If you grew up in a Greek household chances are that you have heard more than your share of classic one-liners, whether it be from your pappou, yiayia, father, mother, your theo or thea.
Developed over time, a lot of idiomatic phrases may seem random to one who isn’t a native speaker, as they rely on analogies and metaphors that are relevant within a particular culture.
Commonly used in every day as part of the Greek language, when many Greek idioms are translated literally the results are often very puzzling and sometimes hilarious for non-Greek speakers.
Here are some of our favourite and funny Greek one-liners.
Μου έχεις κάνει τη ζωή πατίνι – Mou eheis kanei ti zoe patini
English translation: You’ve made my life a roller skate
Meaning: When someone has turned your lie upside down or if making your life difficult resulting in nothing going according to plan or steady.
Πίας το αβγό και κούρευτο – Pias to avgo kai kourefto
English translation: Grab an egg and shave it
Meaning: Used when faced with a problem that has no solution, or with an impossible task such as giving an egg a haircut.
Να μυρίσω τα νύχια μου – Den mas emine antero
English translation: I don’t have any intestines left
Meaning: Used when you can’t stop laughing – you have laughed so much that you have laughed your intestines completely out of your body.
Να μυρίσω τα νύχια μου – Na miriso ta nihia mou
English translation: Should I sniff my nails?
Meaning: Used when you are asked a question that you would have no way of knowing the answer to, as if to say, “How am I supposed to know?!” This saying came from ancient times when the ancient Greeks placed bets on the athletes entering the arena. In search of the correct name of the victor, punters would visit the ancient Greek oracles, who would dip their fingers into a potion said to induce them into a trance-like state in which the victor’s name would be magically revealed to them.
Σηκώθηκαν τα πόδια να κτυπήσουν το κεφάλι – Sikothikan ta podia na ktipisoun to kefali
English translation: The feet stood up to hit the head
Meaning: This saying is used in a situation when someone acts above their station, or perhaps gives orders to or brags about something, to someone superior who has achieved much more than they have. For example if someone was just hired yesterday, and today is telling everyone what to do. Equivalent to the English saying, “it’s a case of the tail wagging the dog.”
Έφαγα πόρτα – Efaga porta
English translation: I ate a door
Meaning: This phrase is used when you are passed over or rejected – when, figuratively speaking, ‘a door was slammed in your face’, such as if you didn’t get the job after an interview, or if you were denied entry into a night club.
Αν η γιαγιά μου είχε αρχίδια, θα τη φώναζα παππού – An i giagiá mou eíche archídia, tha ti fónaza pappoú
English translation: If my grandmother had balls, I would call her my grandfather.
Meaning: It is useless to speculate about counterfactual situations – the entire situation changes once you start throwing ‘ifs’ into the scenario.
Έφαγα τον κόσμο να σε βρω – Éfaga ton kósmo na se vro
English translation: I ate the whole world to find you.
Meaning: This is an exaggerated way of saying you looked everywhere for someone.
Έχω χάσει τα αβγά και τα πασχαλιά – Eho hasei ta avga kai ta pashalia
English translation: I’ve lost my eggs and my baskets
Meaning: When you have absolutely no idea as to what is going on – when you are completely lost and confused.
σιγά τα λάχανα – Siga ta lahana
English translation: Slowly the cabbage
Meaning: A retort made when you think that somebody just said something boring or unimaginative, or when you think what they said is not as important and exciting as what they think it is. Similar to saying, “Big deal!” in English.
Να ‘χεις τα μάτια σου δεκατέσσερα – Ta matia sou dekatessera
English translation: To have your eyes fourteen
Meaning: When in a dodgy or dangerous situation or dealing with a deceitful person you should be very careful and alert – be on guard with your eyes open.
Πληρώνω τα μαλλιά της κεφαλής μου – Pliróno ta malliá tis kefalís mou
English translation: I paid (all) the hair of my head.
Meaning: When something cost a fortune and you think you paid way too much for it. Equivalent to the English saying, “It costs me an arm and a leg”.
Σκάει γάιδαρο – Skáei gáidaro
English translation: He/ she/ it bursts a donkey.
Meaning: Greeks think of donkeys as extremely patient animals so it’s difficult to make them angry. A person or something who could make even a donkey angry must be truly very annoying!
πνίγεσε σ’ένα κουτάλι νερό – Pnígese s’éna koutáli neró
English translation: You drown in a spoon of water.
Meaning: When somebody makes even the most simplest of tasks seem so difficult.
Το έγραψα στα παλιά μου παπούτσια – To egrapsa sta palia mou papoutsia
English translation: I wrote it on my old shoes
Meaning: When you give something no importance or very insignificant to you. This version is a much more polite form of the original and more commonly used expression, which describes writing something on a certain part of the male anatomy.