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  • Ilinca Stroe

One word and beyond: “Drag” in 9 Everyday Romanian Phrases

There’s “drag” in English and “drag” in Romanian. The four-letter noun/adjective looks the same in both languages (although the vowel is pronounced differently), but the meanings are wide apart: Romanian “drag” has nothing to do with agricultural tools or cross-dressing; instead, it draws on its Old Slavic root драгу to mean “someone dear”, a “beloved or well-liked person”.

Hence, Romanian phrases and proverbs which comprise “drag” are somewhat indicative of how we relate to people or things we like, what it might be that makes us take a liking to them, what stirs that nice feeling of fondness in us, and how we employ or project fondness. So let’s review the most frequent of those phrases, with their English translations and clarifying examples:

Ÿ de dragul cuiva/a ceva = for someone’s/some thing’s sake

“Cum de-ai fost la cursul de tango? Ştiam că nu-ţi place să dansezi.” / “How come you went to the tango class? I thought you hated dancing.”

“Ei, m-am dus de dragul Monei.” / “Oh well, I went for Mona’s sake.”

Ÿ a-i fi cuiva drag să facă ceva = to take pleasure in doing something

“Nu te deranjează să ai grijă de casa lor cât sunt în vacanţă?” / “Don’t you mind doing housesitting for them while they’re on holiday?”

“Deloc. Mi-e drag să am grijă de pisică şi de plante.” / “Not at all. I take pleasure in looking after the cat and plants.”

Ÿ a prinde drag de ceva/cineva = to take a liking to someone

“Văd că îngrijitoarea a prins drag de Ionuţ.” / “I see the caretaker’s taken a liking to Ionuţ.”

“Da. Îi dă mere şi bomboane şi îi ia apărarea în faţa copiilor răutăcioşi.” / "That’s right. She gives him apples and candies and protects him from nasty kids.”

Ÿ când ţi-e lumea mai dragă = when things are at their sweetest

“Cum ţi se pare noul şef?” / “What do you think about the new boss?”

“Cam cu toane. Când ţi-e lumea mai dragă, începe să ţipe la noi!...” / “Quite moody. When things are at their sweetest, he starts shouting at us!...”

Ÿ dragă Doamne = allegedly

“Am înţeles că Alex dă în judecată compania şi că e vina ta.” / “I take it Alex is suing the company and it’s all your fault.”

“Aşa zice şeful. Vezi, dragă doamne, l-aş fi întărâtat eu!...” / “That’s what the boss says. Allegedly, I have incited him to.”

Ÿ cu dragă inimă = wholeheartedly

“Deci l-ai ajutat pe Paul cu proiectul de diplomă. Nu te-a plictisit?” / “So you helped Paul with his degree project. Didn’t you get bored?”

“Nu. Am făcut-o cu dragă inimă. E un tânăr capabil care merită sprijinit.” / “Nu. I did it gladly. He’s a promising young man who deserves to be supported.”

Ÿ cu (mare/mult) drag = gladly (also used instead of “you’re welcome” when someone says “thanks”)

“Mulţumesc că ai făcut meditaţii la matematică cu nepotul meu.” / “Thank you for doing maths tutoring with my grandson.”

“Cu mare drag!” / “My pleasure!”

Ÿ cu tot dragul = with all my heart, lovingly

“Dana a aruncat la gunoi tortul de la tine.” / “Dana put into the rubbish bin the cake you gave her.”

“Foarte urât! Eu i l-am făcut cu tot dragul, iar ea îşi bate joc!” / “Shame on her! I made it lovingly for her, and she doesn’t give a darn!”

Ÿ a-i fi mai mare dragul să = it’s a real joy to...

“Ai văzut ce bine lucrează împreună Marcel cu Ioana?” / “Have you seen how well Marcel and Ioana work together?”

“Da. Ţi-e mai mare dragul să te uiţi la ei!” / “Indeed. They’re a real joy to the eye!”

As for proverbs with “drag”,they vaguely suggest how finely intertwined irony and fondness are in Romanian culture. Nationally, there’s this saying: “a-i fi cuiva drag ca sarea în ochi” – “to take someone to your heart like salt in the eyes”. I.e., not. The Aromanians (a Romance ethnic group descending, like the Romanians, from the Vlachs and living in the Balkans) have their own, arguably wittier version of it: “a-i fi cuiva drag ca zăpada în sân” – “to take someone to your heart like (cold) snow in your bosom”. You get the feeling: expressively non-“drag”.

International House Bucharest, through its Romanian Language Department, runs online Romanian courses and cultural integration workshops for foreigners living in Romania or interested in the country’s culture, language or history. For more information, click here. To enrol, contact And to follow our video series “Your Romanian Class”, subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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