10 Portuguese Sayings and Quotes for Every Occasion [with Audio]
There are many Portuguese quotes and sayings that add color and richness to the language.
Native speakers are very familiar with these expressions and use them in their everyday conversations.
As a Portuguese learner, it helps to know these sayings so you can understand and use them to express yourself.
In this post, we’ll explore 10 of the most common and interesting idiomatic phrases used in both Portugal and Brazil.
- Portuguese Quotes and Sayings
- 1. “Quem vê cara não vê coração.”
- 2. “Quem não arrisca não petisca.”
- 3. “Aqui se faz, aqui se paga.”
- 4. “Cada macaco no seu galho.”
- 5. “Mais vale um pássaro na mão do que dois voando.”
- 6. “Quem ri por último ri melhor.”
- 7. “Cão que ladra não morde.”
- 8. “É melhor prevenir do que remediar.”
- 9. “A mentira tem pernas curtas.”
- 10. “Para bom entendedor, meia palavra basta.”
- Why Learn Portuguese Sayings?
Portuguese Quotes and Sayings
1. “Quem vê cara não vê coração.”
Translation: “Seeing a face is not the same as seeing a heart.” (Literal: “Who sees face does not see heart.”)
This saying cautions against judging others solely based on appearances, similar to the English saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” It’s often used to warn against trusting in someone’s image as it may not reflect their true character. For example, someone may appear innocent but have ill intentions or appear wealthy but actually be broke.
In Portugal, the plural version of this expression is commonly used: “Quem vê caras não vê corações.”
Eu sei que você diz que ela parece uma pessoa fantástica, mas quem vê cara não vê coração. (I know you say she looks like a fantastic person, but seeing a face is not the same as seeing a heart.)
Other expressions with similar meanings are “Aparências enganam” (“Appearances deceive”) and “Nem tudo o que reluz é ouro” (“Not everything that shines is gold”).
2. “Quem não arrisca não petisca.”
Translation: “No risk, no reward.” (Literal: “Those who do not risk, do not have a snack.”)
This saying means that you have to take risks to get what you want or achieve something. You can use it to encourage somebody who’s uncertain whether they should make a risky move, such as changing careers, moving abroad or asking someone out.
Você deveria pedir um aumento de salário! Quem não arrisca não petisca! (You should ask for a raise! No risk, no reward!)
3. “Aqui se faz, aqui se paga.”
Translation: “What goes around comes around.” / “You reap what you sow.” (Literal: “Here it is done, here it is paid.”)
This saying means that your actions will eventually have consequences. It’s used by those who believe in karma or the notion that people will face the outcomes of their behavior, whether positive or negative. It serves as a reminder that you should act with integrity and kindness, as your deeds will come back to you in some form.
In Portugal, you may hear it said as “Cá se fazem, cá se pagam” (“Here they are done, here they are paid.”)
No mês passado ele roubou dinheiro da loja onde trabalha, e hoje foi assaltado. Aqui se faz, aqui se paga! (Last month he stole money from the store where he works, and today he was robbed. What goes around comes around!)
4. “Cada macaco no seu galho.”
Translation: “Each monkey on its own branch.”
This saying means that everyone should mind their own business or stay in their lane. It’s often used in work situations to mean that people should remain in their designated area of expertise or responsibility. It can also be used in relationships to stress the importance of respecting boundaries and not interfering in other people’s affairs.
Eu sou do departamento de marketing, vocês são do departamento de contabilidade. Cada macaco no seu galho! (I’m from the marketing department, you’re from the accounting department. Each monkey on its own branch!)
5. “Mais vale um pássaro na mão do que dois voando.”
Translation: “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” (Literal: “It’s worth more to have one bird in hand than two flying.”)
This saying emphasizes the value of preserving a good thing rather than risking it for uncertain or potentially unattainable alternatives. It promotes contentment, practicality and appreciation of what one already possesses, even if it may seem small or insufficient.
This expression also exists in Portugal, but you’ll often hear it as “Mais vale um pássaro na mão do que dois a voar,” since the present continuous is very different in Brazilian and European Portuguese.
Não pode mais esperar para aceitar essa oportunidade só porque está esperando a outra. Mais vale um pássaro na mão do que dois voando!
(You can’t take any longer to accept this opportunity, just because you’re waiting for the other one. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush!)
6. “Quem ri por último ri melhor.”
Translation: “He who laughs last, laughs best.”
This saying suggests that the ultimate victor in a situation will experience the greatest satisfaction. It implies that patience, resilience and being underestimated can lead to a more enjoyable triumph. It’s often used to reassure someone during a hard time or to warn someone who’s wronged you that you’ll get revenge.
Não se preocupe, você vai conseguir um emprego melhor com o concorrente e ganhará ainda mais dinheiro. Quem ri por último, ri melhor! (Don’t worry, you’re going to get a better job with their competitor and make even more money. The one who laughs last, laughs best!)
7. “Cão que ladra não morde.”
Translation: “All bark and no bite.” / “Their bark is worse than their bite.” (Literal: “A barking dog doesn’t bite.”)
This saying suggests that those who talk or threaten excessively are often not a genuine threat. It serves as a caution against taking their words or bluster seriously, as they’re merely attempting to intimidate or instill fear and won’t actually follow through with their actions.
Não tenha medo dele. Ele sempre fala desse jeito, mas não faz nada. Cão que ladra não morde. (Don’t be afraid of him. He always speaks that way, but he doesn’t do anything. He’s all bark and no bite.)
8. “É melhor prevenir do que remediar.”
Translation: “Better safe than sorry.” (Literal: “It’s better to prevent than to mend.”)
This saying advises taking preventive measures to avoid problems rather than dealing with them afterward. It’s often given as advice to someone taking an avoidable risk, whether it’s in personal matters, health, relationships or any other aspect of life.
A variation is “Antes prevenir do que remediar,” literally “Before to prevent than to mend.”
Decidi procurar seguro. É melhor prevenir do que remediar! (I decided to look into insurance. Better safe than sorry!)
9. “A mentira tem pernas curtas.”
Translation: “The lie has short legs.”
This saying means that lies don’t go far—they’re easily discovered and exposed. It conveys the idea that dishonesty can’t be sustained for long and the truth will eventually be revealed. It’s often used to caution someone against lying or immediately after uncovering a lie.
Eu sabia que estava escondendo alguma coisa! Você esqueceu? A mentira tem pernas curtas! (I knew you were hiding something! Did you forget? The lie has short legs!)
10. “Para bom entendedor, meia palavra basta.”
Translation: “To the wise, half a word is enough.” (Literal: “For a good understander, half a word is enough.”)
This saying suggests that clever people can infer meaning without explicit explanations or grasp the essence of something through context. It can be used to advise someone to be perceptive and recognize information that may not be explicitly stated, or to discourage unnecessary overexplaining.
When people use this expression, they usually leave it incomplete on purpose. They’ll say “Para bom entendedor…” and assume that if the listener is clever, they’ll know the rest.
Não precisa explicar tudo para ela. Para bom entendedor, meia palavra basta. (You don’t need to explain everything to her. To the wise, half a word is enough.)
Why Learn Portuguese Sayings?
There are many good reasons to learn Portuguese quotes and sayings. Here are just a few:
- They’re actually used in conversations. Proverbs and sayings really are a part of people’s speech—especially when giving advice, joking around or talking to older people. Knowing a few common sayings will help you understand others better and impress them with your Portuguese skills.
- They say a lot about who uses them. Quotes and sayings are a window into the particular culture they belong to and the values it holds. You can also learn a lot more about the person who uses them and be able to communicate with them on a deeper level.
- They’re used often in entertainment. If there’s one thing Brazilian and Portuguese people love, it’s entertainment. TV series and soap operas are especially good places to learn new phrases, expressions and sayings!
To find clips from movies and series that use specific phrases, you can use a learning program like FluentU and search its library of authentic subtitled Portuguese videos by word or phrase. By hearing these sayings in various situations, you’ll have a better understanding of how they’re used by native speakers.
- They can help you take a break. Learning common sayings provides a refreshing break from intensive grammar or hours of flashcards. It’s much more interesting than reviewing verb conjugations, but can still teach you a lot about grammar and vocabulary.
With these Portuguese sayings, you can sound authentic and wise!
So keep your ears open for them and seek opportunities to use them. Then bask in the glory of sounding like a native!
For more sayings like these, take a look at this list of the most popular idioms in Portuguese.