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Can you share some proverbs or sayings in

Brazilian Portuguese that are frequently used in


Last asked: 5 Jun


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Brazilian Portuguese

Vignesh Selvaraj
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Jose Geraldo Gouvea, Been here for 42 years


2k Views Jose has 210+ answers and 6 endorsements in Brazil.



Yess! Here's a selection of proverbs that are very typical of Brazilian culture
(they may be found somewhere too, but they keenly express our values and
culture, so we use them a lot) -- and some phrases.
Em casa de ferreiro, espeto de pau (In a ironsmith's house, a wooden
speck). The wooden speck mentioned is used to barbeque meat. It is
cumbersome because it may burn in the fire. Iron specks are very superior,
of course. But the ironsmith is so occupied making tools for sale that he
fails to make good tools for himself and his family has to make do with
what they have.
A necessidade a me da inveno (Necessity is the mother of invention).
Means difficult times make you seek crative solutions for your needs.
Quem nunca comeu melado, quando come se lambuza (One who has not
had molasses, will smear oneself the first time one has it). This one has two
interpretations. First: you always screw up things you do for the first time
and, Second, and more appropriate: When you do something good for the
first time, you just can't stop.
Farinha pouca, meu piro primeiro (Flour is scarce, [I'll make] my broth
first). People become selfish in times of shortage.
Sbia a vaca, que vai cagando e andando para no fazer ruma (Wise is the
cow, who shits and walks so not to let it pile). You should keep doing the
same thing at the same place for ever, or people will remember you more
for your mistakes than for your accomplishments.
O mal ganho o diabo leva (The devil takes what you've earned
Passarinho que come pimenta sabe o cu que tem (the bird that eats
peppers know the ass he has). You should be prepared for the
consequences of what you do. This one is related to...
Passarinho que voa com morcego dorme de cabea para baixo (the bird
that flies with the bats will sleep upside down).
Mais vale um pssaro na mo do que dois voando (Better one bird in your
hand than two flying). You shouldn't give up what's certain for what's
Cesteiro que fez um cesto faz um cento (The basket-maker who has made
one basket, will do one hundred) and Porteira em que passa um boi, passa
uma boiada (The gate which has let an ox to pass will let a herd). Both
mean that we must be suspicious of people who have done wrong things
because they have already overcome their shame of doing wrong.
O co o melhor amigo do homem (The hound is man's best friend). More
than plainly stating that dogs are nice pets, the proverb implies that man is
not his neighbours best friend. Think about Thomas Hobbes' "homo
homini lupus".
Deus ajuda a quem cedo madruga (God helps the early waker).




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O pior cego aquele que no quer ver (The blindest of the blind is the one
who does not want to see). Some people shut their eyes to the truth.
Quem ama o feio, bonito lhe parece (If one loves the ugly, it looks
beautiful). You don't see what's wrong with the ones (and things) you love.
Quem desdenha quer comprar (One who remarks the defects of something
is interested on buying). This one is taken from the "Fox and the grapes"
fable and has two interpretations: 1 - envy makes you point the bad aspects
of what you covet and 2 - if you are interested on buying something, you
will point the downsides to argue for a lower price (and a better deal). A
third interpretation is: if you don't see any defects in someone of
something, it is because you are not paying attention....
A mo que afaga a mesma que apedreja (The hand who caresses is the
same that stones). Means that no one is totally trustful or dependable, even
those who have been good to us eventually.
Vergonha roubar e no poder carregar (Shame is to steal more than what
you can carry). This does not mean that stealing is not shameful, but that
the utmost shame is to be so envious that you try to have too much. A
related proverb is.
"Dar um passo maior que a perna" (to try a step wider than your legs) or
"Morder um bocado maior que a boca" (to chew a piece larger than your
mouth). Both are related to trying things you cannot cope with. Think
about the Wizard's Apprentice.
Homem que homem no bate em mulher (A man that is truly a man will
not beat up a woman).
Galinha que canta que bota (The hen that crooks is the one who's laid the
egg). You should be wary of the one who denounces a crime too.
Por fora bela viola, por dentro, po bolorento (Outside a pretty guitar,
inside a molded loaf). Often quoted only the first part (the second is
implied) suggests that someone is a hipocrite. Related to Jesus' painted
sepulchres parable.
No se come a carne onde se ganha o po (one should not eat meat where
one earns his bread). In Portuguese the words "carne" and "po" are very
loaded with simbolism. "Carne" means both "meat" (for eating) and "flesh"
(in a religious and metaphorical sense), while "po" means both "bread"
(and "loaf" too, because it is countable) and also "food" in general (people
from China, Japan and Korea will recognise the metaphor if they replace
bread for rice), though in a religious sense. This a very whimsical saying,
that plays on the religious overtones of the words to state a very mundane
saying: that you should not take for lover someone that is your coworker.
Notice that "comer" (to eat) also has a double meaning: in colloquial slang
it means something like the English "bang".
H sempre um chinelo velho para um p cansado (There's always an old
pair of slippers for the tired feet). Means that everyone will find someone
to love, even the ugliest.
Comprar gato por lebre (to buy cat for hare). To buy something that is not
worth the price, or is not what it seems. Used mostly related to ripoff
Estar na tbua da beirada (to be on the side plank). This one is probably
unknown elsewhere (even in other regions of Brazil). Think of a raft made
of planks. Think of yourself on a plank at the outer side. The phrae means
"to be in peril, to be very ill (close to death) or to be on the brink of
Fcil como tirar doce de criana (easy as stealing candy from a kid).
Something that's so easy that it is not worth doing.
Bater em bbado (to beat up the drunkard). To get something that's too
easy that it is immoral.
Ver passarinho verde (to see a green bird). People who are looking happy
for no apparent reason are said to have seen a green bird. This is a veiled
metaphor for finding a new love.
Pedao de mau caminho (stretch of an evil trail). A person (mostly a
woman) that is both beautiful and dangerous (for her ways or for the perils
around) is a stretch of the evil trail (the trail that leads you to hell).
Da cor do pecado (the colour of sin). This one is considered blatantly racist
nowadays (and I wonder why it wasn't before), so you shouldn't say it, only

pick up (and know you've met a tactless, ignorant or racist person). The
colour of sin is the black skin. The phrase was used as a "compliment" to
beautiful women of colour. Nowadays you may get a slap on your face if
you tell this to a black woman. And I'd give you another one if I could.
Ser (ou ter) fogo na roupa (to be with (or to have) fire in the clothes).
Means to be sexually aroused.
Ter fogo nas ventas (to have fire in the nostrils). Means to be full with
anger, seeking revenge.
A cavalo dado no se olham os dentes (you should not check the teeth of a
gift horse). Means you should be thankful for the gifts you get, even if you
think they are not valuable. To check the teethof a horse was the only way
to estimate its age (and health) if you didn't have any information on it.
No tempo em que se amarrava cachorro com linguia (back when you'd tie
a dog with a string of sausages). Means a time when people were too nave
(implies that in olden times people were nave) or when you could feel safe
without precautions (because the dog, for some reason did not know that
sausages were food).
Feio como a me do sarampo (ugly as the mother of measles). If you are so
ugly that people can barely stare at you.
Macaco velho no pe a mo em cumbuca (and old ape will not stick his
paw in a jar). Means that someone is experienced enough not to be caught
in obvious traps.
gua mole em pedra dura, tanto bate at que fura (soft water, hard rock, so
much it drops that it bores [a hole]). Means two things: 1 you can win
against a tough enemy if you are patient and 2 time destroys even the
hardest materials.
Demdicoedeloucotodobrasileirotemumpouco (of a physician
and of a lunatic, every Brazilian has a little). This is the way we see
ourselves. The proverb means that all of us think we know something
about something complicated (like medicine), but also that all of us are a
bit odd... In the past the proverb actually meant that every one knew how
to prepare some potion, tea, infusion etc. to treat most common diseases.
Aonde a vaca vai, o boi vai atrs (where the cow goes, the bull goes after).
This one means that all men do is generally going after women.
Ser pato (to be a duck) on something means to be a n00b. The same thing
can be said as "ser caf com leite" (to be coffee and milk) which implies
that the person is still a child among adults (children have their coffee
mixed with milk because Brazilians like coffee very strong, unlike
Americans, who drink something that looks, and probably tastes, like...
er... something yellow).
Nem Jesus agradou a todos (not even Jesus pleased all). Means that you
shouldn't worry if some people don't like you.
Pr mais gua no feijo (to add more water to the beans). Beans, made like
a watery soup, are still a staple food in Brazil. In past times beans were
much cheaper than rice, so only the rich would have rice. When a poor
family received unexpected guests, they'd pretend they had plenty of food
by watering the beans... Mentioning this is now only a joking way to say
that you were not expecting a visit (but the guest will not feel offended,
he'll just understand this as an excuse for you not being a better host).
Se cair de quatro no levanta mais (if he falls on fours he'll never stand up
again). This is obvious: you think someone is just as stupid as a dumb
animal and that he is only upright on inertia, but if he falls on his fours
he'll just walk away... This is one of the most offensive things immaginable.
A fila anda (the line [queue] moves). Means you have lost your
opportunity. Usually this is one saying to an ex lover to give up all hopes
because one has found another love.
Dar cutia/correr cutia (to behave like/to run like a cutia). A cutia is a small
rodent that runs away and hides under threat. But the phrase actually
means to back on your word in a negotiation. For instance: you said you'd
sell your car for 20,000 but then someone told you: I have the money, I'll
take the car. Then you regret that you said it, because you think the car is
worth more. If you don't sell the car, that person will say that you have

behaved like a cutia. "Cutieiro/a" people are regarded with scorn, as people
not to be taken seriously in business because they don't have a word.
Feio como briga de foice no escuro (ugly as a sickle fight in the dark).
Sickles (with long handles) were used in the past to mow grass, to cut ivy
from a pasture and to cut excess foliage from trees. Having a long handle,
they were also usable as a makeshift weapon, but one that was both
difficult to control and capable of dealing massive wounds, if sharp. In
popular view, to have a fight in the dark with sickles as weapons was the
most terrifying thing possible.
Em lagoa que tem piranha, jacar nada de costas (in a lake full of piranha,
the alligator swims on his back). Even the sturdiest can use some care
when facing danger, you should not be careless just because you think you
are strong.
Mamar na ona ningum quer (to suckle the jaguar, nobody wants to).
Since the jaguar is one of the fiercest animals of the world, the idea of
sucking milk from its teats is the utmost challenge. In context, the proverb
means that nobody chooses willingly to do the most difficult task.
Como Judas no sbado de aleluia (like Judas on Good Saturday). To be
disliked, or attacked, by everyone. The original idea was probably that one
was in a desperate situation, like Judas, who hanged himself (or jumped
from a cliff, depending on where you read his story) out of guilt. However,
since Good Saturday included a festival in which people made big dolls
representing Judas, just to beat them and then burn him in effigy, the
proverb got the idea that one was being unjustly persecuted.
Estar matando cachorro a grito (to be killing dogs by shouting at them)
means that you are so defenseless that you cannot harm anyone if you
needed to, or that you are in a desperate situation.
O bombocado no para quem o faz, mas para quem o come (the cake is
not for its baker, but for the eater). This one comments on the blatant
injustice of life, in which those who create things, invent things, start
projects, find ideas etc. are hardly ever able to enjoy the fruits of their
enterprise. This reflects the difficult story of Brazil, in which entrepreneurs
were often forced into bankruptcy by bureaucrats of by powerful people
who hijacked their ideas. So, with time, too many Brazilians got the idea
that it is not worth trying to make new things, because the powerful will
just steal your idea.
Pimenta no olho dos outros refresco (pepper in someone else's eye is
refreshing). Means that it is very easy to make light of someone else's
suffering (like these self-help books that teach you that all your problems
are caused by yourself and that you can fix them all alone).
A vaca foi pro brejo (the cow went to the swamp) means that all hope is
lost. Cows tend to drown when they enter swamps, because, though they
can swim, the mud arrests their legs.
Nascer de bunda para a lua (to be born with your ass facing the moon)
means to be lucky.

11 Jun View Upvotes Asked to answer by Mikhail Kotykhov

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Downvote Comments 4+


Paul Hackett Request Bio


Here's a few that don't seem to have been mentioned so far:

Who doesn't cry, doesn't suckle
(equivalent to the English "The squeaky wheel gets the oil")
The child of a fish is a little fish
(used to affirm that children often pick up the habits, particularly the less
socially acceptable ones, of their parents)
Tell me with whom you associate and I'll tell you who you are

(equivalent to the English "You are who your friends are").

Written 6 Jun View Upvotes


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Joo Peixoto, Brazuca


Great question and answers, already had a few good laughs.

Some more not yet mentioned:

Camaro que dorme, a onda leva!

(shrimp that falls asleep is taken by the wave) - one must be attentive to
prevent misfortune

Pau que nasce torto nunca se endireita

(the stick that is born screwed will never straighten itself) - something that is
done the wrong way from the start will never get better
Written 15 Jun View Upvotes


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Michael DiSibio, U.S. native married to Portuguese native. Lived in

Braga and Lisbon.

1. Puxa Vida!
2. Que saudades.
Both are very Brazilian, and no English translation is perfect.
1. "Puxa vida" is basically "Are you kidding me?" or "I can't believe this" or
"Holy Cow!" but N.American's often add a cuss word, such as "Damn!" Either
way, it is more conversational than the N.American version of exasperation.
2. "Que saudades" for which people immediately say "Nostalgia" but that is not
even close. It's more of a cross between two good friends having been long
separated and two friends talking about "the good old days". It's basically "I
miss you" or "I miss Brazil" or something or someone you miss, but as
something from the gut, not from the head.
Written 5 Jun View Upvotes


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Augusto Filippo, Born and raised


"Quem no tem co, caa com gato" (He who doesn't have a dog hunts with a
cat) - It means that you have to be able to react properly to every unexpected
circumstances in each situation by using what you have and doing what you
"Quem procura, acha" (The one who searches, eventually finds) - It might seem
obvious, but means that someone who does bad stuff or goes to bad places
eventually will experience some bad things in consequence of that.
I can't think of any other that wasn't mentioned in the other answers, but I bet
there are a hundred more.
Written 16 Jun View Upvotes Asked to answer by Mikhail Kotykhov


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Luiz Felipe, Brazilian, we don't talk about 1950 and 2014.


"O pulo do gato" = aceupone'ssleeve.

melhor prevenir do que remediar = betterbesafethansorry.
"guas passadas no movem moinhos" = It'sjustwaterunderthebridge.

"Quem cala consente" = Silenceimpliesconsent.

"No troque o certo pelo duvidoso" or "Mais vale um pssaro na mo do que
dois voando" = Abirdinthehandisworthtwointhebush.
"Quem fala o que quer ouve o que no quer" = Maybe there is a direct
translation, but I couldn't find. It basically means that if you speak freely about
everything you might end up hearing something you didn't want to hear,
frequently bad things.
6 sayings that I heard, or used, just this week.
Written 5 Jun View Upvotes Asked to answer by Mikhail Kotykhov


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Ezequiel Barbosa, I'm a native Brazilian. Live in the state of So

Paulo, damn tired of corruption

There are some other nice ones that weren't cited before, but still I hear them
almost everyday, especially because I live on a small town, people here tend to
be exaggerated on using some :
1. "Nem que a vaca tussa" (Not even if the cow coughs) - That means that
something is not going to happen, not even if a cow coughs. In other
words, that's impossible lol!
2. "Puta que pariu"(A bitch gave birth to it/this). Sometimes people shout
this out loud, to express they're shocked about something. The word
"puta" itself is a very offensive word if used alone, but here it generally
means no harm (against anybody).
3. "Nem a pau!" (Not even [if I get] clubbed/drubbed - pr something like
that). - People say this when they won't engage in some activitie in no way,
no matter how hard you try to convince them.
4. "Nem cavalo aguenta!" (No horse can carry this badge) - I guess this one is
not common everywhere, in fact I just hear in my own town, which is
surrounded by rural areas, where of courses horses are used to carry heavy
burdens. People in my town say "Nem cavalo aguenta" often when talking
about funny situations, when not even a horse could carry an absurd so
5. And many others, I'm a bit in hurry now, maybe later I come back to post
some others.
Written 6 Jun View Upvotes


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Willian Dias Request Bio


For sure! However, try to translate them into Russian language because when
the translation is done for the English version, the real meaning is
compromised. Take it look:
"Em briga de marido e mulher, no se mete a colher."
"Quem fala demais, d bom dia a cavalo."
"Receita para ficar rico: acorde cedo, tome banho e v trabalhar."
"Se sua casa tem telhado de vidro, no jogue pedra no vizinho."
"Jamais cuspa no prato que come."
Written 6 Jun View Upvotes Asked to answer by Mikhail Kotykhov


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Fbio Rodrigues Request Bio


I know some proverbs like this;

Galinha que acompanha pato morre afogado.
Pardal que acompanha Joao de Barro vira servente de pedreiro.
Both are the same, it is more or less like people want to follow different people.
Poste mijando no cachorro.
Something totally wrong.
Written 17 Jun View Upvotes


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Odorico Paragua Request Bio


Antes tarde do que nunca.

Better late, than never.
(Perfect for brazilians, isnt it?)
Quem no se comunica, se trumbica.
conversando que a gente se entende.
Who don't communicate, get into trouble / Through conversation we mutually
understand each other.
gua mole em pedra dura
tanto bate at que fura
Soft water in hard rock
both hits until it sticks
Is this popular in english spoken coutries too??
Written 5 Jun View Upvotes


Downvote Comments 2


Danika Oliver, Live in Brazil


"Voc tem que rir pra no chorar" it means something like 'you gotta laugh to
keep from crying'.
Written 5 Jun View Upvotes


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Reinaldo Viccini Gutierrez, Entrepeneur , Big Data Enthusiast,


Tanto faz!

5 Jun View Upvotes


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