11 Persian Sayings That Make No Sense in English

Leyla Shams
January 21, 2014

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.

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How about just plain "befarma'id"

And "chashm" (and its big brother, "qadam ruye chashmam". OUCH!)

They have the same exact frase in English that's mostly used in military. When your superior or a high ranking officer gives you an order. instead of saying that sure I will do it you say eye eye sir. that exactly mean roye chesham.

No that is aye aye sir- aye in old English means "yes" so yes yes sir!

Sir, That's chashb not chashm. And your name should be spelled Hamid unless thers such name as Hamed. No pun intended. Thank you.

That "chasb" is a funny way to say "No" instead of "cahshm" or "be ruye cheshm" which mean "I would do what has been ordered."
Another term is "ruye cheshme maa jaa daareh" which means he/she would be a dear and taken care of in the best way.
There are too many terms and I thank you for this effort.
And for record, there is a name "Hamed" [haa-med], which means worshiper [of God].

of course it is CHASHM equivalent to eye and hamed is a name pronounced with a as u in up

Yo homy, DO NOT make a flaw! the words "chashm" and "cheshm" both mean "eye" in persian

no, that is universal, if they have gold finger, they will understand this one

You are so rude plz khafe sho divane doodool tala dige kondom koftie avazy

You forgot "Dastet Dard Nakoneh" (Your hand not to hurt) this ones is a toughie to translate, I hope you did not work too hard or have a good rest??

Yes you uuse it as a thank you but direct translatitranslation says something else thats why this page is called saying that dont make sense In english

Yes in the end the translation comes down to "Thank you", but if you want a more accurate translation it would be: "May your hand(s) not see any pain (trouble)" So that is wishing a kind of blessing for the person you say this to ( after a nice meal for example) :P

I learned "gardan koloft" from my mother-in-law to describe our cat. :)

Pedrar-Sag actually comes from Pedra-Sak which means one whose father is from Sakastan. There are at least two geographical locations associated with Sakastan: one is Sistan, the other is Scythia which is quite larger but whose southeastern border does actually end up in Sistan. Similarly, Pedar-Sookhteh comes from Pedar-Soghdeh, one whose father is from Soghd (in present day Tajikistan).

Actually I tend to go with the more literal pedar- sookhteh or پدر سوخته which essentially suggests that your Dad was a black man (literally burnt) a bit of casual racism that has become a very common insult.

i told my 6 year old pedarsag ya pedar sookhteh means grumpy... and she told me dady is very pedar sag.... so guys watch out there....:)

I can't believe "Dam et Garm" didn't make this list.

It literally means "Close to you it is warm", but figuratively means "You're awesome!"

Damet garm means may your breath be warm. In other words may you live long! Where did you get this translation?! Lol!

"Where did you get this translation?! Lol!" SORRY! I am the least Persian Persian you ever met, and my Farsi is quite bad. You'd be surprised what Persians say to my face.

Dam et Garm!!

"damet garm" literally means "your breath is warm", a close translation is "you are alright".

Damet Garm means I hope your breath be always warm. It means I wish you be alive and healthy for a long time. Without stress . In opposite when we describe somebody stressful we say " yek nafas sard keshid."

Damet Garm doesn't mean that. "Dam" in this phrase means breath, as in your breath. Damet Garm means may your breath be warm. As in :Live long.

Dam means breath. "Damet garm" means your breath is warm meaning you are alive and reliable and pleasant.

In expression "Damet Garm", "Dam" means breath, which we use in "Dam va Bazdam" and here means : Hope your breath stays warm! which means I Hope You Live Long, as if the person's breath does not make any warmth means he's dead.

Damet means nafaset as in your breath, not near you. So damet garm means zende bashi, may you always be/stay alive.

Actually "damet garm" means "your breath be warm" (remember, dam o bazdam in breathing), or in other words, you are wishing the other person a long life

Actually, 'dam' in damet garm means 'nafas'. So 'Damet garm' means 'Nafaset garm' as in I Hope you stay alive.

"Dam" also means breath and "dam et garm" would mean "may your breath be always warm" i.e. "be always alive". So, you are awesome and should be always alive ;)

LOL, nice try :)
"Dam" means breath here. Which translate to "May your breath be warm" Or long live, viva, etc.