Nothing better than learning popular sayings in a language to understand the culture and the grammar better.
The Portuguese language is full of figurative sentences that at first, may not make any sense to you but play a huge role when speaking the language.
Here I compiled the most used and the best Portuguese quotes to use. Most of these are famous Brazilian Portuguese sayings, of course, since I’m Brazilian.
I translated every sentence to its literal meaning in English first, and then where it says ‘meaning’ I try to explain what the sentence means, or, in most cases, I mention an equivalent sentence in English. Despite the difference in expression, we do have a lot of sentences that have the same meaning or express the same ideas.
For those of you looking for more Portuguese content, check the list of best words in Portuguese. Or if you want to take one step forward and learn the Portuguese language, don’t forget to check these tips to learn a language faster.
Best Quotes in Portuguese
Quem não pode como quer, queira como pode
Meaning: Do as you may, if you can’t, do as you could.
A pressa é a inimiga da perfeição
Haste is the enemy of perfection.
Meaning: Haste makes waste.
À noite todo gato é pardo
At night, every cat is brown.
Meaning: All cats are grey in the dark;
Seja a mudança que você quer ver no mundo
Meaning: Be the change you want to see in the world.
Cor de burro quando foge
Color of a donkey when it runs away.
Meaning: An ugly color.
Quem ve cara, não ve coração
Who sees the face, doesn’t see the heart.
Meaning: Beauty is only skin-deep.
Quem não chora não mama
Who does not cry does not breast.
Meaning: The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
Aqui se faz, aqui se paga
Here it is done, here it is paid.
Meaning: Bad actions lead to bad karma.
Deus ajuda quem cedo madruga
God helps those who wake up early.
Meaning: The early bird catches the worm.
Para bom entendedor, meia palavra basta
To a good ‘understander,’ half a word is enough.
Meaning: Clever people don’t need a full explanation.
Para baixo todo santo ajuda
Down, every Saint helps.
Meaning: In a calm sea, every man is a pilot.
Quem com ferro fere, com ferro sera ferido
Who hurts with iron, with an iron will be hurt.
Meaning: Live by the sword, die by the sword.
Quem não tem cão, caça com o gato
Who doesn’t have a dog, will hunt with a cat.
Meaning: There is more than one way to skin a cat.
Saco vazio não para em pé
The empty bag won’t stand.
Meaning: You have to eat, otherwise you won’t even be able to get up.
Onde Judas perdeu as botas
Where Judas lost his boots.
Meaning: In the back of beyond.
Cada macaco no seu galho
Every monkey is on its own branch.
Meaning: Each one to his trade.
Quem fala o que não deve, escuta o que não quer
Those who say what should not hear what they don’t want.
Meaning: A closed mouth catches no flies.
Just like the English phrase, in Portuguese, you can also say Boca fechada não entra mosca, which is the exact translation, of the English ‘meaning’ I just mentioned.
O sujo falando do mal lavado
The dirty talking about badly washed.
Meaning: The pot calling the kettle black.