Beautiful proverbs, inspirational phrases, words and phrases on love and life, poems - there are numerous types of quotes and famous sayings. They are hooks on which we hang our hopes, our inspiration to overcome our ignorance, jealousy or simply our pessimism.

Some of them let us see the world in a new light. All languages have them - whether it be Romanian or Arabic or Galician or English - and so does Portuguese, originating in love, adversity, patience, or sorrow.

For lovers of philosophy and proverbs, here is a little overview of some of the most beautiful Portuguese quotes!

Why Learn Portuguese Expressions?

Quotes and expressions are the keystones of learning a foreign language such as Portuguese.

In informal speech, we are constantly using set expressions or famous quotes, even if we might not know it. Whether it’s “raining cats and dogs”, someone’s “got the wrong end of the stick” or “hell hath no fury”, these set phrases are a staple of conversation. We don’t only use English phrases either - Latin’s “Carpe Diem” is almost as universal as “deus ex machina” or “habeas corpus”.

Aphorisms can help you:

  • Get over a broken heart (”The heart is made to be broken”, Oscar Wilde)
  • Find words to express your love (”For I am the East, and Juliet is the sun”, the Bard once more)
  • Find the strength to carry on (”Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to success.” C.S. Lewis)
  • Cultivate your feelings of self-worth
  • Learn to balance heart and mind

But why would you want to learn them? People use quotes and famous expressions for various reasons:

  • To encourage people to think differently about something
  • Quoting famous authors to appear learned
  • To shine at society functions with your wit, always with the right bon mot
  • To pass for a local when speaking a foreign language

As you can see, the reasons for learning common expressions and quotes in the Portuguese language are many and varied. What's more, Portuguese idiomatic expressions are frequently present in conversations and are often referenced in media such as Popular Portuguese music, books or television or Portuguese films. So why not invest in a Portuguese dictionary of quotes to better understand your Portuguese TV series or daily newspaper?

For Portuguese is no exception to the rule. It is a language rife with citations, idiomatic expressions and other proverbs or aphorisms. An English translation can give you an idea of what they are saying, but to truly understand them you will need to speak Portuguese regularly, if possible with a native speaker!

So here is that other phrasebook, for Portuguese words and expressions going way beyond the days of the week, “Obrigado!” and stilted, pre-drafted conversation snippets. Here is true idiomatic Portuguese as it is spoken on the streets, and the most lyrical and beautiful heights of Portuguese literature. Here is what Portuguese looks like outside of Portuguese lessons, where language-learning is not only hands-on but goes straight to the heart.

Check an online Portuguese class here.

Portuguese Idiomatic Expressions

Portuguese idioms are a kind of citation that will help you feel more at home when learning Portuguese.

It may not seem obvious from the start, but idiomatic expressions are definitely a type of quote - just one that doesn’t always have a specific author. When learning a Romance language or indeed any Indo-European language, idiomatic expressions are useful because they resonate with you on another level. They are often little stories in and of themselves that help you remember words and allow you to express a sentiment you might have trouble with if your vocabulary is not yet extensive enough.

Here are some common expressions you might come across if you decide to learn Brazilian Portuguese:

  • Como cú e calça: “to be like arse and trousers”, to be thick as thieves
  • Jogar merda no ventilador: to throw shit on the fan
  • Se contentar com pouco: to settle for a little/ to settle for less
  • Colhe-se o que se planta: you reap what you sow
  • Meio pedra, meio tijolo: “half rock, half brick”, neither fish nor fowl
Portuguese expression to learn Portuguese
To be "like arse and trousers" is a Portuguese idiom for two things that belong together. Photo credit: Ted's photos - For Me & You on VisualHunt

In European Portuguese, you might use these expressions instead:

  • Cair de cara no chão: to fall face-first on the ground
  • Em dinheiro vivo: (to pay) in live money
  • Fora de serie: “out of the series”, exceptional
  • Uma got de água no mar: a drop of water in the ocean
  • Riso amarelo: “yellow laugh”, a hollow laugh
  • O menos de minas preocupações: the least of my worries

And many more!

Of course, knowing these expressions isn’t going to make you perfectly fluent in two flicks of a lamb’s tail (see what I did there?), but they will help you feel more familiar with the Portuguese language, give you some insights into Portuguese culture and show others the effort you are putting into becoming a true lusophone!

Some Portuguese Quotes about Hope

We look to famous quotes and phrases for insight on our internal struggles, hoping to find guidance from the great minds of the past and present.

Portuguese quotes to learn the Portuguese language
"The death of a swallow doesn't mean the end of spring", a Portuguese idiom reminding us that one setback does not a catastrophe make. Photo credit: Katsura Miyamoto on

Hope is one of the main themes of inspirational quotes, probably because it is applicable to so many aspects of life. It is a simple concept, and yet extremely metaphysical. Thus it should come as no surprise that it appears in Portuguese:

  • Não éporque uma andorinha morre que acaba a primavera: The death of a swallow doesn’t mean the end of spring. Just because something goes wrong, doesn’t mean that everything is lost.
  • Não éporque o passarinho estar na gaiola que o impede de cantar: A caged bird can still sing. Even if circumstances are not what you imagined, you can still achieve your goals - or learn to be content with what you do have.
  • Um homem sem paciência é como uma lâmpada sem azeite: A man without patience is a lamp without oil. You need patience to achieve what you want
  • É na dificuldade que se prova a amizade: Adversity shows your true friends. Those who stay with you when times are difficult are true friends - and similarly, just because times are difficult does not mean you have no friends to help you!

Portuguese Quotes on Love

Portuguese idioms about love.
Love is universal - and that's why there are so many Portuguese quotes and expressions about it. Photo on VisualHunt

Just like hope, love is a recurring theme - maybe even a more popular one. For who has never been in love and felt strange feelings for someone or known loss and heartbreak? Portuguese people are no exception to the rule and have a number of inspiring quotes on this subject, whether it’s about jealousy, true love or the more spiritual aspects of love.

  • E como tudo na vida, dê tempo ao tempo e ele encarregar-se hà de resolver os problemas (Saramago): In life as in everything else, give time some time and it will solve your problems for you. This quote could also be used in the category “hope”, but it also gives good relationship advice.
  • Amar é a inocência eterna, e a unica inocência é de nõa pensar (Fernando Pessoa) To love is eternal innocence and the only real innocence is not to think. Here we are encourage to live out our passions and not let thought interfere.
  • O amor com amor se paga: Love is paid by love in return. Love is a sentiment, but here it is seen as an exchange that can only effectively function when it is shared.
  • Quem sabe amar sabe castgar: he who knows how to love knows how to punish. This quote makes us understand the power that loves gives us over another person, and the power that person has over us.

Portuguese Quotes on Life, the Universe, Everything

Between love and friendship, money worries or even destiny, Portuguese vocabulary contains expressions that will answer all your questions.

  • Quem não pouca a agua ou a lenha, não poupa nada que tenha: he who is thrifty with neither water nor wood will soon lose all that he has. This phrase could come from a Portuguese-speaking or Brazilian grandmother to remind us that the small things impact the big ones, and to always remember what’s important.
  • Se os invejosos pagassem impostos, havia muita gente ruinada! If there was a tax on jealousy, a lot of people would be bankrupt! A humorous lesson from the Iberian peninsula to remind you that you aren’t the only one out there…
  • Quem bem tece nunca se esquece: when you are a good weaver, you don’t forget it. It’s the equivalent of “it’s just like riding a bike”. If you can do something well, your skills will stay with you for a long time. This is also true for learning a second language - you might lose your active vocabulary, but the passive knowledge you gain when learning a language stays with you for a long time.
  • As nossas desgraças entram sempre por portas que nós abrimos: Our misfortunes enter by the doors we open for them. If we are receptive to bad things and bad thoughts, then it’s more likely that bad things will happen.
A Portuguese quote and Portuguese aphorism.
"He who is thrifty with neither water nor wood will soon lose all that he has" - this Portuguese expression reminds us that the devil is in the details. Photo on Visualhunt

As you can see, when you learn Portuguese you will find a wealth of inspiring expressions which will bring your holidays to Lisbon, Rio de Janeiro or Coimbra to life and let you experience Portuguese language and culture close up.

If you choose to learn portuguese online. you can both learn european portuguese online and find brazilian portuguese lessons too. Alternatively, portuguese lessons in your local town can offer you tuition in all forms of Portuguese (for example, you can search portuguese courses london).

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