You want to learn German or travel to Germany? Learning to say “Hello” in German is a good place to start! Here is a list of 18 different greetings in German.
Let me start by telling you a secret about the German language. The regional dialects in German-speaking countries are so different from each other that they can feel like completely different languages. Someone from the north of Germany might have trouble understanding someone from the south and vice versa.
Don’t worry, though! I have put together a list of common German greetings to equip you with the right words for every occasion.
Common greetings throughout Germany
As you now know, German greetings and phrases differ depending on the place you’re at. But there are some greetings in German that every German understands. Let’s start with those, shall we?
1. “Hello” in German – Hallo
The easiest one first: “Hello” in German is simply Hallo. Like English, German is one of the Germanic languages. Therefore, there are a lot of similarities between the two. You will see this reoccurring throughout this list.
“Hallo” is the easiest and most universal greeting in German. You can use it to greet your best friend or a stranger. You can also use “Hallo” to address people more directly. Do you want to greet a German friend? Say: “Hallo, mein Freund” to a male friend or “Hallo, meine Freundin” to a female friend.
As you can see, “Hallo” is a good place to start. It can be used in almost all settings. Also, every German speaker understands it. This sounds like a given, but actually, some of the more regional greetings might not be understood by everyone. You will see what I mean by that later.
2. “Hi” in German – Hi
I might have gone a bit overboard on the first one when I said: “the easiest one first”. Another strong contender for this title is our next entry.
Hi in German is exactly the same – “Hi”. You don’t only spell it the same way, you also pronounce it in the same way. It is a bit less formal than “Hallo”, so usually friends use it to greet each other.
Instead of “Hi” you can also say “Hey” in the same context and with the same meaning.
3. “Good morning” in German – Guten Morgen
Next up we have “Guten Morgen” which is German for “good morning”. Because it can be used in a formal setting as well as among friends, you will likely hear it a lot.
4. “Good day” in German – Guten Tag
Once the morning has passed, you can’t use “Guten Morgen” any longer. But no need to despair. Just replace it by saying Guten Tag.
It’s the same thing, just for another time of the day.
5. “Good evening” and “Goodnight” in German – Guten Abend and Gute Nacht
When another few hours have passed, you can then use Guten Abend which is German for “good evening”. Germans usually start using this phrase at 6 p.m. and don’t stop using it until they go to sleep.
The last thing they say, before going to bed, is Gute Nacht. This is German for “Goodnight”. Mind you, Germans never use “Gute Nacht” as a greeting.
6. “What’s up?” in German – “Was geht?”
Now, that we have gone through most of the formal greetings, it is time to get into the more casual ones. Was geht is German for “What’s up”, and you can use it in the same way.
You will probably not hear it from senior citizens too often. But it is very popular among most other demographics.
7. “How are you?” in German – “Wie geht es dir/Ihnen?“
Occasionally, you want to check in on your friends. So after you greet someone, you can say Wie geht es dir?, to ask them how they are.
Of course, you can also say that to someone you don’t know that well. But in this case, a special rule of the German language sets in. It is called the “polite form”. It applies in all formal settings or when you first talk to someone. In those cases, you say Wie geht es Ihnen?.
When talking to children under 16, the polite form is not necessary. This might appear a bit complicated, but don’t let yourself be discouraged. If you are in doubt, you can always use the polite form.
8. “Nice to meet you” in German – “Schön, Sie/dich kennen zu lernen.”
When traveling to Germany, you will probably meet many new people. Here is how you express your pleasure to meet someone for the first time. The polite form is Schön, Sie kennen zu lernen. If the polite form is not required, you can say Schön, dich kennen zu lernen.
9. “Welcome” in German – “Willkommen”
Let’s say you have some friends from Germany and invite them over to your place. To make them feel at home, you can use the German phrase for “Welcome”. The best part is that it’s almost the same word in both languages. Just say Willkommen and watch their joyful reaction.
10. “Goodbye” in German pt. 1 – “Auf Wiedersehen”
Now that you have all the tools to greet a German, let us teach you how to end a conversation. Auf Wiedersehen means something like “until we meet again” if you tried to translate it literally.
This phrase is the most universal way to say “goodbye” in German. You can use it in both a formal and an informal setting. Also, it is used in all German-speaking regions.
Fun fact: Germans use a variation of this phrase to end calls. Auf Wiederhoeren translates to “until we hear each other again”. Other than calls, there is no occasion where this variation is used.
11. “Goodbye” in German pt. 2 – “Tschüs”
The German language has plenty of ways to say “goodbye”. Another one is Tschüs, sometimes also written “Tschüss”. It is most commonly used between friends or relatives. Compared to “Auf Wiedersehen”, it is less formal.
12. “See you” in German – “Bis bald” and “Bis dann”
If you want to say “see you” or “see you later” in German, here is how: Bis bald.
If you already know when you will see each other again, you can also say Bis dann. It roughly translates to “See you then”.
Special German greetings in different regions
As I told you in the beginning, the German language is divided into many regional dialects. So If you want to impress Germans, you can learn the respective regional phrases to greet people.
In order not to make things too difficult, let’s divide Germany into these six areas: North, Central, East, West, and the two Southern states, Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg. I will give you an appropriate greeting for each of these areas.
13. Greetings in northern Germany – “Moin”
Like the USA, Germany is a federal Republic, consisting of 16 states. Five of those states are considered to be northern Germany. If you want to torture yourself, you can try and pronounce the names of the states: “Schleswig-Holstein”, “Mecklenburg-Vorpommern”, “Niedersachsen” and the city-states “Hamburg” and “Bremen”.
Northerners have a reputation for being reserved. The greeting Moin can be answered by also saying “moin”. And that already serves as an entire conversation to some natives.
There is a common misconception about the word “Moin”. Because it sounds similar to the German word for “morning”, some people think that you can only use “Moin” in the morning. However, that is not the case.
14. Greetings in central Germany – “Gude”
This greeting is the Swiss army knife of greetings for people from the states of Hesse and Thuringia. It is based on the greetings “good morning” or “good day”. But it simply omits to mention the time of day. Combine this with the soft-sounding dialect of central Germany and you get Gude.
15. Greetings in eastern Germany – “Morschn”
There is no greeting that is universally used in all eastern German states. But let’s suppose you are in Saxony, the easternmost state. Morschn is just short for “good morning”. You might need to practice this one a bit, though, because Saxons have a rather thick dialect.
16. Greetings in western Germany – “Tach”
Germany’s most populous state is North Rhine-Westphalia. It has a heritage of coal and steel industry and that is reflected in their dialect. They have a reputation for being direct, but also kind-hearted people. Their greeting of choice is a short and to-the-point Tach, which is short for “Guten Tag”.
17. Greetings in Bavaria – “Servus” and “Grüß Gott”
Bavaria is the origin of most German stereotypes in America. For example, people wearing “Lederhosen” are almost exclusively from Bavaria. The dialect is also quite something. Sometimes it is hardly intelligible for other Germans.
There are two frequently used greetings in Bavaria. One is Servus and the other one is “Grüß Gott” (the “ß” is a German letter that makes a double “s” sound).
“Servus” comes from the Latin word for “slave”. This might sound a bit strange, but saying “Servus” means something like “at your service”. It can also be used as “goodbye” and it’s widely used in Austria and some other German regions. “Grüß Gott” roughly translates to “may God greet you”. Like “Servus”, it is popular in the entire southern region of the German-speaking territory.
18. Greetings in Baden-Württemberg – “Grießgoddle”
Like Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg has a Catholic Christian culture. They also have some pretty strong dialects, the most wide-spread being Swabian. Swabian has their own version of Bavaria’s “Grüß Gott”: Grießgoddle has the same meaning and is used in the same context.
19. The Joker – “Na?”
Congrats, you have made it through the list and can now greet most Germans! There is one more thing I’d like to mention because you might come across it. The German word Na.
“Na” does not really have a meaning on its own. It just suggests that there is a question following. You will hear it before phrases like “how are you?”, “where are you headed?” or “how was it?” But it can also function as a standalone greeting if you say it like a question.
That’s it. You now have the right words to say “hello” in German in every situation. I think it goes without saying that there are plenty more options, but I think this is a good place to start. Now, it’s time to learn how to say “thank you” in German too.
If you want to learn more about Germany and the German language, check out this guide to the best resources to learn German, including apps, podcasts, and online courses, as well as this list of books to learn German.