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Funny Portuguese Phrases and Expressions to Use in 2024

Have you ever heard a Portuguese person say they will have to swallow a frog (Engolir um sapo)? How about telling someone else to go bother Camões (ir chatear Camões)?

Part of learning Portuguese is exploring the funny expressions that add so much character to the language. However, these idioms carry a story behind them known only by the locals, and they make no sense when translated. Thus, foreigners often find them challenging to understand. 

In this post, you will explore 21 European Portuguese idioms. Discover what makes these some of the favorite sayings of the Portuguese people and how you can use them in your daily conversations. Start by understanding their significance for the Portuguese language.

Funny Portuguese phrases
Learn Funny Portuguese Phrases and Expressions

The Weight of Expressions in The Portuguese Language

Portuguese people love their idiomatic expressions. They use them daily and pass them on to younger generations as a cultural legacy. There is no learning Portuguese without discovering these sayings. They are true gems that enrich your vocabulary and add humor and personality to your conversation style. 

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At the base of it all is a sound conviction that languages are better learned instinctively, so the process needs to engaging, varied, and enjoyable. Throughout, we used scientifically proven techniques to help you master pronunciation, phrase construction, oral understanding, grammar, and all the necessary bits to get you to fluency. And still, the whole thing is presented as an adventure. It’s a course like no other, trust us!

Here are 21 funny Portuguese expressions you should learn and use in 2024. Plus, see examples of how to apply each one at the right time to impress your native friends.

21 Funny Portuguese Expressions To Use This Year

Some of these phrases are both European and Brazilian Portuguese expressions. Below, you will uncover their meaning and literal translation.

Waking up with the feet outside the bed is having a bad mood
Acordar Com os Pés de Fora (Wake up With The Feet Outside)

Acordar Com os Pés de Fora (Wake up With The Feet Outside)

Waking up with the feet outside the bed indicates someone is in a bad mood. You can use this idiom any time of the day to justify their grumpiness. Either state it about someone else or ask them directly: Acordaste com os pés de fora? (Did you wake up with your feet outside?)

À Sombra da Bananeira (Under The Shadow Of the Banana Tree)

Sitting under the shadow of the banana tree is always related to a passive behavior. Depending on the context and intonation, it can mean someone either has or does not want to have anything to do. You can also use this expression as criticism to call out a lazy person.

Barata Tonta (Dizzy Cockroach)

Cockroaches can move at a high speed, and they often do so aimlessly. Tonta in Portuguese can adopt the meaning of silly or dizzy, which perfectly describes their erratic behavior. 

Likewise, a Barata tonta (dizzy or silly cockroach) is a person who seems disoriented and keeps running around apparently without a purpose.

À Cara Podre (In The Rotten Face)

This Portuguese expression defines a shameless way of acting. Natives use it, particularly when someone does wrong without appearing embarrassed. You will often hear students say a colleague copied in the exam à cara podre, meaning they did so obviously and without shame.

Dar Água Pela Barba (Giving Water Up to The Beard)

The barba (beard) is a term that also refers to the bow of a ship. When the water level in a vessel reached the bow, sailors knew they were in trouble. Hence, the Portuguese phrase applies to situations or people that are problematic or have the potential to be so. When in difficulties, you can always say something is giving you water up to the beard (Está a dar-me água pela barba.)

Dar água pela barba - giving water up to the beard
Dar Água Pela Barba (Giving Water Up to The Beard)

Engolir Sapos (Swallow Frogs)

As you can imagine, swallowing frogs or swallowing live frogs (Engolir sapos vivos), as some people also say this idiom, is unpleasant. Thus, the phrase describes having no choice but to accept an unwelcome situation. Its closest equivalent in English is the expression eating crow.

Estar Com os Azeites (To be With The Olive Oils)

Portugal is famous for its high-quality olive oil. Naturally, this ingredient also stars in many national idioms. Estar com os azeites describes someone in a bad mood and is similar to waking up with the feet outside.

Estar feito ao bife is equivalent to being dead meat
Estou Feito ao Bife (I’m Done Like a Steak)

Estou Feito ao Bife (I’m Done Like a Steak)

The literal translation of Estou feito ao bife is I’m done like a steak. This phrase means that you are in trouble. It is equivalent to the American expression Dead meat and used in the same situations. You can apply it to yourself or others by adapting the verb Estar (To be) to the correct tense and pronoun.

Estou-me Nas Tintas (I’m in The Paints)

This idiom is unique to the European Portuguese language. It implies you do not care about a situation, person, or thing. You will often hear natives use it when discussing politics or gossip. For example, saying someone Está-se nas tintas para (something) means they couldn’t care less about the subject.

Falar Pelos Cotovelos (Speak Through The Elbows)

Falar pelos cotovelos has the same meaning as the English expression Talk nineteen to the dozen. Thus, it describes someone who talks a lot and very fast. Depending on the intonation, it can also criticize a person who monopolizes a conversation.

Gira o Disco e Toca o Mesmo (Turn The Record And Play the Same Song)

Do you ever get tired of someone who always ends up saying the same things regardless of the conversation topic? 

Gira o disco e toca o mesmo
Gira o Disco e Toca o Mesmo (Turn The Record And Play the Same Song)

In Portuguese, they are turning the record and playing the same song. This phrase conveys some of the frustration brought on by listening repeatedly to the same subject. Natives often say it with an annoyed tone.

Ir Com os Porcos (Go With The Pigs) or Ir Desta Para Melhor (Going From This One to The Better)

Both these Portuguese expressions have the same meaning related to death. They are informal ways to say someone is, will, or has died. Again, you must adapt the verb Ir (Go) to the correct verb tense for the sentence to make sense.

Ir com os porcos has a broader application range. It can describe people or things and applies, for instance, to losing a competition or being unsuccessful in a plan or initiative.

Meter a Pata na Poça (Putting The Paw in The Puddle)

Putting the paw in the puddle means doing or saying something that is inappropriate or inconvenient. This idiom is standard for mums to correct their kids when they start going overboard. You can use it the same way to warn someone speaking of things that don’t concern them or doing something wrong.

Meter a pata na poça - putting the paw in the puddle
Meter a Pata na Poça (Putting The Paw in The Puddle)

Para Inglês ver (For English to see)

Partir a loiça toda - Breaking all the dishes
Partir a Loiça Toda (Breaking All The Dishes)

This expression originated in Brazil. But it is also used by Portuguese natives, especially when discussing politics, where it originated from. When someone describes a situation or action as done for English to see, they are categorizing it for appearance’s sake. It gives the impression of being well done or the intention of doing it without the meaning to come through.

Partir a Loiça Toda (Breaking All The Dishes)

How would you feel if you broke all of your dishes? Surprised? Astonished? Angry? These feelings are exactly what the phrase Partir a loiça toda evokes in Portuguese. 

It can mean doing something unexpected that stuns others or changes their perspective on a subject. In a different context, it can also apply when someone is furious and likely to give way to their anger.

São Muitos anos a Virar Frangos (It is Many Years Turning Chickens)

When you say São muitos anos a virar frangos, you point out your extensive experience in a specific task. This phrase means you can do something with your eyes closed, and it applies to informal contexts only, usually with a playful tone.

It's many years turning chickens
São Muitos anos a Virar Frangos (It is Many Years Turning Chickens)

Ter Macaquinhos na Cabeça (Having Little Monkeys in The Head)

This funny Portuguese phrase compares unwelcome or odd thoughts to little monkeys. In fact, having monkeys inside your head that keep jumping around is the same as having strange ideas you can’t quite get rid of. Natives apply it to themselves or others with the verb Ter (Have) and use it to suggest someone is trying to influence another with the verb Pôr (Put).

Ter Muita Lata (Having a Lot of Can)

The literal translation of Ter muita lata says nothing about its meaning. It expresses surprise or annoyance at someone’s behavior or attitude. As one of the most common Portuguese phrases, its intent changes according to your tone. It is similar to using the expression: What a nerve!

Tirar o cavalinho da chuva - taking the little horse out of the rain
Tirar o Cavalinho da Chuva (Taking The Little Horse Out of The Rain)

Tirar o Cavalinho da Chuva (Taking The Little Horse Out of The Rain)

Taking the little horse out of the rain is the standard Portuguese saying for the English saying: Don’t hold your breath. When someone shares their unfounded hopes or expectations, you can tell them: Podes tirar o cavalinho da chuva.

Vai Chatear Camões! (Go Bother Camões!)

Camões was a famous Portuguese poet from the 16th century and author of Os Lusíadas. When someone is testing your patience, you can tell them to go bother Camões, as only someone who died that many years ago would be able to bear them. It is an informal expression used among friends and family.

Vai Pentear Macacos! (Go Comb Monkeys!)

Similar to the previous Portuguese expression, Vai pentear macacos has the same meaning as sending someone to take a hike. This phrase is typical in European and Brazilian Portuguese.

Go comb monkeys - vai pentear macacos
Vai Pentear Macacos! (Go Comb Monkeys!)

Continue Learning and Using Funny Portuguese Words and Sayings

Learning languages is also exploring the unique words and phrases used by natives. These sayings enrich you and your experience, bringing you closer than ever to their culture. Additionally, using them is a fantastic way to impress your native friends.

Which of these funny Portuguese expressions did you like best? And which one will you use next? If you enjoyed this article, check out our TOP 20 Funniest Portuguese Idiomatic Expressions next!

TOP 20 Funniest Portuguese Idiomatic Expressions & Course Giveaway

Share this post with your friend who loves a good laugh, or send it to someone who wants to learn European Portuguese! Moreover, discover The Portuguese Language – 10 Fascinating Curiosities (You’d Never Guess).

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2 Comments

  1. Can you help me better learn how to use these expressions with a few sentences? for example- são muitos anos a virar frangos. I have been quilting for 30 years. How would I say this phrase if asked if I can quilt a feather stitch, for example. Faço quilting há trinta anos. São muitos anos a virar frangos?

    Obrigada,

    Amy

    1. Hey Amy, thanks for your input. It’s an expression you would use if you’re trying to make the point that you have been doing something for such a long time, that it should be no surprise to anyone that you can handle the task easily or even instinctively. It often comes after someone is praised. It can carry a whiff of “pride” in oneself. Depends on how it is said and whether it’s accompanied by a cheeky smile or not.

      For example:
      Person 1 – “Wow, I can’t believe you finished the job so quickly!”
      Person 2 – “São muitos anos a virar frangos, amigo!”

      Hope that helps. Out Youtube video adds a bit more detail. 😁

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