Pagar um Mico

In this post, you’ll learn a very popular expression in Brazilian Portuguese that literally translates as to pay a monkey – pagar um mico.

We’ll look at its meaning, origins and some examples of how to use it in some sentences.


The expression pagar um mico is sometimes said without the indefinite article um: pagar mico.

Mico is a small, long-tailed monkey. Although the word for monkey in general, in Portuguese is macaco. The expression actually means to be in an embarrassing situationto embarrass yourselfto make a fool of yourself, to make a faux-pasSome people say it comes from linking the action of making a fool of yourself with how monkeys do silly things sometimes. Another theory is that it comes from a very popular children’s card game called Jogo do Mico, in which there’s a pair of cards for several animals except the mico. The player who finishes the game holding the mico card is the loser.

pagar um mico


Now, let’s see examples of how to use this expression in some sentences.

Let’s suppose I went to a party last night thinking it was a fancy dress party, but I was the only one who turned up wearing a costume. So, before I start telling the story to a friend I could introduce it with: I made a fool of myself yesterday at the party! Paguei um mico ontem na festa!

pagar um mico 2

Another example:

Você acha que eu vou pagar mico com esse chapéu?

Do you think I’m going to embarrass myself with this hat?

pagar um mico 3

When you’re listening to a friend telling you an embarrassing situation you could comment by saying:

Que mico! / How embarrassing! 

pagar um mico 4

Now that you now the meaning of the expression pagar um mico, make up a sentence with this expression and write it in the comments! Obrigado!


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