Is there a German equivalent for "shoot the messenger" (kill the bearer, but not the originator, of bad news)?


3 Answers 3


Not literally equivalent, but this phrase is commonly used in German:

nicht den Überbringer der schlechten Nachrichten (oder Botschaften) bestrafen.

which means: Don't punish the bearers of bad news.

Related: the German for the person who's always blamed even if he or she is innocent: Prügelknabe or Sündenbock (scapegoat).

  • 2
    ... or Sündenbock.
    – Pekka
    Jun 11, 2011 at 15:32
  • @Pekka danke! ♣ ← 15 characters minimum filling symbol
    – splattne
    Jun 11, 2011 at 15:51
  • 2
    "Not literally equivalent." But quite good enough.
    – Tom Au
    Jun 11, 2011 at 15:55
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    Der bestrafte Bote ist aber nur ein Spezialfall des Sündenbocks - daher ist Sündenbock unpassend. Jun 12, 2011 at 20:23

I think "no" is not a sufficient answer, is it? I don't think there is one, at least not a commonly used one. The dictionaries in which I've found it seem to only explain the meaning.

Wikipedia: Shooting the Messenger says that its origin is from a play by Shakespeare. So it could be a proverb without german equivalent.


Auch wenn die richtige Antwort schon vorliegt: "den Boten bestrafen" (to punish the messenger) ist vielleicht noch etwas kompakter, und Alliterationen sind doch immer was schönes :-)

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