Expressões Idiomáticas e Provérbios


Expressões idiomáticas e provérbios ingleses que fazem uso de palavras que têm qualquer relação com a alimentação


“(a) pie in the sky”: Promises or hopes which are unrealistic and thus useless.

“(a) piece of cake”: something extremely easy.

“(as) nutty as fruitcake”:insane, crazy.

“(do a) slow burn”: (show) slowly increasing feelings of anger. Ex: I watched the customer doing a slow burn as the sales assistant continued to ignore him”.

“(have the) whip/upper hand": be in control

“(just about)do one’s nut”: Be extremely angry. Ex: When he saw what a mess the children had made of his car, he did his nut.

“(live off/on the) fat of the land”: (live in the) very best, most comfortable circumstances. Ex: He has plenty of money; he has been living off the fat of the land for years.

“(look as if) butter wouldn’t melt in one’s mouth”: Apparently, but not really very innocent or well-behaved. Ex: The little girl looked as if butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth, but she was actually very mischievious.

“(no) skin off one’s nose”: Something that has a bad effect, cause any worry on one. Ex: That book doesn’t belong to me so I don’t care what you do with it; it’s no skin off my nose if you cut it up.

“(the) upper crust (of)”: The highest social class.

“A bag of bones”: A very thin person.

“A baker’s dozen”: Thirteen.

“A bone of contention”: A subject of disagreement or argument.

“A bull in a china shop":An awkward, tactless or clumsy person.

“A cock-and-bull story”: An invented story, foolish and hard to believe.

“A dead heat”: Is applied to the result of a race or competition where two or more competitors are equally as good as each other, i.e., there is no winner.

“A Dutch treat”: Entertainment (a meal, a film) where each person pays his own share. ”To go Dutch”

“A fish out of water”: A person who feels uncomfortable in his present surroundings.

“A flash in the pan”: Something which lasts only a short time; an effort or partial success which soon turns to failure; a short-lived outburst of enthusiasm for something.

“A hard nut to crack”: A difficult problem to solve or a difficult situation to deal with.

“a henpecked husband”: One who is dominated by his wife.

 “A hot potato”: An issue that is awkward and embarassing to deal with.

“A pretty kettle of fish”: A state of disorder, confusion, difficulty or trouble.

“A raw deal”: Unjust or harsh treatment.

“A red herring”: An unimportant or irrelevant matter which is introduced into a discussion to distract attention from the important matter which is being discussed.

“A round dozen”: A full dozen, neither more nor less than twelve.

“A run-of-the-mill job”: An average, ordinary, unexciting job.

“A sandwich course”(GB): A course of training with a period of practical work in between two full-time periods of study.

“A sausage-dog”(GB): a dachshund.

“A sitting duck”: A person or object that is easy to attack, injure, a good target.

“A storm in a tea-cup”: A lot of excitement and discussion about a trivial matter.

“A stuffed shirt”: A pompous, conceited person, extremely formal and old –fashioned. Syn: dullard.

“A sugar daddy”: A rich, elderly man who favours a young woman financially in return for special attentions.

“A wild goose chase”: A search for something which has no chance of being successful.

“A working lunch/dinner”: A meal at which the participants discuss business.

“An apple of discord”: The subject of envy or quarrel.

“An old salt”: An experienced sailor.

“As cool as a cucumber”: Used of a person who remains calm at a time of difficulty or danger.

“As different as chalk from cheese”: Very different. Ex: You would never believe that X and Y is brothers. They are as different as chalk from cheese.

“As flat as a pancake/ a board”: May be used of very flat countryside or any flat surface. They are also used (informal, uncomplimentary) of a woman’s flat figure.

“As keen as mustard”: Used of a person who is very critical and exact in his expectations or demands on others. It also means “eager to do something”.

“As like as two peas in a pod/beans”: Used to refer to two persons or things that are very much alike in appearance or character.

“As smooth/soft as butter”/ “As smooth as oil”: Used to describe something soft, creamy.

“As warm as toast”: Used of the way someone is clothed warmly in winter, or of a pleasantly warm room.

“Bite off more than one can chew”: Attempt to do more than one is able to. Ex: I’m trying to study for a degree while doing my normal work, and I’m afraid I may have bitten off more than I can chew.

“Bite the hand that feeds one”: Be ungrateful, turn against someone who has been helpful.

“Blow hot and cold”: Continually change one’s mind about something first being for it, then against it. Ex: I don’t know whether Joe is coming with us on the trip or not: he keeps blowing hot and cold about it.

“Boiling point”: Point where a person shows that she/he is excited, very angry. Ex: As one thing after another went wrong, his temper reached boiling point.

“Bring a lump to one’s throat”: Make one feel emotional (as if about to weep) Ex: Waving goodbye to him brought a lump to my throat.

“Browned/cheesed off”: Bored; fed up; annoyed. Ex: We’ve been kept waiting for over an hour and we’re getting a bit browned/cheesed off.

“By the skin of one’s teeth”: Narrowly, by a small margin. Ex: I didn’t do ell in the exam, I just got through by the skin of my teeth.

“Carrot and stick”: Reward and punishment. Ex: We are using both the carrot and stick to make our son work for his exams; if he passes he gets a bicycle; if he fails he won’t be allowed to go on holiday with his friends.

“Chicken feed”: Small amount of money; anything of little importance.

“Chickens come home to roost”: One pays the penalty for something done earlier. Ex: That student went to parties almost every night last term, but now his chicken have come home to roost; he failed all his exams.

“Cock a snook at”: Show one’s disrespect for. Ex: The students took every opportunity to cock a snook at authority.

“Cock of the walk”(usually a vain or boastful) person who is in charge, or is the best, most successful.

“Cook the books”: Commit a fraud by changing records.

“Crumbs from a rich man’s table”: A small comfort or compensation given to a poor and unfortunate by the rich or more fortunate.

“Cup of tea”: The sort of thing or person one likes. Ex: I’ve never been to opera; it’s not my cup of tea (i.e.) it does not appeal to me.

“Cut and dried”: Settled, decided. Ex: Jim’s a very good speaker. He always has his opinions cut and dried and states them very firmly.

“Deadpan”: Use to describe somebody’s face which shows no emotion and has only the same dull expression.

“Dog-in-the-manger policy”: Followed by a man who prevents others from enjoying something which is useless to himself or for which he has no interest.

“Don’t count your chicken before they hatch/are hatched”: Do not be sure of success until all difficulties have been overcome.

“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”: It is risky to concentrate all one’s hopes, chances, money, etc, on only one thing, for if this one thing is lost there will be nothing left.

“done/burnt to a frazzle”:Overcooked; burnt. Ex: We couldn’t eat the meat; it was done to a frazzle.

“Eat one’s cake and have it too/ have one’s cake and eat it too”: Make a choice between one of two things, and still want the benefits of the second thing. Ex: If people had higher wages they couldn’t expect lower prices; they couldn’t eat their cake and have it too.

“Eat one’s heart out”:Be unhappy and miserable usually for a long period of time. Ex: During the whole time that her father was away the little girl ate her heart out.

“Escape by the skin of one’s teeth”:Have a narrow escape.

“Fat chance”:Very little likelihood.

“Fat is in the fire”: Something has happened which will bring trouble.

“Fine words butter no parsnips”: Fine words are no substitute for effective actions.

“Flash in the pan”: Achievement which is not typical, and which will not be repeated. Ex: Jack is really not a very good runner; his victory in the trials was probably just a flash in the pan.

“Food for thought”: Something to think about, especially a problem or difficulty. Ex: The teacher warned Jim that he would fail if he did not work harder and this gave him some food for thought.

“Forbidden fruit is sweetest”: The things which we cannot have are the things we want the most, forbidden things are the most attractive and exciting.

“Full of beans”: Active, lively, in good spirits.

“Get up steam”: Start working hard at something; start making progress. Ex: Let’s not stop now when we are just getting up steam.

“Give something a (quick) butcher’s”: Look at something quickly, glance at something.

“Go against the grain”: Be different from the way in which one normally acts or would like to act. I’m afraid I’ll have to speak firmly to Miss Jones for coming in late, although it goes against the grain.

“Grease/oil someone’s palm”: Brine someone, pay for a favour.

“Green cheese”: Feeling of envy at someone else’s good fortune. Ex: Jim does not like Sam. I think it’s green cheese since Jim earns more than Sam does.

“Half a loaf is better than none”: We should be thankful for what we receive even though we hoped to receive more.

“Half-baked”: Badly thought of; silly. Ex: They had some half-baked notion of raising money holding a pop concert.

“have/had one’s chips”:(about to) fail, be beaten, die. Ex: There’s somebody trapped at the top oft the building; I think the poor chap has had his chips.

“He can’t/couldn’t/won’t/wouldn’t say boo’ to a goose": Heis very timid or quiet by nature.

“In a nutshell”: Very briefly. Ex: We have very little time left; could you please explain your point of view in a nutshell?

“In apple-pie order”: It is tidy and everything is in its correct place; used showing approval. Syn: shipshape

“In the melting-pot”: Not yet decided. Ex: Our main speaker cannot come, so all the arrangements are back in the melting pot again.

“It (all) boils down to...”: It means.../ it can be summarized as.../ reduced to...

“It’s no use crying over split milk”: If one cannot change a bad result, disappointment, etc, then there is no use making oneself unhappy about it.

“Keep the pot/kettle boiling”: Keep an exciting activity going, not let things calm down or stop. Ex: The audience kept the pot boiling by shouting encouragement to the players.

“Kill the goose that lays the golden eggs”: Destroy something that brings one wealth, profit.

“Know how many beans make five”:Be sensible, clever. Ex: You won’t fool him: he knows how many beans make five.

“lame duck”: 1) somebody who cannot survive without a help. 2)(US) politician whose period of office is coming to an end. Ex: The present administration is a lame duck administration, so nothing can be expected of it.

“Lay an egg”: 1) be surprised, alarmed, angry; Ex: When the boss finds that broken window, he will lay an egg. 2)(US)(with reference to a performance, joke) fail completely; Ex: The show laid an egg and was cancelled after 2 performances.

“Leave a bad/bitter/nasty taste in one’s mouth”: Leave one feeling annoyed, disgusted.

“Let off steam”: 1) Express one’s feeling Ex: We had better hold a public meeting, because people will want to let off steam on this issue. 2) get rid of one’s energies. Ex: At the end of the term the students let off steam by having a gig parade.

“Lick/smack/ one’s chops/lips": Look forward to something with great eagerness.

“Melt into thin air”: disappear completely

“Money for jam”: Money earned without any effort.

“Neither fish nor fowl”: (used to criticize something) not completely one thing or another; not in any one particular class. Ex: Skeptics say the result would be neither fish nor fowl, awkward as a PDA and awkward as a phone.

“No relish for”:No liking for; dislike, fear of. Ex: I’m not going there; I’ve no relish for heights.

“Off one’s food”: not wanting to eat. Ex: I’m not keeping well; I’ve been off my food for several days.

“One can’t make head or tail of something”: One can’t understand it at all, i.e., the matter is unclear or too difficult to understand.

“One’s salad-days”: The time when one is young and unexperienced.

“Out of the frying pan into the fire”: From a difficult or dangerous situation into a worse one. Ex: His first marriage was unhappy but his second was even more unhappy. It was a real case of out of the frying pan into the fire. (sair da lama e cair no atoleiro).

“pot calling the kettle black”: Someone who is guilty of a certain fault accusing someone else of having the same fault.(“roto falando do esfarrapado”)  

“Queer fish”: strange person

“salt of the earth”: very best kind of people.

“save one’s bacon”: save oneself; run away from danger.

“say a mouthful”: say something which means a lot more that one might think. Ex: Whoever said that said a mouthful: he has more money than everyone else does.

“Scrape (the bottom of) the barrel”: Get use of the very worst quality (usually because nothing better is available)

“Seasoned timber”: Wood that has been left to dry thoroughly, so that there is no sap in it.

“Sell like hot cakes”: be sold very quickly.

“Shoot off one’s mouth”: 1) talk about things one should be keeping secret; talk about something one really does not know much about. Ex : Don’t go around shooting off your mouth/your mouth off; 2) Talk in a proud, boastful way. Ex: He’s always shooting his mouth off about how important his job is.

“Short and/but sweet”: Lasting a short time but direct, not wasting any words; shorter than expected. Ex: His answer was short and sweet: “Get out of my house and never come back”.

“Small fry”: Insignificant persons or matters.(arraia miúda)

“Small/little fish/frog in a big pond”: Person of little importance in a big organization.

“Sour grapes”: A desirable thing which is not obtainable and is therefore despised.

“Sow one’s wild oats”: Do the wild, foolish things that young people often do.

“Square meal”: Complete meal. Ex: We’ve been living on biscuits and water; we haven’t had a square meal for ages.

“Steamed up”: Excited, enthusiastic, worked up. Ex: You come on half-naked to get them all steamed up about you, so why grumble when you succeed?

“stew in one’s own juice”: Ex: Suffer without any help from others the results of what one has done. Ex; He was very nasty to everyone and now no one will speak to him; let him stew in his own juice.

“Strike/knock all of a heap”: cause to be very surprised”: Ex; The unexpected news struck us all of a heap.

“Sugar the pill”: Try to make something unpleasant easy to accept.

“Take something with a pinch of salt”: Not believe something easily or completely. Ex: Jack tends to get things confused. I would take anything he says with a pinch of salt.

“Take the gilt off the gingerbread”: Spoil the effect of something; make something less good that it might have been; spoil something that is otherwise enjoyable. Ex: We had a great trip but our flight home was badly delayed, which took the gilt off the gingerbread.

“Talk turkey”: Have a serious, honest, practical discussion. Ex: Let’s talk turkey and get this matter settled.

“Teach one’s grandmother to suck eggs”: Try to teach someone things he is already an expert in.

“Tell the sheep from the goats”= “Tell the wheat/grain from the chaff.”

“The apple of someone’s eyes”: You are extremely fond of them or proud of them. Ex: She had another son, who was the apple of her eyes. Syn : Favourite.

“The bread and butter issues/questions”: Are those that are the most basic and important in relation to a particular subject. Ex: People vote only on immediate, bread-and-butter issues.

“The bread and butter”: Of a person or organization is the activity or work that provides their main source of income. Ex: Comedies and pantomimes are the bread and butter of the local theatre”.

“The milk of human kindness”: A feeling of sympathy for other people.

“The pit of your stomach”: You can refer to very deep feelings that you seem to feel in the area of your body around your stomach as being felt in the pit of your stomach. Ex: No one should underrate the worry in the pit of their stomach as a new volunteer... The ache in the pit of their stomach was no worse than the one in her heart.

“The proof of the pudding is in the eating”: One can only prove something by putting it into action or use.

“Throw/pour cold water on”: Point out all the problems and disadvantages of something.

“To be born with a silver spoon in one’s mouth”: To be born into a rich or influential family.

“To be in a stew”: To be confused or nervous because of difficulties.

“To be in hot/deep water”: To be in trouble/ in (dangerous) difficulties (e.g. financially).

“To be in the soup”: To be in difficulties.

“To be no chicken”: Means to be no longer young (not complimentary).

“To be stuffed-up”: To have the passages of your nose blocked with mucus so that you cannot breath properly though it. Syn: Bunged up (Bung: A round piece of wood, cork, rubber which you use to close the hole in something such as a barrel or flask (stopper).

“To be the best thing since sliced bread”: You are emphasizing how good you think it is.

“To boil something down”: Reduce its length, summarize .Ex: He didn’t give his proposals in full but just had time to boil them down to the essentials.

“To burn one’s finger”: To suffer because you have interfered or meddled in someone else’s affair.

“To burn the candle at both ends”: To use up a lot of one’s daily energy by being busy very late or very early, thus damaging one’s health.

“To burn the midnight oil”: To work or study until late in the night.

“To butter someone up”: To flatter him hoping to gain an advantage.

“To buy a pig in a poke”: To buy something one has not seen before which turns out to be useless.

“To chop and change”: To change one’s ideas, actions, choice, very frequently.

“To cook one’s goose”: Cause something bad to happen to one, spoil one’s plans intentionally or unintentionally. Ex: In the history exam it was the last question that cooked my goose, i.e., caused me to fail.

“To curry flavour (with someone)”: To try to win favour by flattering him.

“To cut it fine”: To leave oneself with only a minimum of time in which to do something.

“To cut something short”: To bring something to an end before the proper time. Ex: We had to cut short our discussion because the boss had to go to a meeting.

“To eat humble pie”: To apologise, to humble oneself, to humiliate oneself by having to apologise.

“To eat one’s word”: To admit that what one had said was wrong.

“To eat/feed out of somebody’s hand”: To do everything which he wishes willingly, without protest.

“To fish for compliments/information”: To try to get it by indirect questions.

“To fish in troubled waters”: To try to get a personal advantage from a disturbed or troubled situation.

“To foam at the mouth”: Be very angry, upset.

“To go against the grain”: To be opposed to one’s feelings, wished, ideas.

“To have a bone to pick with someone”: To complain to him about something he has said or done which did not please you.

“To have a finger in every pie”: To be concerned with many matters, often for personal gain.

“To have a finger in the pie”: To be concerned in the matter.

“To have a sweet tooth”: To enjoy eating sweet things.

“To have other fish to fry”: To have other, more important things to attend to.

“To have too many irons in the fire”: To have too many interests, or jobs or works to do at the same time, for any of them to receive sufficient attention.

“To hear something through/over the grape-vine”: To hear something through an unofficial source, through gossip.

“To hold out the olive branch”: To show someone that one is willing to make peace or to be friendly again after a quarrel, etc.

“To keep the pot boiling”: To earn enough money to by one’s food.

“To know one’s stuff/ one’s onions”: To be good at doing something because they are experienced at it and know a lot about it. You know or you have learnt a lot about a particular subject.

“To know which side one’s bread is buttered on”: To know what is most advantageous for one, to know what to do or who to please in order to remain in a good situation or to avoid a bad one, and will not do anything risky or unexpected.

“To make mincemeat of someone”: To show one’s superiority either physically or with words over another person.

“To make no bones about (saying/doing) something”: To say/do it openly and without hesitation or pretence, although it may not be pleasant.

“To make one’s mouth water”: To cause one to have a strong desire for something (e.g. food or drink) by talking about it, thinking about it or seeing it.

“To mince (one’s) words”: Not to speak frankly because one wants to be polite.

“To pour oil on troubled waters”: To try to settle a quarrel or bring calm to a troubled situation by using soothing words.

“To quarrel with one’s bread and butter”: To quarrel with the source of one’s income (usually one’s employer).

“To rule the roost”: To be in control, to dominate (as the cock does in the hen house).

“To separate the wheat from the chaff”: To distinguish the good from the bad, the useful from the worthless, etc.

“To spill the beans”: To tell a secret, let out information, news, before one should do so.

“To take the cake/biscuit”: To surprise everyone by one’s conduct, i.e., by being the best, the worst, the strangest, etc.

“To the brim”: full. Ex: He filled our glasses to the brim, i.e, they could not contain any more.

“To upset the apple-cart”: To spoil a plan or something which was well organised.

“To want jam on it“(informal): To want everything, not to be satisfied with something which is already good, but to want still more or something still better.

“Too many cooks spoil the broth”: If too many people try to do the same thing at the same time, the task will be done badly.

“Two bites at/of/ second bite at the cherry" : Two chances to do something.

“Under one’s own steam": 1) If you go somewhere under your own steam you make your own arrangements for the journey, rather than letting someone else organize it for you. Ex: Most hotels organize tours to inland beauty spots, but car hire is cheap enough to consider taking off into the hills under your own steam. 2) If you do something under your own steam you do it on your own and without help from anyone else. Ex: He left the group convinced he could do better under his own steam

“Upper crust”: People in the highest level of society = upper hand

“Use one’s head/loaf”: Use one’s intelligence.

“Water off a duck’s back”: Something that has no effect, result. Ex” He takes a lot of criticism from his colleagues, but it is all water off a duck’s back- he pays absolutely no notice.

“Welsh rabbit/rarebit”: Hot buttered toast covered by hot melted cheese.

“What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander”(male goose): O tratamento deve ser igual para todas as pessoas independente de qualquer outra consideração, inclusive de sexo. O provérbio é citado quando alguém está sendo tratado com desfavor ou sem a mesma consideração dispensada a outra de sexo diferente.”

“Whet the appetite”:1) Make one all the more ready to eat. Ex: This dish is only to whet your appetite. The main dish comes later. 2) Make one anxious to have more of something. Ex: The few books that he was able to afford simply whetted his appetite for more study.

“Without a bean”: Sem vintém, inteiramente liso, quebrado, na maior penúria.

“Work one’s finger to the bone”: work very hard.

“World is one’s oyster”: One can work or live anywhere in the world or one can do anything (because one has some advantage)

“Worth one’s salt”: Deserving what one is paid; good enough (to do one’s job). Ex: Any electrician worth his salt will fix that for you.

“You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs”: Small sacrifices of some kind must be made in order to attain one’s purpose.

Ex: If you are a doctor you will be welcome to work anywhere. The world is your oyster.


Seidl / Mc Mordie. English Idioms and how to use them.Oxford University Press, 1978.

Wallace, Michael J. Dictionary of English Idioms. Collins ELT, 1981.

Collins Cobuild Dictionary of Idioms. The University of Birmingham - Collins Cobuild. Harper Collins Publishers, 1995.