German Slang and Vocab

Autumn Larsen
Autumn Larsen
June 23, 2024

Hallöchen, Junge! Are you planning on traveling to or studying abroad in Germany, and you’d like to say “moin” to the cool kids, or is it “egal” to you? Even if your answer is “jein,” I’d like to briefly explain a few German slang words to help you navigate the more informal parts of your time in the country.

  • Alter/Junge
  • “Digga”
  • Egal
  • Jein
  • Moin
  • Hallöchen/Tschüssi 


“Alter” and “Junge” are the German equivalent of “dude,” although perhaps used more by young German men than anyone else. “Alter” is said to come from the phrase “Alter Schwede” (old Swiss man), and is also used as an exclamation of surprise. Although it is technically a masculine term, it is generally used regardless of gender (again, similar to “dude”). “Junge” means “boy” or “young man,” and seems to be used more as a masculine term.

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I know what you’re thinking, and I thought the same thing, but thankfully, “digga” is not related to the slur used by racists nor is it an appropriation of the colloquial term used in the African American and Black communities. This word is also similar in use to “dude,” and literally means “fat guy.” Although you may not think it very kind to call someone fat, it is a friendly term used among friends, and likely is related to the phrase “mit jemandem dick sein” or “to be thick with someone,” meaning to have a good friendship with a person. The term has supposedly been around since the early 20th century amongst the Hamburg working class, but given its similarity to another, less polite word and its current usage in German hip-hop (leading, again, to a similarity to the other word), I would refrain from using it at all if you are a non-Black person.

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“Egal” simply means “it doesn’t matter,” and can be used politely, neutrally, or rudely, depending on the context and tone. The literal translation is “equal,” so you could interpret it as meaning that it is “equal” whether or not something happens, for example, and thus it does not matter. This usage of the word is informal, and likely shouldn’t be used in a formal context. If something does not matter to you personally, you can also say “es/das ist mir egal” (it/that doesn’t matter/is all the same to me).

In short, if you don’t have an opinion on something or if something doesn’t matter, you can use “egal.”

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“Jein” is a combination of “ja” (yes) and “nein” (no), and thus its meaning is fairly self-explanatory. It’s simply an easier way of answering “yes and no” or “kind of” to a question, although depending on the question, person, or context, you would probably be expected to provide further explanation. This word is more colloquial than “vielleicht” (maybe), and, like “egal,” probably shouldn’t be used in more professional or formal settings.

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“Moin” is a greeting more typically used in northern Germany than other areas of the country. It likely comes from a Dutch, Frisian, and Low German word meaning “beautiful” or “good” rather than coming from “Morgen” (morning), and can be used at any time of day. In some areas, it can also be used as a farewell. Beyond Germany, it is also used in parts of the Netherlands, Denmark, and Poland. The double form, “moin moin,” can possibly be seen as a “touristy” version of the term, although it is also used in some areas specifically as a farewell.

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“Hallöchen,” deriving from “hallo” (hello) and “tschüssi,” deriving from “tschuss” (bye), are more informal and “cute” ways of saying “hello” or “goodbye” to someone, especially a friend. It tends to be more often used by women and is seen as feminine. Typically, you would not use it around the same people throwing around words such as “Alter,” “Junge,” or “Digga.” 

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Autumn Larsen

Autumn Larsen

My name is Autumn Larsen, and I am an Environmental Studies major and German Studies minor at Mount Holyoke College, but in Spring 2024 I am studying abroad in Freiburg, Germany in the ES and Sustainability program! 

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