I was trying to translate Portuguese-language expression pé-rapado into English, which literally means "grated/rasped/shaved foot", but that probably makes no sense in English. I'm not sure those words are adequate translation, since I've read that rapado in this expression originally meant that the mud from one's feet had been removed by passing the edge of a flat object through the skin).

Although that expression can be used to refer to someone pejoratively, it's also commonly used self-deprecatingly as in sou um pé-rapado (I'm a pé-rapado).

Is there a similar expression in English? How would someone say, modestly or self-deprecatingly, that himself is poor?

  • Of possible interest, including among others, an uncited entomology of piss poor and dirt poor : thisblewmymind.com
    – Mazura
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 15:04
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    From what you say about the original meaning of 'rapado' in the original expression, it sounds like the best English verb would be "scrape" (one 'scrapes' mud off of shoes/feet) (although 'scraping' would be "... across the skin" and not "... through the skin." ...ouch!!) With this in mind, some English expressions for 'poor' that include the notion of 'scrape/scraping' would be "[Sorry I can't help because] I'm just scraping by myself" or "[...] I'm scraping [rock] bottom myself."(If the notion of "barefoot" is more important than "scraping" there's barefoot and penniless)
    – Papa Poule
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 15:59
  • Online Slang Dictionary to the rescue of confused Portuguese to English translators! ;)
    – BiscuitBoy
    Commented Jan 5, 2016 at 11:41

6 Answers 6


Some expressions going around the Internet are:

The third link gives an example that could fit what you are looking for: Sorry, I'm flat broke. Not a cent on me.


I'm not sure it meets your criteria for pejorative or self-deprecating, but there is the idiom "does not have two nickels to rub together" meaning "to be very poor."

I've always heard it as "nickels" (mid-west U.S.) but the linked source shows it can also be "pennies" in other regions.

The origin is due to the fact that if one has multiple coins in one's pocket, those coins will rub together and jingle as one walks. The very poor however, will not have more than one coin, not even relatively low-valued coins.


Consider poor wretch

Definition: a miserable person, one who is in great misfortune.

Example: “Oh!” says Henry, “I do not know where I shall get my dinner tomorrow; I am a poor wretch.” And William responded, "So you may be, my dear friend; But you are not so poor as you deserve to be".


Since "pé rapado" in Portuguese is a noun, a noun in English that means more or less the same thing would be "pauper." More informally, such a person is often called a "bum," but this tends to mean that the person is either homeless or unemployed and possibly drawing benefits from the government.

In reality, English has many, many nouns for a poor person. There are formal words, informal words, and slang words. However, most of those words don't describe a poor person in general but a certain type of poor person, for example, a poor person who moves from place to place is often called a "transient" or sometimes a "hobo". As for being pejorative, in America, any noun that defines someone as poor is probably going to be considered pejorative, whereas the more pejorative words tend to center around bigotry, such as "white trash."

By the way, the term you used in your question should be "self-deprecating," not self-depreciative."

  • Why do you suggest not to use self-depreciative in this context? I feel it fits in the context described. I am not native in English though ..
    – jera
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 15:05
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    If you look up "self-depreciative" in the dictionary, you should see that its definition is "self-deprecating." There are words in English that have come to be in the dictionary because people have said the correct term incorrectly so often. Even though these words have found their way into the dictionary, people who use them tend to be perceived as being not well educated. Aside from "self-depreciative," another example is "irregardless." While "irregardless" is in the dictionary as meaning "regardless," if you say "irregardless" instead of "regardless," many will think you're stupid. Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 15:42
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    @BenjaminHarman - You'd probably yell at me for still using orientated, wouldn't you? Irregardless, I will continue to use archaic words.
    – Mazura
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 20:14
  • @Mazura, as you are using these words from a place of knowledge rather than ignorance, I can only absolutely appreciate and wholehearedly support your endeavoring irony. Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 21:35
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    I just edited the question to change from self-depreciative to self-deprecating (and "self-deprecatingly" that I don't know if it's correct). My native language has "autodepreciativo", so my first idea was searching for "self-depreciative" to know if it existed. Commented Jan 5, 2016 at 11:36

I love idioms. They really show the spice of language.

I think the closest we would say in English is simply "shoeless". There's the famous baseball player, "Shoeless Joe Jackson"...


A self-deprecating way to describe one's self having come from humble (poor) beginnings that references feet is to say that one has "clay feet". (And apparently it also implies having a hidden flaw - based on a Bible story though I've more commonly heard it used to describe someone wealthy or influential who came from a modest upbringing.)

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