I am trying to understand the meaning of the idiom "gier und gar." I have serched per word and in the internet it is not clear.

  • 4
    There is no such fixed idiom. I'm afraid you have to supply more context.
    – Uwe
    May 26, 2016 at 17:17
  • 3
    Give us context, context, and even more context. There never can be too much context. No context is definitely not enough context. May 26, 2016 at 18:28
  • 1
    Someone seems to be after Yvan Goll's Panama Canal ;)
    – tofro
    May 26, 2016 at 20:07
  • Secondary literature: From the book link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-663-09029-8_6 (Technik als vitalistisches Motiv) about this verse of the poem: 'Im zweiten Abschnitt, der die, historisch korrekten, Schwierigkeiten beim Bau mit der Malaria zur Grundlage hat, wird die Gegend als Steinwust geschildert, der Boden als "wie Aas so faul und gier und gar".
    – Sebastian
    Aug 7, 2022 at 19:56
  • Die Erde schwitzt "Mattheit" aus, die dann, im ersten Vers der zweiten Strophe dieses Teils, unmittelbar zum Moskitogewimmel wird - bezeichnenderweise ist es diese unenergetische, der menschlichen Arbeitswut entgegengesetzte Eigenschaft der Erde, die die Malaria hervorbringt; entsprechend wurden in der Vorstrophe, Vers drei und vier, die "Träume" des Bodens respektive seines "Fieberhauches" zu Giftschwaden. Aus den Sümpfen steigt eine "Pest".'
    – Sebastian
    Aug 7, 2022 at 19:59

3 Answers 3


I guess (also from the "bissig und bös" question) the poem you're translating is Yvan Goll's "Der Panama-Kanal". "gier und gar" actually is not an idiom in German, and a literal translation along the lines of greed and cooked doesn't make any sense - not even to a native speaker. gar has a meaning in some southern German dialects and Austrian German of ""nothing left" - Doesn't really fit here as well. After all, the author had a French/German (Lorraine) background. I don't think he would have used Bavarian/Austrian expressions.

The section is, in longer form

Wo aber Steinwust lag, mit grünem Mergel und Moor gefleckt,

War der Boden wie Aas so faul, und so gier und gar

Ging sein Fieberhauch, daß die Träume die er gebar,

Zu giftigen Schwaden wurden, von weißer Sonne umbleckt.

The gier und gar relates to the Fieberhauch from the jungle ground. My guess it is gierig und gärend, after all, Goll was an expressionist, so didn't have to stick too close to the language ;)

The literal translation greedy and fermenting doesn't really sound like poetry. I think the author's emphasis wasn't focussed on the literal meaning here, but rather on the impression the sound makes on the reader illustrating that fiendish environment.

In a translation, the alliteration would be important because the author uses that stylistic means throughout the whole poem, but I can't come up with a good and close one at the moment, so

greedy and moldy

or even

messy and moldy

(to keep the alliteration) would maybe be - not so literal - translations. In my opinion, it's more the sound of it that counts rather than the exact meaning here.


I never heard of it before and your post is the only hit in an online search...

Maybe you mean "ganz und gar". That just means "completely", "totally", ... "without leftovers".


Gier probably means it is somehow messy, here is an example for ships that are tumbling around:


On first read the "nothing left", @tofro mentions, made sense to me, like it describes some wasteland. But the whole "gier and gar" seems to be related to Fieberhauch, not to the floor.

But never heard that expression, would have never used it and doesn't really make sense to me. You should read some normal books! :)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.