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.

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It seems like you don't know what it actually means :)
"Dam et garm" literally means "May your breath be warm" and conveys wishing a lively life. It is usually used when someone does a good work. "-I finally repaired the broken modem. -Dam et garm, you really helped us".

Damet garm means "May your breath be always warm!" Dam is the breath here "dam va bazdam" not "near"

"Dam" means "nafas" here which "breath" in English.
Damet garm means: may your breath be warm (may you be alive): you are awesome!

Actually "dam" in "damet garm" means breath! Basically meaning "may your breath be warm", or in English "good on you"!

Here, "Dam" means "inspiration" .... and it refers to this point that when someone is alive, he can breath. When you say "Damet garm", you meam that you wish the other one to "stay alive", but it actually mean "true blue"!!

Damat Garam means your breath be hot as in be alive or remain alive, in conversation it means you are awesome.

"دمت گرم" يعنى نفست گرم و برقرار يعنى زنده باشى! نه اينكه كنارت گرمه!

Hi there:
I would like to make a suggestion regarding your translation of Persian Proverbs.
"Dam et garm" : Dam= does not always equate "Close by", it also means " To speak of", so "daam nazan could mean "Don't speak it/Don't speak of it".
So "Dam et Garm" means (warm words or something like "what you say is Heart warming").

It actually doesn't mean "close to you it is warm". Dam here means your breath. It literally means hope your breath is warm or be healthy and alive. But as you said means you're awesome.

Nope. 'Dam' is breath, 'garm' means warm. It literally means 'may your breath be warm!' or, simply 'be healthy and alive.'
Also, on a technical note, all verbs in Farsi starting with 'beh' or 'nah', e.g., bekon, nakon; boro, naro; bashe, nabasheh, etc. (basically all the verb in the above piece), are subjunctive and should be translated and understood as such.

Nope. 'Dam' is breath, 'garm' means warm. It literally means 'may your breath be warm!' or, simply may you be healthy and alive.
Also, on a technical note, all verbs in Farsi starting with 'beh' or 'nah', e.g., bekon, nakon; boro, naro; bashe, nabasheh, etc. (basically all the verb in the above piece), are subjunctive and should be translated and understood as such.

In this case, dam means breath, not "close". Damesh garm means "may his/her breath be warm": may he/she stay alive. This is said after someone does something really good.

actually "dam et" is this phrase means " your breathe" not "close to you" or "next to you".

A zillion people have commented on this and they all have missed the point that " Damet garm" literally translates to "may what you breath in be warm" referring to Opium!

"Dam" means "nafas" not close to you... 'damet garm' means Hope you will be always alive.
#11 has a reason and I wonder there are stories behind each these expressions. for #11, when somebody died, his family put 'dirt' but actually soil on their head to show their grief. So when I say "khak be saram" means I'm unfortunate like lost someone important.

Did you notice that they are literally translating these idioms ??!!???!!!! Dam = kenar, nazdik in common everyday conversation!! I don't tell my mom" raftam doidam, damam ( nafasam) gerft", but I do say" bia dam e man be shin"!!!

Nice compilation.

Damet garm means may your breath be warm, a sign that a person is alive. Opposed to a Dead person's breath is cold, no longer warm.

It's save to say that 90% of all Persian saying have to do with death in one way or other..

And 'Nafaset Joosh' is the 'Damet Garm' with more intensity! He is correct about Dam meaning breath people. And also dirt on your head, implies a big misfortune has come upon me.
All and all, this language is applied poetry.
Just Take colors: Abi: watery, BLUE; Sabz: vegtably: GREEN; Soorati: of the Face: PINK;...the whole lingo is riddled w/ simili, allegory, metaphors,...

Mehry jan, If you can see this, please send an email to us at leyla@chaiandconversation.com- this second statement that you made is perfect, and is being made into our next blog post. I love the way you worded it, 'the whole lingo is riddled w/ simili, allegory, metaphors, etc' and I would love to quote you on it!

Don't forget KHASTE NABASHI. You can never ever find any synonyms for this in any languages!

The Japanese have a saying just like this "Otsukaresamadeshita", which means "you must be tired", which you say to someone who has worked hard. They also have a word for Tarof - "Enryo" and they do it almost as bad as Iranians...hehe

As I learned befor in my English classes the best translation of "khaste nabashi" is "power to you" .

"Pedar sukhteh" was always a favorite of mine and seemed to be used quite frequently by my university friends ("pedar sag" being too offensive). Perhaps the sayings listed in this article are traditional and not reflective of the post-revolution generation's expressions.

The only major one that I think is missing is "pedaram dar oomad" (My dad came out).

that is a great one. Basically meaning that I worked so hard on a project till it got me dead tired.

1. Ba Namak doesn't mean with salt. It means salty!
2. one important phrase has been missed: Khaste Nabashid.

salty is shoor! if we use banamak in food situation (rarely) it would mean the food has salt but not salty... so more like seasoned with salt

Actually "zahré mār" makes sense. It means "May you eat snake's poison and die, so as a result you shut up like a dead man." The reason it is considered a rude and unacceptable saying is that it basically expresses wish for the other person's death.

how about 'chap chap negam nakon' haha Don't look at me left left ;)