The English word "silly" has a multitude of meanings. Is there a single German word that would work as a translation for "silly" the following example sentences? If not, which word should I use in each case?

He keeps calling you these silly names. (playful)

Your silly husband is participating in the brezel marathon. (irresponsible)

That silly man will never graduate. (unintelligent)

Parse HTML with regex? That's a silly idea! (foolish)

"Blöd", "dumm" and "doof" feel too insulting to fit the first two senses.

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    @cos I've never heard of that. Are you thinking of "frech" (cheeky)? Jun 10, 2011 at 23:25
  • 6
    @Cos Perhaps you'd like to clarify what you're trying to say here, as it seems quite offensive and nonesensical to me at the moment. Jun 24, 2011 at 9:27
  • Not to say... silly?
    – Jules
    Jul 24, 2012 at 9:54
  • 1
    What about "unsinnig"? Dec 21, 2018 at 10:04

6 Answers 6


"albern" could fit, but feels a bit outdated.

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    I don't think "albern" is outdated. Sei doch nicht albern!
    – con-f-use
    Jun 9, 2011 at 21:49
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    Don't think so either. I use it quite often, actually. However, it fits only with sentence #1 and #4. #2 wouldn't really work and #3 doesn't make sense at all.
    – ladybug
    Jun 9, 2011 at 21:55
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    'Albern' fits and is quite universal - definitely not outdated!
    – Takkat
    Jun 10, 2011 at 6:17
  • de.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – Carsten S
    Sep 15, 2014 at 20:55

Indeed such a universal word like silly is badly missing in German. Each of your examples would be put in other words (only given here as examples - there are many other variants)

He keeps calling you these silly names. (playful)


Your silly husband is participating in the brezel marathon. (irresponsible)


That silly man will never graduate. (unintelligent)


Parse HTML with regex? That's a silly idea! (foolish)



In der Schweiz wird an dieser Stelle oft 'lustig' benutzt. Das Wort bekommt in einem bestimmten Kontext die Konnotation von 'silly'.

You silly guy, you ate up all the cookies!?

Du bisch no ne luschtige, hesch eifach aui Güezli ufg'ässe?!

Du bist mir noch ein lustiger Kerl, hast die Kekse einfach weggeputzt.

Aber das funktioniert lange nicht für alle Sätze in der Frage.


How come nobody suggested dämlich? It fits in all the examples too.

edit: Dämlich has the (to me at least) literal connotation of "like a foolish old lady", which is unkind to old ladies, I know. Entirely subjectively I would say it is probably just a tick more negative than albern, slightly in the direction of "anyone who does this must be a bit stupid".


He keeps calling you these silly names. (playful) 

dämliche Namen, perhaps he's trying to make you look stupid, or he's making himself look stupid.

Your silly husband is participating in the brezel marathon. (irresponsible) 

Dämlich is exactly right here. He's daft to contemplate it.

That silly man will never graduate. (unintelligent) 

This isn't something you would say in English either, I think, but here dämlich could mean "too scatty" or "too unorganised".

Parse HTML with regex? That's a silly idea! (foolish) 

Now here dämlich is right, meaning "it's a stupid thing to try".

Dämlich is used a lot, but could be construed as a faint insult when used personally.

  • Welcome to German Language SE! I agree that dämlich would fit. However, it would give the sentences a slightly different meaning than e.g. albern in the accepted answer, wouldn't it? Maybe you want to improve your answer by adding some information on how dämlich would be understood or when it could or should not be used?
    – Matthias
    Sep 15, 2014 at 9:23
  • Thanks for the helpful amendment. I wonder what your literal connotation of "herrlich" might be ;-)
    – Matthias
    Sep 15, 2014 at 13:52
  • It is strange that herrlich means almost the opposite. The negative meaning of dämlich is unfair to Damen.
    – RedSonja
    Sep 17, 2014 at 8:49
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    It is not unfair, it's probably just kind of "etymologigal bad luck". I opened two questions to discuss the relationsips of the two word pairs: german.stackexchange.com/questions/15720/… and german.stackexchange.com/questions/15722/…
    – Matthias
    Sep 17, 2014 at 19:48

If you want to use silly in a more playful, less insulting way than blöd or doof, how about

  • töricht (foolish, simple, loses its weight slightly because it's old fashioned)


  • dümmlich (roughly translates to something like 'slightly idiotic')

Of course, just like 'silly', you can not rely on those words being understood "correctly".

  • Thanks. Could I say "Dein törichter/dümmlicher Mann hat zu viele Brezeln gegessen." without getting anyone offended?
    – Tim
    Jun 9, 2011 at 20:37
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    Well, no... or only if you have a really nice smile. You're quite right in assuming that there is no comparable equivalent to 'silly' Jun 9, 2011 at 20:39
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    Actually, I can't think of a single polite way to translate the Brezel sentence into German. I would actually recommend just to leave out the "silly" and instead add a reproachful undertone and roll your eyes ("Dein Mann nimmt am Brezel-Marathon teil...!!!").
    – ladybug
    Jun 9, 2011 at 21:58
  • @ladybug Do you think "your silly husband" is a polite expression in English? If not: why trying to translate it in a polite way?
    – Matthias
    Sep 15, 2014 at 20:28

A quite popular word for someone appearing a little dumb but rather in the sense of being confused is „dusselig“. https://www.duden.de/rechtschreibung/dusslig

This would fit nicely in the second example sentence.

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