10 Travel Phrases I Learnt While Traveling


While Traveling You learn the Meaning of Phrases & Words.

Travel words IndiTales

Our intent is not to learn new words. We learn the words and phrases in our vocabulary from what we hear, what we read, and what we are taught in our textbooks. However, some of these books are written in another time and space. A lot of phrases we either understand intuitively or are made to understand by painting a context. While Traveling we understand the true meaning of many a phrase and words.

Travel Phrases You Learn While Traveling

It is an exhilarating experience when you come face to face with these phrases and words. Suddenly the phrase takes a new meaning. All the stories featuring those phrases come alive and your understanding of that story or that scene goes a level deeper.

Sharing some of the Travel Phrases that I learned during travel:

Eagle Eye – While Traveling

Crested-serpent Eagle captured while traveling at Bandhavgarh
Crested serpent Eagle captured at Bandhavgarh

While on a safari in the Jungles of Bandhavgarh National Park, I had an up close and personal encounter with an Eagle, or Crested Serpent Eagle to be precise. Now eagles are strong birds and they do not fly off when they see human activity around them. They keep sitting still with their eyes focused on their point of interest. Look at the eyes in this picture – do they not bring a new meaning to the phrase ‘Eagle Eye’? Do those eyes not tell you – “You are under my watch. Be careful”

Fish Market

Fish Market at Goa
Fish Market

All through my school, I heard this phrase – ‘This is a class, not fish market’. Now I grew up in Chandigarh where there are hardly any fish markets to see. Over time I assumed that it means a lot of chaos. Remember these were pre-youtube days so there was no way for me to figure out what a fish market looks or feels like. I would have never imagined that one day I would call Goa my home. There would be enough fish markets to go and explore. Being a vegetarian, I do not eat fish.

But one fine day I did walk through the fish market with my camera just to understand this phrase. And good lord, now I know that there is no place as chaotic as a fish market. It is impossible to hear anyone. The only thing you hear is the noise of million conversations going on between the fisherwomen.



I do not recall when I first heard or read the term Bigwigs, but it has been a part of my vocabulary for some time now. It was when I was reading ‘At Home by Bill Bryson’ that I learned that in medieval Europe. Wigs were high in fashion and used to cost a lot. Only the ultra-rich could afford to buy wigs and the others who could not afford to buy these high-fashion hairdos started calling the ones who had Bigwigs. Wigs went out of fashion a long time ago and over a period of time became quite affordable but the term continues to mean the same.

Worth his Salt

Salt pans while traveling out of Mumbai
Salt pans on Mumbai outskirts

Many moons ago, much before my travel blogging days, I was in Scotland – traveling solo during the Easter holidays. Inside a Scottish castle where a lot of Bollywood films have been shot, there was a small museum that displayed the household of medieval Scotland. On the dining table, there was a small groove like a small bowl carved into the tabletop.

Our guide told us that this was used to keep salt. When I asked why there is only one groove when the table can easily seat 6 or more. She smiled and said, in those days salt was precious. Only the head of the house or a prestigious guest could have it. The term ‘worth his salt’ comes from those days. When the worth of a man or a family came from the amount of salt they could afford. Always knew the meaning but that small groove made it so real for me.


In Scotland, I learned the origin of the word ‘Threshold’ which can be split up as Thrash Hold. All the thrash of the house used to be put in the pit just below the main door. And left there till it would not obstruct the movement of the main door. When it went above the holding height thrash had to be removed and sent elsewhere. Hence the limit to which you can put thrash was a threshold. I could have never imagined a well-loved jargon of the corporate world has a genesis in Thrash. On second thought, it may not just be coincidental.

Sleep tight

Sleep tight – we usually interpret it to mean sleep well. I always wondered why they say Sleep Tight and let it go thinking it must be slang. Well, no – the word was meant to mean just that – sleep tight. This phrase comes from those times when cots used to be made of flexible material and they used to sink easily. If you did not sleep tight you would fall down easily. Times changed but we kept hold of the term = Sleep Tight.


Have read and used this word so many times as an adjective to indicate extreme joy and happiness at being charmed by or engrossed by something we see or experience. It was while talking to an author that I figured out the word actually means enslaved. And has its roots in the world of slavery traditions. So, to be enthralled literally translates to ‘being enslaved’. That means that you like the experience so much that you have become its slave. Next time onwards, I was careful while using this word, for I knew the intensity it conveyed.

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Locking horns – While Traveling

Spotted Deer's locking Horns at Kanha National Park
Spotted Deer locking Horns at Kanha National Park

In Kanha National Park everyone was running after spotting the tigers. We decided to explore the rest of the Jungle. We stopped by the herds of Deer and Barasingha. In a few minutes, we realized that a duel was going on between two males for the attention of the females all around. Males locked their horns and they tried to prove their supremacy. Minutes later we passed by a group of Bisons and saw the same thing repeat, the same act of locking horns. Now I am not too much of an animal person to understand their motive – but it was a sight to see them locking horns. And I kind of understood what it means to Lock Horns with someone. How it means that none of the two parties can do anything till the horns are locked.

Herd Mentality or Bhed Chaal

First Sight of Chandratal Lake while traveling in Lahaul Spiti valley
First Sight of Chandratal Lake in Lahaul-Spiti valley

During my Himachal Odyssey, at Chandratal we met a shepherd who was walking along the lake with 100 odd sheep. It was when the sheep had to cross a water channel that I realized what it means when they say ‘Herd mentality’ or in Hindi Bhed Chaal. All the sheep followed the lead sheep. If it fell, all of them fell, if it looked back all of them followed, if it jumped across the water, all of them did. Most sheep just did what the others were doing. What one of them thought was what everyone did. I wondered how we embraced phrases without really knowing them firsthand.

Walk like a Horse – While Traveling

Horse Carts in the Tatra Mountains
Horse Carts in the Tatra Mountains

In Himachal, I was getting used to climbing up and down while walking through the villages or exploring the temples. I used to be huffing and puffing while the locals would just walk by easily – smiling at us. Till one guy stopped and said – walk like a horse – take small steady equispaced paces and you will not lose your breath. I tried and yes, I was much better off. No wonder horses can gallop so fast and so far without losing their breath. The phrase ‘Walk like a Horse’ got added to my vocabulary.

Tell me the words and phrases you learned during your travels.


  1. Anuradhaji this post about 10 tips for travelling holds good for not only for travellors but they are very good tips for our travel in our life also. Very nice and informative. Very happy to read the article. Thank for the post.

  2. good correlation with the pics and the phrases.
    some local dialect slangs,,,,phrases that i observed were crude and funny.1 such i recall is 4 zyaada se zyaada…or utmost in sikkim they say mota moti.
    mota moti half an hour 2 reach mg market 2 monastery.
    or mota moti 100 rupees 4 …somethin.
    simlarly in leh regions they say very often-JOOLEY..
    which translates 2 all forms like goodbye, hullo, c u later,…….

  3. Travelling is a whole new learning experience which I get by visiting so many places and countries that are so unique. I have heard a few of the terms mentioned in this article, but most of them are new to me. It was fun learning about so many new phrases and words. Very nicely written.

  4. Such an interesting post!

    I knew about the story behind bhed chaal. Not anything else. In fact, after reading this, I think I might have added some new words to my vocabulary. hehe

    Have your written about your trip to Scotland on this blog? I am fascinated by the country and really want to visit it some day. Want to know more about it to make this wish a bit urgent 😉


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