German Language Blog

Untranslatable German: Schnapsidee & Alkoholleiche Posted by on May 17, 2015 in Language

Guten Tag!

I’ve gone a little off track with the untranslatable German words lately, so here are two for good measure! Even though I’ve already written about roughly 5,567 of them, rest assured there are always more quirky, fascinating German words to be discovered. 🙂

These two words revolve around the theme of Der Alkohol – alcohol.

1. Die Schnapsidee


Schnaps (German spelling) / Schnapps (English spelling). Photo by andrew-garton on under CC BY-SA 2.0

What does Schnapsidee mean?
A Schnapsidee describes a really daft idea you had while you were drunk – or, more commonly, a really daft idea you had when you were sober but that was so stupid you might as well have been drunk when you had it. It’s basically used to describe any kind of silly, foolish or unrealistic ideas.

What is the literal translation of Schnapsidee?
Its literal meaning is schnapps idea, referring to schnapps, the spirit. It is made up of the words der Schnaps – schnapps, and die Idee – idea. In Germany, Schnaps is a generic term for any clear spirits distilled from fermented fruits, which is probably why the word is Schnapsidee, to refer to alcohol in general, and not Bieridee, for instance (although die Bieridee sounds good too, right?!).

How would you use Schnapsidee in a sentence?
“Was ist denn das für eine Schnapsidee?!” – What sort of a schnapps idea is this?!
“Diese Schnapsidee kannst du vergessen!” – You can forget about that schnapps idea!


Now onto the second word. If you have too much Schnaps at a party you might end up one of these…

2. Die Alkoholleiche

Passed out drunk

Alkoholleiche. Photo by 24293932@N00 on under CC BY-SA 2.0

What does Alkoholleiche mean?
An Alkoholleiche is a person who has passed out from drinking too much.

What is the literal translation of Alkoholleiche?
Its literal meaning is alcohol corpse. Quite appropriate, isn’t it? It is made up of the words der Alkohol – alcohol, and die Leiche – corpse. Another word that’s often used instead is die Schnapsleiche – the schnapps corpse.

How would you use Alkoholleiche in a sentence?
“Nach nur 125 Minuten musste die erste Alkoholleiche am Oktoberfest behandelt werden” – The first alcohol corpse had to be seen to after just 125 minutes at Oktoberfest.
“Wie soll ich die Schnapsleiche aufwachen?!” – How am I supposed to wake up the schnaps corpse?!

What is the nearest English equivalent to Alkoholleiche?
We just don’t have any nouns as cool as Alkoholleiche in English. But in context, it might be used to refer to an intoxicated/hungover friend in a light-hearted, teasing manner, so an equivalent might be: “How am I supposed to wake this pisshead up?!”

I can not for the life of me think of an English equivalent (noun) for Schnapsidee. If anyone has one, I’ll add it to this post!

Prost! (Cheers!)

Bis später!


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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. Transparent Language:

    Comment via email:

    Hello Constanze,

    My name is Kathy, and I am an American living in Aschaffenburg, Germany. My husband and I moved here 8 months ago with zero German language experience, but we’re taking lessons and slowly integrating more and more German into our lexicon.

    I very much enjoy reading your blog and would like to suggest an American phrase not exactly the same as Schnapsidee, but somewhat similar; It’s called beer goggles. You may be familiar with this phenomenon, but if you’re not, beer goggles refers to “beer-induced impaired vision” and poor decision making of a person after having consumed large amounts of beer. When one is wearing beer goggles, one will make advances on people they would not otherwise find attractive when sober. It’s similar to Schnapsidee in that one is making a decision one would not otherwise make had the high levels of beer consumed not negatively impacted their vision/choices.

    Here’s a link from Urban Dictionary describing the phenomenon:

    Thank you kindly,
    Kathy Cross

  2. Henry:


    I like your style and wondered if anyone has written a post about the sounds animals make in different languages. And maybe other objects like cars or trains. I am trying to teach my kids German and have no idea what sound a train “choo choo” makes in German. I love that a frog says Quaaark, or something like that.


    • Constanze:

      @Henry Thanks for your comment, Henry! Well you can always search for a topic on the right hand-side of the blog, using the ‘search’ box. I typed in ‘animals’ but nothing about animal noises came up. I may write one myself. For now I hope this site will help you!
      Constanze x

  3. Henry:

    Vielleicht dass war nur eine Schnappsidee. 🙂

  4. Henry:

    Oops. Meant Schnapsidee.

  5. Matt:

    Schnapsidee is kind of like “pipe dream” which doesn’t refer to alcohol, but to the kind of goofy ideas one comes up with while intoxicated. It’s almost always used figuratively.

  6. Alex:

    Wow das Bild in der Wanne .. das sieht fast aus wie eine Schnittverletzung ist glaube ich aber nur so auf dem Bild.

    Ansonsten: Ja Schnappsidee. 😀

    Gruß Alex

  7. marcia bernhard:

    I recently ran into a couple of funny German expressions on ‘Wort der Woche’ on the webpage: Arschfax (the tag on the back of pants or shorts, especially when it is turned in such a way as to be visable) and Arschgeweih (a tattoo on a person’s the lower back, when only the part above the waistband is visable, making it look like the antlers on a deer).

  8. Margaret:

    I would think the American equivalent of Alkoholleiche
    would be the phrase, ‘dead drunk.’

    As in “After his night as the bar, he was basically dead drunk, passed out on the floor.’

    • Constanze:

      @Margaret Not heard that one (probably because I’m from the UK)! Thanks, Margaret! 🙂