Is there an idiomatic equivalent in German for "add insult to injury"? How close is it to its English counterpart as far as literal translation is concerned?

add insult to injury: to make a bad situation worse

  • Not sure about Em1's edit. You can make a bad situation worse without necessarily insulting someone. For example, trying to start a stalled engine repeatedly may end up making the car harder, not easier, to start. However, this would lack the interpersonal element that is present in "adding insult to injury". Apr 6, 2012 at 21:18
  • @EugeneSeidel It's just the part what all three definitions on the linked page contain. For my sake we can take it back, but at least a link to a reference is helpful.
    – Em1
    Apr 6, 2012 at 21:32
  • 2
    How about "vom Regen in die Traufe kommen"?
    – Landei
    Apr 8, 2012 at 19:33
  • @Landei That would be "from the frying pan into the fire", which is different :) Apr 12, 2012 at 1:46
  • "To make a bad situation worse" alleine für sich ist einfach falsch. Wenn man dem link folgt, dann folgen diesem Satz weitere Beschreibungen die die Bedeutung wesentlich besser erklären.
    – gnasher729
    Dec 12, 2014 at 10:19

5 Answers 5


Leo lists three different versions:

  • alles/das Ganze noch schlimmer machen
  • noch einen draufsetzen (ugs.)
  • Salz in die Wunden streuen

They are all fine. The last is the most metaphoric and the second is marked colloquial and should probably be avoided in formal written speech. Apart from that I'd consider them all equal.

The translations aren't really close to being a literal translation; a literally translated version doesn't exist.

  • 2
    in formal written speech - imho - only the first one should be used
    – Em1
    Apr 6, 2012 at 20:56
  • 2
    No, they are not equivalent. The first is for making technical difficulties worse, the second can also be used in a positive sense, and the third is for personal injuries.
    – starblue
    Apr 7, 2012 at 12:17
  • @starblue: I think they can all be used for personal injuries; the question lacks context. I don't get your limitation on technical difficulties for the first phrase. The other two remarks I agree with.
    – musiKk
    Apr 8, 2012 at 12:51
  • 3
    „Salz in die Wunden streuen“ is usually used similarly to „wer den Schaden hat, braucht sich um den Spott nicht zu sorgen“ (which looks a bit closer to a literal trsnalation, imho), referring to condescending comments after something went wrong. With „Salz in die Wunden streuen“, the connotation I see is to not let someone forget their mistakes. Apr 9, 2012 at 19:01

You can say noch einen draufsetzen (literally: to place yet another one on top).

Das passt dir nicht? Ich setze noch einen drauf. (Don't like it? Let me rub it in some more / add insult to injury.)

Many other possibilities exist, just as in English.

Um das Maß voll zu machen, riss ihm der General auch die Epauletten ab. (Completing the measure [of humiliation] / Adding insult to injury, the general then tore off his epaulets.)

Zu guter Letzt spuckte sie ihm noch auf die Schuhe. (To top it off / Adding insult to injury, she spat on his shoes.)

Als wäre es damit nicht getan, rief man ihm noch Schimpfworte hinterher. (Not content [with the beating] / Adding insult to injury, the crowd swore at him as he left.)

Edit: Here's another one.

Hochverehrter Herr Kollege aus Kufladen, Sie können das sagen, aber damit gießen Sie noch Öl ins Feuer! (The Right Honorable gentleman representing Sillistix may well say so, but that would be pouring oil into the fire / adding insult to injury!)

The advantage of that one is that you avoid the colloquial register. But really, one could find a dozen more variants, each one with its own drawbacks and advantages. As always, it depends on context, who the audience is, what effect is desired, etc.

  • 1
    one could find a dozen more variants, for instance Zur Krönung which actually means a positive i-Tüpfelchen but can be also used for negative statements.
    – Em1
    Apr 6, 2012 at 21:41
  • 3
    +1 for "Öl ins Feuer gießen" :)
    – Takkat
    Apr 6, 2012 at 21:44

This proverb may be the one you are looking for:

Wer den Schaden hat, braucht für den Spott nicht zu sorgen.
  • Finde ich unpassend. "adding insult to injury" hat nichts mit Spott zu tun, es ist viel stärker.
    – Robert
    Dec 12, 2014 at 16:05

Den Teufel mit dem Beelzebub austreiben.

Eine passivere Konstruktion:

Vom Regen in die Traufe geraten.


Eine weitere Variante wäre wenn eins zum anderen kommt (when one complements the other).

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