Romanians have their own funny ways of expressing feelings or talk about different things, but most of the time these expressions are hard to understand if you are not a local; some of them, however, might be similar, or close to expressions in English. As we decided to make you laugh or at least smile while embracing the summer holidays, we prepared a list of funny idioms and expressions, followed by their word-by-word translation into English, explanations of what they mean and, where applicable, their correspondent expression in English.

When a Romanian gets very angry or snaps, “Îi sare muștarul” (one’s mustard jumps off), meaning that one flew off the handle, lost one’s temper, flipped out, cut up rough.

A Romanian won’t tell you that you are fooling yourself. He will say, “Te îmbeți cu apă rece” (you are getting drunk with cold water), meaning you delude oneself or have unrealistic expectations.

A freca menta” (rubbing the mint) or “A tăia frunză la câini” (cutting leaves for the dogs) is Romanians’ way of saying you are wasting time, doing nothing, i.e. you are messing about.

A ploua cu găleata” (to rain with a bucket) means it is raining very hard, in other words, it is raining cat and dogs.

A plimba ursul” (to walk the bear) is actually to hump a swag, meaning to go away/leave one alone.

When someone “dă apă la șoareci” (give water to the mice), it means that person cries crocodile tears, fake cries and whines about something.

La Paștele cailor” (at the horses’ Easter) is an expression used when you want to say that something will happen very far in the future, or most likely never. English speakers will say when pigs fly or at the Greek calends, when two Sundays come together, when the devil is blind, until the cows come home.

A Romanian won’t lie to you, he/she will “vinde gogoși” (sell you doughnuts), meaning he/she is all mouth and trousers or fools you.

A se lupta cu morile de vânt” (fighting with the windmills) is Romanians’ way of saying that what one is doing is pointless, it will never get that person anywhere. English-speakers would day he/she throws straws against the wind or simply shadowboxing.

For a Romanian, when something is completely useless, he/she will consider that thing as a “frecție la picior de lemn” (as useful as a rub on a wooden leg) meaning flogging a dead horse or using as a plaster on a wooden leg.

A face din țânțar armăsar” (making a stallion out of a mosquito) is actually to exaggerate, by making a tempest in a teapot.

A Romanian won’t say that he/she keeps quiet, he/she will say that he/she “tace ca mortul în păpușoi” (he/she is silent like a dead person in a corn field) or, in other words, he/she plays possum.

When a Romanian has to learn something by heart, he/she will have to “știe ca pe Tatăl Nostru” (know it like the Lord’s Prayer) or know something as a person knows his/her ten fingers, as a beggar knows his/her bag or from A to Z.

A lazy Romanian person does not move slowly, he/she “se mișcă ca ochiul mortului” (like a dead person’s eye) meaning by dragging one’s heels.

Ai făcut-o de oaie” (making it of sheep) means that you blew it, you messed up, you made a bloomer, you made a blunder, or a pig’s ear of something.

A Romanian won’t refer to someone as crazy; instead, he/she is “dus cu pluta” (gone with the raft). It might sound like a nice outdoor activity to do, but when a Romanian uses this expression, he/she surely means something else; that person is actually crazy, he/she lost his/her mind or is hare-brained.

If someone “se uită ca boul la poartă nouă” (stare like cattle in front of a new gate) or “ca pisica în calendar” (stare like a cat at a calendar), you may just as well look queer at the sun.

When someone “fugea de mânca pământul” (running like eating the ground), he/she was running like hell.

If you “bați câmpii” (you are beating the fields), you actually beat about the bush.

A se potrivi ca nuca în perete” (to fit like the nut in the wall) means to fit something as a saddle fits a sow.

A fi prins cu mâța-n sac” (to be caught with the cat in the bag): this is an expression used when trying to say that somebody was caught lying or cheating; similar to this is to be caught red handed.

There are, however, expression which do not have a similar correspondent in English, but we find them equally funny and worth mentioning:

A fi tufă de Veneția” (be Venice bush) means to be ignorant.

A avea papagal” (to have parrot) is to talk much, in a convincing and persuasive way.

A se simți cu musca pe căciulă” (to feel with the fly on the cap) is to feel guilty.

Adio și-un praz verde” (good-bye and a green leek)” means not to care about something anymore.

A umbla cu cioara vopsită” (walking around with the painted crow) means someone is trying to fool somebody or is telling a lie.

Am eu ac de cojocul tău” (I have the needle for your coat): this a Romanian’s way of saying that they know exactly what to do to get back at somebody, to take revenge.

Te duce cu preșul” (he/she carries you with the rug): this means that somebody is not being honest with you, he/she is trying to fool you.

A băga mâna-n foc pentru cineva” (to put one’s hand in the fire for somebody): this is the Romanian way to say that you vouch for somebody.

Romanians won’t say they finally got the idea. They will say, “Mi-a picat fisa” (my coin dropped): this is a way of saying that someone finally got it, finally understood something.

Mi-a picat fața” (my face dropped): it’s an expression that might look like “mi-a picat fisa”, but it means a totally different thing. This is how a Romanian says that he/she was really surprised of something.

Mă scoți din pepeni” (you take me out of the watermelons). When you hear a Romanian saying this, you might leave him/her alone, as this means he is getting really angry, as someone drove him/her nuts.

A călca pe bec” (to step on a lightbulb). This is an expression used when trying to say that somebody has made a mistake or has broken a rule.

Vinzi castraveți grădinarului” (you’re selling cucumbers to the gardener): this expression means you are trying to lie to somebody who knows the truth, or to explain something to somebody who already knows more about the issue.

Mi-a ajuns cuțitul la os” (the knife has reached my bone): a Romanian would say this when he/she cannot take it anymore or has reached a limit situation.

A trece ca gâsca prin apă” (to cross like the goose through the water): this expression means that you’ve learned nothing from an experience, from something you did.

Ura și la gară!” (Hurray and to the train station!): this is one funny and strange way of saying: enough!


Last but not least, a Romanian won’t fool you. Instead, he/she “te aburește” (throws vapours at you), when a Romanian has been scammed, he/she will say that he/she “a luat țeapă” (got into a spike), when a Romanian plucks up the courage to do something, he/she will “ia inima-n dinți” (his/her heart is in his teeth), when a Romanian is exhausted, he/she will say that he/she is “cabbage” („sunt varză”) and Romanians do not have unusual ideas, they have a “curly mind” („mintea creață”) and they are not wrong, but they “dau cu mucii în fasole” (they throw their snot into the beans) and their TV “are purici” (has fleas) instead of static being displayed on the screen.


This post is also available in: Engleză Franceză Germană

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