German Language Blog

Untranslatable German: Tote Hose Posted by on Jun 23, 2016 in Language

Guten Tag!

It’s time for another untranslatable German word – but it’s a special one, because it’s technically a phrase that is used in place of a single word. Confused? Don’t be! It’s a funny one.

Today’s phrase is ‘tote Hose’.

What does tote Hose mean?

In German, ‘tote Hose’ is used to describe something that is boring, uneventful, or where nothing is really going on. It is a Redewendung (expression) that originated as youth slang in the 1980s. It also has an alternative meaning – it describes male impotence. Why? This will become clear when I answer the next question!

What does tote Hose literally translate to?

‘Tote Hose’ literally translates to ‘dead trousers’. So when you say that a party is boring, you are comparing it to a pair of ‘dead trousers’. When you say a man is impotent, you are saying he has ‘dead trousers’. I told you it was funny.


tote Hose. Photo: grygorenko on under a CC BY-ND 2.0

How would you use tote Hose in a sentence?

It sounds a bit strange in a sentence because although the phrase consists of an adjective and a noun, it is used in place of an adjective only. So, to use the phrase, imagine how you’d use the word ‘langweilig’ (boring) in a sentence, and replace that word with ‘tote Hose’. Example:

Diese Party ist total tote Hose!
This party is completely dead trousers!


It’s also helpful to think of using it in place of the phrase Nichts losNothing going on.

Wie war’s gestern?
Tote Hose / Nichts los.

How was it yesterday?
Dead trousers / Nothing going on.


A banker appears to have lost his trousers

Photo: insideology on under a CC BY 2.0

What is the nearest English equivalent?

The closest English translation would be dead boring – but that is nowhere near as funny as ‘dead trousers’. When describing a person, it could roughly translate to dead beat. Any other suggestions? 🙂


Die Toten Hosen

You may have heard of the German punk band Die Toten Hosen, who adopted this phrase as their band name. To finish, I’ll leave you with a video of them performing their song, ‘Steh Auf, Wenn Du Am Boden Bist’ – ‘When you’re on the floor, get up’. It’s an uplifting song about getting back up on your feet each time you’re knocked down, and remaining optimistic for the future. On that note, I hope you all have a brilliant day! Bis später.


“Steh auf, wenn du am Boden bist!
Steh auf, auch wenn du unten liegst!
Steh auf, es wird schon irgendwie weitergehn!”

“Get up, if you’re on the floor!
Get up, even if you’re at the bottom!
Get up, it will go on somehow!”



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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. John Morgan:

    Alternative to “Tote Hose” in English would be “Dead Loss”!
    E.G. “How was the party?”
    Answer : “A dead loss!”
    Sei Gut!

  2. Pete:

    In Australia we sometimes say “As boring as batshit”. In English you can also say “Like watching paint dry” or “Like watching grass grow”. All mean very boring, nothing going on.