Idiomatic Expressions to Know in Greek

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In every language, there are certain expressions and phrases that can’t be directly translated from one language to another because the meaning is different than what it appears. For example, an idiomatic expression in English is, “What’s up?” We aren’t actually asking about what is literally above our heads. We want to know how the person is doing. There are expressions like this in Greek, as well, and it is worth becoming familiar with them.

Idiomatic Expressions in the Greek Language

According to Webster’s Dictionary, a idiom is, “an expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of its separate words but must be learned as a whole The expression “give up,” meaning “surrender,” is an idiom.” Greece has plenty of them! Here’s a look at some of them:

  • μπαίνω στον κόπο – bano ston kopo – to get into trouble
  • μου ανέβηκε το αίμα στο κεφάλι – mou anevike to ema sto kefali – it made my blood boil (literally, it made the blood go up into my head)
  • τα κάνω άνω κάτω – ta kano ano kato – to make a mess (literally, to make them upside down)
  • κάτσε στ’αβγά σο – katse stavga so – to stay put, to stay uninvolved (literally, to sit on your eggs)
  • έγινε άλλος άνθρωπος – eyine allos anthropos – to become another person (used when someone changes a lot, as would be the case if someone had a makeover)
  • κάνει τη πάπια – kanei ti papia – to not mention something to avoid getting in trouble for it (literally, to do the duck)
  • βγήκα απ’τα ρούχα μου – vika apta rouha mou – to become enraged (literally, to come out of my clothes)
  • βρέχει καρεκλοπόδαρα – vrfehei kareklopothara – the equivalent of the English expression, “it’s raining cats and dogs” (literally, it is raining chair legs)
  • είμαι ανοιχτό βιβλίο – eimai anihto vivlio – I am an open book (literal), I wear my hear on my sleeve (similar meaning and usage as in English)
  • μαύρη μέρα κι άραχνη – mavri mera ki arahni – to have a bad day (literally, black day and spidery)
  • δεν ξέρω την τύφλα μου – then xero tin tiffla moo – to be clueless (literally, to not know my blindness)
  • μου έφαγες τα αυτιά – moo efayes ta aftia – you are talking too much (literally, you ate my ears)

As you can see, the literal meanings of the expressions is also included besides the actual meaning or use of the expression. It is a good idea to get as familiar with these as possible so when you encounter it when you are working in the Greek language, you will know how that you can’t translate it literally.


The Learn Greek section on GreekBoston.com was written by Greeks to help people understand the conversational basics of the Greek language. This article is not a substitute for a professional Greek learning program, but a helpful resource for people wanting to learn simple communication in Greek.

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