Gringoes > Culture > An Introduction to Brazilian Folk Sayings
An Introduction to Brazilian Folk Sayings

By Pedro Souza, Staff Writer
March 5, 2016

Every country has its own sayings, which pass down from generation from generation. You never know where they come from, but you are always familiar with the ones from your country. Sayings say a lot about the culture from where they originate, and from the mindset of its inhabitants. Below, we have compiled and explained some traditional Brazilian sayings you might hear over here. They may not be unique to Brazil, but might have a Brazilian twist.

De cavalo dado no se olha os dentes (you don’t look at the teeth of a horse that is given to you): One of the most common Brazilian sayings, this one is about gratitude. You might hear someone reprimanding a person who complained about a present with this saying, or someone might say it in a resigned tone after receiving a bad present. In Brazil, gift giving is part of the local culture. Complaining about a gift however, is perceived as a rude behavior.

Ladro endinheirado no more enforcado (A rich thief is never hanged): Sadly, this one says a lot about Brazil. It is a criticism of the privileges and differentiated treatment that those with money receive here. All one needs to do to understand it is look at the news here, where rich people constantly get away with serious crimes while those less fortunate crowd our prisons.

Seja dono da sua boca para no ser escravo das suas palavras (Be the owner of your mouth so you don’t become the slave of your words): Those who don’t watch what they say might become compromised by what comes out of their mouths. This is a warning against those that fall prey to their own words.

<strong>Quando a cabea no pensa o corpo padece</strong> (When the head doesn’t think, the body withers): A warning against intellectual stagnation, which can be the cause of mental and physical decay.

Deus ajuda quem cedo madruga (God helps those who wake up early): Another very common saying, it is a praise of hard work and diligence.

A palavra de prata, o silencio de ouro (Words are made of silver, silence is made of gold): Words have their worth but not as much as silence, at least according to this saying.

A duvida o travesseiro do sabio (Doubt is the wise man’s pillow): A call for questioning things like the wise do.

A ocasio faz o ladro (The occasion makes the thief): According to this saying one does not do bad things because he was born bad, but because the circumstances have pushed him towards doing these things.

aguas passadas no movem moinhos (Waters from the past move no windmills): What is gone is gone, and cannot do anything for you anymore. This is all there is to it.

De grão em grão a galinha enche o papo (Grain by grain, the chicken fills its stomach):Little by little, one can accomplish great things. This is what is being expressed in these words.

dando que se recebe (It is by giving that you receive): A call against stinginess and for generosity.

Na pratica, a teoria outra (In practice, the theory is another): As this saying cleverly expresses, things may work in a different way than we think that they do.

Quem no tem co caa com gato (Those who don’t have a dog hunt with a cat): If you don’t have what you need to accomplish something, you can improvise and use something else.

Rico bebe para comemorar, o pobre para no chorar (The rich one drinks to celebrate, while the poor drinks so he doesn’t cry): In a country with such high inequality, the poor have it hard while the rich have it too easy. This situation finds expression in many sayings such as this one.

You can contact Pedro via pedro@gringoes.com

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