top of page
  • Ilinca Stroe

One word at a time: “Umăr”

a da din umeri

In many cultures, body parts have symbolic meanings: the head stands for leadership and wisdom, the eye – for omniscient divinity, the hand – for strength and power. In this framework, there’s one body part in particular that symbolises dependability: the shoulder – in Romanian, umăr, from Latin humerus. Given its significance, umăr lends the phrases it is part of meanings related to notions like responsibility, status, contribution. Let us review the most frequent such phrases, with their English translations and clarifying examples:

Ÿ umăr la umăr = neck and neck

“Lia a câştigat cursa de 100 de metri?” / “Did Lia win the 100-metre race?”

“Nu, a ieşit la egalitate cu Maricica: au fost umăr la umăr.” / “No, she was level with Maricica: they were neck and neck.”

Ÿ a da/ridica din umeri = to shrug

“Ce-a spus Dan când a aflat că Sonia a fost concediată?” / “What did Dan say when he found out that Sonia had got the sack?”

“N-a zis nimic. A ridicat din umeri.” / “He didn’t say anything. He just shrugged.”

Ÿ a privi pe cineva/a se uita la cineva peste umăr = to look down your nose at someone

“Ce părere aveţi despre noul vostru coleg?” / “What do you think about your new colleague?”

“E cam infatuat. Se uită peste umăr la noi.” / “He’s rather haughty. He looks down his nose at us.”

Ÿ a pune cuiva ceva pe umeri = to lay the burden on someone

“Cine e însărcinat cu renovarea sediului?” / “Who’s in charge of refurbishing the office?”

“Păi şeful a pus-o pe umerii mei.” / “Well, the boss laid the burden on me.”

a pune umarul

Ÿ a pune umărul = to put one’s shoulder to the wheel

“Nu sta să te uiţi cum facem noi curăţenie. Pune şi tu umărul!” / “Don’t just stay and look how we’re doing the cleaning. Put your shoulder to the wheel!”

“N-am chef. Sunt obosită.” / “I don’t feel like it. I’m tired.”

Ÿ a-şi lua ceva pe umeri = to put something on your shoulders

“Cine ţi-a dat de refăcut raportul?” / “Who gave you the job of rewriting the report?”

“Nimeni . Singur mi-am luat-o pe umeri.” / “No one. I put it on my own shoulders.”

Ÿ a lua ceva de pe umerii cuiva = to take something off someone’s shoulders

“Ai plivit roşiile din grădină?” / “Have you weeded the tomatoes in the garden?”

“N-a mai fost nevoie. Tanti Lenuţa mi-a luat treaba asta de pe umeri.” / “I didn’t need to. Auntie Lenuţa took that chore off my shoulders.”

As for proverbs with umăr, there aren’t many. However, we’ve been able to find one the possible meaning of which, keeping in mind the overarching notion of responsibility related to umăr, turns out quite interesting. Here it is: “Un vânător şiret îşi ţine puşca pe umărul altuia” - “A cunning hunter holds his rifle on someone else’s shoulder”. Might it imply that when it comes to hitting a target it’s clever strategy to make someone co-responsible for it, so that in case of failure the blame falls with them? Or does it simply mean that a clever hunter shouldn’t be too obvious, but wear their gun discreetly, so they don’t scare off their prey? Popular wisdom will know.

Picture credit

64 views0 comments


bottom of page