Meaning of deu zebra, pulga atrás da orelha, sextar and so forth

Meaning of deu zebra, pulga atrás da orelha, sextar and so forth

Podcast called Meaning of deu zebra, pulga atrás da orelha, sextar and so forth

Hello and welcome to our Portuguese Basic Tips 82, called Meaning of deu zebra, pulga atrás da orelha, sextar and so forth

On today’s podcast, we are going to speak about the meaning of “sextar”, “vingar” (with a different meaning than the usual), having “a pulga atrás da orelha” and “dar zebra”.

Let’s do it. Let’s get started!

Visit our previous Portuguese Basic Tips called meaning of dedo em riste, tirar o pé, dar pitaco e treze

Ter a pulga atrás da orelha

We say we are “com a pulga atrás da orelha” when we are suspicious that something wrong is happening or when we are not so sure about something.


  • O jeito que ele falava me deixou com a pulga atrás da orelha. (The way he spoke made me suspicious).

One of the symptoms, one of the things we usually do, when we don’t trust someone, is that we start scratching behind the ear, as if we had been bitten by some kind of animal. Do you do that too?  That’s why we say that someone is “com a pulga atrás da orelha”.

Dar zebra

This is a very popular expression in Brazil. Here we got a game, some kind of lottery, that instead of using numbers, bettors choose between twenty four animals in order to be drawn.  So, instead of choosing thirteen, seventeen and so forth, people simply bet on the horse, for instance. It happens that, there’s no zebra on this game! You’ll never be contemplated, if you choose this animal.  By the way, this is an underground game. This is illegal in Brazil. It is that kind of thing that a lot of people do, but that is prohibited by law.

Anyway, when we say “deu zebra”, we mean everything happened the way we didn’t expect, the way we didn’t want to happen. Plus: we say that a certain team is “a zebra” meaning it is an underdog. No one believes the players will win that match.

  • O Brasil nunca vai ser a zebra de algum campeonato de futebol (Brazil will never be an underdog in a soccer championship).

– Deu zebra! Tentei ligar o dia inteiro, mas ninguém atendeu. (Something unexpected happened. I tried to call all day long, but nobody answered).



Maybe you already know this verb in its reflexive form, which is “se vingar” (to get revenge).  This time we’re not speaking of any vengeance, cause we also use this verb meaning something went right, something you did was well succeeded.

  • Aquele trabalho que eu fiz realmente vingou! (That job I did really worked!).
  • As tentativas dele não vingaram. (His attempts didn’t work.)


And last but not least, we got a verb that young people have recently created! It is what in Brazil we call “neologismo” – neologism. You know in Brazil Friday means “sexta-feira”, right?  You also know that a verb is “the act or effect of doing something”.

People are using this verb as they use all others. The fact that the weekend is beginning became a verb. Plus, people use the verb when they want to celebrate the Friday.

  • Sextou! Vamos sair daqui para comemorar! (It is Friday! Let’s celebrate it!)

If we got a holiday on a Thursday, for instance, we can also say “quintou” or something.  To make it clear: we are talking about an informal expression, right?

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Click on the link to visit a page containing the history of the expression “deu zebra” (Portuguese only).

See you next time.


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