25 Portuguese Expressions You Should Know

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To understand some Portuguese expressions, you need a waist game (Jogo de cintura), but once you learn them, you will break the ice (quebrar o gelo) with any speaker of the Camões language. It will be a bit of a work nozzle (bico de obra), but you will see that there is much more to the Portuguese language than verb tenses or grammar. The Portuguese language is rich in expressions that, when you hear them for the first time, are funny. If you have not understood some parts of this text yet, read this article to start talking through the elbows (falar pelos cotovelos) and learn some of the Portuguese idiomatic expressions.

1.Waist Game (jogo de cintura) — When you hear this phrase in the middle of a sentence, it does not refer to a child's game, but to the ability to deal with a problem or a circumstance. According to Andreia Vale's book "Puxar a Brasa à Nossa Sardinha," this expression originated from pugilism, a sport that involves a lot of waist moves, i.e., reflexes to dodge the opponent's assaults.

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2.Break the ice (quebrar o gelo) - This is what we need when we find ourselves in tense or awkward moments of silence. Quebrar o gelo means nothing more than creating empathy with someone we have just met or breaking an awkward silence in the middle of a conversation. As for the expression itself, we believe it refers to the big boats that break the polar ice so that other vessels can pass.

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3.Talking through the Elbows (falar pelos cotovelos) - Anyone who speaks with their elbows is excellent at breaking the ice in any conversation. Talking through the elbows denotes excessive talking and exaggeration. This term is usually associated with those who gesticulate and speak excessively quickly. This Portuguese phrase is equivalent to the English expression "talk nineteen to the dozen."

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4.Leave it in a Bain Marie (deixar em banho Maria) - No, this is not Belmar's latest spa treatment, but an expression that does not use the literal sense of the word. Leave it in a Bain Marie is an expression used to indicate that something or a problem has been put on hold and will be solved only later. Setting anything aside until it is resolved can be traced back to the discovery of gradual heating with water instead of fire to alter the material. Maria, an alchemist, created this invention.

5.Live well and in a French way (viver à grande e à francesa) - To live lavishly, with refinement, and to display one's wealth. This Portuguese statement may have become popular after the first French invasion when General Junot landed in Lisbon and demanded millions of dollars for the city's defence. Following the Senate's approval of this demand, the general paraded around the streets in showy uniforms, visiting venues such as the São Carlos Theatre. This Portuguese phrase has a similar connotation to the expression "like a boss".

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6.Gold over blue (ouro sobre azul) - indicates a promising position, a favourable circumstance, or a good opportunity. Do you know how your mind wanders to what you would do if you won the lottery? In this situation, we might say that gold triumphs over blue. There are various hypotheses as to how this expression came to be. One of them alludes to the golden sculptures that were installed in churches with the traditional blue tiles of Portugal following King Manuel I's visit to Seville.

7.It is clean wheat, Amparo flour (trigo limpo, farinha amparo) - This expression originated from an advertising campaign for the flour specified, Amparo flour. When you hear this sentence, you know that something will proceed smoothly and promptly. Another phrase associated with this flour is: "You got your driver’s license in the Amparo flour" (Saiu-te a carta na farinha Amparo). In the past, there were several gifts in Amparo flour packages and this would be a provocation or a nicer way of saying that the other didn't know how to drive.

8.Work nozzle (bico de obra) - This term is used when a task has been or will be tough to complete. We'll give you an example of a phrase using this expression: "Finding a spot like the Belmar Spa & Beach Resort for our holiday was a working nozzle."

9.Too many vines, too few grapes (muita parra, pouca uva) - This Portuguese statement suggests that someone makes a lot of promises but then fails to follow through. In other words, a lot of talking and no action.