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13 Portuguese Idioms with “Pé”

Getting acquainted with Portuguese idiomatic expressions is key to reaching language fluency and feeling at home with day-to-day lingo.

Today, I am bringing you 13 frequently-used Portuguese idioms, all of which have this one thing in common: they all make reference to the word “pé”. 

With no further ado, let’s dive right into it.

1. De pé atrás

De pé atrás denotes caution or suspicion:

O João ouviu a explicação do Miguel mas, contudo, ficou de pé atrás.
João listened to what Miguel had to say, but he was still suspicious.

2. Com pezinhos de lã

We say, com pezinhos de lã when someone is trying to move quietly:

A Alberta entrou no quarto com pezinhos de lã para não acordar o Ricardo.
Alberta walked into the room on her tiptoes so as not to wake Ricardo.

3. Bater o pé

Bater o pé means to stand one’s ground.

O Francisco tentou persuadir-me mas eu bati-lhe o pé.
Francisco tried to coax me but I stood my ground.

4.  Do pé para a mão

The expression do pé para a mão suggests an immediate answer or solution. We normally use it to negate such possibility: 

– Preciso imediatamente de arranjar um emprego, tens alguma dica?
– Assim do pé para a mão não tenho. Deixa-me pensar.

– I need to get a job right away. Any tips?
– Not off the top of my head. Let me think about it.

5. Meter o pé na argola

Meter o pé na argola means approximately the same as to screw up

A Maria disse o que não devia – meteu o pé na argola.
Maria talked about things she shouldn’t – she screwed it up.

6. Meter os pés pelas mãos

Meter os pés pelas mãos is basically synonymous to the previous: 

Estava nervoso demais e acabei por meter os pés pelas mãos.
I was too nervous and I just screwed it up.

7. Sem pés nem cabeça

We say sem pés nem cabeça to point out that something is aimless, ridiculous, or dumb:

Só dizes coisas sem pés nem cabeça.
You only talk nonsense.

A common expression synonymous to sem pés nem cabeça is sem jeito nenhum. Learn more about the word jeito:

8. Dos pés à cabeça

Dos pés à cabeça is the Portuguese equivalent of from head to toe.

Estou farto das tuas histórias – farto dos pés à cabeça!
I am tired of all your talking – tired from head to toe.

9. Acordar com os pés de fora

Acordar com os pés de fora means to wake up on the wrong side of the bed:

Alguém acordou com os pés de fora.
Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed.

10. Com os pés para a cova

The expression com os pés para a cova is the Portuguese equivalent of with one foot in the grave:

Ele está com mau aspeto, acho que já está com os pés para a cova.
He doesn’t look well at all; it seems that he already has one foot in the grave.

11. Entrar a pés juntos

We use the expression entrar a pés juntos to express discourteous or unpolished behavior: 

Ela entrou a pés juntos e acabou por magoá-lo.
She was too harsh and ended up hurting him.

12. De mãos e pés atados

De mãos e pés atados, literally with tied hands and feet, often refers to situations where one feels powerless or disenfranchised.

Eu não pude fazer nada para ajudar porque estava de mãos e pés atados.
I couldn’t do anything to help since my hands were tied.

13. Fugir a sete pés

We say fugir a sete pés to exacerbate a situation, mostly humorously, where one needs to escape some kind of threat or unpleasant situation: 

Roma não era cidade para mim. Assim que pude, fugi de lá a sete pés!
Rome was not a city for me. I ran away from it as soon as I could.

Tips! If you’ve enjoyed this article, you’ll probably want to take a look at this one as well: Portuguese Idioms: 50 High-Frequency Idiomatic Expressions that Will Make You Sound More Natural

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