Walls have ears

El escoces

Senior Member
English - UK
Further to the interesting thread from earlier today on the different words used in each language (except perhaps English) for different types of wall, I have a further question.

In English, we might say, "The walls have ears" (meaning Be careful, you never know who might be eavesdropping). You might tap the side of your nose, in a knowing manner, while saying it (such action would be stereotypically melodramatic).

Is there an equivalent idiom in other languages, or would one simply have to be more literal?

El escocés
  • English: Walls have ears (as well).
    Bulgarian: (И) Стените имат уши.
    Russian: И у стен есть уши.
    Greek: (Kαί) οι τοίχοι έχουν αυτιά.
    Here we say "las paredes oyen".

    On the other hand, there's ironically "sordo como una tapia" ("deaf as a wall").

    Yo también estoy de acuerdo en que las paredes más que escuchar o tener oídos, oyen.
    Aunque donde yo vivo es habitual la confusión entre escuchar y oír, en esta frase hecha, las paredes oyen
    Arabic: للحيطان آذان (lil-HiiTaani aadhaanun)
    In Czech:
    I stěny mají uši. ((also) walls have ears)

    In Lithuanian:
    Ir sienos girdi ((also) walls hears)
    or ir sienos turi ausis ((also) walls have ears)
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    How curious that the saying should also exist that far away! I wonder if European languages got the expression from Japanese...
    In Tagalog:

    It's really an idiom, there's no literal meaning to us but we rather use

    May pakpak ang balita or it's like the 'news have wings' in English which obviously means that news can easily or reach you faster as to have wings :)

    and for 'walls have ears" literally it's 'may tenga ang dingding'.

    In Chinese we have the idiom "隔墙有耳" , which means "the walls have ears" or literally "there is a ear/are ears on the other side of the wall ". So intereting we have the same expression:)
    The origin of this Chinese idiom is the book "管子" (Guanzi) written in the the Spring and Autumn and the Warring States Period in Chinese history(770-221BC) . So does the Japanese saying:

    かきに耳(みみ)あり (the walls have ears)
    • 〔出典〕 『管子』君臣下 (Origin): Guanzi, Article: Junchenxia(literally means Lords and Ministers II)
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    very interesting it exists in many languages

    Hungarian: A falnak is füle van. (even the wall has ears)
    In Catalan we say Hi ha roba estesa, literally There are clothes hanging (to dry). The meaning is the same as Walls have ears, though.
    In Tunisian Arabic: en-nhar bi-3weenaatu, w illeel bi-wdhiinaatu The day with its eyes (has eyes) and the night with its ears (has ears).
    In Turkish apart from "yerin kulağı var : the ground has an ear" we also use "şeytan kulağına kurşun" meaning "a bullet the the ear of the devil" or maybe "lead (the chemical substance) to the ear of the devil" when we don't want something to happen we just said or heard.
    I have heard the expression "ears have walls" (I mean its translation in Greek) which in my view means the situation when someone wouldn't listen or accept other people's opinions. I don't think it has become a set phrase in Greek, but it's rather a word play with the known phrase "walls have ears". Does this phrase mean something in your language or not?
    Slovenian: Stene imajo ušesa

    Croatian: Zidovi imajo uši

    It means, we have to be careful what we are talking about, even in some empty room or house.
    Here's the Welsh equivalent: Mae llygaid gan y perthi a chlustiau gan y cloddiau.
    Literally: “There are eyes with the hedges and ears with the embankments.”
    I.e. “Hedges have eyes and embankments have ears.”
    In Spain to express this idea of being careful because there may well be eavesdropping I've heard much more frequently the expression: Hay moros en la costa. (There are moors on the coast).
    In Sardinian the phrase can be translated using 3 different verbs :

    Sos muros han orìjas = The walls have ears
    Sos muros tenen orìjas = The walls keep ears
    Sos muros jùghen orìjas = The walls bring ears
    In Slovakia we have a similar phase as in English, we use an expression: Aj steny majú uši. It is exactly the same.
    There is a Portuguese Proverb: «Montes vêem, paredes ouvem» (lit. Hills/Mountains/etc can see, walls can hear).
    To native speakers of (any variety of) English, fields have eyes and woods have ears.

    In the last 2009 language shake-up, Portuguese vêem lost its circumflex accent. Now speakers of any variety of Portuguese write, "veem."
    In Spanish, apart from the already mentioned above (Las paredes oyen 'Walls hear' and Hay moros en la costa 'There are Moors off the coast'), an equivalent to the Catalan Hi ha roba estesa also exists: Hay ropa tendida 'There are clothes hanging up (on the line)'.

    The origin of this is likely to be from the fact that, when you wanted to talk to someone about something important, there was always, by "chance", a nosy neighbour hanging up clothes at that very moment, with very attentive ears. So people would say, Careful, there are clothes hanging up...