How to say “spitting image” in seventeen languages

Bodily-fluid metaphors and similes that suggest likeness between child and parent can be found in many, many languages. Take a look:

  1. Asturian

    Ye cuspi’u a so padre.

    (“He spits to his father.”)

  2. Berber

    (Tamazight) zun t id insd babn.

    “He looks as if he fell from his father’s nose while he was blowing it.”

  3. Croatian

    On je plunuti otac.

    “He is [his] spitten father.”

  4. Dutch

    Hij is zihn vader gespogen.

    “He is the spitting image of his father.”

  5. Flemish

    Hij is zijn vader gebraakt en gespogen.

    “He is his father thrown up.”

  6. French

    C’est (le portrait de) son p’ere tout craché.

    “He is the spitting image of his father.”

  7. Galician

    E’ cuspido a seu pai.

    “He is spitten to his father”

  8. German

    Er sieht seinem Vater aenlich wie gespuckt.


  9. Greek

    O Janis ine ftystos o pateras tou.

    “He is the spitting image of his father.”

  10. Hebrew

    hu dome le-aba shelo, shtei tipot mayim.

    “He looks like his father, two drops of water” [fluids, but no bodily fluids involved]

  11. Hungarian

    Péter kiköpött az apja.

    lit., “Peter [is] spitten his father”

  12. Icelandic

    Hann er eins og snýttur út úr nefinu á honum föður.

    “He is as if blown out of the nose of his father.”

  13. Irish

    Tá sé cosúil lena athair, mar a chaithfeadh sé amach as a bhéal é.

    “He is like his father, as he would throw (i.e. spit) him out of his mouth.”

  14. Italian

    É suo padre sputato; E sputato a suo padre.

    “He is his father spit (out)”

  15. Norwegian

    Han er som snytt ut av nesa på far sin.

    “He is as if sneezed out of the nose of his father.”

  16. Picardy

    C’est sin pe’re tout raque’ a’ s’mur. “He’s his father all spitten on the wall.”

  17. Portuguese

    (As spoken in Brazil) Ele e’ a cara cuspida e escarrada do pai.

    “He is the face spitted and coughed up of [his] father” (where “escarrar” can be also be glossed as “spit”, but seems to allude specifically to mucus, sputum, or blood hacked up by a deep cough. The usual bodily fluid appears to be spit/sputum, but in some cases the child is depicted as mucus, snot, or vomit expelled from (typically) the father.

  18. Turkish

    Hık de-mis, burnundan düş-müş.

    “[Father] hiccoughed/blew his nose, [child] dropped from his nose.” (“mother” may also be understood here rather than “father”, and there’s some variation on whether the onomatopoeic “hık” is understood to refer to hiccupping or nose-blowing)

This cross-linguistic compendium comes from the work of Professor Laurence Horn, of the Yale University Department of Linguistics. Thanks, Professor, for letting us use it!

Leon Zeisel