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Five Swiss German phrases to make you sound like a local

Swiss German is a confusing language - but if you're looking to simplify things, this list won't help at all.

A swiss flag
Photo by Patrick Hodskins on Unsplash

Referred to locals as Dialäkt, Mundart or just Düütsch, the Swiss spin on standard German gives rise to many wonderful phrases.

Here are a few of them. 

And a note before this list begins: these sayings are meant to read with standard German pronunciation.

Swiss German is primarily a spoken language, therefore, grammar rules are much more relaxed in regard to spelling, capitalisation and the use of articles.

All grammar here is the close approximation of a native speaker, Google Translate and her family’s patient Whatsapp feedback. 

1. “Chasch nöd der Füfer und s Weggli ha”

This translates roughly to the English saying “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.”

However, the two objects in question are a “Füfer,” the Swiss German word for the five-Franc coin, and a “Weggli,” a bread roll made with milk. 

A stack of Swiss “Füfer” coins next to some Euros. Photo: DPA

Swiss German isn’t strict about the infamous German particles of “Der,” “Die” and “Das,” so feel free to call it “en Füfer.” And as you can see with “Weggli,” the article “Das” is missing entirely, replaced with just an “S.” 

Alas, in life, one must choose between an extra five bucks or a lovely buttered snack. A good saying to keep in mind. 

2. “De Schneller isch der Gschwinder”

The English equivalent to this phrase would be “It is the way it is.” Literally translated, the phrase means “The faster man is quicker.”

Once again, you can see that the articles are different between “Schneller” and “Gschwinder.” As in the Weggli example with “Das” becoming “S,” “Der” and “Die” can often just be replaced with the letters “De.” 

This redundant saying serves only to illustrate that some things just are the way they are. 

3. “Rüebli git schöni Büebli” 

This saying is simple: “Carrots make beautiful boys.” Boys are “Büebli” and carrots are “Rüebli” in Swiss German. The phrase is sometimes said to children to encourage them to eat vegetables, or to expectant mothers. 

However, this goofy saying may have a scientific basis: Beta carotene is the red-orange pigment found in certain plants including carrots.

The human body converts beta carotene into vitamin A, which is important for healthy vision, skin, mucous membranes as well as the immune system.

Pregnant women also need the vitamin because it is important for normal foetal development.  

It’s not clear whether this “Rüebli” saying was meant to encourage children to eat their vegetables, or if it was simply a play on words. Photo: DPA

But then again, maybe this saying just exists just because “Rüebli” and “Büebli” rhyme so well.

Additionally, for the second time in this list, we encounter the suffix “Li.” Swiss German is famous for this add-on, their equivalent of the standard German “Chen” to make something smaller and cuter. It’s a staple just as much as the hard “ch” sound in “Chuchichästli.”

4. “Gömmer eis go zieh?”

In standard German, this phrase would be “Gehen wir eins Ziehen?” In English: “Should we go pull one?” As you’ve probably noticed, this makes absolutely no sense in either language.

However, in Swiss German, when friends are headed out to get a drink they often call it “eins zieh” or “pulling one.”

You’ll hear this phrase often amongst friends headed to a local bar or restaurant. 

5. “sLäbe isch kein Sugus.”

“Das Leben ist kein Sugus,” would be the standard German translation, meaning “Life is not a Sugus.”

We must now introduce “Sugus,” a famous Swiss taffy-like candy similar to Starburst or Laffy Taffy. This colorful, chewy sweet was invented by a Swiss chocolate manufacturer who couldn’t buy scarce ingredients like cacao and coffee back in 1929. 

Unfortunately, this saying will tell you that life is not always sweet. But even you’re facing tough times, you can always just eat a Sugus. Swiss people eat over 350,000 Sugus a day, so finding one shouldn’t be that hard. 

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For members


Putsch: How one Swiss German word became known around the world

Swiss German is notoriously difficult for many people to understand, even those who speak 'Hochdeutsch'. But there is a famous term that has made it into the global vocabulary.

Putsch: How one Swiss German word became known around the world

Swiss Germans are incredibly proud of their wide variety of dialects, known as Schwyzerdütsch.

But it’s fair to say that these dialects are not well known outside of Switzerland. In fact, even some High German speakers struggle with understanding Swiss German. 

But according to a report in Swiss newspaper Blick, there is a famous word used in other languages that actually originated from Swiss German. 

And no, it isn’t Müesli, which is probably the most famous Swiss German export.

READ ALSO: Swiss German vs Hochdeutsch: What are the key differences? 

The word is ‘putsch’, which many people around the world use in a political context to mean a coup, or an attempt to overthrow a government.

According to the report, ‘putsch’ originated from the Zurich dialect of the 19th century.


At that time in Zurich, putsch meant knock, thrust, clash, bang or push.

This type of clash happened in Zurich’s Paradeplatz on September 6th 1839. It involved thousands of members of the rural conservative population who stormed against the liberal rule of the city of Zurich.

The insurgents saw the position of the church threatened, feared for their traditions and felt abandoned by the government and townspeople.

The putsch, which was led by Pastor Bernhard Hirzel, cost the lives of 14 insurgents and a member of the government council. The Zurich government abdicated, and the rebels celebrated this as a success. In the long run, however, the uprising had no effect.

A painting shows fighting during the Züriputsch 1839.

A painting shows fighting during the Züriputsch in 1839. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ Zentralbibliothek Zürich

The events received a lot of attention abroad. German newspapers reported on the ‘Züriputsch’. In France and Britain, reports spoke of “le putsch” or “the putsch” in Switzerland.

In the decades after 1839, the term gained popularity. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, it became even more well known in English around the Kapp Putsch of 1920, when Wolfgang Kapp and his right-wing supporters attempted to overthrow the German Weimar government.

Putsch attempts were common in Weimar Germany, so the word appeared often in the stories of British journalists who described the events

Adolf Hitler’s attempt to gain power with the National Socialists in the Bürgerbräukeller in Munich on November 9th 1923 went down in history as the “Hitler Putsch” or “Beer Hall Putsch”. These events helped the Swiss German word achieve a global breakthrough.

READ ALSO: Why November 9th is a fateful day in German history

In 1958 and 1961, when sections of the French military campaigned for Algeria to remain part of France, they revolted against the government in Paris. The resistance failed both times and the North African country became independent in 1962. The events found their way into the French history books as the “putsch d’Alger” and the “putsch des généraux”.

In recent history, former US President Donald Trump’s supporters tried to enact a putsch in Washington DC in January 2021. In neighbouring Germany, a group of far-right extremists were arrested in a suspected plot to overthrow the government in December 2022. And in June this year, the leader of the Russian Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, failed in a revolt against the Russian government.

So if this word is part of your vocabulary then congratulations – you already speak (a little) Schwyzerdütsch.