German idioms about lie, nonsense, boasting

Last Updated on April 17, 2023

Every day we meet lies – lies with bad intentions or to embellish reality. This means that there is also a large group of German idioms about lie, nonsense and boasting. They have a lot in common with the idioms about stupidity and madness that we collected in the previous post.

Expressions in bold are those that are included in the lists of frequently occurring or met me personally in the texts.

Idioms in German with meaning stupidity, madness 2
Idioms in German with meaning stupidity, madness 1
30+ idioms in German with meaning astonished
Idioms in German with meaning talk too much, too little
Difference between schlimm and schlecht
10 best online German dictionaries
Difference between merken and bemerken and other words for memory and notice

Deceive, lie

mit gespaltener (doppelter, falscher) Zunge reden (sprechen)

  • deceive. Talk with forked tongue

j-n in April schicken

  • deceive. From traditions on April 1

j-m (glatt, mitten) ins Gesicht lügen

  • brazenly lie (in the face, smoothly)

j-m einen Bären aufbinden

  • hang noodles on the ears
    Bär, apparently, folk etymology from an obsolete root –bar– (load)

j-m blauen Dunst vormachen

  • to lie, to outsmart
    From tricks: hide what is happening with the help of haze (Dunst – fog, mist)

j-n in die Irre führen

  • mislead, to lead someone astray

das Blaue vom Himmel herunterlügen

  • lie a lot (tell fables about the unattainable – Blau vom Himmel)

wie gedruckt lügen

  • lie strongly (as printed). The printed word in the old days caused mistrust

eine faustdicke Lüge

  • big big lie

j-m die Hucke volllügen

  • Visualization of the idea of a deceived person carrying a full load (Hucke – basket) of lies.

die Tatsachen / Fakten / Wahrheit auf den Kopf stellen
die Tatsache verdrehen

  • turn the facts upside down, twist the facts

Spread nonsense, lies, fables, boasting

Jägerlatein erzählen
Erzähl / Erzähle keine Räuberpistolen

  • tell lies, boast excessively (“tell hunter’s Latin”)
    From the boastful stories of hunters about their prey and robbers

j-m Märchen aufbinden / erzählen / auftischen

  • tell lies (fairy tales)

Müll reden / erzählen
Mist reden
Quark reden
Scheiß reden

  • talk nonsense, talk rubbish

angeben wie eine Tüte Mücken

  • “brag like a bag of mosquitoes” – to boast beyond measure
    That is, making as much senseless noise as a bag of mosquitoes

dick auftragen

  • lay on thick


  • fibbing
    Flunk – wing. It turns out literally “beat the wings”

eine große Klappe haben (schwingen, riskieren)

  • “have a big mouth”

Nonsense! I do not trust you!


  • Nonsense! Rubbish!

Erzähl mir keine Geschichte

  • don’t tell me a story

Erzähl doch keine Opern

  • “Don’t tell operas” – don’t tell nonsense
    Opera was perceived as something boring and meaningless

Das kannst du deinem Friseur (deiner Oma) erzählen

  • “You can tell your hairdresser (grandmother) that” – I don’t trust you.

Das will ich überhört (nicht gehört) haben

  • I don’t want to hear it!

Das können Sie / kannst du mir nicht erzählen

  • you can’t tell me that, I don’t trust you anyway

Da lachen ja die Hühner

  • “The chickens are laughing”

Sie machen / Du machst (wohl) Witze!

  • You must be kidding me

To deceive (often for money), to cheat

j-n ausnehmen (wie eine Weihnachtsgans)
j-n rupfen wie eine Gans

  • “pill off like a goose”

j-n für dumm verkaufen

  • “sell for fools”, to fool

j-n anschmieren

  • “smear”, play tricks on

j-n hinters Licht führen

  • “lead behind the light”, cheat
    He who is in the dark does not know where he is being led.

j-n übers Ohren hauen

  • to rip you off
    From street fighting: use an unfair blow (hit blood on the ear) to defeat the opponent

j-m das Fell über die Ohren ziehen

  • “pull the fur over the ears” – use someone, cheat
    From the way furriers removed the fur from dead animals

j-n über den Löffel barbieren

  • “barb over the spoon” – deceive
    Toothless clients barbers put a spoon in their mouths, which was disrespectful

mit gezinkten Karten spielen

  • play with marked cards
    use dishonest methods

j-n linken

  • deceive, give light weight
    Everything connected with left-handedness initially had a negative meaning.

j-n verarschen
jemanden abzocken
j-n beschummeln

  • kidding, ripp off, defraud

j-n aufs Kreuz legen

  • “put on the cross”, kidding

j-n an der Nase herumführen

  • “lead by the nose”, mess about
    from medieval street performances where wild animals were driven by a nose ring

Schmu machen

  • mess around

j-m auf den Leim gehen

  • to fall for the trap, rise to the bait
    From the method (on glue) by which birds were caught

auf die falsche Fährte locken

  • mislead, suggest a dead-end solution
    lure you down the wrong path

j-n in die Falle locken

  • lure into the trap
    From the hunting language

j-m Sand in die Augen streuen

  • “throw dust in eyes” – draw the wool over eyes
    From street fights

j-m ein X für ein U vormachen

  • “make an X for a U”
    Initially, it was V, not U – from Roman numerals: deceive by writing 10 instead of 5. For example, in a tavern, the owner could write down the extra on the client’s account in this way

j-m etwas vormachen (weismachen)

  • fool someone, make believe, to try to persuade something unreasonable

j-n aufs Glatteis führen

  • lead on the slippery slope, arrange a trick

j-n zum Narren halten (machen)

  • to make a fool of, hold for a fool

One visibility

unter falscher Flagge segeln

  • bluff, feign, deceive
    “sailing under a false flag”

nur auf dem Papier stehen

  • written but not executed

etwas geht aus wie das Hornberger Schießen

  • it will all end in nothing
    One of the historical anecdotes that could underlie the expression reports that in the Hornberg in the Black Forest they were waiting for the Duke of Württemberg and, when the carriages approached the city, they fired cannons. As it turned out, the retinue was riding in the carriage, and the duke arrived later and completely without noise.

außen hui, innen pfui
außen fix, innen nix
mehr Schein als Sein

  • nice outside, but ugly inside, very popular expression

einen Türken bauen
etwas türken

  • feign
    Turk – as a designation for a foreigner, a strange person who cannot be trusted

sich den Anschein geben
nur so tun

  • to give the appearance of

eine Komödie aufführen/spielen
Theater machen / aufführen / spielen
Mach kein Theater

  • play a comedy, to make theater
    don’t pretend

Other #idioms in German
For example:
Idioms in German with meaning stupidity, madness 2
Idioms in German with meaning stupidity, madness 1
30+ idioms in German with meaning astonished
Idioms in German with meaning talk too much, too little

Do you enjoy the site without cookies and maybe without ads? This means that I work for you at my own expense.
Perhaps you would like to support my work here.
Cookie settings change: round sign bottom left

Leave a comment

Email is not compulsory