I came across this sentence:

Das könnte manchem Sternsinger einen Zacken aus der Krone brechen: Von Königen steht in der Bibel nämlich nichts. Das Matthäus-Evangelium nennt die Männer, die dem Stern in Richtung Bethlehem folgen, „Magier“ aus dem Osten, nach dem griechischen Wort "magoi".


What does it mean? It seems to me that it is something along the lines of "it would break their heart" or maybe "they would never believe it", but I am not entirely sure. Could someone please explain this to me?

2 Answers 2


"Sich einen Zacken aus der Krone brechen" is a very tongue in cheek way to say you consider somebody to be overly proud, pretentious, big headed, full of themselves - or, alternatively, simply freaking lazy.

The image refers, as Si Langbein already mentioned, to an actual crown. It's like a mocking "Oh, of course, we can't expect your majesty to help with the housework. You would run the risk of accidently breaking off a tip of your crown, or getting a smudge on your royal cloak!"

The phrase is mostly used negated as a request for the person to get over themselves and do something they don't want to do:

Du brichst dir keinen Zacken aus der Krone, wenn du auch mal den Müll rausbringst!
You won't hurt your status if you take out the garbage, too, every once in a while!


It's really not beneath you to take out the garbage, too, every once in a while!

The usage you quoted isn't typical, but more a play on words with the described phrase and the concept of Sternsinger, who often actually wear crowns with their costumes. So,

Das könnte manchem Sternsinger einen Zacken aus der Krone brechen: Von Königen steht in der Bibel nämlich nichts.

means something along the lines of

This could cause some Sternsinger to get butthurt: The bible doesn't mention a word about kings.

  • Redensarten-Index lists the positive and negative versions. Similar is Es könnte ja nicht schaden, wenn du mal ... -- "It couldn't hurt if you...". "It couldn't hurt" works in American English; I'm not sure about other varieties.
    – RDBury
    Jan 3, 2022 at 7:21
  • @RDBury thanks for the interesting website link. However I don't find it supporting the non-negated use of "Zacken aus der Krone brechen", thus all examples I see are some variation of "kein Zacken aus der Krone brechen". (and from my personal experience, memory and usuage, I don't recall nor can I come up with a positive formulation either) Jan 3, 2022 at 11:05
  • @planetmaker: Yes, I misread it somehow; the only entry is for the negative version. The positive version is still mentioned though.
    – RDBury
    Jan 3, 2022 at 20:04

imagine an Eastern Crown, a gold heraldic crown surmounted with a variable number of sharp spikes. If one of these spikes falls off, you as king feel diminished. So it is more like a feeling of insult, then of "break their heart" or "would never believe it". So, Sternsinger might feel like a king while in reality bible says it were magicians.

see crown with spikes, Wikipedia

  • Welcome to German.SE. While I see benefit in referring to a crown where a single missing spike can "destroy" the entire image - I miss a little bit elaboration on the context (e.g. what Sternsinger might have believed until today what they represent vs. what they represent according to bible) Jan 3, 2022 at 18:38

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