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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You could also mention: "Taaje sar e maayi"
"Khaak e paatam."
"Havaa pas e"
"Khaste nabaashi"

how is khasteh nabashee a funny one? it means I hope you're not tired….

Or" delam tang shod eh" which my stomach got tight or another way if saying I miss you in Farsi

I think the only thing that would have made this article interesting would have been if the author did a bit of research to understand the source of these idioms. The verbatim meaning of these statements in Persian is almost as meaningless as the transliteration in English.

we have a another attractive saying that it's meaningless translation to English is : " My Heart Fucked Your Air " :))
The Original Saying in Persian is :
Delam Havato Karde

Dude, that's so rude lol. Kire khar means donkey's dick . You say this when you wanna comment on a bad behaviour or bullshit for example someone burp loudly and you say Kireh khar in reply lol

omg!!! no this means the donkey's penis! poor u... u have a horrible friend!

He or she has lied to you or simply used the phrase wrong their whole life! Its an insult phrase meaning, "Donkey's Dick"! And has nothing to do with Shut up! its like calling someone jackass but it even more rude and insulting.
You can specify what about the donkey's Dick! Where u want it or what you want it to do to people, it changes it's meaning slightly according to the details you have added but generally when you Add more details it gets even more insulting!!

khak bar sar: does not mean to die or to die under the ground. It was a tradition to put dust on ones clothes head etc when mourning for a loved one. so a khak bar sar is actually a mourner

Also, another way to translate zamin khordan while keeping the "eating" association rather than the "colliding" one is thinking about "biting the dust".

I enjoyed your comments a lot. It seems you have a lot more information about these idioms (if they could be called idiom) than most persians. It is a waste for this information to be lost. Have you ever thought about writing a book about these idioms and the origin behind them. It would make a fantastic book.
Damet Garm!

Another funny one is : "too bagh nisti", litteraly meaning "you're not in the garden" but actually meaning "you are off-topic" !

Khafe khoon begir, khafe= suffocate khoon= Blood begir= get or have... Get your blood suffocated!!!

people should read things carefully. it says : ZAMIN KHORDAM ( i ate the ground)...
it DOES NOT say: ZAMIN KHORDAN. so stop criticising the article when you cant read it properly!

well, technically, "khordam" in "zameen khordam" means "bar khord kardam" (e.g., "khordam beh divaar" will be "I hit the wall"). Thus, it'd be more "zameen khordam" would be "I hit the ground".

Beshin binim ba (beshin bebinim baba)
Boro baba
Vel kon
To ro khoda?
Zer nazan
Delet khoshe?
Damet garm
Khaste nabashi
Shakh dar ovordam
Kos nagu
Toole sag
Pedar sag
Pedar sookhte
Korsi sher (kos sher)
Kos mikh

a good one : What does fart have business to do with temple ? (Gooz beh shaghigheh tchi kar dareh ?)

Your video that u shared on YouTube really sucks!
I'm sure u guys haven't travelled to iran for ages. Ur knowledge about iran's culture isnt enough to go and teach anything. Its right that we do "taorof" in our culture but to u show it in a very exaggerated way.
And in many senarios u mislead the audience .

I think one should know that all these sayings come from a short story or a myth that was told traditionally.so literally none of these would have a meaning even in farsi with out the context of those stories.i think a research to find the route of these saying would educate the writer.

My personal favorite is

Which means: hope the person who washes the dead bodies after someone's passing will stay away from you.

You say that to a person you hate but at the same time don't want him to get hurt or die.

Persian culture is really messed up, why would anyone say that

Hahaha you misunderstood, when you say that it means you WANT the mortician to come take them... Meaning- I hope you die.

A corollary to "saram kolā gozāshtan" is "kolāt ro bardāshtan", which although it literally is the opposite, i.e. to take the hat off of ones head, its meaning is still the same, i.e. you were tricked. Go figure!

موش بخوردت درسته نه بخورتت! فعل خوردن است نه خورتن

You forgot pedar-am daramad lol! I hit the ground and my father came out! Tough one to translate.

literal words translations are . The story is when someone has a hard time and seeks for his father's wisdom to come through and Intervene to sort out the problem.
But!.. in a not very official and common way of saying, it means .

you also forgot about "dahanam saaf shod" it literally means "my mouth became flat!!" but it means "i suffered so much"

چتر بازى
تيغ زدن
زيگيل شدن
دو دره كردن
خالى بستن
خدا روزيت رو جاى ديگه حواله كنه
مال بد بيخ ريش صاحبش
چه مرگته
واسه كسى بمير كه واست تب كنه
با حلوا حلوا دهن شيرين نميشه
يارو شيپيش تو جيبش قاپ ميندازه
طرف قاپش و دزديد
آه در بساط نداره
هشتش گرو نهشِ
جواد بازى

يك دل نه صد دل عاشقش شد
صد رحمت به خر
بادمجون دور قاپ چين
چيه؟ مگه سر ميبرى
تو روحت
آفتابه لگن هفت دست شام و نهار هيچى
غلط كرد ، جوونى كرد
طرف پيازم يا تره ام براش خورد نميكنه
مر تيكه هيز چشم چرون

how about: Khabar-eh Marget (news of your death), you say this to someone you dislike mostly. not so nice.
and...Mordeh-shur Saret-o Bebareh (something along the lines of, may the morgue wash your body after you die because you should be dead)

how about: Khabar-eh Marget (news of your death), you say this to someone you dislike mostly. not so nice.
and...Mordeh-shur Saret-o Bebareh (something along the lines of, may the morgue wash your body after you die because you should be dead)