5 Portuguese Idioms You Need in Your Life

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How a Portuguese Idiom saved my sanity and why everyone can use them in their life.



Picture an eager, blonde globetrotter floating curiously through Brazil, seemingly soaking up the culture. Sigh, what beautiful opportunities this globalized planet holds for us.

Now remember that phrase, “in one ear and out the other.”

Indeed, this phrase may make you reminisce only of those childhood days of your mum saying you never put your dirty laundry in the basket. A flat whack at your intelligence, when in truth you just had priorities to build an entire Sim City and make everyone millionaires before Friday.

This phrase “in one ear and out the other” became very applicable to my life not too long ago.


On arrival to Brazil it was exactly how I felt for six months. I was perpetually tired, headaches when I should have been having fun and truthfully not feeling as if I was learning anything from the experience. Most important not a word of Portuguese seemed to stick inside my Sim zapped mind.

The penny dropped the day I was trapped in the house of a great aunt. The crux of the matter is my boyfriend was trying to give me a taste of “rural Brazil.” Bizarrely, this involves the blessing of some rather distant relatives. Beats me why, but you’ve just got to roll with the Brazilian mindset sometimes.

The great aunt is talking me down. She’s telling me her life story. I’m fathoming no more than 10 percent of the chronicles and feeling really rather faint at this point. I’ve been known to exaggerate, however, I sincerely believe I must have been there for four hours. Not so bad you say. All the same, four hours minus the ten percent that I understood, equals a grand total of 216 minutes of complete nonsense.


My brain was slowly turning to bubblegum.


It was the final straw when on the eventual departure of that tiny house I had a breakdown in the street. Tears, trembling, a very “Hurricane in a Cup of Water” moment.  From this point on Henrique stopped talking Portuguese to me completely in a bid to keep a half-sane girlfriend.

What is a Hurricane in a Cup of Water moment?


It is exactly when a person creates an entire drama show out of a situation that is really as insignificant as a cup of water. In Portuguese, “fazer uma tempestade em copo d’água.”

I hope you are catching on here. My theme is idioms. Perfectly nonsensical phrases that actually make perfect sense. In fact, throw a couple of these around and you can understand just about anything. This is because they almost always touch on an intrinsically human emotion, solution or problem that transcends cultural boundaries.


Homing back on the great aunt story, one day I learnt a phrase that is a beautifully Brazilian expression.


“Não é a minha praia.” Meaning “it’s not my thing.”

More importantly, the literal translation is “it’s not my beach.”


Now you have my attention Brasileiros. You’ve just got to have your fav sandy location or it won’t cut it.

You’ll drive yourself insane.

You’ll drive every poor soul that steps into your tiny little isolated house insane.

And why not?

If there are 1 million beautiful, stunning Brazilian beaches, why do you have to settle for one that just is “not your thing”?

During the traumatic home visit, the great aunt had been explaining to me why little Lima Duarte, with more cows than people, was not her beach. She was reminiscing to the glorious Copacabana in the 30s. To the Bossa Nova glory days. Yet for the last 15 years since her husband died she’d been cooped up 300 miles from any beach at all.


Don’t worry Maggie. That ain’t my “praia” either.


In fact, had I known this was the subject, with or without Portuguese, I’d have talked her socks off for four hours about all the things in Brazil that most certainly were not my beach either. Though I digress, that topic would be an entirely different book saga altogether.

In conclusion, I believe that you don’t need to master the unending lyrical, confuzzling, muddle of brain-zapping complexity that is the Portuguese language. You just need a few key phrases to connect with any Portuguese speaker in vicinity.

I’ve set out 5 Portuguese idioms that can help you express your deep inner emotions. Everything you need to converse with a 90 year old Brazilian relative.


Or simply to unfurl cooped up sentiments in a foreign language to any unsuspecting passerby.



Portuguese Idiom Number 1


Phrase: Soltar a franga

Literal Translation: To release the hen


Portuguese Idiom | Footloose Lemon Juice











Meaning: Flap your arms around maniacally

i.e: To let one’s hair down

Simply put: relax a little



Perfectly adequate moments to use it:

– the moment a wasp lands on your picnic

Running out of water when seaweed touches your toe

Drinking too much at the work’s Christmas party


Phrase: Soltar a franga Literal Translation: To release the hen i.e: To let one’s hair down Simply put: relax a little or completely lose it Perfectly adequate moments to use it: - The moment a wasp lands on your picnic - Running out… Click To Tweet



Portuguese Idiom Number Two


Phrase: Pagar o pato

Literal Translation: Pay the duck




Meaning: Pay for someone else’s mistake

i.e: You take the blame for something you didn’t do

Simply put: Not stand up for yourself



Perfectly adequate moments to use it:

– someone breaks the photocopier, but you are the one seen (attempting) to use it last

– grabbing the petrol pump already covered in oil which goes all over your shiny work attire

– being the last to pay your part of the joint bill and paying much higher than you ever could have possibly consumed.


Portuguese phrases you need in your life ... Phrase: Pagar o pato Literal Translation: Pay the duck Meaning: Pay for someone else’s mistake Perfectly adequate moments to use it: - someone breaks the photocopier, but you are the one… Click To Tweet


Portuguese Idiom Number 3

Phrase: Engolir Sapos

Literal Translation: Swallow Toads


Portuguese Idiom | Footloose Lemon Juice









Meaning: Putting up with a lot of unpleasantries silently

i.e: Not complaining even in a disagreeable situation

Simply put: Being a bit of a wet lettuce OR an optimistic perseverer



Perfectly adequate moments to use it:

– when someone brings you the wrong order and you eat it in silent dismay

– keeping a smiley face in a  never-ending team building meeting

– staring as your luscious locks go tumbling to the ground at the hands of a scissor-happy hairdresser




Portuguese Idiom Number 4

Phrase: Ir pentear macacos

Literal Translation: Go comb monkeys




Meaning: Telling someone to get lost

i.e: Telling someone to leave you alone

Simply put: buzz off



Perfectly adequate moments to use it:

– the guy on the beach trying to sell you sunglasses when you already have a pair on your face

– directed towards all mosquitos in the world

– the cat that keeps whipping my face with it’s tail (I’m allergic to cats)




Portuguese Idiom Number 5


Phrase: Viajar na maionese

Literal Translation: Travel in the mayonnaise



Meaning: To be daydreaming

i.e: Not paying attention or have crazy unrealistic ideas

Simply put: have the attention span of a fruit fly or the expectations of a Disney princess


Perfectly adequate moments to use it:

– Any of the 10,000 times you think about life in the Maldives during the workday

– Your partner says you will never buy a dog (I most certainly will)

– You think one day you might pay off your student loan






Finally One Portuguese idiom you do not need in your life


Phrase: Dor do cotovelo

Literal Translation: Elbow pain

Meaning: Heartbroken, coming from the idea that girls when they were heartbroken would stare out the window with their head in their hands, leaning on their elbows.

You most certainly don’t need this phrase in your life because you are a rock star that does not need to mope about a breakup. Be sad, eat some ice-cream, but never hurt your elbows by staring out the window after a lost cause.


Hope you enjoyed!

Finally, which one applied to your day today?

Portuguese Phrases you need in your life - Footloose Lemon Juice Portuguese Idioms You need in your Life - Footloose Lemon Juice



  1. These are amazing! I love learning idioms in foreign languages. I think they often express things I’ve been searching for for a long time! And sometimes they’re just hilarious. Go comb monkeys. I think that might be my new line 🙂 (closely aligns with another recent favourite of mine: not my circus, not my monkeys!)

  2. I spend quite a bit of time with people veritably stuck in the mayonnaise up to their waists 😆😆

    What w wonderful article. I’ve learned a lot 🙂

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