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Untranslatable German Words: Bauchpinseln Posted by on Feb 18, 2017 in Language

Guten Tag! As it was Valentinstag (Valentines Day) on 14th Februar, I thought I’d bring you a (sort of!) topical “untranslatable word”. This one will hopefully make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Today’s untranslatable word is bauchpinseln.


What does bauchpinseln mean?

It means to flatter or compliment someone, just like you would do on a Valentines date – or to get yourself a Valentines date in the first place, maybe! However, it also means to flatter someone in the sense of stroking their ego/using flattery to get what you want.


What does bauchpinseln literally translate to?

The word is broken down into two, separate words:

der Bauch – stomach
pinseln – to brush/paint (der Pinsel = a brush)

So the word literally means ‘to brush the stomach’! I don’t think any words are necessary for you to fully understand the meaning behind this untranslatable German word. All I need to do is show you this photo:


Bauchpinseln – to brush the stomach (flatter/compliment someone). Photo by duncanh1 on under a CC license (CC by 2.0)


Now you’ve imagined a nice, warm, fuzzy feeling and you understand what bauchpinseln is!

The ‘normal’ word for flattery in German, by the way, is die Schmeichelei. When you get a compliment, you’ll feel geschemeichelt. Even that word sounds cute!


How would you use bauchpinseln in a sentence?

As it is a verb, there are conjugations for it. Here is the present tense conjugation, for instance:

ich bauchpinsle
du bauchpinselst
er/sie/es bauchpinselt
wir bauchpinseln
ihr bauchpinselt
sie/Sie bauchpinseln


What is the nearest English equivalent to bauchpinseln?

Do we have our ‘tummies brushed’ in English? No, but we do get ‘buttered up’ (if talking about using flattery to get something). We also get ‘butterflies in our stomach’ in English, which is kind of similar (a nice feeling in the tummy!). In German, by the way, this phrase is the same:

Schmetterlinge im Bauch haben – to have butterflies in the stomach.
“Ich habe Schmetterlinge im Bauch” – “I have butterflies in my stomach”.


I hope you enjoyed this word! If you have any closer English equivalents (or an equivalent in any other language), leave a comment and let us know about it.

Bis bald,


Constanze x

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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 love writing about German language and culture. I also work as a group fitness instructor.


  1. Pam:

    Hi Constanze! I love your blog. I have been trying to improve my German lifelong( I am 57) My mother is Bavarian (Amberg) and my father is American. I never learned to speak bayrish but would appreciate if you have any suggestions for resources. Viele Grusse!

    • Constanze:

      @Pam Hallo, Pam! Glad you like the blog! I have written a few posts on Bavarian dialect & culture on here. Please search the tag ‘Bavaria’ or ‘Bavarian’. YouTube would also be a good resource as you get to hear Bavarian being spoken. In fact, as it is a spoken dialect I recommend a good old chat with your mum and relatives! Best way to learn! 🙂 Any other questions, please just ask! Constanze x

  2. Carmel Grima:

    “To get/have butterflies in your stomach” is an idiomatic expression that means you are anxious and have a nervous feeling in your stomach. Here’s an example: I used to get butterflies in my stomach before school tests.
    “Butterflies in my stomach” | Ask The Editor | Learner’s Dictionary

    • Constanze:

      @Carmel Grima You can also get butterflies in your stomach when seeing/being with someone you like in a romantic way. At least, that’s its main meaning here in the UK. 🙂

  3. Person:

    What does “Flügel und freihiet” mean?

    • Constanze:

      @Person As you’ve written it, it means ‘Wings and freedom’. But the phrase ‘Flügel der Freihiet’ is more commonly known and this means ‘Wings of freedom’.

      • Person:

        @Constanze Thank you! I heard it in a song and wasn’t sure what it meant! And I heard it again and it was written ‘der’ not ‘und’ silly me for not paying attention. Thank you again for answering my question!

  4. Popinjay:

    In Mandarin there is a similar expression – to “pat the horse on its butt”! 🙂