What do we mean with the Italian idiom “Avere le braccine corte”?

This is a funny Italian idiom we do use a lot, but its meaning is not straightforward.

As you know, idioms are a fascinating world to explore and help us express ourselves better.

But, in order to use them right, we need to decode them and understand the meaning behind words.

So even though we can translate “avere le braccine corte” word by word, the idiom doesn’t really give us an idea of when to use it.

Actually “to have short arms” is related to the meaning…but how?

The expression refers to people who don’t seem to have the right arm lenght to reach their wallet in the pocket.

So, we use this Italian idiom with cheap, stingy people.

If someone never brings you a present or disappears when the bill arrives, this is the perfect idiomatic expression.

You must have at least one friend like that!

Let’s see some examples on how to use this idiom.

Italian English
Mio zio è venuto a pranzo domenica scorsa ma non ha portato niente, nemmeno una bottiglia di vino. Ha proprio le braccine corte! My uncle came for lunch last Sunday but he didn’t bring anything, not even a bottle of wine. He’s really stingy!
Durante la pausa a lavoro Marco non mi ha mai offerto il caffè, deve avere le braccine corte. During the break at work Marco has never offered me a coffee, he must be very cheap.
Giovannaha davvero le braccine corte, non mi ha mai fatto il regalo di compleanno! Giovanna is incredibly stingy, she has never brought me a birthday present!


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