Some of the Funniest Brazilian Idioms and Expressions

Three women and one man wearing casual clothes are looking at each other and laughing while standing outside

While living in Brazil, you’ll hear many colorful phrases that reflect the country’s people and culture.

Many common Brazilian idioms and expressions refer to the country’s native fruits. For example, if someone is showing off, you can say he is “putting a watermelon on his head” “colocando a melancia na cabeça” in Portuguese. Dealing with a complicated problem is described as “descascar o abacaxi” or “peeling the pineapple.”

The expression “enfiar o pé na jaca,” which means to put your foot inside a jackfruit, is used to describe doing something in excess, such as drinking too much alcohol.  The idiom originated in the 17th century to describe cowboys who, while drunk, would try to get on their mounts and kick their saddle packs or jaca. The word for saddle pack is similar to the word jackfruit—jaca—which is how the fruit became part of the saying.

If you overhear a person telling someone “cata coquinho na laderia,” or “go pick coconuts on a slope,” they’re telling them to get lost.

In addition to fruit references, many idioms relate to common animals found in Brazil. When people take a moment to relax, they may say they are “amarrando o burro,” which translates to “tying a donkey.” If someone lets their hair down, they are “releasing the chicken” or “soltando a franga.”

When you meet a person who looks for problems where there are none, you could describe them as “procurando chifre na cabeça de cavalo” or “looking for horns on a horse’s head.” If you’re asked to keep an important secret, you should keep “a mouth of crab” or “boca de siri.”

If someone is humiliated, Brazilians might use the phrase "fazer alguém de gato e sapato," which translates to making a cat and shoe out of someone. The origin of this expression lies in an old version of tag, in which players tormented the person who was "it " by hitting them with shoes.

And finally, the expression “comprar gato por lebre” literally means “to buy a cat thinking it was a rabbit.” It means to be fooled and end up with the worse end of a deal.

Learn More:
20 Delightful Expressions Brazilians Use Every Day
14 Portuguese Expressions That Are Essential to Understanding Brazil 
20 Funny Expressions in Brazil