Learn Spanish With Music Videos: 4 Great Resources to Learn Spanish With Tunes And Lyrics
We all know that Spanish isnt among the hardest languages to learn.
Like almost every language around the world, Portuguese has a lot of sayings that reflect the unique and fascinating culture and mindset of its speakers.
Many Portuguese sayings translate well and are understandable to beginner language learners. There are also several that will have corresponding or similar sayings in English and other languages. However, there are also quite a few that are unique and, if not “untranslatable”, just a little confusing to someone who is hearing them for the same time.
If you really want to develop the ability to have proper, long conversations with Portuguese speakers, you need to learn Portuguese sayings. These sayings are often used daily by native speakers so by memorizing them, you can better understand what is being said to you and around you.
Start by memorizing the following Portuguese sayings and their meanings.
Take a break from the “serious” business of memorizing common Portuguese phrases and vocabulary words and learn the meanings of these rather funny Portuguese sayings that use animals to make a point.
Translation: Swallow frogs
Meaning: Do something you don’t want to do
No one really wants to swallow frogs, so the Portuguese use this saying to describe their reluctance to do something.
Translation: It is worth more to have one bird in the hand than two flying
Meaning: Be happy with what you have.
This is basically the equivalent of the English saying, “a bird in one hand is worth two in a bush”. Both basically caution you against being “greedy” and not appreciating what you have.
Translation: Each monkey to its own branch
Meaning: Don’t interfere with other people’s business
This saying is something you can use when you are tired of getting unsolicited advice. If you are fed up with someone interfering in your business, you can use this phrase to say you want them to leave you to live your “own life”.
Translation: Dog that barks does not bite
Meaning: All talk, no action
This is similar to the English saying “all bark and no bite”. Basically, this refers to an arrogant person who tries to intimidate others but is actually a coward or powerless. When confronted, they will back down.
Translation: Flea behind the ear
Meaning: To be suspicious
If you have a vague feeling of discomfort about a situation or a person, you have a “flea behind the ear” or a hunch that things are not as they seem. You are suspicious about someone’s intentions.
Translation: Have little monkeys in the head
Meaning: To be suspicious
This is another Portuguese saying that refers to the vague feeling of discomfort or unease that you feel when something seems suspicious. You have an “inner voice” or “little monkeys” telling you that something is not right.
Translation: Go comb monkeys!
Meaning: Go away
If someone has annoyed or angered you to the point that you don’t want to see them anymore, you can use this phrase. It’s basically the same as saying “Get lost!” or “Drop dead!”.
Translation: Monkeys are biting me!
Meaning: I’m very curious
You might hear someone use this phrase referencing monkeys if they are impatiently waiting for news or for a surprise to be revealed.
The following sayings make use of references for body parts. They are also a bit of a “study aid” they can help you remember what is the Portuguese word for a specific body part.
Translation: The lie has short legs
Meaning: Liars get found out
This Portuguese saying cautions against lying and a “lie” has short legs. In other words, it can’t go far and you will be found out eventually.
Translation: Who sees face does not see the heart
Meaning: Don’t judge by appearances
This Portuguese saying imparts some wisdom about how looks can be deceiving. It’s the equivalent of an English speaker saying that you shouldn’t “judge a book by its cover”.
Translation: Burn the eyelashes
Meaning: Reads a lot
If you read a lot or want to say someone is a “bookworm” in Portuguese, this is the saying to use.
Translation: Wake up with the feet outside
Meaning: Wake up in a bad mood
This is Portuguese saying is similar to the idea of “waking up on the wrong side of the bed”. Instead of waking up rested and ready to face the day, you woke up in a bad mood.
Translation: John without arms
Meaning: Playing dumb
A Portuguese speaker will use this saying to describe someone who is “playing dumb”.
Meaning: You have more eyes than belly
Translation: You have too much food
If you piled your plate with food and are now unable to finish it, you might hear a Portuguese speaker say this. It’s basically similar to the idea that “your eyes are bigger than your stomach”.
One of the great joys of life, in Portugal and elsewhere is eating. Given that, it shouldn’t be too surprising that there are a lot of Portuguese sayings about food.
Translation: Be with the olive oils
Meaning: To be angry
If you want to say that someone is angry or in a bad mood use this Portuguese saying.
Translation: Ahead of dry garlic
If someone uses this Portuguese saying to describe someone, they are saying that their “head isn’t in the game”. They are not focused on the present or the task at hand but are distracted and thinking about other things.
Translation: Who eats the meat, gnaws the bones
Meaning: Finish what you started
This saying is used to say that, once you’ve started something, you need to finish it.
Translation: You’re here to eat!
When someone uses this Portuguese saying, they are admonishing someone that they need to behave or “get a hold of themselves”. They are acting in a way that is inappropriate and making people angry.
Translation: With porridge and cakes you fool the fools
Meaning: Don’t take the first offer
This Portuguese saying cautions you about making hasty decisions. Don’t jump at the first offer, see if you can get a few better concessions.
Translation: It’s when it’s small that the cucumber is bent
Meaning: Good habits develop at a young age
This saying gives some insight into the Portuguese mindset about child-rearing. Basically, the belief that childhood experiences and lessons can shape your character.
Translation: God gives nuts to those who don’t have teeth
Meaning: What a waste
You will hear this Portuguese saying used to refer to someone who squandered an opportunity or who didn’t appreciate a good thing when they had it.
Of course, most sayings in Portuguese are actually “words of wisdom” that can give you key insights into the hearts and minds of their speakers. Here are a few interesting ones.
Translation: Here it is done, here it is paid
Meaning: Bad karma
If you hear this being said, someone is basically warning you that actions have consequences or that karma exists. Basically, it says that if someone acts badly, they themselves will eventually get treated badly. So the “fates” will get revenge for you. Conversely, it is also a warning about treating other people well, lest you want karma to come for you.
Translation: What doesn’t kill you fattens you up
Meaning: Enduring makes you strong
This is basically the Portuguese equivalent to the English saying “what does not kill you, makes you stronger”.
Translation: Past waters don’t move the mill
Meaning: Don’t dwell on the past
This is a wise Portuguese saying about life that basically says that you shouldn’t dwell on the past. Similar to the English saying “water under the bridge”, a Portuguese speaker will use this to claim that they are no longer bothered about something and are ready to “move on”.
Translation: There is no hunger that does not lead to abundance
Meaning: Better days will come
This Portuguese saying gives us an interesting glimpse into their character. They believe that, even if things are bleak now, they will always get better eventually.
Translation: Those who do not risk, do not have a snack
Meaning: Who dares, wins
This Portuguese saying about life basically advises people that you need to “dare” to do something. This is the advice that a Portuguese speaker will give you if you are dithering over a career move or even just saying “hi” to your crush.
Translation: Not everything that shines is gold
Meaning: Don’t take things at face value
This is another wise saying that cautions against judging people by their looks. It also cautions against taking an opportunity that sounds too good to be true. When evaluating a person or an opportunity, look at it closely and try to go beyond that “good face” they initially present.
Translation: To a good “understander”, half a word is enough
Meaning: Clever people will grasp the meaning quickly
This is used to say that, sometimes you don’t need to give a long explanation. If you can give a simple explanation, that will work.
Translation: It is better to prevent than to mend
Meaning: Better to avoid a problem, it is easier than having to solve a problem
This is a cautionary piece of Portuguese wisdom against taking avoidable risks or putting yourself into a bad situation.
Translation: A cold hand, a warm heart
A Portuguese speaker uses this to “defend” someone who might not have made a good first impression. They are basically saying, that the person might not seem it initially, but they are actually kind and good-hearted.
Translation: Grain by grain the hen fills her belly
Meaning: Patience and perseverance pays off
This is another saying that provides an interesting insight into the Portuguese mindset. They believe that being patient and just “plugging along” will eventually add up to a success.
Learning Portuguese sayings are not only important for you to be able to communicate with native speakers, but they can provide an interesting look at the Portuguese culture and the values that Portuguese speakers hold dear.
To really gain fluency, you need to learn Portuguese sayings, expressions, and idioms. You should also try to learn Portuguese slang and even swear words.
To help you get started, we’ve created a PDF of the Portuguese sayings we listed above. You should download it and study it at your leisure. We also recommend that you take this list of Portuguese sayings and go through them with an online native Portuguese speaking tutor.
Going through a list of Portuguese expressions such as this with a tutor will help you learn how to say them properly and use them appropriately. You should also ask your tutor about what expressions are their favorites and if they can provide you with more than they think that you should learn.
Engolir sapos. Translation: Swallow frogs. Meaning: Do something you don’t want to do; Cada macaco no seu galho. Translation: Each monkey to its own branch. Meaning: Don’t interfere with other people’s business; Macaquinhos na cabeca. Translation: Have little monkeys in the head. Meaning: To be suspicious
Translation: The lie has short legs. Meaning: Liars get found out. This Portuguese saying cautions against lying and a “lie” has short legs. In other words, it can’t go far and you will be found out eventually.
Translation: Here it is done, here it is paid. Meaning: Bad karma. If you hear this being said, someone is basically warning you that actions have consequences or that karma exists. Basically, it says that if someone acts badly, they themselves will eventually get treated badly. So the “fates” will get revenge for you. Conversely, it is also a warning about treating other people well, lest you want karma to come for you.
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