15 ways to swear like a Swiss German
You might speak Swiss German, but if you don’t swear in Swiss German, you’re a tourist.
Switzerland prides itself on linguistic diversity - and nowhere is that better illustrated than with swearing.
The most popular swear word in one village or canton may not be known at all a few towns over.
A callout for readers’ favourite Swiss swearwords from news outlet Blick in 2020 received more than 600 entries, showing the scope of swearing in Switzerland.
And while this list doesn’t have 600, it does cover some of our favourites.
By far, the most common theme among these words is idiot or fool. While some are playful, others are particularly harsh.
Also we haven’t gone into depth on pronunciation, because that’ll often differ from canton to canton - and even from street to street. But if you want a comprehensive guide on how to say most of the following, checkout this link.
Habasch is the perfect word to use when someone has done something wrong.
A Habasch is basically someone who is incompetent or wrong, but the word is particularly popular in a workplace context.
Think of it as the equivalent of the ‘you only had one job!’ jab which is relatively common in English.
It can also be used for someone who has the wrong opinion on an important matter.
This one - which means a cheeky or otherwise naughty young boy - is perhaps the funnest to say of all of the words.
Pronounced ‘Sch-nood-er-goof’, Schnudergoof isn’t particularly nasty or demeaning, and could be thought of as a combination of the English words goofball and rascal.
Schnure/Schnorre – as in “Halt d'schnorre” (“shut your mouth”)
Translating literally as ‘mouth’ or ‘trap’, Schnure/Schnorre is frequently used in common with ‘halt die…’ – i.e. shut your trap.
Existing somewhere in between ‘shut up’ and ‘shut the hell up’, it’s best saved for comfortable situations where you know the intended recipient.
This one is particularly popular in northern Switzerland, especially around Solothurn (although it fades in popularity as soon as you hit the French border).
Heutröchner basically means ‘good for nothing’ - and will commonly be heard when a bus driver ignores a bus stop.
As a relatively religious country, at least traditionally, it stands to reason that insults involving religion have found a foothold – as blasphemy-loving English speakers no doubt know.
The best possible translation is probably ‘goddamnit’. As with pretty much anything in Swiss German, there are loads of variations – including Gopfertoori, Gopfridstüdeli, Gopfertami, Gopferteli.
Unknown to many Swiss, Pajass is one of the more popular swearwords in the city of Bern.
Pajass basically means clown, fool, buffoon or joker. This isn’t a particularly heavy swearword, but it shouldn’t be used too lightly either.
In 2020, it was voted ‘Switzerland’s favourite swearword’ by Blick readers.
Literally translating to dirty pig, this one is a less than affectionate term for someone who is disgusting.
Whether it be not washing their hands after the bathroom or failing to brush their teeth, Säuniggel is someone who is just plain gross.
If you’ve been wearing Säuniggel out, then you can go for Grüsel, which has pretty much the same meaning.
Chotzbrocke literally means a piece or part of vomit, which is of course not a particularly nice idea to think about.
Calling someone a Chotzbrocke? The word usually means a disgusting or arrogant person who has little respect or care for others.
This is a particular favourite of ours here at The Local Switzerland - at least in part because it is so difficult to translate.
Most dictionaries will translate Gaggalari as being clumsy, which is definitely the case, but the word also refers to someone who has a kind of ‘dumb luck’, i.e. fortune keeps smiling on them even though they seem to inelegantly fumble their way through life.
If you want to describe a clumsy person in a more lovable way, then Lappi is the appropriate term.
This should not be confused with Gopfertoori, Gopfridstüdeli, Gopfertami, Gopferteli and Gottfridstutz (all listed above), which mean ‘goddamnit’.
Put simply, a Rätschbäse is basically someone who tells the authorities - or anyone who’s listening - if you’ve done something wrong.
This is perhaps best described by English words like ‘dobber’, ‘squealer’ or ‘rat’.
Although it could be used in an organised crime context, it is usually a little less serious - i.e. telling the train conductor that you think that person over there doesn’t have a ticket.
This one is related to a Bünzli or a Chreisellinggsblinker.
Literally translating as ‘soft pear’, a Birreweich is someone who doesn’t have it all together upstairs. Unlike in English where your brain might be your noggin or your noodle, in Swiss-German your brain is otherwise known as your ‘pear’.
So if a friend calls you a soft pear, it means your friend thinks your brain is mush – and it also might mean you should get some new friends.
This Swiss-German insult – which is also common throughout much of Germany – is similar to the terms 'bimbo' or 'blonde' in English. This term is reserved for the kind of person who might care a little too much about their appearance and less about pretty much anything else.
It’s also undoubtedly sexist, as it’s rarely if ever used for men.
Apparently inspired from the legend of Tusnelda, Tussi entered the Swiss-German and German mainstream vernacular in the 1990s and has stubbornly remained.
SEE ALSO: Top ten Swiss-German romantic nicknames
Like many Swiss swear words, there is an actual meaning and a colloquial meaning. And also like many Swiss swear words, Schofseckel has an animal origin.
A Schofseckel - known in some dialects as Schoofseggel - literally means the penis of a ram.
But calling someone a Schofseckel basically means they’re an idiot - and not in a particular endearing way.
A Totsch is a loveable fool, a simple-minded person who is sweet enough but is as dumb as a bag of hammers. Think Homer Simpson.
This one isn’t particularly vicious, so you can use it among those around you - provided of course they have a Homer Simpson moment.
Put the dirty washing with laundry detergent in the dryer? “Achh, du Totsch!”
Chreisellinggsblinker is a great word, both because it is so fun to say and because you’re likely to encounter more than a few in Switzerland.
A Chreisellinggsblinker is someone who always does something perfectly - and is not at all shy about telling others what they’ve done wrong, while calling attention to their own perfect performances.
From correcting your spelling in a text message from a few weeks ago to calling out the inaccuracy of mundane details in a story you’re telling over lunch at work, everyone knows a Chreisellinggsblinker when you see one.
If you’re familiar with the word Bünzli - basically a ‘goody-two-shoes’ in English - a Chreisellinggsblinker is like an über-Bünzli.
Continuing the Simpsons theme, if Totsch (lovable fool) is Homer, then Chreisellinggsblinker is definitely Lisa Simpson.
Chreisellinggsblinker is particularly common in the canton of Zurich, although is can be used through much of the region.
Think we've got it wrong or have some of your own favourites? Please let us know in the comments below!