11 Persian Sayings That Make No Sense in English

Translating idioms and sayings into other languages is always an exercise in humor- often, you've repeated them so many times without thinking about what is literally being said. We decided to make a list of the 11 funniest Persian sayings and translate them literally into English, along with a photo accompaniment of their literal meanings. Try to take a guess at what they actually mean before reading the explanations below.

1. moosh bokhoradet

moosh bokhoradet, a mouse should eat you

While literally meaning 'A Mouse Should Eat You' in the Persian language, this phrase means 'You are cute'. You'll hear adults saying this to kids all the time (especially while pinching their cheeks). moosh bokhoré torō! is another way to say it. It's also used when someone says something adorable- but beware, sometimes it could be used in a slightly demeaning way, or to belittle someone. The equivalent is if an adult says something in English, and another adult answers back 'Oh, you're so cute!' Cute isn't always the highest compliment in that context...

2. zahré mār

zahreh mar, the poison of a snake

Though it literally means 'the poison of a snake,' this phrase means 'Shut up!' in the Persian language. Just as shut up is not a nice thing to say in English, zahré mār can be quite insulting in the Persian language as well, unless it's used in a context to mean 'get out of here!'.

3. jeegaretō bokhoram

This is another endearing statement in the Persian language, and means something along the lines of 'I love you' or 'I'll do anything for you.' You can say it to a lover, friend, or family member, but only to people you have strong feelings toward. It's a way of expressing some intense love.

4. havā-tō dāram

hava to daram, i have your weather, two cats under umbrella

Although literally meaning I have your weather or air, this statement is the Persian equivalent of the English 'I have your back.' So in other words, 'I'm there for you buddy!'

5. jeegaré man-ee

jeegare manee, you are my liver

Similar to 'I want to eat your liver,' one of the most loving terms of endearment you can direct to someone is to tell them you that they are your liver. While this may not sound romantic in English, it has quite an effect in the Persian language. Tell someone 'jeegaré man-ee', and they will be yours forever.

6. bā namak

ba namak, with salt, picture: mr. bean with salt being poured on him

Although this saying literally means 'salty', it has the opposite meaning of what you might think. When you call someone bā namak, you are saying that they are funny, interesting or charming. Conversely, bee namak refers to a humorless, dry person.

7. ghorbānat beram

ghorbanat beram, I will sacrific myself for you, picture: woman fainted

Although this is an extreme saying, it is used quite frequently in the Persian language. It literally means 'I would like to be sacrificed for you', but is used simply as a term of affection. Watch our video on tarof to get a better example of this extreme example of tarof.

8. saram kolā gozāshtan

saram kolah gozashtan, they put a hat on my head, picture: googoosh with hat

This Persian phrase is used to mean 'they tricked me'. Either someone else can put a hat on your head, or you can do it to someone else- saret kolā gozashtam (I tricked you).

9. jāt khāli-yé

jaat khaaliyeh, your place is empty, picture: empty chair

This is a very common Iranian saying, and it means 'You were missed'. Anytime you speak of an event that was very enjoyable, but the person you are talking to was not present, you are obligated to tell them that they were missed in the situation. This way, they know you were thinking of them, and that it would have been better if they'd been there. Another way of saying this is jāt sabzé, which literally means 'your place is green', or there is green grass growing where you should have been. This means the same exact thing as jāt khāli-yé.

10. zameen khordam

zameen khordam, I ate the ground, picture: head under dirt

Although it doesn't literally mean 'I ate the ground', khordan can be used either to mean 'to hit' OR 'to eat'. This phrase is used to signify 'I fell to the ground' or 'I fell down'.

11. khāk bar sar-am

This is a phrase that is in the not-so-nice category. It literally means 'dirt on my head', which is another way of saying 'I should die', and it's hard to translate the phrase into English without using some not-so-good English words. But basically, it's used when you've made a mistake or realized something terribly wrong has happened. You can also flip it around and say khāk bar sar-et, meaning dirt on your head, but remember this is very insulting, and basically means something along the lines of 'You should die!'

So there you go, 11 Persian phrases that when translated into English literally, are quite hilarious. Can you think of any that we're missing? Leave them for us in the comment section below- perhaps we can do another illustrated series for all to see.

Want to Learn More Persian, for Free?

Learn Persian with Chai and Conversation is a free podcast devoted to teaching conversational Persian! In addition, we have a series of guides for each lesson that will help you get a better understanding of the language. Try out these Bonus Materials for Lesson 1 (a PDF guide and enhanced podcast) for free, and find out when new lessons are released by signing up here!


yes that's correct and when we want to tell somebody that we respect you so much we say zamin khordatam

چه دسته گلی‌ به آب دادی
I actually know the origins of this phrase

فقط پدر سگ نیست، توله سگ، تخم سگ، ننه سگ، مادر سگ،

They forgot "morde shooreh rikhteto bebaran" meaning they should drag away you freshly washed body at the morgue

Another one is "Cheshmam aab nemikhoreh".
While literally means "My eye doesn't drink water", you use this one when the odds of something you expect to happen is very low, or in some cases turns to "I don't think so"

I can't believe the phrase : "chera chap chap negahm mikoni?" didn't make it, which means why do you look at me left left ? (Don't you dare eyeball me !). Also "Khafe shoo" which means sufricate or actuelly "shut up".

You forgot "Khaste Nabashid" = " Don't be tired".

Your translation of our Iranian sayings and the pictures that accompanied them were fantastic. Please, keep doing this. We must try to make the world familiar with our culture.

زمین خوردن را کاملا اشتباه معنی کردید.
خوردن مختصر برخورد کردن هست. نه اشامیدن.
و در کنایه معنی شکست خوردن می دهد یا وورشکست شدن

Let's not forget "filet yadeh Hindustan kardeh", which is "your elephant remembers India"

"Zamin khordam= ba zamin barkhord kardam" same az " be divar/be kasi khordam". Not eating!

Zamin khordam yani"be zamin khordam" yani inke be zamin barkhord kardam.

Great learning , these persion pharases shows how culture of one country is different rom another in terms of language or distance.

#9 and #10 shouldn't be on this list.

#9. jāt khāli-yé: "Your place is empty" actually is the right translation and english speakers say that phrase to mean "you are missed", so doesn't lose its meaning in translation.

#10. zameen khordam: isn't "I ate the ground" in farsi. The right translation is "I hit the ground" which again doesn't lose it's meaning in translation

it's shortened for "osskol" meaning "idiot"

Hi guys,
Who could explain these expressions for me to farsi? I would really appreciate for that
you are supposed to be on holiday.
I'd better hurry. I'm supposed to be meeting Chris in ten minutes.

Persian literature is filled with a vast variations of dozens of ways of thanking someone. My swedish friend says TAK so quickly or Hindis have Shokria and you'd hardly hear it from them. Persians say:
• "Damet Garm" (may your breath be warm),
• "Dastet Dard Nakone" (may your hand feel no pain), "Ghorboonet" or • "Fadat Sham" ((sacrificed for you) I would go),
• "Damet Garm" (May your breath be warm),
• "Dastet Tala" (Reach gold),

che jaleb!
rasman shakh dar avordam in site ro didam
moaffagh bashid hamegi...

I learnt that "Dast e shoma dard na khone" = "May your hand never become tired" for example, when the chai arrives.

That actually means your welcome ,also used whenever you wanna thank some one with their generous

Sorry but your translation is wrong !
Khak bar saram means soil on my head or at the top of me it refers to death to strongly mention a disaster or a problem.

Zamin khordam, khoran in persian has another meaning which means crush, accident, hit etc.
For example : pam khord be divar, My leg was hit to wall.

Let's not forget some phrases that are actually used some how in same meaning in English for example : zire paro bale kasi ra gereftan , is also used in English as :having some one under your wings , which in both languages means to support or protect some one

How about "nowkaretam" and "chaakeretam" and "khaake paatam"?
How about "sag too roohet"?

zamin khordan can not be translated as "I ate the ground" because one of the common meanings of "khordan" is simply "to hit", just like when we say "2 mashin be ham khordand" = 2 cars hit each other

Damed garm means: a d*ck inside your azz. Sorry, but that is the true translation!!

Hello everybody! I am Moosa from Tehran-25yo electrical engineer. I am learning English and need to practice speaking (looking for a language partner). It would be a pleasure to talk to you and help you learn Persian.
this is my email address : seyyed.moosa.hosseini@gmail.com

Ghadamet be roo tokhme chesham. ( Your step shall be on my Eyeballs).

beshin sare jat ! oskol kardi ! jam kon baba ! jam kon kase koozaro !

"khaste nabashi" or "[Hope] you are not tired" is also very helpful for foreigners. I couldn't find any similar term in English but this is a very common phrase to begin a conversation or just compliment someone in Iran.

unfortunately, Persian language is changing after prevalence of using social networks like facebook,instagram etc. or social applications like LINE, Whatsapp and telegram.

some sleepless youth here are creating the modern century 22!!'s persian language with a lot of new words and with a different grammar

I will write some of those funny and sometimes ridiculous words here:
1-alaki masalan: the word by word translation would be so --> alaki:fake masalan:for example
see? ''fake for example'' is funny stupid word but it means : if i was.... or
it uses for a category of persian jokes that is called "alakimasalan" jokes

2-Shakh: ''shakh'' is actually means ""horn'' like cow horns but we use it to say how much COOL is some one (specially for girls :) i think!! ). I don't know how a rigid curvy horn can be so COOL??
may because a horn can attack others and hurt them!! :)

3-+18: Persians use this phrase for trick others. you know ''+18'' refers to texts or files that have adult contents.while some of persians see this mark on a text or a file on the internet they rapidly try to open that link or read that text before the goverment bans it.(sexuall contents are forbidden in Iran).but most of this file or texts are fake.i will show you how? pay attention:

sorry that ''+18'' was the temperature of the room

see?there was no adult contents in the text and that's how this trick or phrase works!!

Okay - so what does الکی نرین alaki nerin? mean?

the traditional phrases that sounds meaningless after translating are too many also.
some of them are these:
1-bezan be chaak: word by word translate will result this--> bezan:hit(ordering verb) be:to chaak:rip(n) . "hit the rip" is not what we mean actually it means "scram"

2-kilid nakon: --> kilid:key nakon:don't do :) again it looks meaningless but we use it to say someone ''let me be! or leave me alone!

3-kaf gorgi: --> kaf:palm gorgi:wolf like .kaf gorgi is a name for somekind of stroke in persian fighting. it means ''wolf palm or wolf claw" .for applying a ''kafgorgi'' you must hit the face of your opponent by your full palm.the bottom of your palm must collides with the forehead of the opponent. LOL funny isn't it?

sorry because of typing-mistakes i cannot write english well.and tnx

baba dmet grm.
b jayi k zbanemoono mskhre kni bia y km poz bede ma farsi bldim. :|
klle donya bayd beshinan trjome shdeye hafez o sadi bkhoonan ma rht mirim nskhe aslisho mikhoonim keif miknim.
jelo hm saye abroo dari kn dadashe mn. :)

Guys Guys
The word by word translation of "Damet Garm" means "may ur breath be warm" but the actual meaning is "Thanks buddy" or "ur awesome or cool"
Actually dudes say that when they wanna thank each other or one of them does s.th very cool.
It's an informal way of thanking someone or showing impression used mostly by dudes. :)

It's more poetic than funny when translated to English: One of my favorite expressions is "Gol posht o ru nadare!"

''khāk bar sar'' has a root in funeral. Previously, when people lost someone; parents;spouses;children;siblings-especially male ones- they used to drew dirt and soil over their head to show a horrible thing happened to them. Therefor, when you say ''khāk bar saram'' or ''khāk bar sar shodam'' means a horrible thing same as the death of a close-one has happened. So, when you tell someone ''khāk bar saret" you are actually wishing him a horrible thing same as a death of a close-one. Better not to say, although most people are not aware of the harsh meaning.