Some Brazilian Proverbs

Bruegel Proverbs

Proverbs and popular sayings in Brazil come from many different sources. While some proverbs are direct quotations from the bible, others migrated into the language and culture from famous stories such as the French Fables of La Fontaine or Greek dramas.

Regardless their origins the main objectives of these expressions are universal: guide young hands in the process of becoming adults, teaching them to behave well as well as keep their guards up against the big, unknown ad sometimes dangerous world.

As in most other parts of the world, Brazilian provérbios, proverbs, are imbued with a moral message. For example: Faça ao próximo o que você gostaria que fizessem com você is a well-known and often repeated verse of the bible, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Ditos populares, popular sayings, however, can be more light-hearted and sometimes even use humor to make a point. For example: Em terra de sapo, mosquito não dá rasante, loosely translated as, in a land of frogs, mosquitoes down fly low, tries to humorously instruct children to be careful and not take risks in unfamiliar environments.

There are also expressōes populares, popular expressions that barely make up a full sentence, but deliver a full meaning. For example: casa de ferreiro, espeto de pau, literally, home of a blacksmith, skewer of wood, is very similar in meaning to the English: the shoemaker’s son always goes barefoot.

Many provérbios use rima, rhyme that make them easier to memorize. For example: Bom é saber calar, até a hora de falar, literally, it’s good to keep quiet until it’s time to speak.

Now to practice Portuguese, try to match the column on the left, containing some of the most popular proverbs used in Brazil, with the column on the right, with the meanings or a similar proverb in English. After you’ve finished, click on the audio file to repeat the proverbs to practice pronunciation and get the answers.

(   ) Quem tudo quer, nada tem.  A) If you don’t have a dog, you hunt with a cat. (If you don’t have the appropriate tools, improvise.) 
(   ) A cavalo dado não se olham os dentes.  B) It’s no use crying over spilt milk.
(   ) Água mole em pedra dura, tanto bate até que fura. C) God helps those who wake up early. (The early bird gets the worm).
(   ) Deus ajuda quem cedo madruga. D) He who wants everything loses everything.
(   ) Quem não tem cão, caça com gato.  E) Soft water can break the hardest stone.
(   ) Não adianta chorar sobre o leite derramado. F) There’s no good that lasts forever nor evil that never ends.
(   ) Gato escaldado tem medo de água fria. G) One shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
(   ) Não há bem que sempre dure, nem mal que nunca acabe. H) A scalded cat is afraid of water.