Paguei um mico! Ai, que mico!


As most of you know, learning idioms in any language is an important step to understanding the complete idea behind a message. When you aren’t familiar with an idiom and try to translate it in a literal way, this may cause you to be completely lost in a conversation.


In Portuguese, like all languages, there are plenty of Idioms, or Expressões Idiomáticas. Some of them may sound quite funny.


Check out this list of "Animal Idioms" used in Brazilian Portuguese.


1. Coelho - Rabbit

Matar dois coelhos com uma cajadada só. 

Literal translation: To kill two rabbits with one hit (or by hitting the staff once).

Figurative meaning: To kill two birds with one stone.




Here the word cajadada refers to golpe com cajado or “to hit with a staff.” This “hit” is so precise that it is able to kill two rabbits at once. The expression means doing one thing, but receiving two results.




Quando leio blogs sobre organização em português, além de aproveitar as dicas, consigo aprender novas palavras. Mato dois coelhos com uma cajadada só.


When I read blogs about organizations, aside from just enjoying the tips, I can also learn new Portuguese words. I kill two birds with one stone.

Further reading: Portuguese Wikipedia - Cajadada




2. Crocodilo - Crocodile

Lágrimas de crocodilo. 

Literal translation: Crocodile tears.

Figurative meaning: Crocodile tears. Fake tears.




When someone pretends to cry about a situation, we say their tears are crocodile tears.




Você viu o jeito que o meu ex chorou? Lágrimas de crocodilo.

Did you see how my ex-boyfriend cried? Just crocodile tears.



3. Lebre - Hare 

Comprar gato por lebre.

Literal translation: To buy a cat as a hare.

Figurative meaning: To buy a pig in a poke.




Comprar means “to buy” and gato is “cat.” So the literal translation is “to buy a cat believing it is a hare.”




Acredita que eu comprei esse perfume achando que era o original? Comprei gato por lebre.

Can you believe I bought this perfume thinking it was the original? I bought a pig in a poke.



4. Mico - Little Monkey

Pagar mico.

Literal translation: To pay a little monkey (in a card game).

Figurative meaning: To make a goof. To make a blunder.




Pagar means “to pay” a bill. In Brazil, there is a card game called jogo do mico or “little monkey game.” There are many species with couplings, i.e. the lion and the lioness, the horse and the mare, and the cock and the hen. Finally, the little monkey is the lonely one.


So whoever receives the little monkey at the end of the game has to pagar um mico. The meaning for this Idiom is “to go through an embarrassing situation which is funny and can be laughed about.” In other words, to make a blooper/goof/blunder.




Eu estava andando na rua distraída e tropecei. Paguei o maior mico. I was walking on the street absentmindedly and I tripped. I goofed up.

Further Reading: Qual a origem da expressão 'pagar o mico'?


5. Ovelha - Sheep

A ovelha negra da família.

Literal translation: The black sheep of the family.

Figurative meaning: The black sheep of the family.




This Idiom, both in English and Portuguese, means a rejected person of a family - someone who is very different.




Você é a ovelha negra da família.

You are the black sheep of the family.


6. Papagaio - Parrot

Falar feito um papagaio.

Literal translation: To talk like a parrot.

Figurative meaning: To talk a mile a minute.




Falar means “to talk.” Feito is the participle of fazer or “to cause”, but here is used as a synonym for como (like). You can also say Falar como um papagaio.




Você já conhece a nova vizinha? Ele é bem gente boa, mas fala feito um papagaio. Have you met the new neighbour? She's a very nice person, but she talks a mile a minute.



7. Peixe - Fish

O mar não tá (está) pra peixe.

Literal translation: There are few fish in the sea.

Figurative meaning: The current situation is not very good.




This expression literally means there are no fish in the sea. Não estar para means “there are few or none.” The expression is used to say the situation is not good or unfavorable.


Example 1:


-Nossa amiga está solteira também.

-É o mar não está pra peixe.

-Our friend is also single.

-Yeah, we're out of luck.


Example 2:


A inflação tem aumentado e o poder de compra tem diminuído. Pois é, o mar não está pra peixe.

Inflation has risen and purchasing power has fallen. That’s it, the situation is not good at all.



8. Vaquinha - Little Cow

Fazer uma vaquinha.

 Literal translation: To make a little cow.

Figurative meaning: To chip in.




When a group of people want to share the expenses or the bill, everyone offers to give a little.




Quem mais quer comer pizza? Vamos fazer uma vaquinha pessoal!

Does anyone else want to eat pizza? Let's chip in guys!



Vaca - Cow

Mão de vaca.

Literal translation: Cow’s hand.

Figurative meaning: Stingy.




This expression is used when someone doesn’t want to spend or waste money. One can also use mão fechada or “closed hands” as a synonym.




-Eu não vou participar da vaquinha.

-Ah não seja mão de vaca.

-I won't chip in.

-Oh don't be stingy.



Vaca - Cow (Again!)

Nem que a vaca tussa.

Literal translation: Not even if the cow coughs.

Figurative meaning: No way! Never!




Nem que means “not even if.” Tussa is the subjunctive of tossir or “to cough.” Since a cow cannot cough, this expression is used for situations that will never happen.




-Você vai na festa hoje?

-Nem que a vaca tussa.

-Are you going to the party today?

-No way!



I hope you enjoyed this zoo of Portuguese sayings! Feel free to leave comments in the discussion.