11 favorite Persian idioms and expressions

There are some words and expressions or idioms in languages that we learn that for one reason or another we like and aim to use at some point. Here are 11 useful and popular Persian idioms and expressions.

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1. Sag sâhebesho nemishnâse

Literally: A dog doesn’t recognize its owner.

How to use it: Like in this scene from Shahgoosh movie: the mother and her daughter go to the police station and are a little overwhelmed by all the chaos and commotion around them. There are people arguing, people yelling, and one random guy singing a song in the corner. The mother says, “Inja sag sâhebesho nemishnâse: (it’s chaotic here) and then says I don’t think we’ll have any luck.”

How poetically on point is this phrase? We mean when the most loyal animal in the animal kingdom is unable to recognize its owner, you know things are bad. Alternatively, you can use balbashu, instead of “sag sâhebesho nemishnâse”.

2. Halâl zâdeh

Literally: Legit/kosher birth. The suffix zâdeh means “born of”.

Meaning: Speak of the devil

How to use it: Just as you would in English, you’re thinking about someone and they show up then you say che halâl zâdeh!: what a kosher birth!

3. Khodâ vakili

Literally: God as an attorney

Meaning: truly/honestly/honest to God

How to use it: Khodâ vakili in resturan ghazâsh kheyli âliye! (Honestly, that restaurant has really nice food!)

4. Gooreto gom kon

Literally: Go lose your grave!

Meaning: Get the hell out of here!

How to use it: It’s impolite, and you’re basically asking for a beatdown if you say it. It’s included in this list because we find it hilarious and definitely under the category of “Who came up with this?” Similarly, there’s kodum goori hasti? (which grave are you?) It means “where the hell are you?” (also rude, obviously).

5. Dastam be dâmanet

Literally: My hand to your skirt

Meaning: [Help me] I beg/implore you.

How to use it: In yet another scene from Shahgoosh movie, the old man has lost a bag containing a large sum of money and asks the police to help him retrieve it. And then he talks about how his entire life savings is in there and says, “Dastam be dâmanet jenâb Sorkhi”: (I’m begging you, Mr. Sorkhi).

6. Delamo sâbun zadam

Literally: I rubbed soap on my stomach.

Meaning: I got my hopes up [and was ultimately let down].

How to use it: Like you’re invited to someone’s house for lunch, and you really hope they made your favorite food, ghormeh sabzi, but you went and it was actually macaroni. Later, you would say, “Delamo sâbun zadam kufte sabzi bokhoram (I got my hopes up to eat kufte sabzi), but they had macaroni instead.”

7. Tagh o lagh

Literally: On its own, tagh is like a popping noise, and lagh means “loose.”

Meaning: Unstable, shaky, in disarray

How to use it: For better or worse, tagh o lagh is so much a cultural concept. It’s most prevalent around Nowruz and the 1st of Mehr (the first day of school or university – roughly during the last week of September). It’s the days leading to Nowruz (Iranian new year) when work and class attendance slowly starts to trickle (because Nowruz preparations are more important), and the week or so after Nowruz when people are battling coming to terms with having to return to work or school or university. When it’s back to school or university in Mehr, students (we are talking ALL students- elementary, middle, high, university) almost never go the first week. Only a few students show up and classes inevitably get canceled, so they don’t bother. This is why you should never plan anything important at any time considered tagh o lagh.

8. Hâzer javâb

Literally: Ready answer

Meaning: A person who is quick-witted and always has an answer ready, we call him/her as hâzer javâb.

How to use it: Many years ago, a woman was standing in a bank and an elderly man walked up behind her and said, “Bebakhshid, mâdar [excuse me, mother].” (Iranians commonly use words like father, mother, sister, brother, and… to speak to strangers). Then she whipped around and replied, “It would be a real honor for me to have a son like you.” And everyone in the bank started laughing, including the man when he realized she was about thirty years younger than him.

9. Kachalam kardan

Literally: They made me bald.

Meaning: They’re driving me nuts.

10. Niki o porsesh?

Literally: Goodness and asking? Niki means “goodness” and porsesh means asking question.

Meaning: Do you even have to ask?

How to use it: Someone asks, “Want some tea? tea is your favorite (or maybe you’re just really thirsty), so you answer, “Niki o porsesh?”

11. Az har angoshtesh ye honar mibâre

Literally: A talent rains from every one of his/her fingers.

Meaning: She/He is very talented.

How to use it: Imagine a person who’s a skilled piano player, speaks 4 languages, makes their own cake, and runs an online business. Bah bah! Az har angoshtesh ye honar mibâre!

Do you have any Farsi idioms or expressions that you’re particularly fond of?

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