31 Weird & Funny Portuguese Phrases

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Last updated on June 4, 2024 | Est. Reading Time: 6 minutes

One of the most challenging (but also most fun) parts of learning a new language is learning the unique cultural expressions, idioms, and colloquialisms that are used in the language. Learning European Portuguese is no different: you’ll find lots and lots of unusual turns of phrase here.

If you want to learn more, Practice Portuguese has at least two units that cover idioms and expressions at the B2 level.

Vai Chatear o Camões
Instead of saying “leave me alone,” the Portuguese might tell you to “bother Camões”. It’s a quirky tribute to Luís de Camões, a famous Portuguese poet, implying, “Go annoy someone else, maybe even a literary legend!”

Feito ao Bife
Imagine being told you’re “Done to the steak” in Portugal. This quirky phrase means you’re in hot water or facing a tough situation. Picture being sizzled like a steak on a grill – that’s you in a tricky spot!

Para Inglês Ver
Doing something “so the English can see it” is a Portuguese idiom for showing off or doing something just for appearances, harking back to historical times of impressing or deceiving outsiders.

Partir a Loiça Toda
“Breaking all the dishes” doesn’t mean creating a kitchen disaster. In Portugal, it means causing a commotion or really making an impact, just like the dramatic sound of shattering plates.

Queimar as Pestanas
“Burning the eyelashes” isn’t about a fire hazard; it’s the Portuguese way of saying someone is hitting the books hard. It’s all about studying or reading intensely, as if your eyelashes could catch fire from all that focus!

Boa Como o Milho
In Portugal, you’re not just “sexy,” you’re “as good as corn.” Yes, corn! It’s a playful and rural way of complimenting someone’s attractiveness.

Água pela Barba
When work gets tough, the Portuguese say it’s “water up our beard.” Picture being so swamped that even your beard is underwater – that’s being seriously busy!

Gira o Disco e Toca o Mesmo
Ever heard someone “turn the record and play the same song”? In Portugal, it means repeating the same thing over and over, much like a stuck record.

Cara Podre or Ter Muita Lata
A Portuguese person isn’t just “shameless”; they have “a rotten face” or “a lot of cans.” These colourful expressions capture the boldness or brashness of someone without a hint of shame.

Vai Pentear Macacos
Ever been told to “Go comb the monkeys”? In Portugal, it’s a cheeky way of saying “get lost” or “buzz off”. Odd? Absolutely, but it’s all in good fun!

É Canja
When the Portuguese say “It’s chicken soup!”, they mean something is a piece of cake. Just like whipping up a simple chicken soup, the task at hand is super easy.

Muitos Anos a Virar Frangos
“Plenty of years turning chickens” is a phrase you might hear at a Portuguese BBQ joint. It signifies someone with heaps of experience, just like a skilled chef expertly grilling chicken.

Cabeça de Alho Chocho
A “head of dry garlic” in Portugal refers to someone who’s absent-minded or distracted, as if their head is as hollow as a dried garlic bulb.

Estás Aqui Estás Ali
“You’re here, you’re over there” is a Portuguese parent’s playful warning. It’s like saying, “Behave, or you’ll get a quick scolding (or more)!”

Falar Pelos Cotovelos
When someone “speaks with elbows,” it’s not an anatomical wonder but a Portuguese expression for talking non-stop. It’s as if words are flowing out as freely as movements from an elbow!

Engolir Sapos
“Swallowing frogs” in Portugal doesn’t involve actual amphibians. Instead, it’s about biting your tongue or doing something you’d rather not, much like swallowing something unpalatable.

Arrastar a Asa
“Dragging a wing” is a poetic Portuguese way to describe someone smitten or lovestruck, as if they’re swooping in like a bird towards their beloved.

Estar com as Azeites
Feeling “Having the olive oils” is the Portuguese expression for being in a sour mood or upset, much like the bitter taste of unripe olives.

Pulga Atrás da Orelha
A “Flea behind our ear” in Portugal means you’re suspicious or feel something’s not quite right. It’s that nagging, itchy feeling of doubt.

No Tempo da Vacas Gordas
“In the days of the fat cows” harks back to times of prosperity or affordability, reminiscent of well-fed, prosperous times.

Macaquinhos na Cabeça
Having “Little monkeys in your head” isn’t about actual primates. It’s a colourful way of saying you’re worrying over things that might never happen.

Está a Meter Água
If someone is “letting water in,” they’re messing up or not doing well in Portuguese. Picture a sinking boat – that’s you if you’re not on your game.

Encher Chouriços
“Stuffing sausages” is the Portuguese equivalent of beating around the bush or dragging out a conversation without getting to the point.

Pão Pão, Queijo Queijo
“Bread bread, cheese cheese” is all about being straightforward or direct, much like stating the simple ingredients of a meal.

A Minha Alma Está Parva
If your “soul is dumb”, it means you’re utterly astonished or surprised in Portugal, much like being speechless.

Podes Tirar o Cavalinho da Chuva
Told to “Get that little horse out of the rain”? It’s advice to give up on an unlikely hope or expectation.

Dá Deus Nozes a Quem Não Tem Dentes
“God gives nuts to those who don’t have teeth” is a Portuguese way of saying someone is wasting an opportunity or unable to use what they’ve been given, much like being unable to crack nuts without teeth.

Fazer uma Vaquinha
“Make a little cow” is a charming way to talk about pooling money together in Portugal, much like friends chipping in for a common cause.

Soltar a Franga
“Release the chicken” means to let loose or go wild, capturing the idea of freeing oneself from restraint and having a blast.

Fia-te na Virgem e Não Corras
“Believe in the Virgin and don’t run!” is a proverbial nudge to take action instead of waiting for divine intervention.

Ir com os Porcos
“Go with the pigs” might sound odd, but in Portugal, it’s a blunt way of saying something has ended or someone has passed away, marking a definitive end.

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James Cave is the founder of Portugalist and the author of the bestselling book, Moving to Portugal Made Simple. He has visited just about every part of Portugal, including Madeira and all nine islands of the Azores, and lived in several parts of Portugal including Lisbon, the Algarve, and Northern Portugal.

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