30+ idioms in German with meaning astonished

Last Updated on May 1, 2023

In this part I collect German idioms (Redewendungen) expressing surprise and astonish.

Expressions that are noted as “common” in sources or that I have come across in books are printed in bold. usg. – umgangssprachlich (colloquial)

It can be interesting:
German synonyms. öffnen – offen – aufmachen
Anki for German language. 1. Studying
German. False participles
Blume vs Blüte
Difference between enden and beenden, abschließen, aufhören
Difference between merken and bemerken and other words for memory and notice
Difference between achten and beachten, aufpassen, Acht geben

Expression of surprise in German

Was du nicht sagst!

What are you talking about! Oh really! (met often)
it is used as an expression of real surprise, and with irony (“I already know this, also it is not news to me”)

“Was du nicht sagst!” staunte Inge, “wie bist du auf die Idee gekommen?”
“Was du nicht sagst”, erwiderte Carl Brenten höhnisch.

Das ist ein Hammer! (ugs.)

Awesome! (“yes it’s a hammer!”)

Große Gott!

Oh my God!
(and a lot of variations on the theme of God, like Holy Heaven! etc.)

Mannomann! Mann oh Mann!

something like: There are such people! Wow!

Das ist ja irre!
Ich werd’ verrückt!

Wow! I will go crazy!

Alter Schwede!
(“old Swede”)

an expression originally from Prussia during the period after the 30-year war, when experienced soldiers of the Swedish army were recruited into the Prussian army to drill soldiers

Das ist ja ein dicker Hund!

This is unheard-of!

Da wird der Hund in der Pfanne verrückt
(“the dog will go crazy in the frying pan”)

The expression is associated with the legend of Till Ulenspiegel, who literally took the words of the owner and sent the dog to the pan

Mich laust der Affe!
(“a monkey combing me out!”)

Well well! I was stunned!
The expression is included in the lists of “most favorite”, but in reality it is not used so often

Ich denke (glaube, sehe) nicht recht (richtig)

I can’t believe my eyes / ears!

Das ist ohne Worter

No words!

Das schlägt dem Fass den Boden aus
(“it will knock the bottom of the barrel”)

That’s too much! It goes the all limits!
The expression comes from the trade of drinks in barrels: if the bottom of the barrel is knocked out, then the entire contents are immediately poured out

Das ist doch nicht zu glauben
das gibt doch gar nicht!
Das darf nicht wahr sein!

It’s impossible to believe
It can’t be!
It can not be true!

Wer hätte das gedacht

Who would have thought

Da kann man sich nur an den Kopf fassen (greifen)

You can only hold your head there

A number of expressions-alterations from students as a result of competitions in wit

Ich glaub’ mich tritt ein Pferd (“I think I was kicked by a horse”)
                mich knutscht ein Elch / ein Haifisch (it seems to me that I am being squeezed (kissed) by an elk / shark)
               ich steh’ im Wald (I think I’m in the forest)
               mein Schwein pfeift (I think my pig is whistling)

Expression of state of surprise

(große) Augen machen

make big eyes

Und wenn der Alte nach Hause kommt”, sagte er manchmal, wird er auf jeden Fall große Augen machen”

jemanden vom Hocker / Stuhl hauen
(fast) vom Hocker fallen
Das haut mich (glatt) vom Stuhl!
Ich bin fast vom Stuhl gefallen / gekippt!

“knock someone off the chair” (so surprise someone that he falls off the chair)
I almost fell off my chair!

platt wie ein Pfannkuchen (eine Briefmarke) sein
(“be as flat as a pancake (a postage stamp)”)

be petrified, amazed

wie vor den Kopf geschlagen sein

to be stunned

Da bleibt einem die Luft weg

That leaves you breathless

jemandem klappt die Kinnlade herunter

someone’s jaw drops

wie vom Blitz getroffen werden

like being struck by lightning

mit offenem Mund dastehen

stand there with your mouth open

An unexpected, unpleasant surprise

jemanden kalt / eiskalt erwischen
kalt / eiskalt erwischt werden

(“to catch someone cold / ice cold”)

take someone by surprise, catch with the goods, drop from the clouds, get an unpleasant surprise
The expression came from sports: win a point against a cold opponent immediately after the start of the game

ein Schlag ins Kontor

(“a blow to the office”)

unpleasant surprise
kontor – a place where important papers are stored, accounting

Jemandem auf dem falschen Fuß erwischen

(“Get someone on the wrong foot”)

catch by surprise
from sports

Sein blaues Wunder erleben

(“Experience his blue miracle”)

be amazed (unpleasant)

Das ist eine schöne Bescherung / Geschichte
Ach du liebes Bisschen!

Such a surprise! Nice present!
Nice job! That’s the story!
irony or sarcasm (liebes Bisschen – tasty)

aus allen Wolken fallen

(“fall from heaven to earth”)

to be caught completely by surprise

wie ein Blitz aus heiterem Himmel

unexpected, out of the blue

Other German idioms list – #idioms in german
For expample:
Talk – too much, too little
Stupidity, madness. Part 1
Stupidity, madness. Part 2

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