Greek Idioms In English

Have you ever tried to explain an idiom to someone in your native language?

Doesn’t the translation sound surreal? Nonetheless, you use this idiom frequently in your native language without even realizing how strange it is.

I’m going to show you seven common idioms in Greek today. You’ll learn what they mean and where and how to use them.

The following paragraphs may be of interest if you want to learn more about why and how it is beneficial to use expressions and idioms in language learning. If not, feel free to skip ahead and read on.

Assume you’re describing your day to a friend; you won’t simply jump from one event to the next or use all words literally – like a robot. Obviously not.

Language expresses far more than simple facts; as humans, we are inventive enough to use multiple meanings in a single word or sentence.

However, the first vocabulary is the most important when learning a language, as it allows you to talk about important things and topics.

As you learn the language, incorporating more color and liveliness into your speaking helps you sound more natural, be funny, and make your story more interesting.

Let’s see how it goes!


Καλά κρασιά!

What Does It Mean?

The sentence literally means “good wines”; καλά is the adjective and, in the plural, κρασιά is the noun. It’s worth noting that no article is used in this idiom.

“Yeah, whatever,” or “good luck with that” could be the translation.

Where & How To Use It

When you want to express your disappointment or frustration about cancellations, delays, or things that simply went wrong, you can say καλά κρασιά.

Also, you can use this when someone responds to your question completely illogically.

You can use this idiom in a casual setting when speaking to a friend or relative. Avoid using it when responding to people you don’t know because it may sound sarcastic and rude.

Greek Idioms In English 1

Σιγά τα λάχανα!

What Does It Mean?

It literally means “slowly the cabbage”. Doesn’t make any sense, does it? Σιγά is an adverb that means slowly or softly, and τα λάχανα is, as you might expect, the plural of cabbage.

It’s equivalent to saying “big deal!” in English.

Where & How To Use It

You can say σιγά τα λάχανα sarcastically when you think whatever the other person says falls short of your expectations or isn’t as exciting or important as they believe.

This idiom is used again in a casual setting. (Even then, it’s best to use it on someone who isn’t present!)

Greek Idioms In English 2

Να ‘χεις τα μάτια σου δεκατέσσερα

What Does It Mean?

“To have your eyes fourteen” is a Greek idiom that many Greek mums (including mine!) use.

Nα έχεις (‘χεις) means to have, or you should have, τα μάτια refers to the eyes, and δεκατέσσερα is, as you know, the number 14.

This phrase implies, “be extremely careful, be aware”.

Where & How To Use It

Because there is a verb here (έχω), that implies you may utilize it depending on who you are referring to. Employ it in the subjunctive, always with “να” at the start.

It’s not insulting to anyone; it’s more like something you’d say to your adolescent on a night out with their buddies (and it will absolutely make their eyes roll – not multiply to 14!).

You can even tell a buddy about something you believe is hazardous.

Οι τοίχοι έχουν αυτιά

What Does It Mean?

That means the walls have ears!

Yes, it actually means that someone may overhear what you’re saying, so be cautious when gossiping about that distant aunt at the family dinner.

Where & How To Use It

When someone is actually gossiping, you use it!

Obviously, you can say this phrase in hushed tones.

Greek Idioms In English 3

Πληρώνω τα μαλλιά της κεφαλής μου

What Does It Mean?

It literally means that I paid (all) for my head’s hair.

You probably already know that Πληρώνω means I pay, τα μαλλιά is the hair, της κεφαλής μου means of my head.

Note 1: In Greek, μαλλιά is the plural form of the word το μαλλί. In contrast to English, the words are usually used in the plural.

Note 2: The word της κεφαλής is an older version of the word το κεφάλι. Της κεφαλής is genitive and derives from η κεφαλή, which is feminine. In modern Greek, use το κεφάλι for the actual head and η κεφαλή for the person in command, the leader.

It’s equivalent to saying, “it costs me an arm and a leg” in English.

Where & How To Use It

When you think you’ve paid way too much for something, you can say πληρώνω τα μαλλιά της κεφαλής μου in frustration.

Because this idiom contains a verb, the verb may vary depending on the structure of your sentence.

Πέφτω από τα σύννεφα

What Does It Mean?

It literally means that I have fallen from the clouds. Πέφτω means I fall, από means from, and τα σύννεφα means the clouds.

Doesn’t it look nice to fall from the clouds? It actually means I’m taken aback, even shocked, by something or someone’s actions.

Where & How To Use It

This idiom can be applied to any situation. It simply expresses a negative shock or surprise.

Change the verb again depending on the person and tense. The two most common tenses are Πέφτω and simple past έπεσα.

Greek Idioms In English 4

Σκάει γάιδαρο

What Does It Mean?

This idiom means (he/she/it) σκάει bursts, and the word γάιδαρο means a donkey. Donkeys adore Greeks, and Greeks adore donkeys, which explains why we have so many.

Okay, that’s not entirely true, but Greeks regard donkeys as extremely patient animals who are difficult to irritate.

Whoever irritates a donkey is a truly annoying person, thus the idiom!

Where & How To Use It

Use it when you believe someone is being extremely and annoyingly persistent – or just plain annoying.

While you can use this idiom in an argument with the aforementioned annoying person, it is only used casually.

Another verb: The forms you usually need to use are Σκάει or the second person σκας.

Whoever irritates a donkey is a truly annoying person, thus the idiom!

Final Words

I hope you can have a fun, exciting and a more colorful conversation after reading these common Greek idioms. Once you learn the use of idioms in any language, especially Greek, if that’s your cup of tea, the conversational skills go up a notch.