Idioms and sayings in various languages

Idioms are expressions that don't mean what they appear to mean. For example, when you say 'it's raining cats and dogs', you don't mean that cats and dogs are falling out of sky, but rather that it's raining heavily. Idioms provide interesting insights into languages and thought processes of their speakers.

Arabic, Armenian, Aromanian, Cheyenne, Chinese, Cornish, Czech, Dutch, Esperanto, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Hindi, Indonesian, Irish (Gaelic), Italian, Japanese, Kashmiri, Klingon, Korean, Maltese, Mongolian, Norwegian, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Tibetan, Turkish, Ukrainian, Welsh, Yiddish

More idioms

It's all Greek to me | It's raining cats and dogs | As easy as falling off a log | A sandwich short of a picnic | It's small world | When pigs fly | Out of sight, out of mind

Idioms in individual languages

Czech | French | Russian | Slovak | Spanish


Arabic

(laisa lii fiiha naqa wa la jamal) ليس لي فيها نقة ولا جمل
I don't have a camel in the caravan = this matter doesn't concern me

Armenian

Գլուխս մի՛ արդուկեր: (Klookhys mee artooger)
Stop ironing my head! = Stop annoying me! (as in repetitively asking or talking about something)

Հիմա ծեծ մը կ'ուտես: (Heema dzedz muh goodes)
You're gonna eat a beating soon = You're gonna get a beating soon

Aromanian

sãndza apã nu s-featsi
blood cannot be made into water = blood is thicker than water

primuvearã nu s-adutsi mash c- unã lilici.
one flower doesn't make the spring = one sparrow does not make the spring

dupã ploai, multi tãmbãri!
after the rain many eaves! = everyone is a hero after the war

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Cheyenne

Mónésó'táhoenôtse kosa?
Are you still riding the goat? = separated from your spouse

Énêhpoése ma'eno.
The turtle is shrouded = it's foggy.

Étaomêhótsenôhtóvenestse napâhpóneehéhame.
My tapeworm can almost talk by itself = my stomach is growling.

Chinese (Mandarin / Cantonese)

一鼻孔出气 (yī bíkǒng chūqì / yāt beihhúng chēuthei)
breathing through the same nostril = singing from the same hymn sheet

杯弓蛇影 (bēi gōng shé yǐng / būi gōng sèh yíng)
seeing the reflection of a bow in a cup and thinking it's a snake = worring about things that aren't there

Cornish

yma nown bleyth dhymm
I've got the hunger of a wolf = I'm starving/very hungry

Czech

chodit kolem horké kaše
to walk around hot porridge = to beat about the bush

More idioms in Czech

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Dutch

Ik zweet peentjes
I sweat carrots = I'm sweating like a pig

IJsberen
'to polar bear' (i.e. to pace up and down)

Roken als een ketter
'smoke like a heretic' (smoke like a chimney - i.e. of one who smokes too much)

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Esperanto

Li en arbaro sidas kaj arbojn ne vidas
He sits in the forest and doesn't see trees = he can't see the wood for the trees

Estonian

Sääsest elevanti tegema
To make an elephant out of a gnat = to make a mountain out of a molehill

Kivi kotti
a stone into the bag - good luck

Selge nagu seebivesi
as clear as soapy water - as clear as crystal

Paras pähkel
quite a nut - tough question (exercise)

Puust ja punaseks ette tegema
to make something out of wood and paint it red - to make something really clear

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Finnish

pitkin hampain
with long teeth - (to do something) unwillingly

vääntää rautalangasta
to twist from wire (to make a wireframe model) - to make something really clear

tehdä kärpäsestä härkänen
to make a bull out of a fly = to make a mountain out of a molehill

kiertää kuin kissa kuumaa puuroa
to pace around hot porridge like a cat = to beat about the bush

French

avoir les dents longues
to have long teeth = to be ambitious

avoir les dents qui rayent le parquet
to have teeth that scratch the floor = to be extemely ambitious

J'ai d'autres chats à fouetter !
I have other cats to whip! = I have other fish to fry! - I have other things to do.

pédaler dans la choucroute
to pedal in the sauerkraut = to spin your wheels - to go nowhere

More idioms in French

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German

Ich werde dir die Daumen drücken / Ich drücke dir die Daumen
I'll squeeze my thumbs for you = I'm keeping my fingers crossed for you/I wish you luck

Ich kenne es wie meine Westentasche
I know it like my waistcoat pocket = I know it like the back of my hand

Man soll den Tag nicht vor dem Abend loben
Don't praise the day before evening = Don't count your chickens before they're hatched

Hals und Beinbruch!
Break a neck and leg = Break a leg (Good luck)

jemandem ein Ohr abkauen
to talk someone's ear off

klar wie Kloßbrühe
as clear potato dumpling water = as clear as crystal - easy to understand
originally meant difficult to understand (as clear as mud)

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Hindi

अंग-अंग ढीला होना
loosing of all body parts = to get very tired

अंगारे उगलना
to excrete embers - to get very angry

नौ दो ग्यारह होना
to be nine two eleven - to get away

खून सूखना
parching of blood = to become afraid

आँख का तारा
star/apple of one's eye = very fond of

अंत भला तो सब भला (annt bhala toh sab bhala)
All's well that ends well

एक अनार सौ बीमार (ek anar sau biimar)
One fruit, one hundred ill

जंगल मेँ मोर नाचा किसने देखा? (jangal mein mor naca kisne dekha)
Peacock danced in the forest, who saw?

बंदर क्या जाने अदरक का स्वाद? (bandar kya jane adrak ka swad?)
A monkey doesn't knows the taste of ginger

डूबते को तिनके का सहारा (doobte ko tinke ka sahara)
A straw supports a drowning man

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Indonesian

kuman di seberang lautan tampak, gajah di pelupuk mata tak tampak
the bacterium across the sea is seen, but the elephant on eyelid is not seen

Irish (Gaelic)

ná tabhair ar chamán ná ar liathróid é!
don't take him to a hurling-stick or a ball = take precious care of him

tá sí mar a bheadh cág i measc péacóg
she's like a jackdaw among peacocks = she's like a fish out of water

Italian

mettere una pulce nell'orecchio
to put a flea in somebody's ear = to raise a doubt/suspicion

saltare la mosca al naso
a fly jumping on somebody's nose = to fly of the handle - to become abruptly annoyed, lose one's temper.

avere gli occhi foderati di prociutto
to have one's eyes lined with ham = can't see the wood for the trees - to be unable to see what is distinctly in sight

avere le orecchie foderate di prosciutto
to have one's ears lined with ham = to be unable to hear what can be clearly heard

avere una fame da lupo
to be as hungry as a wolf = to be very hungry/starving

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Japanese

猿も木から落ちる (Saru mo ki kara ochiru)
Even monkeys fall from trees = even experts get it wrong.

門前の小僧は習わぬ経を読む (monzen no kozo ha narawanu kei wo yomu)
the boy before the gate recites the scriptures without learning - people thoughtlessly parrot what they hear.

自業自得 (jigyou jitoku)
work of self, obtainment of self - you get what you give

穴があったら入りたい (ana ga attara hairitai)
if there was a hole, I'd want to go in it - used when very embarrassed

長い目で見る (nagai me de miru)
to look at with long eyes - not decide in the present and wait to see what happens later.

口が軽い (kuchi ga karui)
the mouth is light - someone who talks a lot and probably can't be trusted with secrets.

相槌を打つ (aidzuchi wo utsu)
it is hard to beat the noise of comprehension; to beat out sounds of agreement" - to agree with whatever the other person says.

尻が重い (shiri ga omoi)
heavy ass/arse - used for someone who is the opposite of a go-getter; a real slacker

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Kashmiri

Virvin naaow to chirvin dél
a drifting boat with the bark peeling off = going to the dogs (often used to depreciate a defunct government facility/institution)

Klingon

Heghlu'meH QaQ jajvam
this is a good day to die

Korean

당근이지! (dang-geun i-ji)
it's a carrot = of course / it's obvious

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Maltese

Għajni marret bija
My eye went with me = I fell asleep

Iddur mal-lewża
Going round the almond = beat about the bush

Mongolian

бурхан оршоо бутын чинээ сахал урга (burkhan orshoo butin chinee sakhal urga)
God bless you and may your moustache grow like brushwood
(said when someone sneezes)

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Norwegian

å gå som katta rundt den varme grauten
to pace around hot porridge like a cat = beat about the bush

å være midt i smørøyet (bokmål) / å vere midt i smørauget (nynorsk)
to be in the middle of the butter melting in the porridge - to be in a very favourable place or situation

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Russian

Вешать лапшу на уши (Vešat' lapšu na ušy)
To hang noodles on one's ears = to tell lies / talk nonsense

Очки втирать (Očki vtiratʼ)
To smear eyeglasses = to pull the wool over someone's eyes (to tell lies, to try to sell something for what it isn't

More idioms in Russian

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Serbian

Nosom para oblake
He's ripping clouds with his nose = He's conceited, puffed up

Spanish

me estoy comiendo el coco
I'm eating the head = I'm trying to think

no tener para un bocado
without a mouthful (to eat) = to be completely penniless

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Tibetan

chang.sa.rgyag
to put up a beer tent = to get married

Turkish

Aç it fırın deler
A hungry dog will break through a bakery, i.e. starving person can do impossible things

Kafa ütüleme
Don't iron my head = Used when somebody repetitively talks about something.

Dayak yersin/ dayak yiyeceksin.
You are gonna eat a beating = You are gonna get beaten up.

Kurt gibi açım
I am hungry like a wolf = I am starving/very hungry.

Avcumun içi gibi biliyorum
I know it like the palm of my hand = I know it like the back of my hand.

Burnu havada
His nose is up in the air = He is conceited.

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Ukrainian

Робота не вовк, в ліс не втіче! (Robota ne vovk, v lis ne vtiče!)
Work is not a wolf, it doesn't run into the woods = I can get back to doing that later

Моя хата скраю (Mija chata skraju)
My cottage is at the edge = I don't know anything / It's not my business

Там де нас нема (tam de nas nema)
there where we are not = or the grass is greener on the other side

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Welsh

ar gefn ei geffyl gwyn
on the back of his white horse = full of mischief

rhoi'r ffidil yn y tô
to put the fiddle in the roof = to throw in the towel, i.e. to give up

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Yiddish

Hak mir nisht kin chaynik
don't chop my teakettle = stop annoying me

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Links

成語典 - Dictionary of Chinese Idioms
http://140.111.34.46/chengyu/

French idioms
http://www.one.under.btinternet.co.uk/list.html

German idioms
http://german.about.com/library/blidioms_start.htm

Spanish idioms
http://spanish.about.com/od/idiomsandphrases/

Idiomau Cymraeg / Welsh idioms
http://www.madog.org/dysgwyr/gramadeg/gramadeg3.html

Dictionary of idioms in Japanese, English and Russian
http://www.yamtro.sitehotel.ru

Idioms and Expressions in English, and English equivalents of interesting expressions in foreign languages
http://www.idiomsandexpressions.com

WikIdioms - multilingual dictionary of idioms
http://www.wikidioms.com


More idioms

It's all Greek to me | It's raining cats and dogs | As easy as falling off a log | A sandwich short of a picnic | It's small world | When pigs fly | Out of sight, out of mind

Idioms in individual languages

Czech | French | Russian | Slovak | Spanish

Multilingual pages

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