portuguese idiomatic language

Portuguese Idiomatic Expressions And Their Meaning

It’s true that in all languages there can be found many idiomatic expressions that don’t exactly translate to other languages. The reason for this is because every culture presents their differences and use their language to express a meaning through combining words that have a literal sense, but they also present a double meaning that can be easily apprehended by the people who live inside their culture. Because of this, many Portuguese idioms can’t be literally translated into another language which can constitute an obstacle for those who are learning Portuguese as a foreign language.

Having this in mind, when we try to learn a foreign language, one of the key aspects to consider is to learn a few idiomatic expressions and idioms, since these will make you sound more native-speaker like. Because of this, we bring you some idiomatic expressions alongside with their literal meaning and what they are used for.

“Torcer o nariz”
The literal meaning for this one is “to twitch one’s nose”. At first glance this can sound a little bit vague but in reality, a Portuguese person would use this expression to say that when someone twitched their nose at something, they, in fact, seemed to not agree and/or not like it.

“Fala o roto para o nu!”
The literal meaning for this expression is “the ragged one talks to the naked one”. This one can seem a little bit odd for someone who is not a Portuguese native speaker and we understand that. This idiomatic expression actually conveys the idea that a person (the ragged one) is accusing another (the naked one) of something, but then the accused person replies with this expression because the accuser is being a hypocrite since they are guilty of the same, therefore, they have no morals for stating that accusation.

“Quem anda à chuva, molha-se!”
The literal meaning for this is “Who walks in the rain, gets wet”. This may be easy to decode as it states the obvious. This expression says that for every action there will be an obvious consequence and it’s usually directed at those who are surprised at the consequences they are facing for they’re actions because, even though they were obvious, they didn’t expect them.

“Partir o côco a rir”
This one means “To break the coconut with laughter” and it’s usually used in a context where people are recalling a time when they laughed so much that they couldn’t breathe. It can also be used as a warning when someone is going to tell a joke or show something incredibly funny. In this case they will tell that to the person (“Vais partir o côco a rir” – “You are going to break the coconut with laughter”) beforehand.

There are plenty more Portuguese idiomatic expressions and because of that, we leave down below a list detailing the literal meaning and its equivalent in English to help you understand their meaning and when to use them.

Idiomatic ExpressionLiteral TranslationEquivalent in English
Chover a potesRaining pansRaining cats and dogs
Bater as botasTo kick bootsKick the bucket
A quem server a carapuçaTo whom the hat fitsIf the shoe fits
O gato comeu-te a línguaCat ate your tongueCat’s got your tongue
Meter a pata na poçaPut your paw in the puddlePut my foot in my mouth
Esta é a minha praiaThis is my beachI’m big time
Devagar se vai ao longeSlowly we can go farTo repeat the race on foot
Um manjar digno dos deusesA meal fit for the godsA dish fit for the gods
É nas horas difíceis que se conhecem os amigosIt’s in the rough times that you know your friendsA friend in need is a friend indeed
Os dados estão lançadosThe dice are rolledAll bets are off
O feitiço virou-se contra o feiticeiroThe spell turned against its sorcererChickens come home to roost
Cair em siTo fall into oneselfTo come to one’s senses
Engolir saposTo swallow frogsTo eat crow
Não há bem que mal não tragaThere is no good that doesn’t bring badEvery silver lining has its dark cloud
Areia demais para a camionetaTo much sand for the truckGet more than you bargained for

These are just a few, but also very commonly used to this day. It can be fun to compare idiomatic expressions between to languages from two different cultures, but most of all, it can be very useful to know how to use these idiomatic expressions correctly since they will definitely help you sounding like a native speaker.

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