While you’d need a virtual tour to explore it right now, Romania is one of the most beautiful countries in Europe, and perhaps the whole world. The people are also fantastic, and their language is a joy to learn, which means that Romanian idioms are especially interesting.
If you can get a grasp on how to use them in conversation, you’ll be sure to impress the locals, and perhaps get a deeper look into Romanian culture than you would otherwise.
10 ROMANIAN IDIOMS TO USE WHEN SPEAKING TO NATIVES
Without further ado, here are 10 classic Romanian idioms you can try out in daily conversations with native speakers.
FRECȚIE LA PICIOR DE LEMN
To start, if you want to describe an effort someone is making as useless or futile, you might say that their actions are “frecție la picior de lemn”, or, “a rub on a wooden leg”.
This idiom may sound silly, but it makes enough sense if you think about it. After all, if you had a wooden leg, you wouldn’t be able to feel it, and a rub wouldn’t provide much comfort outside of the sentiment.
DUS CU PLUTA
Now, we don’t know how you feel about rafting, but if you want to point out that someone is acting crazy, you could say they’re “dus cu pluta”, or, “gone on a raft”. See, given there are many rivers throughout Romania, rafting is a fairly popular, albeit dangerous, activity.
If someone were to verge off from a rafting group and go on their own, many would assume they’re crazy for putting themselves at risk like that. In turn, the idiom can be used to describe anyone making a similarly dangerous or irrational move.
I-A PICAT FAȚA
Americans and British people say their “jaw hit the floor” when surprised, but the Romanians have a bit more of an extreme expression. See, when they’re surprised, they’ll say “i-a picat fața”, which literally means their “face has fallen off”.
You’ve likely seen someone’s face when they’re surprised; their mouth and eyes wide, their whole face seemingly stretched out. The expression, then, conveys such an immense and exaggerated sense of surprise that you think your entire face is going to drop off.
TACE CA PORCU-N PĂPUȘOI
Now, this is more of a simile within an idiom, but the uniqueness of the expression earns it a spot on the list. If someone is being especially silent around you, you might say they “tace ca porcu-n păpușoi”. In other words, you’re saying they “keep quiet like the pig in a cornfield”.
That may sound wrong, as you would suspect a pig would be very excited in a cornfield, but really they’d be too busy eating to make any noise. In turn, they wouldn’t want to alert anyone else of their new food stash and would have another reason to stay silent.
If you meet an interesting artist on your journey through Romania, they’d be very complimented if you said they have “minte creață”, or, “a curly mind”.
While it may sound like you’re making assumptions about the shape of their brain, you’re actually just saying they think differently than others, or take different mental paths to achieve what they want to accomplish. In other words, you’re saying they’re creative!
Romania is one of the most beautiful countries in Europe, and perhaps the whole world. The people are also fantastic, and their language is a joy to learn, which means that Romanian idioms are especially interesting.
Now, on your journey through the country, you might have a friend that isn’t able to move at the ideal pace and just seems to sit around when there’s something to be done. If you notice them slacking, you can tell them they’re “freacă menta”, or, “rubbing the mint”. Simply enough, this idiom just means the person is wasting time.
This expression is rooted in ancient Greece, as the noblemen would have their servants rub mint leaves on their dining tables to make them smell better. Aside from being a simple task, it’s completely unnecessary, and spending any significant length of time on it was seen as an indicator of laziness.
TE ÎMBEȚI CU APĂ RECE
When you’re in a situation where things aren’t going well, you might want to make yourself think that things are better than they are. You know it isn’t true, but deceiving yourself feels better in the moment. In Romanian, it could be said you’re trying to “te îmbeți cu apă rece”, or, “get drunk with cold water”.
The English equivalent of this expression could be “wearing rose-coloured glasses”, which just means you’re looking at things in such a positive way that you’re not seeing reality.
CA CIOARA LA CIOLAN
Now, even if you practise Romanian for a while, you may come across a piece of text that you just can’t decipher. If a native sees you struggling to read it out, they might remark that you’re “ca ciora la ciolan”, or, “staring like the crow at the bone”. In other words, you’re quite confused.
This expression is rooted in the behaviour of crows and other similar birds known to eat meat. If they saw a dead animal, they’d know exactly what to do and start devouring. Once they get to the bone, though, they may try to keep eating and find it’s impossible to get a bite. They’d end up staring at the bone in bewilderment and eventually fly away.
SE SIMTE CU MUSCA PE CĂCIULĂ
Sometimes, when you’re good at something and receive praise, you may feel like you’re actually a fraud and don’t deserve any of that attention. Rather than being what people see you as you feel like an actor pretending to be that person. In other words, it could be said that you have imposter syndrome.
Funnily enough, Romanians have an expression to describe these individuals: “se simte cu musca pe căciulă”, or, “feel with the fly on his cap”. Breaking it down, it just means you’re viewing yourself as something insignificant.
We’ll cap things off with one of the most versatile Romanian idioms in the language. Are you feeling especially tired or worn out? Is your friend being rather chaotic and high-energy? Is the room you share messy as a result of your behaviours? Well, you, your friend, and your messy room could all be described as “varză”, or, “cabbage”.
This may seem like a word that can be used on any occasion, but it appears most in reference to anything in a state of disarray.
INCLUDE ROMANIAN IDIOMS IN DAILY CONVERSATION
So, what are you waiting for? You can start practising these Romanian idioms today! You may not have any native speakers around to listen to you and correct you, but you can always look up some online language lessons. You can also use apps like HelloTalk to find Romanians who want to learn your native language and practice with each other.