Idioms & Slang Expressions from Around the World

Language Country Idiom Literal_translation What_it_means
Afrikaans South Africa  Jakkals trou met wolf se vrou The jackal is marrying the wolf’s wife Used when it’s raining and the sun shines at the same time
Arabic Egypt Dih Harakat nos kom These are short-sleeved movements The phrase is used to refer to actions that are dishonest or shady.
Arabic Saudi Arabia وش الي حارق رزك؟ What burns your rice? Why are you jealous?
Armenian Armenia Գլուխս մի՛ արդուկեր Stop ironing my head! Stop annoying me! As in repetitively asking or talking about something.
Chinese China 杯弓蛇影 Seeing the reflection of a bow in a cup and thinking it's a snake. Worring about things that aren't there.
Croatian Croatia Doće maca na vratanca The pussy cat will come to the tiny door. Essentially, ‘What goes around comes around.'
Czech Czech Republic chodit kolem horké kaše To walk around hot porridge. To beat about the bush.
Dutch Netherlands Iets voor een appel en een ei kopen Buying something for an apple and an egg. It means you bought it very cheaply.
English Australia Like a shag on a rock. Like a shag on a rock. If someone feels like a shag on a rock, they are lonely or isolated. A shag is an Australian bird that often perches alone on a rock.
English New Zealand Taking the piss. Taking the piss. An expression which means ‘to make fun of’ or to ‘mock’, or to not be taking something seriously. Not to be confused with “taking a piss”, which means to urinate.
English United States That dog won't hunt. That dog won't hunt. This idea or excuse won't work. That proposition is invalid. the explanation will not do.
English (sort of) Scotland Yer bum's oot the windae! Your bum is out the window. 'You're talking rubbish (trash)', or 'You're not making any sense'.
Estonian Estonia Sääsest elevanti tegema To make an elephant out of a gnat. To make a mountain out of a molehill.
Finnish Finland tehdä kärpäsestä härkänen To make a bull out of a fly. To make a mountain out of a molehill.
French France Les carottes sont cuites! The carrots are cooked! The situation can’t be changed.
Gaelic Ireland Is maith an t-anlann an t-ocras. Hunger is a great sauce. If you’re hungry, everything tastes good.
German Germany Die Katze im Sack kaufen. To buy a cat in a sack. That a buyer purchased something without inspecting it first.
Hebrew Israel סוף העולם שמאלה. At the end of the world, turn left. It's in the middle of nowhere.
Hindi India आँख का तारा Star/apple of one's eye. Very fond of.
Italian Italy mettere una pulce nell'orecchio To put a flea in somebody's ear. To raise a doubt/suspicion.
Japanese Japan 猫をかぶる To wear a cat on one’s head. You’re hiding your claws and pretending to be a nice, harmless person.
Kazakh Kazakhstan Сенің арқаңда күн көріп жүрмін I see the sun on your back. Thank you for being you. I am alive because of your help.
Klingon Mauritius Heghlu'meH QaQ jajvam This is a good day to die. This is a worthy foe. Should I fight him and fail, it is not dishonorable.
Korean Korea, Republic of 오십보 백보 50 steps are similar to 100 steps. I think of it as, ‘Six of one, half a dozen of the other.’
Latvian Latvia Pūst pīlītes. To blow little ducks. To talk nonsense or to lie.
Maltese Malta Iddur mal-lewża Going round the almond. Beat about the bush.
Norwegian Norway 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.
Polish Poland Bułka z masłem. It’s a roll with butter. It’s really easy.
Portuguese Brazil Tempestade em copo d’agua. A hurricane in a cup of water. To make a big deal about something that’s not a huge deal.
Portuguese Portugal Quem não tem cão caça com gato He who doesn’t have a dog hunts with a cat. You make the most of what you’ve got.
Russian Russian Federation Хоть кол на голове теши You can sharpen an ax on top of his head. He’s a very stubborn person.
Serbian Serbia Nosom para oblake He's ripping clouds with his nose. He's conceited, puffed up.
Spanish Argentina Picarse el Bagre To be bitten by the catfish. To starve.
Spanish Chile Ser Pesado de Sangre To be heavy-blooded To be a not-so-nice person
Spanish Colombia Me gustan los cuentos claros y el chocolate espeso. I like clear stories and thick chocolate. This refers to Colombians’ preference for being honest and straightforward—if you have something to say, say it their face.
Spanish Costa Rica Más Tico que el gallo pinto More Costa Rican than spotted rooster More Costa Rican than the ubiquitous/traditional rice-and-bean breakfast dish of Costa Rica.
Spanish Cuba Voy a hacer café I’m going to make coffee. This stock phrase is said by a host to indicate to the visitors that it’s time for them to go.
Spanish Mexico Irse a Alguien el Avión To miss the plane To get distracted; to forget doing something
Spanish Panama Agarrar una chiva Grab a goat Take a small bus
Spanish Peru Es un Pollo He is a Chicken. For Peruvians, to be a chicken is to be a “lightweight”, a person who quickly gets wasted after a few drinks.
Spanish Spain me estoy comiendo el coco I'm eating the head. I'm trying to think.
Spanish Uruguay Hijo de tigre Son of a tiger. “Like father like son”, with the addition that this father thinks he is as cool as a tiger.
Spanish Venezuela Mucho chicle pero poca bomba. Lots of bubble gum but little popping All talk and no action.
Swedish Sweden Det är ingen ko på isen There’s no cow on the ice. There’s no need to worry.
Tamil Singapore தலை முழுகுதல் To take a dip or pour water over someone’s head. To cut off a relationship.
Thai Thailand ชาติหน้าตอนบ่าย ๆ One afternoon in your next reincarnation. It’s never gonna happen.
Turkish Turkey Aç it fırın deler A hungry dog will break through a bakery. A starving person can do impossible things.
Ukranian Ukraine 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.