Wordplay: Expressions in Portugal


PORTUGAL Sep. 17. 2020

Cultural Broadcasting Team

Hi everyone, this is Maria from Portugal and I’m going to introduce to you some commonly used idiomatic expressions in my country.
Every language has idioms. According to Merriam-Webster, an idiom is “an expression in the usage of a language that is peculiar to itself either in having a meaning that cannot be derived from the conjoined meanings of its elements (such as up in the air for "undecided") or in its grammatically atypical use of words (such as give way)” [1]. Here are some of the present Portuguese idioms, their literal translation, and what they really mean. 

1.     “Tirar o cavalinho da chuva”

 Literal translation: To take the little horse out of the rain

What it actually means: Giving up on intent, losing your illusions


2.     “Dar um ar da sua graça”

Literal translation: To give an air of your grace

What it actually means: Showing, demonstrating that you are capable of doing something


3.     “Ter mais olhos que barriga” 

Literal translation: To have more eyes than belly

What it actually means: Wanting more than what you can/will consume


4.     “Ficar em águas de bacalhau” 

Literal translation: To stay in codfish waters

What it actually means: Something that doesn’t come true, to “come to nothing”, to suffer a mishap


5.     “Não ter dois dedos de testa”

Literal translation: Not having two fingers of forehead 

What it actually means: being empty-headed/airheaded or obtuse


6.     “São muitos anos a virar frangos” 

Literal translation: Many years turning chickens

What it actually means: Having a lot of experience, and consequently, being very good at what you do and being able to perform tasks no matter what


7.     “Estar com os azeites”

Literal translation: Being with olive oils

What it actually means: Being in a bad mood


8.     “Ter a faca e o queijo na mão” 

Literal translation: Having the knife and cheese in a hand 

What it actually means: Having the power or aptitude to do something 


9.     “Torcer o nariz”

Literal translation: To wrinkle your nose

What it actually means: To show disapproval, to dislike something


10.  “É de pequenino que se torce o pepino”

Literal translation: It is from when you’re little that the cucumber is twisted 

What it actually means: Good manners must be taught to children as early as possible; a good education must start as early as possible.


[1]  “Idiom.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Sep. 2020.



PORTUGAL Sep. 17. 2020

Cultural Broadcasting Team