Top Phrases From the Catalan Language

Photo of Tara Jessop
21 April 2017

One of the five official languages of Spain, Catalan is spoken in various dialects across Catalunya, Valencia and the Balearic Islands. Here are some Catalan expressions you need to know to appreciate this historic language.

Déu n’hi do!

One of the most curious Catalan expressions, ‘Déu n’hi do’ is used almost exclusively in Catalunya although few people know its precise origin. Literally meaning something along the lines of ‘God gave it’, the phrase is actually used to express amazement and can be translated as ‘wow’ or ‘amazing’.

Fotem un café?

Despite being a very common way for Catalans to invite someone to grab a coffee, ‘fotem un café?‘ is an expression which literally means ‘shall we fuck a coffee?’. First thing in the morning, after lunch or as a quick fix when you get home from a long day at the office, the Catalans love a good coffee.

S’ha acabat el bròquil

Literally meaning ‘there’s no more broccoli’, if you hear a person tell you ‘s’ha acabat el bròquil‘ it’s got nothing to do with getting your five a day. Instead, they’re more likely to be calling someone out on their deceptive mischief, as it is used to say something similar to ‘the game is up’.

Salut i força al canut!

If a Catalan tells you ‘Salut i força al canut‘, you know they’ve got your best interests at heart. ‘Health and strength to your purse’ is a popular toast in Catalunya, and is often heard around the dinner table when friends and family raise a glass to wish each other all the best for the future.

He begut oli

When you realise you’ve messed up, when your plans have be foiled or when you just couldn’t achieve your goals, you can declare ‘he begut oli‘. Literally meaning ‘I have drunk oil’, this expression is used by Catalans to say ‘I have failed’ and serves to describe the sense of inescapable disappointment.

Aneu a escampar la boira

A clear sign that someone has had enough of your company and it’s time to move on, ‘Aneu a escampar la boira‘ means ‘go escape the fog’, but can better be understood as ‘leave me alone’. There’s no two ways about it, if a Catalan is tired of hearing the sound of your voice, you’ll soon know about it.

Quatre gats

Translated as ‘four cats’ in Catalan, ‘quatre gats‘ is a common way of saying ‘few people’, as in ‘there were only four cats at the party last night’. It’s also the name of a famous café in Barcelona, a popular hang-out among members of the city’s 20th-century literary and artistic society, similar to the ‘Chat Noir’ café in Paris.

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