Swiss German Food Expressions

In the German part of Switzerland we call our dialects Mundart. Especially for food related topics we use a lot of our own words instead of the German ones. And of course every area has its own words; if a person from Bern or Wallis talks to me about food I, as a Zurich native, don’t understand half of their words. Here’s a selection of food related expressions from the Zurich area, many of which I believe are used in the rest of the German speaking area too.

Eis go zieh to meet for a drink (literally: to go and pull (or suck) one)

FDH (friss die Hälfte) to be on a diet (literally: to eat half only)

Zmörgele (verb) to eat a big breakfast at a leisurely pace. This expression is only used for weekend or holiday breakfasts

Fräss-sack somene who eats a lot (literally: munching bag)

Käfele (verb) to enjoy a coffee and a chat with a friend. Often used in: Wämmer go käfele nächst Wuche? Shall we meet for a coffee and chat next week?

Es Käfeli näh: drinking a coffee at a leasurely pace, either while chatting to a friend or reading a book or newspaper. Käfeli (lit. a little coffee). 

Isch guet gsi? Did you enjoy the food?

In suure Öpfel biisse Literally: to bite the sour apple – do to something that needs to be done even though you don’t want to.

De Foifer und s Weggli ha Literally: to have both the coin that buys the bread roll and the bread roll at the same time. Which means ‘to have it all’ – we use this expression if someone is extremely lucky.

E stange Literally: a stick. Means: a 3dl glass of beer.

E schale Literally: e bowl. Means: a coffee with milk.

Schnipo Means: A dish containing Wiener Schnitzel and french fries (abbreviated from Schnitzel Pomfrit (Pomfrit are pommes frites or french fries)). Our recipe for homemade Wiener Schnitzel

Kafi complet Literally: a complete coffee. Means: a meal consisting a coffee with bread and butter and jam. Sometimes people eat this for dinner if they don’t want to cook.

Es iiklämmts Literally: a jammed something. Means: a sandwich

Studentefueter Literally: students fodder. Means: a mix of nuts and raisins.

Zmorge Breakfast
Znüni Morning snack (nüni means 9am, Znüni means we eat the snack at 9am, which, in reality, is rather at 10am than 9am)
Zmittag lunch (mittag means midday)
Zvieri afternoon snack (vieri is 4pm)
Znacht dinner (nacht means night)

4 Replies to “Swiss German Food Expressions”

  1. Stephen King says: Reply

    A friend who lives in Aagau (not sure of which canton she was born in) uses the word a’hoil (rhyming with “boil” in English) for the end slice of a loaf cake such as date loaf or banana bread. Is that term in general usage? Interesting article, thanks.

    1. Little Zurich Kitchen says: Reply

      Yes the first slice of bread or cake is called ‘Aahoiel’ in some parts of Switzerland. I’m from Thurgau and call it Gupf. There are at least 20 completely different words for the first slice. You can see the various words for the first slice in this interactive map from University of Zurich https://www.ksds.uzh.ch/de/onlineumfrage2008/Interaktive-Karten/brotanschnitt.html

  2. My grandmother was from Bern Switzerland and she served us milk with warm milk and some sugar before going to bed. She called it “sterm”??

    1. Little Zurich Kitchen says: Reply

      I have never heard the expression, I grew up in Thurgau and have been living in Zurich for 20 years, and the Bern dialect is very foreign to me. A Google search didn’t reveal anything either

Leave a Reply