The meaning of “von wegen”

Written By: Emanuel Updated: May 27, 2022

“Get outta here”

Ho ho ho,

German Advent Calendar day four
and behind this door,
is a really great addition for your combat deck. A card you can use if someone just played a BS card and you want to dis-spell it. Behold… the von wegen card.

Yes, you read that right… the colloquial booster of von wegen really is 100. Use it at the right time and you will sound so native, Merkel herself will give you a German passport right away.

But seriously…. von wegen looks like just two prepositions slapped together but it is really common, snappy “turn over negation”.
Something is stated as a fact but then you turn it around. A bit like   “Pshhhh get out of here.” but the usage is a bit different/more open.
But let’s just look at it in action.

  • “Thomas sagt, er hat aufgeräumt.”
    “Ja, ja… von wegen. Kurz mal über den Tisch gewischt – das war alles.”
  • “Thomas says he did tidy up.”
    “Yeah, yeah… the hell he did. A quick wipe over the table, that was it.”

  • Ich dachte, Maria kann kochen, aber von wegen.
  • I though Maria can cook but hell noooo/my ass.

And now the big question is of course why. Why does it mean that.
Like… von means from or of and wegen means because of. How does “from because of” take on the idea of hell no.
Well, the key lies in the word wegen. Because wegen comes directly from the word der Weg, the way.
The meaning because of is evolved as a variation of the idea by way of. And the phrase von wegen makes perfect sense once we think of it as “off ways”. Like of track.
So yeah… it looks like a random combo of prepositions that German pulled out of its ass but von wegen ;).
Let’s just look at a couple more examples.

  • Alle hatten gehofft, dass es diesmal ein Weihnachtsabend ohne Streit werden würde. Aber von wegen. Um 7 flog Geschirr. Um 9 wurde die Wohnung von der Bereitschaftspolizei geräumt.
  • Everyone had hoped that this time would be a Christmas Eve without arguments. But dead wrong.
    At 7 pm, dishes were flying. At 9 pm, the apartment was cleared by riot police.

  • Von wegen “dumm wie Brot”. Neue Tests zeigen, Brot ist intelligenter als wir denken.
  • Dumb like bread is wrong. New tests show that bread is more intelligent than we think.
    (“Dumb like bread” is a German idiom for “very dumb”, but yeah…  this article suggests otherwise)

As you can see in these examples, you can even find it in writing that has a colloquial tone. So yeah… von wegen is great and you MUST add it to your active vocab because… there’s plenty of BS to disspell ;).
That’s it for today. If you have questions about how to use von wegen or if you want to try out an example yourself just leave me a comment.
Have a great day and bis morgen.

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