Sunrise and Boats in Senglea for Maltese Sayings

It’s another gloriously sunny day here in Senglea, our current hometown in the Three Cities by Malta’s Grand Harbour. The harbourside benches, where the Maltese gather to chat and soak up the sunshine, have been painted in bright colours. Recently, fun Maltese maritime quotes and idioms have been added to the seats. Being a bit of a language nerd, I love the quirkiness of local expressions, as it’s quite a fun insight into the local culture. When we lived in SE Asia, idioms and proverbs all seemed to be related to rice and elephants, but in Malta unsurprisingly, the quotes are all about boats and fishing.

Maltese Boats

Here are some of our favourite Maltese Maritime Quotes:

“She looks like a ship’s figurehead”

This idiom refers to a woman who is always dressed smartly and dislikes housekeeping. I’d like to think this was about me, but alas, I’m not a smart dresser, but I do dislike housekeeping. Does that count?

“That’s a pirate.” 

This phrase describes a very cunning and shrewd person. Umm, could they be talking about Jonathan?

“He looks like a wreck”

If you are rather old and clumsy, don’t be too surprised if you hear “He looks like a wreck”. Apparently, this rather charming phrase comes from a comparison to a large ship that came from Rhodes during the time of the Knights of St John and was left to rot for a very long time in front of Fort St Angelo.

Fort St Angelo Senglea Malta Harbor
Few more boats these days in front of Fort St Angelo

“Are you getting here by boat?” 

Say this if you’re not sure what someone is saying, or you think they may be teasing you.

“He’s hurt – take him to the dockyard” 

This is said in jest when someone is hurt, and another recommends the injured party is sent to the dockyard where rather than being treated, he would be considerably worse off.

“As agile as a rowing boat”

 Refers to someone who is slim and as agile as a Maltese luzzu (a type of boat.)

Marsaxlokk Malta Boats for Maritime Idioms and Quotes

“He’s like the Arbanja.”

 Someone who doesn’t do anything but laze around. That would describe our dog, Angel then! The Arbanja is the Maltese pronunciation for the British Royal Navy ship HMS Hibernia that was docked in front of the Fort St Angelo for a very long time.

“He’s turned into a herring.”

 You say this to someone who has lost a lot of weight, not sure why though! Do you turn into a herring when you’re on a diet? Seems a bit fishy to me!

Maltese Boat Photos

“As skinny as a small spotted dogfish.”

 Say this expression to skinny people, which is probably why I have never heard this said to me before.

“So we are selling anchovies!”

 A reference to penny-pinching when bartering on a price.

“The salp is inside”

Boats in Grand Harbour Malta

 The fish has been caught, this idiom refers to something that one was hoping to get and then finally managed.

Do you know any weird and wonderful idioms or quotes from Malta, your travels or your hometown? Do tell us about them in the comments below.

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