idioms for doing nothing

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Dymn

Senior Member
Is there any set phrase in your language for someone who never works and does nothing at all?

English: to not lift a finger
Catalan: no fotre brot (lit. "to not do bud", fotre is colloquial/vulgar)
Spanish: no dar palo al agua (lit. "to not give stick to the water")
Portuguese: não mexer uma palha (lit. "to not move a straw")

Thanks as always!
 
  • TheCrociato91

    Senior Member
    Italian - Northern Italy
    Italian. There are quite a few, and not all of them are interchangeable (i.e. they do not all mean exactly the same thing, but they're all connected with "not doing anything"). Their use may vary according to the context (and register, of course).

    - non muovere un dito (not move a finger, similar to the English to not lift a finger), used especially to mean: refuse to help someone;
    - stare/starsene a guardare (remain watching), similar to the one above, meaning to look on without intervening, to watch from the sidelines
    - starsene con le mani in mano (remain with your hands in your hands)
    - girarsi i pollici (twiddle one's thumbs)
    - stare a grattarsi (remain scratching oneself)
    - grattarsi la pancia (informal: scatch one's belly)
    - grattarsi le palle (vulgar: scratch one's balls)
    - stare/starsene in panciolle; stare/starsene con la pancia all'aria (stay with one's belly in the air), meaning to laze around
    - battere la fiacca, meaning to be slacking
    - poltrire, meaning to laze around (as if still in bed)

    There are surely more. In case you're interested, I've added some links for the expressions for which it's hardest to provide a literal translation.
     
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    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Is there any set phrase in your language for someone who never works and does nothing at all?

    English: to not lift a finger
    'Not to lift a finger' means 'not to make the slightest effort to do something in particular', and especially 'to do nothing to help in a particular situation', rather than 'never to do anything'.

    One BrE phrase for your intended meaning is "He just loafs about".
     

    nimak

    Senior Member
    Macedonian
    In Macedonian and Serbian/Croatian languages there is a verb for "doing nothing":

    денгуби (dengubi), дангуби/dangubi - verb 3rd p.sg. = lit. "[he/she] day-loses"

    ден (den), дан/dan - noun = day
    губи / gubi - verb = to lose
     

    Yendred

    Senior Member
    Français - France
    In French:
    Avoir un poil dans la main (to have one hair in one's hand) = to be lazy
    The expression conveys the idea that a lazy person makes so little use of their hand that hair can grow in it.

    And we have the equivalent of the English expression "to twiddle one's thumbs" and Italian "girarsi i pollici":
    Se tourner les pouces =
    to sit there doing nothing

    And the equivalent of the Spanish "no dar palo al agua":
    Ne pas en mettre une rame (not to give any stroke of the oar)


    Another one has a more positive meaning:
    Avoir les doigts de pied en éventail (to have one's toes fanned out) = to relax oneself lying down and doing nothing
    The idea is that you are so relaxed that your toes take the shape of a fan.
     
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    KalAlbè

    Senior Member
    American English & Kreyòl Ayisyen
    Brazilian Portuguese: Coçar o saco = Literally to scratch one's scrotum :D
    Haitian Creole: Sak sik = To be a sack of sugar - heavy and just lying there.
     

    bibax

    Senior Member
    Czech (Prague)
    Czech:

    nehnouti prstem instr. = not to move a finger;

    colloq. nezvednouti zadek = not to lift [one's] bottom/butt/buttocks;

    colloq. váleti si šunky = to loll (váleti = to roll sth, šunka = ham, rump);

    točiti mlýnek dim. = to spin the mill [with thumbs];
    usually combined with
    míti nohy na stole = to have [one's] legs on the table;

    V práci měl celý den nohy na stole a točil mlýnek. = At work he had [his] legs on the table all day long and spun the mill.
    Celý den nezvedl zadek, válel si šunky na gauči. = He didn't lift [his] bottom all day long, he lolled on the sofa.
     
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    Sardokan1.0

    Senior Member
    Sardu / Italianu
    Italian :
    • non muovere un dito (not to move a finger)
    • non alzare un dito (not to lift a finger)

    Sardinian :
    • no movere unu poddighe (not to move a finger)
    • si sulare sos poddighes (to blow your own fingers)
    • si pistare sos ghenujos (to beat your own knees)
    • istare a manos in culu (literally : to stay with hands in your ass = when you stay with your hands crossed on your back)
    • faghere sa brocca (literally : to do the jug = when you stay with your hands on your hips, and they look like the handles of a jug)
     
    Greek:

    «Δεν κουνάω ούτε το μικρό μου δαχτυλάκι» [ðeŋ͜ guˈna.ɔ ˈu.te tɔ miˈkrɔ mu ðax.tiˈla.ci] --> to not move even one's pinky finger
    «Ξύνω τ' αρχίδια μου» [ˈk͜si.nɔ tarˈçi.ðʲa mu] --> to scratch one's balls

    There are also the verbs:
    (A) «Τεμπελιάζω» [tem.beˈʎa.zɔ] (colloq.) --> to slack off, laze < Ott. Turk. تنبل (tembel), lazy < Pers. تنبل (tanbal), lazy.
    (B) «Οκνηρεύω» [ɔk.niˈɾe.vɔ] --> to laze < Classical denominative v. «ὀκνηρεύω» ŏknēreú̯ō --> to fill with reluctance, inspire doubt, metaph. to laze < Classical adj. «ὀκνηρός, -ρά, -ρόν» ŏknērós (masc.), ŏknērā́ (fem.), ŏknērón (neut.) --> shrinking, timid, hesitant, doubtful, arousing doubt, idle, sluggish, lazy (possibly from PIE *h₂onk-no- to hang with cognates the Sankrit शङ्कते (śáṅkate), to doubt, hesitate, Lat. cunctārī, to delay, hesitate, Proto-Germanic *hanhaną > Eng. hang, Dt. hangen).
    (A) prevails in the vernacular, (B) is learned and rarely used.
     

    nimak

    Senior Member
    Macedonian
    A person who neither works nor studies. Una persona que ni estudia ni trabaja = nini
    Very interesting! :D We can add the word нини (nini) into the Macedonian dictionary too, because we use the conjunction ни (ni) too, besides ниту (nitu).

    Macedonian: Лице кое ни учи ни работи. (Lice koe ni uči ni raboti.) = Una persona que ni estudia ni trabaja.
     

    MiguelitOOO

    Banned
    Español - México
    Very interesting! :D We can add the word нини (nini) into the Macedonian dictionary too, because we use the conjunction ни (ni) too, besides ниту (nitu).

    Macedonian: Лице кое ни учи ни работи. (Lice koe ni uči ni raboti.) = Una persona que ni estudia ni trabaja.
    :D:D:D
     

    Dymn

    Senior Member
    Some in Catalan too: fer el gos, fer el dropo ("to do the dog", "to do the lazy"), dropejar (from dropo)

    I'll quote how I'd say some of them in Catalan, of course many may exist in Spanish too and I guess in many other languages:

    - non muovere un dito (not move a finger, similar to the English to not lift a finger), used especially to mean: refuse to help someone;
    no moure un dit. I didn't think of it when I mentioned "to not lift a finger" because I was in a hurry but it does exist, and with the meaning mentioned by Sound Shift.

    - stare/starsene a guardare (remain watching), similar to the one above, meaning to look on without intervening, to watch from the sidelines
    quedar-s'ho mirant

    - starsene con le mani in mano (remain with your hands in your hands)
    quedar-se de braços plegats ("to stay with arms folded")

    - grattarsi la pancia (informal: scatch one's belly)
    rascar-se/gratar-se la panxa, also fer pànxing ("to do belly-ing")

    - grattarsi le palle (vulgar: scratch one's balls)
    rascar-se/gratar-se les boles (balls), els collons (bullocks), els ous (eggs), els pebrots (peppers (the fruit)), etc.

    colloq. nezvednouti zadek = not to lift [one's] bottom/butt/buttocks;
    no aixecar/bellugar el cul ("to not lift/move the buttocks") de la cadira ("from the chair"). Especially when you're waiting for someone else to solve your own problems, "treure's les castanyes del foc ("to pull one's chestnuts out of the fire").

    A lazy worker (or student) sits only to scaldare la sedia
    escalfar la cadira

    Mexican Spanish: Ser un nini (to be a nini). Very modern idiom.
    Yep, also used in Spain. But I wouldn't use it idiomatically (?).

    'Not to lift a finger' means 'not to make the slightest effort to do something in particular', and especially 'to do nothing to help in a particular situation', rather than 'never to do anything'.
    Duly noted. I can't edit it by now though :(
     

    AndrasBP

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    Hungarian:
    a person who does nothing can be called a

    léhűtő /'le:hy:tø:/ = lit. "soup cooler" (the soup will cool down by itself, so the "activity" is pointless)

    naplopó /'nɒplopo:/ = lit. "day stealer" (similar to the Macedonian verb "dengubi")
     

    eno2

    Senior Member
    Dutch-Flemish
    A person who neither works nor studies. Una persona que ni estudia ni trabaja = nini
    Sure, that's for the unemplyed youths that do not study no works, but it's not precisely a set phrase for doing nothing in general.
    Además, no es cierto que estos NiNi's holgazanean (=Estar voluntariamente ocioso. ). Es más una situación de desempleo juvenil provocada por la crisis.

    I think I will have a few phrazes to mention in Dutch such as:
    Geen klap uitvoeren (= no realisar ni golpe)

    In French:
    Ne rien foutre

    No dar palo al agua is what I sought to remember for 'geen klap uitvoeren. Klap = golpe
     
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    Also in Greek:

    «Βαράω μύγες» [vaˈɾa.ɔ ˈmi.ʝes] --> to swat flies

    -The MoGr verb is the uncontracted «βαράω» [vaˈɾa.ɔ] --> to hit, swat < Classical denominative verb «βαρέω/βαρῶ» băréō (uncontracted)/bărô (contracted) --> to weigh down, depress < Classical neut. noun «βάρος» bắrŏs --> heavy weight (PIE *gʷrh₂-u- heavy cf Skt. गुरु (gurú), weighty, high in respect (teacher), Lat. gravis, brūtus).

    -Τhe noun is «μύγα» [ˈmi.ɣa] (fem. nom. sing.), «μύγες» [ˈmi.ʝes] (fem. nom. pl.) --> fly/flies < Byz. Gr. fem. «μύγα» mýga (idem) < Classical fem. «μυῖα» muî̯ă
     

    eno2

    Senior Member
    Dutch-Flemish
    Dutch has the verb luilekkeren, compound from the adjectives lui +lekker, lui meaning lazy and lekker meaning delicious, so 'luilekkeren' means lazyly and deliciously doing nothing.

    Hij luilekkerde hele dagen in de zon: He was all day basking lazily and deliciously in the sun.
     

    bibax

    Senior Member
    Czech (Prague)
    Another Czech idiom:

    chytati lelky = lit. to catch nightjars (= to do nothing);
    > verb lelkovati = to do nothing;

    lelek = nightjar ("goatsucker"), Caprimulgus europaeus;
     

    Armas

    Senior Member
    Finnish
    Finnish:

    pyöritellä peukaloitaan "to twiddle one's thumbs"
    syljeskellä kattoon "to spit to the ceiling"
    laiskamato "lazy-worm" an imaginary parasite causing laziness
    lorvikatarri "idleness-catarrh" an imaginary illness
     

    eno2

    Senior Member
    Dutch-Flemish
    Finnish:


    laiskamato "lazy-worm" an imaginary parasite causing laziness
    lorvikatarri "idleness-catarrh" an imaginary illness
    I suppose those are nouns, let's stay with idioms for the verbal expression 'doing nothing'


    Lanterfanten
    duimendraaien (to twiddle one's thumbs )
    Leeglopen (to idle )
    All mean doing nothing.
     
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    ThomasK

    Senior Member
    Belgium, Dutch
    Lanterfanten
    duimendraaien (to twiddle one's thumbs )
    Leeglopen (to idle )
    All mean doing nothing.
    And: rondhangen (hang around)...

    There are always the other expressions referring to not doing what is hoped for, which is often suggested by the presence of niet/ geen (not/ no), as Sound Shift suggested: geen vinger uitsteken (not to stretch a finger), geen vin verroeren (not to move a fin), ...
     

    Sardokan1.0

    Senior Member
    Sardu / Italianu
    The concept of "hang around" seems to be very popular even in distant languages.

    In Sardinian language one the words to describe a time waster / lazybones is "càncaru" which literally means "hinge"

    Càncaru = person who turns around doing nothing (like a hinge) -> time waster / lazybones (and it's also used as synonymous of "idiot, deficient")
     

    eno2

    Senior Member
    Dutch-Flemish
    And: rondhangen (hang around)...

    There are always the other expressions referring to not doing what is hoped for, which is often suggested by the presence of niet/ geen (not/ no), as Sound Shift suggested: geen vinger uitsteken (not to stretch a finger), geen vin verroeren (not to move a fin), ...
    Normally I would only suggest expressions, but they began giving verbs, so I followed suit.
     
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    DearPrudence

    Dépêche Mod (AL mod)
    IdF
    French (lower Normandy)
    In French:
    Avoir un poil dans la main (to have one hair in one's hand) = to be lazy
    The expression conveys the idea that a lazy person makes so little use of their hand that hair can grow in it.

    And we have the equivalent of the English expression "to twiddle one's thumbs" and Italian "girarsi i pollici":
    Se tourner les pouces =
    to sit there doing nothing

    And the equivalent of the Spanish "no dar palo al agua":
    Ne pas en mettre une rame (not to give any stroke of the oar)

    > personally, I've never heard this form, only
    Ne pas en foutre une rame (not to put (any stroke of the) an oar)
    Apart from the expressions above, I would add:

    "peigner la girafe" (to comb the giraffe)
    "coincer la bulle" ("to wedge the bubble")

    And rather about not helping, like "ne pas lever le petit doigt" (not to lift a finger):
    "rester les bras croisés" (stay with your arms crossed)
    "regarder les mouches voler" (look at the flies fly)
     
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