German Language Blog

German Similes To Make You Smile Posted by on Jun 13, 2018 in Language

Guten Tag! After what feels like a lot of grammar and vocabulary posts from me, it’s time for something a little more light-hearted. Today I’d like to bring you a quirky German phrase. The phrase is: grinsen wie ein Honigkuchenpferd.

Grinsen wie ein Honigkuchenpferd

This phrase translates to ‘To smile like a honey cake horse’. It basically means that you have a massive grin on your face. The closest English equivalent is probably the phrase ‘to grin like a Cheshire Cat’, referencing the cat with the big smile from Alice in Wonderland. But that doesn’t explain what a ‘honey cake horse’ is, so read on to find out.

Das Honigkuchenpferd

Do you know the gingerbread hearts and shapes you often see at German Christmas markets? Those are called Lebkuchen. A Honigkuchenpferd is basically the predecessor to the Lebkuchen you see today. It is a gingerbread cake made with honey and other spices, and shaped and decorated like a horse.

This type of cake is so old it was used by the ancient Greeks and Romans, who believed honey had magical, healing powers and could protect them against evil spirits. These cakes were often shaped like animals or other objects, depending on the occasion – hence the horse shape of the Honigkuchenpferd.


Honigkuchenpferd fcm.jpg
Von Frank C. Müller, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

The question I cannot find an answer to, however, is why a person would grin like a Honigkuchenpferd. Any ideas?

But this is not the only, slightly baffling way to say someone is grinning a lot. Here are two more expressions with the same meaning:

Wie ein Primeltopf grinsen – to smile like a plant pot full of primroses
Wie ein frisch lackiertes Hutschpferd grinsen – to smile like a freshly painted rocking horse

der Primeltopf – pot of primroses. Image via Pixabay.

Maybe, in German, you can smile ‘like’ anything that’s pleasant, even if the thing itself does not smile!

‘Vor Freude grinst er wie ein Honigkuchenpferd’
‘He is so happy he is grinning like a honey cake horse’

If you have any comments or questions about this word (or can fill in any blanks!), please leave a comment! I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and that it’s made you smile wie ein Honigkuchenpferd! 🙂

Bis bald!


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About the Author: Constanze

Servus! I'm Constanze and I live in the UK. I'm half English and half German, and have been writing about German language and culture on this blog since 2014. I am also a fitness instructor & personal trainer.


  1. Allan Mahnke:

    Another great post!

    Can you help? — I recently heard but have forgotten the German equivalent of the English phrase “a one horse town,” meaning a town (in the era of the “horse & buggy”) that was so small that there was only one horse.

  2. Keena:

    I wonder if it means not that you smile LIKE the Honigkuchenpferd or the primroses, but that there is an unsaid assumption that you are smiling LIKE you HAVE a Honigkuchenpferd or a pot of primroses. And it’s just that the saying has become shorter (and funnier!) over time.
    What do you think?

    • Constanze:

      @Keena Ooh yes, that sounds plausible! Good thinking! 🙂