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  • Ilinca Stroe

One word and beyond: “Nas” in 11 Everyday Romanian Phrases

This body part is related to our sense of smell, the most sensitive and powerful in evoking memories: it’s nas (“nose”), a Latin-origin word in Romanian whose ancestor was nasus. It is the key word in a great deal of phrases and idiomatic expressions where the overall meaning has to do, somewhat surprisingly, not with smell, but with... audacity and nerve! Or even haughtiness and arrogance.

Some of those phrases exist in English too, with more or less the same make-up and word order. Let’s review the most frequent of them, with their English translations and clarifying examples:

Ÿ (chiar) sub nasul tău = (right) under your nose

“Ai văzut hoţul furându-i geanta bătrânei?” / “Have you seen the thief steal the old lady’s purse?”

“Da, s-a întâmplat chiar sub nasul meu!” / “Yes, it all happened right under my nose!”

Ÿ a strâmba din nas = to turn up your nose, to snub

“De ce strâmbi din nas la budincă?” / “Why are you snubbing the pudding?”

“Pentru că nu-mi place vanilia.” / “Because I hate vanilla.”

Ÿ a nu vedea de nas = to fail to see something that’s under your nose

“Unde e cartea de bucate? N-o găsesc nicăieri.” / “Where’s the recipe book? I can’t find it anywhere.”

“Uite-o chiar aici. N-o vedeai de nas, nu?” / “Here it is. You didn’t see it because it was under your nose, huh?”

Ÿ a-i da cuiva peste nas = to put someone in their place

“Le-ai cerut bani cu împrumut?” / “Did you ask them to lend you money?”

“N-am putut. Cum am deschis subiectul, mi-au dat peste nas.” / “I couldn’t. As soon as I brought it up, they put me in my place.”

Ÿ a duce de nas pe cineva = to fool, trick or deceit someone

“Cum ai putut să-i dai 3000 de lei, pur şi simplu?” / “How could you give him 3000 lei just like that?”

“Chiar am crezut că erau pentru o fetiţă cu leucemie. M-a dus de nas.” / “I really believed it was for a girl with leukemia. He fooled me.”

Ÿ a-şi lua nasul la purtare = to start having a lot of cheek

“Copiii vecinilor se înfruptă tot mai des din cireşul nostru.” / “The neighbours’ kids are always feasting on our cherry tree.”

“Da, şi-au cam luat nasul la purtare...” / “Yeah, they’re starting to have a lot of cheek...”

Ÿ a umbla cu nasul pe sus = to walk about with your nose in the air

“Cum e noul tău coleg?” / “What’s your new workmate like?”

“Nu ştiu. Cam umblă cu nasul pe sus.” / “I don’t really know. He rather walks about with his nose in the air.”

Ÿ a-i râde cuiva în nas = to laugh in someone’s face

“Ce-a spus Dan când i-ai ceut banii înapoi?” / “What did Dan say when you asked the money back?”

“Mi-a râs în nas! Clar n-are de gând să mi-i dea.” / “He laughed in my face! He has clearly no intention of giving it back.”

Ÿ a da nas în nas cu cineva = to bump into someone

“Am înţeles că te-ai întâlnit cu Roxana.” / “I take it you met Roxana.”

“Da, am dat nas în nas cu ea la mall.” / “Yes, I bumped into her at the mall.”

Ÿ a-i trânti cuiva uşa în nas = to slam the door in someone’s face

“Ai reuşit să te vezi cu directorul?” / “Did you manage to see the director?”

“Nici vorbă. Secretara mi-a trântit uşa în nas.” / “No way. The secretary slammed the door in my face.”

Ÿ a nu fi de nasul tău = to be out of your league

“Îmi place de Ana de mor!” / “I’m crazy about Ana!”

“Las-o baltă. Nu-i de nasul tău.” / “Forget about it. She’s way out of your league.”

As for proverbs with nas, two stand out as more popular. The first is a warning that one should mind their own business: it reads, “nu-ţi băga nasul unde nu-ţi fierbe oala” (“don’t poke your nose where it’s not your pot boiling”). The second uses, interestingly enough, a Russian male name: “Dacă-i dai nas lui Ivan, se suie şi pe divan” (“give a long leash to Ivan, and he’ll jump on the divan”). It cautions people that if you allow someone too much freedom, they might end up taking too much liberty...

International House Bucharest, through its Romanian Language Department, runs Romanian courses and cultural integration workshops for foreigners living in Romania. For more information, click here. To enrol, contact

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