43 Romanian Expressions Translated

by Mira

Forty-three popular Romanian expressions, most of them funny and some of them irreverent, to delight speakers of English. I've also made some mugs with these phrases.

I've been using some Romanian expressions in some fiction I'm writing in English, and while looking up possible English translations I came across other phrases and attempts at translation. I then picked up two books on Romanian phrases and spent some time wondering about them and their equivalents in English. Then I started to create a png file so I could make some mugs with them on Zazzle. Here you have them, my 43 Romanian phrases, in the order they appear on the mug. Enjoy! NB: The English versions are not equivalents, but rather translations which follow the literal meanings of these expressions.

I'm already looking forward to making a second mug, so if you read this, feel free to contribute your favorite expressions, but please do it in both Romanian and English, since this Web site is aimed at speakers of English. Also keep in mind that this is a PG rated site. I've pushed the limits a little with some of the expressions, but left many fun phrases out so as not to run this Web site into trouble. I hope you will, too.

Note that I've built sentences around these phrases. The Romanian versions I give below correspond to these sentences.

43 Romanian Expressions Coffee Mug


The 43 Expressions, in Both Romanian and English

1. E dus cu pluta

He's gone on a raft (crazy)

2. Crede ca acolo umbla cainii cu covrigi in coada

He thinks dogs walk about with pretzels on their tails there

3. A luat teapa

He took a spike. Inspired by Vlad Tepes's method of impaling his enemies?

4. No e mare filosofie

It's no grand philosophy

5. A impuscat doi iepuri deodata

He shot two rabbits at once

6. S-a simtit acolo ca pestele in apa

He felt there like a fish in the water

7. Decizia arbitrului l-a scos din pepeni

The referee's decision pulled him out of his watermelon patch (made him angry, made him lose his temper). Apparently this refers to the fact that the guard watching over a watermelon patch had to shoo away people who wanted to steal some of the fruit.

8. S-a uitat la ea ca vitelul la poarta noua

He stared at it like a calf at a new gate

9. Ma uitam la ea ca pisica la calendar

I was looking at it like a cat at a calendar

10. Decizia lor e frectie la picior de lemn.

Their decision is a rub on a wooden leg

11. Frecam menta

We're just rubbing the mint (wasting time). Ancient Greeks used to rub their dining tables with mint to refresh the rooms. It appears the custom lasted throughout the centuries, for when Phanariote Greeks — from the main Greek quarter of Constantinople, Phanar — were appointed rulers in Moldova and Wallachia starting in 1711/16, they brought it with them. Soon throughout the Phanariote period (which lasted until 1821) and beyond, wealthy families had some of their servants rub the mint every day, and some of these servants liked the easy chore and made their best to do it for hours so as to avoid more strenuous tasks. It has thus come to be associated with indolence, pretending to work, wasting time . . .

12. Era o liniste de puteai auzi musca

It was so quiet, you could have heard a fly buzz

13. Se simte cu musca pe caciula

He feels he has a fly on his hat (guilty). This probably stems from fairy tales. I remember one where a bee landed on someone's hat to indicate to the protagonists something, possibly that the person was guilty (I'll have to look up that story again).

14. Tragi de timp

You're pulling at time (playing for time, stalling)

15. Doar imi trag sufletul

I'm just heaving up my soul (taking a breather)

16. Intinzi prea mult coarda

You're stretching the cord too much (pushing it/someone too far)

17. A alergat prin oras in costumul lui Adam

He ran through the city in Adam's suit

18. Nu e mare branza

It's no great cheese (big deal)

19. Om traim si om vedea

We'll live and see

20. Au facut din tantar armasar

They made a stallion out of a mosquito (made a mountain out of a molehill; the words "stallion" and "mosquito" are chosen in Romanian because they rhyme)

 21. Au lasat-o in voia sortii

They left her to the will of fate

22. Si-a unit soarta cu a lui

She tied her fate to his (cast her lot with him)

23. Acum traieste la mama naibii

She now lives at the devil's mother's (far away)

24. Ii lipseste o doaga

She's missing a stave (as in a barrel missing a stave; missing a few marbles)

25. E limpede ca lacrima: ai gasit pe altcineva

It's clear as a tear: you've found someone else

26. Poti sa-ti pui pofta-n cui

You can hook your desire on a nail (you'll have to give up on something you really want). The Romanian pofta can mean desire, appetite, appetence, eagerness . . .

27. A facut-o batand din palme

He did it clapping his hands (quickly, without effort; you may think it means to order someone else to do something for you, but it doesn't)

28. A facut din rahat bici

He made a whip out of s**t (to achieve something notable with modest resources; sometimes used to mean that it's possible, that he really did it, and at other times to disparage his achievement, for you can't make a whip out of shit and make it crack [which is the lesser-known extended phrase])

29. E un rahat in ploaie

He's a s**t in the rain

30. Minte creata!

Curly mind! (used to address someone who may think he is smart but whose ideas are, in fact, rather stupid; it most likely has to do with the circumvolutions of the brain, but is used disparagingly)

31. A cazut din lac in put

She fell from a lake into a well (from the frying pan into the fire)

32. A cautat-o cu lumanarea

She looked for it with a candle

33. Fata aia e tufa de Venetia

That girl is a Venice bush (clueless)

34. Vorbesti de lup si lupul la usa

Talk of the wolf and the wolf (appears) at the door

35. A asteptat asa de mult, ca i-a iesit parul prin caciula

He waited so long, his hair came out through his hat

36. Rade ciob de oala sparta

Laughs the shard at the broken pot

37. Ai mancat rahat cand erai mic?

You ate s**t when you were a kid? (are lucky)

38. Cred ca te imbeti cu apa rece

I think you're getting drunk with cold water

39. Nu face nici cat o ceapa degerata

It's not even worth a frozen onion

40. I s-au aprins calcaiele din momentul cand a vazut-o

His heels got on fire the moment he saw her

41. Ma doare exact in cot!

It hurts me right in the elbow! (I don't care at all!)

42. Nu mai manca c***t

Stop eating s**t (lying)

43. I-ai dat moara la apa . . . 

You gave water to her mill . . .

. . . and then she started rattling off all these Romanian expressions!

Funny Romanian Sayings Mousepad

Updated: 12/10/2020, Mira
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Mira on 08/14/2019

That's hilarious! Yes, people and all cultures have expressions for lazy but smart :)

Tolovaj on 08/13/2019

I can totally find myself in frecam menta... I believe everybody has his or her lazy (but smart) version of himself or herself somewhere... Thanks for sharing these funny expressions.

Mira on 02/20/2018

Derdriu: No, I haven't. What is that site? As for the Monty Python sketches, they still baffle me :)

DerdriuMarriner on 02/07/2018

Mira, Have you seen the site that gives common phrase equivalents from English to a number of other languages and always shows as the last the translation of "My hovercraft is full of eels" from Monty Python?

DerdriuMarriner on 02/02/2018

Mira, Thank you for sharing English and Romanian expressions with us. Is the saying "A alergat prin oras in costumul lui Adam"/"He ran through the city in Adam's suit" ever used with "she" and "Eve"? One of my favorites is "Frecam menta"/"We're just rubbing the mint."

Mira on 06/27/2016

You're welcome! It's my pleasure :)

cmoneyspinner on 06/27/2016

Oh my! I didn't mean for you to do extra work. But thanks for the additional clarification. :)

Mira on 06/26/2016

Dear Treathyl and others, I have gone through the phrases and given more explanations.

Mira on 06/25/2016

You're right. I've identified a few more which would need further explanations. But I'll leave them as they are for now :)

cmoneyspinner on 06/25/2016

I'm laughing at myself right now. Even though you've translated those sayings into English, I still need an interpreter for most of them. I'm clueless! Not only is the language different but clearly the culture is different as well. I'm reading but inside my head I'm going: '(O.o) What does that mean?' LOL. :) Thanks for sharing them though.

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