Arsh – and „geige“ is pronounced like the English term “Geiger counter”. (you pronounce the “sch” like Engli”sh”)
Arsch mit Ohren - (Pronunciation: "Arsch-Mit-Oren")
Literally a walking arse with ears. German definition of a real idiot.
Pronunciation: Arsch = arsh, mit like the “mit” in mitigate, Ohren like oren. Arsh mit oren. (you pronounce the “sch” like Engli”sh”)
Gesichtsgrätsche - (Pronunciation: "Guh-Sichts-Graetsche")
Describes an ugly person. Literally means “completely deformed face” or a “face that straddle-vaults”. The closest equivalent would probably be “dog”.
Pronunciation: Guh – sichts – graetsche (you pronounce the “sch” like Engli”sh”)
Labertasche - (Pronunciation: "Lah-Buh-Tush-A")
Chatterbox. Literally a babble-bag. It’s a person who likes to talk a lot but isn’t really good in anything else.
Pronunciation: “lah – buh – tush – a” – pronounce tush like the English word.
Weichei - (Pronunciation: "Wai-Chai")
Literally means “soft egg” and is used for a person that is scared of something. The word is equivalent to the English word pussy.
Pronunciation: “Weich” is pronounced like “why” and “ei” like “I”.
Teasing / Naughty Banter
Spargeltarzan - (Pronunciation: "Spar-Gal-Tar-Zan)
Literally means “asparagus tarzan”. The term describes a very skinny male person that is not physically strong.
Pronunciation: Spargel is nearly pronounced like asparagus – say “spar” and “gal”. Tarzan is just the same as in English.
Zimtzicke - (Pronunciation: "tzimt-tzigge" [ "z" pronounced like "tz"]
Literally means “cinnamon goat”. The word is used to describe an annoying person. It can also only be used as “Zicke” and has the same meaning.
Pronunciation: tsimt – tsigge. (you pronounce the “z” like “tz” and not as soft as
Erbsenzähler - (Pronunciation: "urbsehn-tzaeler")
Literally means “someone counting peas” and describes a person that is very exact in what he or she is doing. It’s often used as an ironic insult.
Pronunciation: urbsehn - tsaeler
Muttersöhnchen - (Pronunciation: "Mew-tter-Sunchen
A man who does not want to and cannot get rid of his mother is and remains a “mother's son”. But the word is used more generally and refers to men who lack the courage and assertiveness to tackle life's problems on their own.
Pronunciation: Mutter like a mixture between mute and mutter (picking the mu out of mute and tter of mutter). Söhnchen sound a bit like sunshine – Suhnchen.
Sesselpupser - (Pronunciation: "Sess-El-Poop-Ser")
Someone farting into his or her armchair. This word describes a lazy person.
Pronunciation: sessel poopser
And there you have it, a starter guide to German profanities. Some of them, like "Muttersöhnchen" will have easy comparatives to the English (i.e. "Mama's Boy"). Others are both unique and delightfully mean such as "Hackfresse." And yet despite the vulgarity displayed throughout this piece; I hope you as the reader are encouraged to learn about German culture. I hope that you can appreciate how thoughtful Germans are in regards to their fellow countrymen and complete strangers.
JC Scull on January 11, 2020:
Justin....Excellent article. Tough language. I tried to learn it but must admit failed spectacularly.