Amusing Expressions in Romanian

There are many hilarious expressions in Romanian that make little sense when translated literally. And some of them are hard to translate. So here are a few of them.

For instance, “i-a picat fața” (her/his face has fallen off). When something is surprising or shocking, that situation could be, at the very most, jaw-dropping. “Face-dropping” is a tall story.

“A scoate din pepeni” (literally “take someone out of their melons or watermelons”) means “to drive them nuts”. A variation to this phrase is “a scoate din sărite”.

“A i se lua o piatră de pe inimă” (have a stone taken away from the top of one’s heart) means “to take a load from one’s mind”.

“To feel guilty” can be expressed with the phrase “a se simți cu musca pe căciulă” – “to feel the fly on one’s cap or hat”. While difficult to track back the origins of such expressions, they are funny and come handy in certain circumstances. They are quite used in daily conversations.

When you want to tell someone “leave me alone”, you can use the illogical expression “plimbă ursul” (walk the bear). But then, the bear is the national animal and so a common word to use, probably… Just joking. Which, by the way, can be translated as “a vorbi în doi peri”. Literally, “to talk in two pear trees” or “to talk in two hairs” (= talk nonsense).

This nonsense reminds me of “a avea pitici pe creier” (have dwarfs on one’s brain). It means “to be crazy”. The Romanian phrase for it is a crazy thing to say in itself.

When you scold someone, you “make them with egg and vinegar” (a face cu ou și cu oțet). It can get weirder than that: “to make a calendar out of someone’s head” (a face capul calendar) means to confuse them.

To step on a lightbulb (a călca pe bec) means to break a rule. Or “a o face de oaie” (to do it… sheep-like), to make a mistake.

A avea ac de cojocul cuiva (to have a needle for someone’s coat) means to know what to do to take revenge and get back at somebody.

“To sell donuts” (a vinde gogoși) sounds nice. Yet, it means to lie.

Languages have funny ways of expressing certain ideas and feelings, especially when translated word by word. And beyond fully understanding some expressions, maybe we can only learn them by heart. Peoples’ imagination is always rich. 

You can find plenty of other expressions here:

Article and photo by Nadia Esslim


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