German military slang

Sayings, phrases, and other jargon

As with any military, the soldiers in the various incarnations of the German Armed Forces have coined numerous phrases, sayings, and slang terms for their otherwise plainly-named equipment. In the subsequent list, the literal translations for the following terms will be in quotations, with their meanings following directly after. It’s worth noting how many of the following terms are derogatory or offensive in nature.

A

  • A-Stand – forward defensive gunner position on an aircraft
  • Aal – “eel”, slang for a torpedo
  • Alte Hasen – “old hares”, slang for military veterans who survived years on the front
  • Ami – slang for an American or American soldier
  • Arschbetrüger – “ash imposter”, derogatory term for the poor quality uniforms produced towards the end of the war

B

  • B-Stand – dorsal defensive gunner position on an aircraft
  • Blechhut – “tin hat”, term for a helmet
  • Blechkoller – “tin fright”, term for nervous tension U-Boat crews suffered under depth charge attacks that often resulted in violent outbursts or manic hysteria
  • Blechkrawatte – “tin necktie”, slang for the Knight’s Cross (the Third Reich’s highest and most presitigous military award)
  • Bola – contraction for Bodenlafette, a lightly armored casemate-style ventral gunner’s position on German bombers
  • Brummbär – “grumbling bear”, a children’s word for “bear” in German that became the nickname for the Sturmpanzer 43 (SdKfz 166)

C

  • C-Stand – ventral (underside) defensive gunner position on an aircraft

D

  • Dachschaden – “roof damage”, a head wound that made the victim go crazy, synonymous with “Section 8″ or “bonkers”
  • Donnerbalken – “thunder beam”, latrine
  • Drahtverhau – barbed wire entaglement

E

  • Eisenere Kuh – “iron cow”, evaporated milk
  • Eiserne Ration – “iron ration”, emergency rations
  • Emil – a German first name and nickname given to pilots
  • Etappenschwein – “rear pig”, soldier with job safely away from danger (similar to POG/pogue; compare with Frontschwein)

F

  • Feinfahrt – “enemy trip”, U-Boat term for a patrol to find enemy vessels
  • Feuerpause – “cease-fire”, slang for cigarette break
  • Fliegerbier – “pilot’s beer”, lemonade or soda (since pilots cannot drink and fly, they have to drink non-alcoholic beverages)
  • Franz – a German nickname as well as a nickname given to observers in aircraft
  • Frontschwein – “front pig”, perjorative nickname given to soldiers serving long at the front (especially those with the will to fight in late WWII; compare with Etappenschwein)
  • Führerbefehl – “Führer’s order”, most often a term used to describe direct/executive orders issued by Hitler himself, but also a late-WWII pejorative saying used mockingly by soldiers on the front

G

  • Gabelschwanzteufel – “fork-tailed devil”. nickname given to the P-38 Lightning by German pilots
  • Gebetsbuch – “prayer book”, a senior NCO’s or officer’s handbook
  • Gefrierfleischorden – “frozen flesh medal”, pejorative nickname given to the award issued to soldiers who served on the Eastern Front
  • Goldfasan – “golden pheasant”, derogatory term used by ordinary German citizens and soldiers to describe Nazi Party members, since they wore brown and red uniforms similar in color to that of male pheasants and senior party members lived in peace and luxury during the war
  • Grabenfeger – “trench sweeper”, nickname given to the MP-18 submachine gun for its effectiveness in close-quarters combat
  • Grundi – short for Grundausbildung, basic training
  • Gulaschkanone – “goulash cannon”, mobile field kitchen
  • Halsschmerzen – “sore throat”, term used to describe a glory-seeking and often reckless commander that implied obsession with the Knight’s Cross

H

  • Halseisen – “neck iron”, pejorative slang for the Knight’s Cross
  • Heckenschütze –  “hedge marksman”, a hidden sniper
  • Heimatschuß – “homeland shot”, a non-fatal wound of sufficient severity to require evacuation from the battlefront (similar to the American term “million-dollar wound”)
  • Heldenkeller – “hero’s cellar”, air raid bunker
  • Heldenklau – “stealing heroes”, term used to describe the practice of requisitioning rear-echelon personnel for frontline service (used particularly in the latter days of WWII)
  • Himmelfahrtskommando – “trip to heaven detachment”, a unit going on a suicide mission
  • Hitlersäge – “Hitler’s saw”, nickname for the MG-42 machine gun
  • Hitlersense – “Hitler’s scythe”, another nickname for the MG-42 machine gun
  • Hitlerjugend-Spätlese – “Hilter Youth late harvest”, pejorative nickname for the Volkssturm that implied its members were a “late harvest” of the Hitler Youth
  • Höckerhindernisse – “hump obstacles”, German term for anti-tank obstacles more popularly known as “Dragon’s Teeth”
  • Hummel – “bumble-bee”, nickname for the self-propelled artillery piece mounting the 15 cm sFH 18/1
  • Hundehütte – “dog house”, nickname for the stockade or military prison
  • Hundemarke – dog tags
  • Hühneralarm – “chicken alarm”, pejorative term for an alarm signal that came too late (the egg came before the clucking)

I

  • Indianer – “Indians”, Luftwaffe slang for enemy fighters, taken from the childhood game of cowboys and Indians that implies Luftwaffe pilots are the cowboys and enemy fighters are the Indians
  • Intelligenzstreifen – “intelligence stripes”, derogatory term for the stripes running down the pantlegs of general officers, implying the stripes show (a lack of) intelligence
  • Iwan – German spelling of the name Ivan, a nickname for a Soviet soldier similar in usage to the British term “Jerry” and American term “Kraut”

J

  • Jabo – contraction for Jagdbomber, a fighter-bomber or dive bomber

K

  • Kaczmarek – common Polish surname that was used by Luftwaffe pilots as a slang term for “wingman”
  • Kadavergehorsam – “carcass obedience”, late-war slang term used to describe the blind obedience demonstrated by fanatical Nazis and soldiers
  • KAK – acronym for Kohldampf-Abwehr-Kanone, which literally means “Coal steam defense cannon”, and was a nickname for field kitchens
  • Karussell – “carousel”, a dogfight in which two planes chase each other and repeatedly go in circles
  • Kattun – “cotton”, slang for heavy incoming fire
  • Kettenhunde – “chain-dog”, pejorative slang term for military policemen (member of the Feldgendarmerie or Feldjägerkorps) taken from the chain-link gorgets they wear
  • Kindersärge – “children’s coffins”, slang for small wooden anti-personnel box mines
  • Kiste – “crate” or “box”, slang for aircraft
  • Knarre – “ratchet”, slang for rifle
  • Knochensäge – “bone saw”, nickname for the MG-42
  • Koffer – derogatory term for a new recruit (similar to the American term “boot”)
  • Kübel – “bucket” or “tub”, short for Kübelwagen
  • Küchenbulle – “kitchen bull” and “kitchen brass”, head cook in a field kitchen

L

  • Latrinenparole – “latrine talk”, rumors or gossip (similar with the American term “Scuttlebutt”)
  • Leithammel – lit. “bellwether” (the leading sheep of a flock), affectionate nickname for a squad leader or platoon sergeant

M

  • Makkaroni – “macaroni”, pejorative nickname for an Italian
  • Milchkuh – “milk cow”, nickname for the Type XIV resupply U-Boat
  • Mündungsschoner – “river schooner”, pejorative term for a poor soldier

P

  • Papiersoldat – “paper soldier”, a soldier that works in a staff position rather than fighting in combat
  • Pappkamerad – “cardboard comrade”, shooting target in the shape of a human silhouette
  • Parteihut – “party hat”, term for a helmet
  • Partisanen – “partisans”, nickname for lice
  • Pferdemörder – “horse murderer”, nickname for heavy half-tracked prime movers (such as the SdKfz 7, SdKfz 8, and SdKfz 9) because it replaces the job of the horses

Q

  • Querschläger – “ricochet”, pejorative slang for the most unliked soldier in the unit

R

  • Reichsheini – combination of Reich and the nickname for Heinrich, derogatory nickname for Reichsführer der SS Heinrich Himmler
  • Ritterkreuzauftrag – “Knight’s Cross job”, slang for a suicide mission
  • Rommelspargel – “Rommel’s asparagus”, slang term for slanted and barb-wired poles placed in fields in France that were designed to damage landing gliders and paratroopers (named after the commander of German forces in France in 1944, Erwin Rommel)
  • Rückgrat der Armee – “backbone of the army”, term used to describe older, more experienced NCOs

S

  • die Sahnefront – “the cream front”, term used to describe occupied Denmark during WWII because of its plentiful food and miniscule fighting, sometimes used pejoratively
  • Sandlatscher – “ground pounder”, lit. “sand walker”, a foot soldier or infantryman
  • Sani – short for Sanitäter, a medic
  • Sanka/Sanker  – contraction for Sanitätskraftfahrzeug, a field ambulance
  • Saukopf – “sow’s head”, slang term used to refer to the rounded gun mantlet mounted on late-war StuG III and StuG IVs
  • Schanzzeug – proper military term for an entrenching tool, although was often used in refernce to a fork and knife
  • Schatten – “shadow”, used to refer to paper divisions that did not exist, also used to refer to a division that controlled few combat assets for the purpose of misleading enemy intelligence
  • Schleifer – “slave driver”, lit. “grinder”, pejorative nickname given to harsh instructors or superiors
  • Schräge Musik – “slanted music”, nickname given to the upward-firing autocannons mounted on German aircraft
  • Schutzhaft – legal term for protective custody, although it was often used to describe the German government’s power to imprison people without judicial proceedings
  • Schweinereien – “pig-like acts” or lit. “acts of a pig”, a derogatory term used to describe war crimes, especially those directed against civilians
  • Singende Säge – “singing saw”, nickname for the MG-42
  • Sonderbehandlung – “special treatment”, Nazi euphamism meaning the torture and/or killing of people in detention
  • Spieß – “pike”, affectionate nickname for the senior enlisted NCO in a company (similar to how American soldiers refer to their First Sergeant as “Top”)
  • Spund – “drain plug”, slang for a young soldier or recruit
  • Stalinorgel – “Stalin’s organ”, nickname for the Soviet Katyusha rocket launcher
  • Stalintorte – “Stalin’s cake”, slang for dry bread

T

  • Tante Ju – “Aunt Ju”, affectionate nickname for the Ju 52 transport aircraft
  • Taschenflak – “pocket FlaK”, slang for a pistol
  • Tommy – German slang for a British soldier (similar to “Ami” for Americans)

U

  • Untergefreiter – made-up rank below Obergefreiter (Lance Corporal) that was used humorously in reference to civilians

V

  • V3 – the next (although nonexistent) experimental weapon to come after the V2 rocket derogatory nickname for the Volkssturm

W

  • WaBo – contraction for Wasserbombe, a depth charge
  • Wehrbeitrag – “military contribution”, nickname for a child conceived while their father was home on leave
  • Wolkenquirl – “cloud beater”, slang for helicopter

Y

  • Yankee – an American or American soldier

Z

  • Zielwasser – “objective water”, alcohol
  • Zigarettenbüchse – “cigarette tin”, slang for the gas mask container (since gas masks went unused)
  • Zigeuner-Artillerie – “Gypsy artillery”, slang for infantry guns and mortars
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Published in: on January 10, 2017 at 11:09 am  Leave a Comment  

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