List: 24 of the Weirdest European Idiomatic Expressions

List: 24 of the Weirdest European Idiomatic Expressions

All posts, Languages

Idiomatic Expressions: Languages can be tricky sometimes

Idioms can be confusing for language learnings as their direct translations can have little meaning to anyone who’s not a native. They are defined as  “expressions whose meaning cannot be predicted from the meaning of its individual parts“. They’re also pretty funny as they often seem very nonsensical, so we’ve compiled a list of the funniest idiomatic expressions.

Below are 24 idioms in the 24 official EU languages:

1. Bulgarian

list of idiomatic expressions

At first glance you might think that this idiom belongs to the Dutch but truth is that in Bulgaria they use the idiom “when the clogs blossom” (когато цъфнат налъмите) as another way of saying “never”.

2. Croatian

list of idiomatic expressions

In Croatian when you want to say that someone is crazy you can use “Vrane Su Mu Popile Mozak”, literally “cows have drunk his brain” – not sure where that one comes from…

3. Czech

list of idiomatic expressions

A Czech will never say they “beat” you, they will say they’ve “shoved you into their pocket” (Strčit někoho do kapsy).

4. Danish

Danish

When you’re drunk in Denmark you can say at have en pind i øret which literally means “to have a stick in one’s ear”.

5. Dutch

Dutch list of idiomatic expressions

Een broodje aap verhal or “a monkey sandwich story” is Dutch for “an urban legend”.

6. English

English

This idiom is probably untranslatable into most of the European languages. If you hear an Englishman describing someone as being hairy at the heel he really means that he’s “untrustworthy” or even “dangerous”.

7. Estonian

Estonian

In Estonia when you puust ja punaseks ette tegema (make something out of wood and paint it red) you are actually “making something really clear”.

8. Finnish

Finnish

This Finnish idiom is probably the rudest on our list of idiomatic expressions. Poronkusema (reindeer’s piss) is the distance you can ride a reindeer before it needs to stop to pee (aprox. 7.5km).

9. French

French

If you hear a Frenchman asking you to “go and cook yourself an egg” (aller se faire cuire un œuf) they’re really asking you to leave them alone!

10. German

German

Germans use the expression das ist mir Wurst (it’s sausage to me) meaning “I don’t care” or “I couldn’t care less”.

11. Greek

list of idiomatic expressions

A Greek will not say they are going to hit you, but instead will use the phrase Θα φας ξύλο which literally means “you are going to eat wood”.

12. Hungarian

Hungarian

When a Hungarian child cries his parents will ask him Miért itatod az egereket? literally “why are you giving drinks to the mice?”

13. Irish

Irish list of idiomatic expressions

In Ireland “don’t keep your tongue under your belt” (Ná bíodh do theanga faoi do chrios) is used instead of “say what you want to say”.

14. Italian

Italian

Ogni morte di papa or “every death of a pope” is the Italian for “once in a blue moon”.

15. Latvian

Latvian

When Latvians says someone pūst pīlītes (to blow little ducks) they mean that “someone’s talking nonsense or lying”.

16. Lithuanian

Lithuanian

When Lithuanian children use the bathroom they say eiti pas nykštukus (they go and visit the dwarves).

17. Maltese

Maltese

In Maltese fejn thobb il-qalb jimxu r-riglejn (the legs stick to where the heart beats) means we like to follow our heart.

18. Polish

list of idiomatic expressions polish

A Pole doesn’t daydream but instead he “thinks of blue almonds” (myśleć o niebieskich migdałach).

19. Portuguese

Portuguese list of idiomatic expressions

If you hear a Portuguese saying he “swallows frogs” (engolir sapos) he actually means “he shuts up and listens to things he doesn’t like”.

20. Romanian

Romanian

Romanian lies are much sweeter than anywhere else. When a Romanian “lies to you” he vinde gogoși (sells you doughnuts).

21. Slovak

untranslatable idioms slovak

Len sa mi tak na jazyku pletie literally means “it keeps floating about on my tongue” and is used when trying to remember something.

22. Slovenian

Slovenian

In Slovenia instead of dying you “go whistling to the crab” (iti rakom žvižgat).

23. Spanish

Spanish

This is the most romantic on our list of idiomatic expressions: mi media naranja (literally my orange half) is Spanish for “my soulmate”.

24. Swedish

List of Idiomatic expressions sweden

Swedish have a really cute way of describing “someone who has a tan” they’ll say Brun som en pepparkaka or brown as a gingerbread cookie!


Did we miss any more untranslatable idioms? Let us know in the comments! 🙂

6 comments

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  • In Croatian when you want to say that someone is crazy you can use “Vrane Su Mu Popile Mozak”, literally “cows have drunk his brain”. / “Crows have drunk his brain”,not a cow

    Vrane in Croatian means Crow in English…..

  • “when the clogs blossom”,better to say ” when the moccasins blossom “

  • Another German funny one is: “Ich glaub mein Schwein pfeift! I think my pig whistles!” being used when you are really surprised about something you did not expect AT ALL 😀

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