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!


Dast as sar kachalam vardar , ( take off your hands from my bald head)

They are even funnier when you join them together, khordam zamin va pedaram dar omad. ( I ate the ground and my father came out)

"Kharet az pol gozasht", literal meaning is "your donkey has passed the bridge" actual meaning "now you no longer need me/him/her/it/us/them"

"Khar biyar baghaly bar kon", literal meaning is "bring a donkey and load it with broad beans" actual meaning "this is seriously messed up"/"we are f***ed"

Ah, lest we forget the ever popular "cheshmesh koor" or, if you're really feeling brave, "cheshmet koor". oooohh

A few of these idioms make sense in English, keeping in mind that you do not translate word by word but rather find the counterpart in English: Examplae" Jat Khali ye" We miss you here Saram Kolagozashtan: I got fooled They stiffed me, I got conned " Ba namak" Spicey, Swarthy Havato Daram : I cover for you, I am with you
Zameen Khordam: I fell down, Stumbled, "Khak bar Saram": Poor me, I am out of luck
"Khak bar Saram: has a historical background ' which goes back to the old testament. People who were spritually down, and felt down in luck, put ashes in their head, in this proverb says that" I am down, depressed, out of luck...etc

How about "Goozpeech"?..meaning confused.
Or "chose charb? Literally meaning greasy fart but refers to someone who thinks they are know it all or hot shot.

Du koon yek shalwar.....literally meaning two ass and one pants...but refers to someone who is suddenly buddy buddy with someone they necessary didn't cared for before.

Du koon yek shalwar.....literally meaning two ass and one pants...but refers to someone who is suddenly buddy buddy with someone they necessary didn't cared for before.

I enjoyed the word and the esmartensee( with Persian accent) of the writter

dastet shooreh
ghadamet mobarak
dastet dard nakoneh
cheshmet shooreh
javabe sarbala
javabe dandan shekan
sar bezeer
ja kesh
moo az mast keshidan
delam aab shod
aabe khosh az galoosh paeen naraft

thanks for sharing- i really enjoy the meaningful expressions, another good one: chasme to rosan (may your eyes be brighten) to express that you are an "enlightened person".

One of the best is 'man chesham ab nemikhore' literal translation: my eyes don't see water but it actually means "I don't think it's going to happen"

The best one is "Tchoob tu kunet" which literally translates to "a stick (or wood) up your ass" -- meaning "too bad for you" or something along these lines.

I learnt one iranian tongue twister which doesnt even make sense in their own language, "chai daghe, doi chaghe" which literally translates to "the chai is hot, my uncle is fat"

You might be interested to know that a few years ago I have compiled and published a book"1001 Persian-English Proverbs" which includes 1001 Persian proverbs with the literal translations in English and the closest equivalent of English proverb.it also includes hundreds of pictorial riddle proverbs.

You might be interested to know that a few years ago I have compiled and published a book"1001 Persian-English Proverbs" which includes 1001 Persian proverbs with the literal translations in English and the closest equivalent of English proverb.it also includes hundreds of pictorial riddle proverbs.

a really good one would be "eyval", it has a positive concept and it is easy to say for non-Persians!

Eyval is not a Persian proverb, it's shortened for Ey Vallah which is an arabic expression

you may also wanna include "yaru kharesh kheili mire" means "this guy has a lot of connections and is in power/authority to work something out"

Did anyone mentions: zaboonam moo daravord? My tongue grew hair? This is said when one has to repeat saying things and gets tired of doing so.

All these phrase are simply Persian idioms, meaning that they are not interpreted literally but are rather codes containing other figurative meanings. This is exactly the case for English idioms as well (there are tens of thousands of them in every language).
As with "Zameen Khordam", it doesn't mean I ate the ground in Persian. The verb (zameen khordan) is not even an idiom. It's just a two part verb that is used exactly the same way in Persian language.
The two-part verb is actually short form of a three-part phrase, in which the preposition "to" is removed so it's just "be zameen khordam". And this "khordam" is not eating at all, it's another way of saying "bar khordam" meaning "I collided".
Thanks any ways.

How about chos khor, chosan fesan kardi, kos khol, chosi naya, dozarit oftad?

"khordam zamin" doesn't mean "eating" .... it doesn't come from "khordan" , meaning "eating".
It comes from "barkhord kardan" meaning "hitting" .
So "khordam zamin" , "barkhord kardam be zamin" literally means "I hit the ground" :)

As someone else has already mentioned, these people have not been to Iran for a long time and have probably grown upi here. translations are far from accurate. they mostly come from uneducated guesses...

About (zamin khordam).
This is originally (be zamin barkhordam)
Which means I hit the ground not that I ate the ground! In daily conversations it has changed to ( zamin khordam) which dose not make sense in Persian or English.