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Funny Portuguese Idioms and Their Meanings

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Portuguese, like every language, is peppered with colorful idioms that offer a window into the culture. These phrases add humor and depth to everyday speech, making language learning a more enjoyable and immersive experience. Here are some funny Portuguese idioms and their meanings that will enhance your conversational skills and entertain you in the process.

Engolir sapos
Literally translating to “swallow frogs,” this expression means to put up with something unpleasant or to bite your tongue.
Quando o chefe começou a reclamar do trabalho, eu tive que engolir sapos.

Comer mosca
The literal meaning is “to eat flies” and metaphorically, it means to be distracted or miss an opportunity because you’re not paying attention.
Ele comeu mosca e não viu o sinal vermelho.

Pagar o pato
Translating as “to pay the duck,” this quirky phrase means to take the blame for something you didn’t do.
Eu não quebrei o vaso, mas acabei pagando o pato.

Abrir a torneira
This phrase means “to open the tap,” but when used idiomatically, it refers to starting to cry.
O filme foi tão triste que eu abri a torneira.

Barata tonta
Meaning “dizzy cockroach,” this idiom describes someone who is confused or acting silly.
Depois de girar várias vezes, ela estava parecendo uma barata tonta.

Tirar o cavalinho da chuva
The literal translation is “take your little horse out of the rain,” implying that you should not count on something that’s uncertain or give up on an idea.
Você quer ir à praia com esse tempo? Pode tirar o cavalinho da chuva!

Estar com a pulga atrás da orelha
To have a flea behind the ear sounds odd, but it suggests that someone is suspicious or uneasy about something.
Ele não me disse o motivo, agora estou com a pulga atrás da orelha.

Enfiar o pé na jaca
If someone “sticks their foot in the jackfruit,” it means they overdid it, often in the context of eating, drinking, or partying too much.
Eu enfiar o pé na jaca naquela festa de aniversário.

Chutar o balde
This saying, which means “to kick the bucket,” is used similarly to the English “throw in the towel,” indicating that someone has given up or quit in frustration.
Depois de tantas horas tentando, ele finalmente chutou o balde.

Ter macaquinhos na cabeça
Literally meaning “to have little monkeys in the head,” this amusing expression is used when someone has unfounded worries or paranoia.
Você está preocupada demais com isso, só tem macaquinhos na cabeça.

Andar à toa
“To walk aimlessly” may be the direct translation, but when used idiomatically, it means to wander around without a purpose or to loaf about.
Ele estava andando à toa pela cidade sem destino.

Quebrar o galho
This means “to break the branch,” but in everyday usage, it’s akin to doing someone a favor, especially in a pinch.
Obrigado por quebrar o galho e cuidar do meu cachorro!

By learning and using these idioms, not only do you sound more like a native Portuguese speaker, but you also get to enjoy the wonderful quirkiness and humor embedded in the language. Have fun practicing these phrases and watch as they bring a smile to the faces of those who understand the true beauty and fun of Portuguese idioms!

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