25 Hilarious Portuguese Sayings That Make No Sense in English

Travel. Languages. Portuguese.

But are sure to make you laugh

Photo by Braydon Anderson on Unsplash

If you give a thong to someone, probably some sexy time follows. If you give it to a Portuguese, you’ll be in trouble. In our language, “to give thong” means to fool someone, to tell nonsense.

If you think about it, there are dozens of expressions like this in your own language. Expressions that come out of your mouth daily but would confuse anyone else without the same cultural background.

This is a collection of some of those in the Portuguese language. Enjoy the next lines that, hopefully, as the Portuguese say, will make you “break the coconut laughing.”

“To be with the olive oils”

To be upset, in a bad mood.

Example: “Don’t talk to her now, she’s with the olive oils.”

“To go with the pigs”

A very animalistic way to say that something went south, not according to the plan.

Example: “We’re too late. Our plan to go to the movies already went with the pigs.”

“To be done to the steak”

To be in trouble.

Example: “She found out you were lying? You’re done to the steak!”

“To have the donkey on the cabbages”

A very provincial way to say that there is a problem.

Example: “It looks like it will rain and we didn’t bring an umbrella. We’ll have the donkey on the cabbages soon.”

“Only for the English to see”

If someone does something “only for the English to see” it means they’re showing off.

Example: “He’s sending work email late in the evenings, but that is only for the English to see.”

“To take the little horse out of the rain”

When telling this to someone, you bring them back to reality, destroying their expectation. It means they are expecting something to happen but it’s very unlikely that will be the case.

Example: “You’re expecting a salary raise? You can take the little horse out of the rain…”

“To give the master fart”

The most non-poetic way to mean “dying”.

Example: She gave the master fart yesterday.

“He who is afraid buys a dog”

This is a harsh way to tell someone to get over their fears.


“Person A: I’m afraid to try skateboarding.

Person B: He who is afraid buys a dog”

“To be a racing mackerel”

Said about people who think too highly of themselves, assuming they’re smarter than everyone else.

Example: “You’re acting like a racing mackerel but you’ll regret it soon.”

“To make a little cow”

People make “a little cow” when they all chip in for something, with a common goal.

Example: “It would be cool to have that board game at the party. Let’s make a little cow to buy it.”

“Everything is the same, as the slug”

Slugs move very slowly, as that’s why we use them as a term of comparison to our lives when nothing seems to happen.


“Person A: What’s up?

Person B: Everything is the same, as the slug.”

“You twist the cucumber from a young age”

It means that habits are formed from a young age, both good and bad.

Example: “She is teaching her kid to clean the house. You twist the cucumber from a young age.”

“To give the dog a bath”

It’s a not-so-nice way to tell someone to stop talking to you or bothering you. Another variation to this is to “go comb monkeys”.

Example: “Stop that bullshit already, go give the dog a bath!”

“To think about the death of the heifer”

When someone is absorbed in their own thoughts, they are “thinking about the death of the heifer”.

Example: “You didn’t hear a word I said, did you? Are you thinking about the death of the heifer?”

“Many years turning chicken”

A rudimental way to say that someone has a lot of experience in something.


“Person A: Wow, you can do that so well!

Person: It’s many years turning chicken”

“Neither the father dies nor we have lunch”

Quite a terrible way to say that nothing happens.

Example: “Still no answer? Neither the father dies, nor we have lunch!”

“To arrest the donkey”

To be upset about something, to sulk.

Example: “I didn’t let my daughter go to the party, now she’s arresting the donkey.”

“To speak by the elbows”

When someone doesn’t stop talking, they are “speaking by the elbows”.

Example: “You haven’t shut up yet? You speak by the elbows…”

“To be older than shitting”

Well, not much to add here, except that people have been shitting since the beginning of times.

Example: “Really, that joke again? It’s older than shitting.”

“To call for Gregory”

Apologies to all Gregories out there but whenever a Portuguese calls for you, it means they are throwing up.

Example: “I was so drunk, I had to call for Gregory.”

“To have a flea behind the ear”

To be suspicious of something.

Example: “He told me he was at home last night but I have a flea behind the ear… I think he’s lying.”

“To wake up with the feet outside”

To be upset and show that in conversations with others.

Example: “Why are you talking like that? You must have woken up with the feet outside…”

“To have a lot of cans”

To be completely shameless.

Example: “You never talk to me and now you’re asking me for money? You have a lot of cans!”

“To have the head of dry garlic”

To be mindless and not pay attention to what you are doing.

Example: “You forgot to bring the key again? You have a head of dry garlic!”

“To have little monkeys in the attic”

To have groundless suspicions or fears, to be a little bit paranoic.

Example: “Why do you always think I’m lying? You have little monkeys in the attic!”


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