Ten colourful Catalan phrases you should learn right now

The Local Spain
The Local Spain - [email protected]
Ten colourful Catalan phrases you should learn right now
Castellers build a human tower in front of Barcelona's Sagrada Familia. Photo: Quique Garcia / AFP

To celebrate La Diada, Catalonia's National Day on September 11th, The Local takes a look at ten of the most colourful colloquialisms from Spain's northeastern region.


1. DÉU N'HI DO! - There's no literal meaning, but this common exclamation means Wow! or Amazing! - in a good OR a bad sense.

Photo: Lluis Gene/AFP

2. FOTEM UN CAFÉ? Literal meaning: Let's 'make love' to a coffee. Real meaning: Let's go for a coffee. Used when you really, really want a coffee.

Photo: Tetra Pak/Flickr

3. S'HA ACABAT EL BROQUIL - Literal meaning: There is no broccoli left. Real meaning: The game is up. Used when you have uncovered someone's dastardly plans or you are putting a stop to their unacceptable behaviour.

Photo: CPB Photography/Flickr

4. SALUT I FORÇA AL CANUT! - Literal meaning: Good health, and strength to your purse. Real meaning: Good health, and strength to your balls. A canut was a purse made from a bull's scrotum so this common toast also wishes virility for its lucky recipients.


5. HE BEGUT OLI - Literal meaning: I've drunk oil. Real meaning: I've failed. Used after any visit to a government office in an attempt to complete an official procedure or file paperwork.

Photo: Bradley Gordon/Flickr

6. FER-NE CINC CÈNTIMS - Literal meaning: Make it five cents. Real meaning: Give me the short version. Used when you want a quick summary of something because you don't have the time (or patience) to chat.

Photo: Ellie LoNardo/Flickr
7. ANEU A ESCAMPAR LA BOIRA - Literal meaning: Go and escape the fog. Real meaning: get lost or leave me alone. Used to make it clear you're no longer interested in someone's company.

Photo: Billy Voon/Flickr
8. FER PASSAR BOU PER BÈSTIA GROSSA - Literal meaning: To pass old beef off as prime meat. Real meaning: To make something cheap or shoddy look better than it is. Used when covering up poor workmanship or a rushed job or, less kindly - when referring to people's Facebook profile photos.

Photo: Alpha/Flickr
9. QUATRE GATS - Literal meaning: Four cats. Real meaning: Only a few people. Used to express surprise at a small turnout or crowd attendance.

Photo: Caleb Lost/Flickr
10. SENY - Literal meaning: Common sense. Real meaning: The self-defining Catalan concept of levelheadedness. Often used in contrast to its opposite - rauxa - which means wild abandonment, especially when making excuses for how boring the sardana (national dance) is to watch.

Photo: Katherine Price/Flickr

By Steve Tallantyre a journalist based in Barcelona 




Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also