German Language Blog

Untranslatable German Words: Die Knoblauchfahne Posted by on Jun 30, 2015 in Language

Today I’m going to talk about bad breath. As you do. Let me introduce you to your new, untranslatable German word: Die Knoblauchfahne.


Knoblauch: Garlic. Photo: johovac on under CC BY 2.0


What does Knoblauchfahne mean?

Die Knoblauchfahne means, quite simply, garlic breath! I know this seems like an easy word to translate and in some ways it is, but like all quirky German words it has a little more to it than meets the eye! Read on and you’ll see what I mean.


What is the literal translation of Knoblauchfahne?

Die Knoblauchfahne splits into two words: Der Knoblauch (garlic) and Die Fahne (flag). So its literal translation is garlic flag. Why a flag, you might ask? Well, a flag blows in the wind- much like garlic breath seems to waft around every time somebody opens their mouth.

This word is very versatile and can be used with any cause of bad breath. Some examples are:

Die Alkoholfahne – alcohol breath (general)

Die Schnapsfahne – alcohol breath (literally ‘schnaps breath’, referring to any strong liquor)

Die Zigarettenfahne – cigarette breath

Die Kaffeefahne – coffee breath

Die Morgenfahne – morning breath

Basically, just take whatever you can smell on the person’s breath and add the word Fahne onto the end of it. Voila, you have yourself an untranslatable German word for a very specific type of bad breath!

You can also use the word Die Fahne as a general term for bad breath (usually alcohol-related). Obviously, whether you are talking about bad breath or a real flag will depend on the context. 😉


How would you use Knoblauchfahne in a sentence?

“Mensch, du hast ‘ne Knoblauchfahne!” – My God, you’ve got a garlic flag!

Or just:

“Mensch, du hast ‘ne Fahne!” – My God, your breath stinks! (usually alcohol-related)


What is the nearest English enquivalent to Knoblauchfahne?

Obviously, the nearest equivalent is garlic breath! But the general term for bad breath in English is halitosis, which is Der Mundgeruch (‘the mouth smell’) in German. So in a way, this is not a truly untranslatable German word – but I think it’s versatile and interesting enough to include as one!

As always, I hope you’ve enjoyed this post!

Liebe Grüße,

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 have been writing about German language and culture on this blog since 2014. I am also a fitness instructor & personal trainer.


  1. John Morgan:

    Thank you for your posts. I find them very interesting. I am English, and I love these sort of posts in German. In 1979 I took a German language course at Reading College, and achieved an “O” level,”B” grade certificate!
    Along time ago I was posted to Germany in 1949, for National Service, and picked up a few words then.
    Of course, I don’t have any opportunity to use the language now but as I have stated, I always read these German posts with great interest.
    So keep up the good work!

    • Constanze:

      @John Morgan Aww thanks John, it’s always lovely to read comments from people such as yourself, who have a history of and passion for German! Keep studying! x

  2. Allan Mahnke:

    Great fun! Many thanks!

  3. Tricia:

    One of my favorite German words which, for some reason, was included in my German 1 textbook in college, is “Trimm-dich-Pfad”. I guess it could boringly translate to “workout path” in English, but whenever I see one I prefer to call it a “trim yourself path”!

  4. Joseph T. Madawela:

    Thank you this is very interesting and I also got several new German words WHICH I will promptly enter in my vocabulary notebook!