Expressions from the C1 course – I’m going to rewrite them here to help me remember them
Acordar com os pés de fora – This is like “wake up on the wrong side of the bed
Abrir o coração – Similar to English; say what you really think, get your feelings out in the open
Abrir o jogo – This one is a bit different from English expressions that mention the start or a game (“Game on” or “kick-off meeting”) It means to reveal details… I guess a game-related metaphor would be “blow the whistle” perhaps?
Abrir os olhos a alguém – Easy one, this. It just means warn someone or convince them of something
À sombra da bananeira – Not bovvered
Agarrar com unhas e dentes – to hold on for dear life
(Dar) Água pela barba – A desperate situation. I misunderstood this when I first heard it. It sounds like someone sweating through their beard, perhaps due to hard work or fear, but according to this blog post, it’s because the prow of a ship is called a barba, and when the water is up to there you know you’re in trouble!
Arregaçar as mangas – Just like in English, roll up your sleeves, get down to business.
Balde de água fria – Disappointment
Barata tonta – a dizzy cockroach. Someone who is acting erratically, or is disorientated
Bater as botas – Beat your boots, equivalent to kick the bucket, pop your clogs, buy the farm
Bater na mesma tecla – keep bashing on the same keyboard key: to persist in saying or doing something to an annoying degree
Baixar a bola – Calm Down
Cabeça de alho chocho – Someone who’s head is like withered garlic is, as you would expect, just someone distracted or forgetful
(dar uma) Calinada – (to say) something stupid or ungrammatical
Tem cara de caso – To gave a worried expression
Cabeça nas nuvens – Just like in English, head in the clouds means delistracted
Coisas do arco da velha – Weird things especially weird old things. My train of thought when I heard this that arco must mean ark, as in ark of the covenant: a chest or trunk where granny kept all her weird old-time junk but arco doesn’t have that meaning in Portuguese. According to the Internet, it just means the old lady’s rainbow.
Comprar gato por lebre – To get swindled. You’re supposed to imahine trying to buy a hare as food and getting sold a dead cat instead.
Cortar as vazas – To stop someone doing something. The relevant meaning of vaza here seems to be as a “trick” in a game of cards such as Bridge, so I guess cutting it would be a strategy to stop an opponent getting an advantage…? Vaza can also mean an emptying or hollowing out of something.
Chorar sobre o leite derramado – To cry over spilt milk
Com a corda no pescoço – With the rope around the neck, ie, under pressure or threat
Com a faca e o queijo na mão – I love this one. Someone is in a position to be able to resolve matters is said to be “with the knife and the cheese in their hand”
Com uma perna às costas – Effortlessly. Equivalent to “with one arm tied behind your back” except in Portugal, its a leg
(ter as) Costas quente – (to have) safety and protection because someone has your back
cravar – literally means to nail something, but as, an expression, to ask for a loan or scrounge something.
Dar/Bater com o nariz na porta – To Look for something and not find it
Dar o braço a torcer – To a it you were wrong about something and change your mind.
Dar com a língua nos dentes – Tell a secret
Dar uma mãozinha – Give someone a hand, just like in English
Dar troco – To answer someone’s comment or insult, to clap back
(Ter) Dor de cotovelo – Another favourite of mine: having pains in your elbow is a Portuguese expression for feeling envious. Not to be confused with “falar pelos cotovelos” which means to talk a lot.
De olhos fechados – as in the case of “com uma perna às costas”, this means you have no trouble doing something. It’s so easy you can do it with your eyes closed.
Engolir sapos – To do something you really don’t want to do. Nuno Markl uses it in describing the attitude of a lot of communist voters in 1986, forced to “engolir o sapo” of voting for Soares because it was better than voting for Amaral de Freitas.
Estar com os azeites – To be bored or annoyed with something
Estar de mãos atadas – as in English “my hands are tied” means I can’t do anything
Estar de/Ficar de trombas – Roughly equivalent to “to have a long face”. In fact, since tromba means trunk, you could probably rewrite the famous joke about the horse walking into a bar in Portuguese but you’d have to make it an elephant.
Estar-se nas tintas – To be completely indifferent to something.
Encostar a roupa ao pelo – Bater em alguém.
Estar giro – to be fun or pretty
Estar fixe – to be cool or good
Estar feito ao bife – knackered. Nobody seems quite sure where this came from but my Brazilian friend said think of a beef that has been tenderused by bashing it repeatedly wuty a spikey mallet. That.
Fazer um negócio da China – Pull off a big great business deal
Fazer vista grossa – To turn a blind eye
Fazer uma tempestade num copo de água – To make a big fuss – a storm in a tea cup, except it’s not a teacup, it’s a glass of water
Gritar a plenos pulmões – To scream at the top of your lungs
Ir desta para melhor – Just like in English, to go to a better place is to die.
Ir aos arames – To get annoyed
Lavar a roupa suja – Washing your dirty laundry is equivalent to airing your dirty linen in public: discussing personal stuff in a public setting.
Levar a peito – Taking to the chest is similar to the English expression ctake it to heart. On other words, take it personally and get offended by something.
(Ter) Maus fígados – to have bad livers means to have a bad temper
Meter os pés pelas mãos – to put your feet in your hand means to get muddled and mix things up.
Meter o rabo entre as pernas – To out your tail between your legs, to submit.
Onde Judas perdeu as botas – Where Judas lost his boots; in the middle of nowhere. See also “cu de Judas”
Pão, pão, queijo, queijo – This is what you say when something is completely clear, unambiguous and well-defined.
(estar com os, ter os) Pés para a cova – To have your feet in the grave is just like you’d say “one foot in the grave” on English.
Pendurar as botas – To hang up your boots is to retire, especially from a sport.
Pensar na morte da bezerra – To think about the death of the calf just means to be distracted
(ser uma, ter uma) Pedra no sapato – To have a problem that needs resolving
Pôr a pata na poça – To put your foot in it, just like in English, except that the portuguese are more specific about “it”. It’s a puddle.
Pôr mãos à obra – Put your hands to work.
Pôr os pontos nos is – Just like in English, to dot the i’s means to take great care over your work
(ficar com, ter) a pulga atrás da orelha – To lack confidence, or be mistrustful
Pôr-se a pau – to be very careful, be on guard
Pôr água na fervura – To put water in the boiling water means to try and calm someone down.
Pôr paninhos quentes – According to the C1 guide, this means to try and conciliate, for example when a friend has acted badly and you are trying to defend them, but when I looked around for the origin, I found Priberam defines “paninhos quentes” as “temporary solutions”, so this would be something like papering over the cracks. Both meanings seem to exist, so… 🤷🏼♂️
Prometer mundos e fundos – Make grand promises you can’t keep
Procurar uma agulha num palheiro – Just like English, look for a needle in a haystack
Sem pés nem cabeça – Illogical, meaningless.
Ser um troca-tintas – To be a turncoat, or modify your opinions according to your audience.
Tirar o cavalo (ou cavalinho) da chuva – Everybody’s favourite Portuguese expression, this. To bring your little horse in out of the rain means to finally give up on something.
Trepar paredes – To climb the walls, meaning to be completely desperate
Trocar alhos por bugalhos – To swap garlic for oak apples, meaning to mix up two completely unrelated things.
Ter lata – To be cheeky
Uma mão lava a outra – One hand washes the other, just like the English expression, except when we use it it sounds a bit sinister, implying two people are covering for each other in sometjing dishonest, but the definition is that this is just teamwork, basically. Again, looking around the web, I get the feeling people are using it in a slightly less sympathetic way than the official course definition claims, and more like the English version but I could be wrong.
Vira-casacas – a turncoat, literally!
Voltar à vaca fria – To return to the original subject after a digression.