244 Spanish Idioms

Spanish Idioms

¡ojo al parche! – look out!, stay alert!, don´t drop your guard!, keep your eyes peeled!

¡que me quiten lo bailado! – This Spanish expression is originally from Rio de la Plata and means that, come what may, no one can take away from us the good times we’ve had.

¿qué le hace una mancha más al tigre? – What’s one more stripe on a tiger’s back? We use this Spanish expression metaphorically to say that more of a certain thing, when there’s lots of it, is likely to go unnoticed or make no difference.

a banderas desplegadas – with flying colors

a caballo regañado no le mires el diente – Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth

a chorros – in great quantities

a como de lugar – at all costs, in any way possible

a contramano – in the wrong direction, against the traffic

a destiempo – untimely, ill-timed, inopportune

a dos pasos – very close, within an ace of

a duras penas – scarcely, with great difficulty

a fin de cuentas – at the end of the day, when all is said and done

a gatas – on all fours

a granel– in bulk

a la carrera – This Spanish idiom describes an unthorough, hurried way of doing something.

a la larga – in the long run

a la merced de – at the mercy of

a la vez – at the same time, simultaneously

a las espaldas de alguien – behind somebody´s back

a lo major – maybe, possibly

a mano – 1. even, without pending accounts either way, 2. by hand

a más tardar – at the latest

a menudo – often, many a time

a ojo de buen cubero – by rule of thumb

a palo seco – without anything to go with it. This Spanish idiom is most commonly used referring to food or drink taken without anything else.

a pesar de – in spite of

a propósito – by the way

a punto de – at the brink of

a que… – I bet that…

a rajatabla – inflexibly, rigorously, strictly

a regañadientes – unwillingly, complainingly

a rey muerto, rey puesto – Out with the old, in with the new

a rienda suelta – without any constraint or control, freely

a solas – alone, by one´s self

a tientas – guiding one´s self by feel, for instance in the darkness

a toda costa – at all costs

a toda máquina – very fast

a todas luces – by all appearances, clearly, evidently

a todo trapo – with luxury, in grand style

a todo vapor – very fast, as fast as posible

a troche y moche – thoughtlessly, inconsiderately, helter-skelter

a trochemoche – thoughtlessly, inconsiderately, helter-skelter

a tumba abierta – exposing one´s self to extreme danger, at breakneck speed

a tutiplén – abundantly, profusely, copiously

a última hora – at the last moment

a ultranza – in the extreme, radically

a veces – sometimes, at times

a ver – we´ll see

a voz en grito – loudly, at the top of one´s lungs

abrirse paso a codazos – to elbow one´s way

acoger en su regazo – to take someone under one´s wing

acostarse con las gallinas – to retire to bed early

aguzar el oído – to prick up one´s ears

ahuecar el ala – Some English equivalents of this Spanish idiom are: to make one´s self scarce, to make off, to clear off, to hit the road

al “ahí se va” – not thoroughly, with mediocrity

al aire libre – outdoors

al fin y al cabo – finally, at the end of the day, when all is said and done

al hambre no hay pan duro – Beggars can’t be choosers

al menos – at least

al pie de la letra – to the letter, to a T

al por mayor – wholesale

al revés – upside down, topsy turvy

alzarle la mano a alguien – to threaten or hit someone

amoscarse – to get angry

andar a paso de tortuga – to walk or do something very slowly, at a snail´s pace

andar como burro sin mecate – to be wild, out of control

andar de cabeza – this Spanish idiom describes an overburdened, unorganized state of mind within a turmoil of activity, to run around like a headless chicken

andar de capa caída – to be in low spirits, depressed

andarse por las ramas – to talk evasively, to beat around the bush

apretar las clavijas a alguien – to pressure somebody, to crack the whip

apretarse el cinturón – to cut expenses, to live on a shoestring

aquí hay gato encerrado – there’s something fishy going on here, I smell a rat
We use this Spanish idiom to express our suspicion that behind the mask of normality something obscure is unfolding.

 armado hasta los dientes – armed to the teeth

armar un jaleo – to make a fuss

armarse la gorda – to make a big, fat fuss

arriesgarse el pellejo – to risk one´s self, to risk one´s neck

arrimar el ascua a su sardine – to put one´s own benefit first, to provide grist to one´s mill

arrimarse al sol que más calienta – to seek out those from whom one can profit, to know which side one´s bread is buttered on

arrojar a alguien a los lobos – to deliver someone into danger, to throw someone to the wolves

astuto como un zorro – very smart, as sly as a fox

ave nocturna – night person, night owl

bailar al son que tocan – to dance to whatever music happens to be playing, to follow the current, to agree with anything

bajársele los humos a alguien – to be taken down a peg. This Spanish idiom is used when someone´s excessively high opinion of himself is punctured.

barrer para adentro – to act advantageously, to promote one´s interests without consideration of others, to attribute other people´s merit to oneself

bicho raro – an odd (human) specimen

blasfemar/ jurar/ renegar/ hablar como un carretero – swear like a trooper

borracho como una cuba – drunk as a skunk

borrón y cuenta nueva – to forget the past and start anew, to let bygones be bygones

brillar por su ausencia – to be conspicuous by one´s absence

bueno como un angel – extremelly good, saintly, referring to a person´s character and moral qualities

buscar una aguja en un pajar – to look for a needle in a haystack

buscarle a alguien las cosquillas – to provoke somebody

buscarle tres pies al gato – to look for trouble, to complicate things unnecessarily

buscarle tres pies al gato sabiendo que tiene cuatro – to look for trouble, to complicate things unnecessarily

cabeza de chorlito – scatterbrain

cada hijo de vecino – just about everyone, all and sundry

cada muerte de Obispo – very rarely, once in a blue moon

caer bien/ mal – to be likeable/ not to be likeable

caer como moscas – to die/ drop like flies

calado hasta los huesos – soaked through

calarse las gafas – to put on one´s glasses

cerrar algo a cal y canto – to seal shut

cerrar el pico – to shut one´s trap, to remain silent

chapado a la antigua – old-fashioned

chillar como un condenado – to scream very strongly out of pain or fear (to scream as if one were sentenced to death), to sob like a baby

cocerse/ cocinarse en su propia salsa – to stew in one´s own juices

comer como un pajarito – to pick at one´s food, to eat sparingly

como los perros en misa – superfluous, unnecessary

como perro en barrio ajeno – out of place

como pez en el agua – to be in one’s element, at home

como si fuera poco – as if it that weren´t enough

con el sudor de su frente – by the sweat of his brow

con pelos y señales – in all detail

consultar algo con la almohada – to sleep on something

contra viento y marea – come wind or high water; through thick and thin; against all odds; come rain, hail or snow

cortar de raíz – eradicate

costar un ojo de la cara – to be outrageously expensive, to cost an eye and a foot, to cost an arm and a leg

creerse el ombligo del mundo – to think the world revolves around one´s self

cuando las ranas críen pelos – This Spanish expression is used to say that something will never, ever happen. “When pigs learn to fly”

cuanto antes – as soon as possible, as soon as may be

cuatro gatos – When one uses this Spanish expression and refers to “cuatro gatos” being present one is saying that hardly anybody or a proportionately small group of people are on hand.

dar a luz – to give birth

dar algo por bueno – to approve of something, to accept

dar de sí – said of clothes and shoes, to give; said of people, to give of oneself, to be accommodating

dar en el clavo – to hit the nail on the head, to get something right

dar gato por liebre – to cheat, to decieve by giving something of similar appearance but inferior quality

dar la lata/dar lata – to bother, to be a pain in the neck

dar la tabarra – to pester, to bug

dar luz verde – to give the go ahead

dar por sentado – to take something as a given

dar una de cal y una de arena – to alternate different or opposite things for the purpose of being accommodating

darle a algo el visto bueno – to give one´s approval

darle a alguien mala espina algo – to have one´s suspicions aroused by something

darle sopas con honda (alguien o algo a otra persona o cosa) – to be overwhelmingly superior to something or somebody

darse por vencido – to give up

darse prisa – to hurry

de buenas a primeras – unexpectedly, suddenly, without notice

de golpe – all at once

de higos a brevas – very rarely, once in a blue moon

de nuevo – again

de par en par – wide open

de pelo en pecho – manly, valiant

de perlas – marvelously, excellently

de plano – entirely, absolutely

de pronto – suddenly

de tal palo tal astilla – A chip off the old block

de una vez por todas – once and for all

dejar en paz a alguien – to leave somebody alone

dejar plantado a alguien – to fail to show up for an appointment leaving the person waiting, to stand somebody up

descubrir la pólvora/ América / el agua caliente/ el Mediterráneo/ el hilo negro – This Spanish expression is used by way of ironical comment when someone “discovers” something which is plain common sense to realize, later than everybody else, something evident, to proclaim as news something which is already common knowledge

desde luego – of course

deshacerse en atenciones – to go overboard in one´s displays of attention, amability or hospitality towards somebody, to bend over backward for somebody

devanarse los sesos – to rack one´s brains

Dios los cría y ellos se juntan – Birds of a feather flock together

dormir a pierna suelta – to sleep like a log

dormir como un lirón – to sleep a lot

echar leña al fuego – to add fuel to the fire, to aggravate an already difficult situation

echar un cuarto a espadas – to contribute one´s own opinion in a discussion
English equivalents of this Spanish idiom: to give one´s two cents worth, to stick one’s oar in

echar/tirar la casa por la ventana – to spend without measure or restraint, to kill the fattened calf

el mundo es un pañuelo – It’s a small world

el que la sigue la consigue – If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again

empezar la casa por el tejado – to do things in the wrong order, English equivalent of this Spanish idiom: to put the cart before the horse

empinar el codo – to consume intoxicating drinks by way of habit, to bend the elbow

en boca cerrada no entran moscas – A Spanish expression which means that you are better off keeping quiet and minding your own business

en cueros – naked, in the buff

en el séptimo cielo – exultant, English equivalents of this Spanish idiom: in seventh heaven, on cloud nine

en fila india – in single file, in Indian file

en las barbas de alguien – right under someone´s nose, in someone´s face

en menos que canta un gallo – in an instant, English equivalents of this Spanish idiom: quick as a wink, in two shakes of a lamb´s tail

en un abrir y cerrar de ojos – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye

endeudado hasta los ojos – up to one´s ears in debt

entre chanzas y versa – half earnest, half in jest

entre la espada y la pared – trapped in a delicate situation, between the Devil and the deep blue sea

es como hablar a la pared – It’s like talking to a brick wall

esperar la semana que no traiga viernes – to procrastinate forever, to wait till the cows come home

estar (loco) como una cabra – English equivalents of this Spanish idiom: to be as mad as a hatter, to be as nutty as a fruit-cake

estar con un pie en el aire – to be uncommitted, to sit on the fence

estar de buenas – to be in a good mood

estar de mala leche – to be in very bad humor

estar en ascuas – to be in a state of agitated suspense, to be on tenterhooks, to be on pins and needles, to be like a cat on hot bricks

estar en boca de todos – to be on everyone´s lips, to be the talk of the town

estar en la flor de la edad – to be in the prime of life

estar en la luna – to have one´s head in the clouds

estar en las nubes – same as above

estar entre Pinto y Valdemoro – to be half of one mind and half of another…and also… to be slightly drunk, to be half seas over

estar frito – to be in dire straits, to be toast

estar hasta la coronilla – to be fed up …or… to be up to one´s neck in something

estar más loco que una cabra  – To be as mad as a hatter.

estar más perdido que Carracuca – to be hopelessly lost

estirar la pata – to die, English equivalent of this Spanish idiom: to kick the bucket

exhalar el último suspiro – to die, to give up the ghost

faltar el rabo por desollar – This Spanish expression is used to say that the hardest part of a task still remains to be accomplished.

faltarle un tornillo a alguien – to have a screw loose, to have a few buttons missing

fresco como una lechuga – fresh as a daisy

fulano de tal – a certain person

gajes del oficio – occupational hazards, the risks and inconveniences inherent to a trade or profession

ganarse el pan – to earn one´s bread and butter

gastar pólvora en chimangos – to waste time or effort in an unworthy cause. The chimango is a bird if pray typical of Río de la Plata, the meat of which is inedible due to its hard texture and bad taste

gastar saliva – to speak uselessly, to waste one’s breath

importarle a alguien un bledo algo – to care not a wit for something or somebody, a bledo is a kind of wild berry, largely no longer consumed, which is unedible in a raw state and which, being devoid of taste, had to be spiced abundantly in order to make its consumption “bearable”. It became a popular image for anything valueless. This explains why this Spanish expression is used both in the negative and in the positive with the exact same meaning: in one case something is worth a bledo to us, which is nothing, and in the other even less than that. In short, “I couldn’t care less”.

ir de la ceca a la meca – to run about all over the place

ir de mal en peor – to go from bad to worse

ir por lana y salir trasquilado – We say this when we expect to obtain a benefit and instead suffer a loss

irse al garete – to spoil, to go down the drain, to go up the creek

irse cantando o silbando bajito – This Spanish idiom refers to the attitude of a person who in a state of shame abandons the scene discreetly, trying his best to go unnoticed

irse con la música a otra parte – to take one´s song and dance elsewhere, to take one´s act elsewhere

irse o despedirse a la francesa – to leave without saying good-bye

irse por los cerros de Úbeda – to ramble, to digress

írsele a uno el santo al cielo – This Spanish idiom is used when one forgets what one was just about to say or do

jugarse el pellejo – to risk one’s skin or life

La prudencia es la madre de la ciencia – Discretion is the better part of valor

Las palabras se las lleva el viento – Actions speak louder than words

Liso y llano! – Easy peasy/a piece of cake .

llegar como agua en mayo – to be just what the doctor ordered

llegar y besar el santo – to attain swiftly and luckily a goal which is usually demanding in terms of time and effort

llevar la procesión por dentro – to suffer greatly without showing it, to hide one´s feelings

llevarse como el perro y el gato – to fight like cats and dogs

llevarse el secreto a la tumba – to take a secret to one´s deathbed

llevarse un chasco – to suffer a sudden, surprising, unexpected or unforeseen reverse or disappointment

llorar a lágrima viva – to cry very intensely, to cry one´s eyes out

mandar a freír espárragos – to tell someone “go jump in a lake”, to send somebody packing

mandar a la porra – to send somebody packing, to tell somebody to get lost

mantener a raya – to keep or hold something or somebody at bay, to keep someone at arm’s length

mantener un tira y afloja – to bargain alternating severity and flexibility, to alternate truculent and soothing attitudes

mantenerse en sus trece – to be persistent and obstinate in asserting one’s point of view or carrying out one’s plans, to stick to one’s guns

más terco que una mula – as stubborn as a mule

más vale estar sólo que mal acompañado – A Spanish expression which means solitude is better than bad company

más vale maña que fuerza – Brain is better than brawn

más vale pájaro en mano que ciento volando – A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
Como quien oye llover- It’s like water off a duck’s back

más vale tarde que nunca – Better late than never

matar dos pájaros de un tiro – to kill two birds with one stone, to achieve two objectives with a single effort

matar la gallina de los huevos de oro – This Spanish idiom’s English counterpart: to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs; to lose, through blunder or miscalculation, something which could have been a continued source of benefit to ourselves

media naranja – better half, soulmate

meter la mula – to cheat

meter la pata – to put one’s foot in it, to put one´s foot in one´s mouth, to blunder through clumsiness or carelesness

meter violín en bolsa – This Spanish idiom is equivalent to irse con la música a otra parte:
to take one´s song and dance elsewhere, to take one´s act elsewhere

meterse en camisa de once varas – 1. to bite off more than one can chew, that is, to get entangled in a situation one cannot resolve, 2. to poke one´s nose into things that are not one´s business

meterse en el sobre – To hit the hay/go bed.

meterse en la boca del lobo – to enter into a dangerous situation, An English equivalent of this Spanish idiom: to enter the lion’s den

meterse en un berenjenal – a berenjenal is a plot where eggplant, which is notoriously spiny, is grown, to get one´s self into trouble, to get one´s self into a real jam

mirar de hito en hito – to stare intently at somebody or something

morderse la lengua – The English equivalent of this Spanish idiom is its direct translation: to bite one´s tongue – to keep one´s self from saying something indiscreet or compromising, to hold one’s tongue

morir con las botas puestas – to pass away when still active and at work
This Spanish idiom is equivalent to: to die with one’s boots on

mosquita muerta – This Spanish idiom is applied to persons who “look as if butter would not melt in their mouths”, who appear to be of placid temperament but, in the face of opportunity, act in ways we wouldn´t have expected of them.

 mostrar la hilacha – to show the cloven hoof, to show one´s true colors
This Spanish idiom is used when personal defects come to light revealing the person’s true nature or personality

mover cielo y tierra – to move heaven and earth, to leave no stone unturned, to go to great lengths in pursuit of a goal

mucho ruido y pocas nueces – All mouth and no trousers

nacer de pie – to be born lucky

nada del otro mundo – nothing to write home about, nothing surprising or even noteworthy

nadar o ir contra la corriente – to swim against the tide, to go against the grain, to exert oneself in a direction opposite to that of the crowd

ni carne ni pescado – neither fish nor fowl, something ambiguous or indefinite

ni ebrio ni dormido – by no means and under no circumstances

ni fu ni fa – neither one thing nor the other, This Spanish expression is equivalent to ni carne ni pescado, see above.

ni lerdo ni perezoso – not to be backward in coming forward, This Spanish expression is used to comment on somebody´s agile and resolute way of deciding and acting in a certain situation.

 ni muy muy ni tan tan – neither too much nor too little

ni pincha ni corta – to have no clout, to lack authority

ni soñarlo! –  In your dreams!/No way!

ni tanto que queme al santo ni tanto que no lo alumbre – This Spanish expression is used to recommend the avoidance of extremes.

no caber ni un alfiler – no room to swing a cat, to be packed full

no dar pie con bola – This Spanish expression is used when somebody just “can’t get it together”.

no dar puntada sin nudo – This Spanish expression is used to comment upon someone´s careful, premeditated way of acting, giving to understand that the person in question protects himself as much as possible against risks of all sorts.

no dar su brazo a torcer – to not let one´s arm be twisted
This is said about a person who sticks firmly to his opinions and purposes without surrendering to other people´s.

no dar una – We use this Spanish expression when someone “doesn’t get one right”.

no dejar títere con cabeza – to spare nobody

no es oro todo lo que reluce – Not all that glitters is gold

no hay moros en la costa – the coast is clear, This Spanish expression is used to indicate that nothing and no one stands in our way and therefore we are free to proceed.

no hay pero que valga – no ifs, ands or buts

no hay tu tía – there´s no remedy to a certain situation or problem

no importarle a alguien un bledo algoor alternatively

no pega ni con cola – This is said about something which is totally incongruent and doesn´t make any sense at all.

no pegar un ojo – to not sleep a wink, to not be able to sleep during the whole night

no por mucho madrugar, amanece más temprano – A Spanish expression which means everything will happen in its own time

no saber a qué santo encomendarse – to be at one’s wit’s end, to be at a loss for advice and not to know whom to turn to

no saber alguien de la misa la media – to not know the first thing about something, to be totally ignorant and incompetent

no se ganó Zamora en una hora – Rome wasn´t built in a day.

no ser moco de pavo – to be nothing to sneeze at

no ser ni chicha ni limonada or no ser ni chicha ni limoná – neither fish nor foul, something indefinite and unclassifiable and therefore of scarce value.  This is an exact equivalent of the Spanish expressionni carne ni pescado, but of Latinamerican origin. Chicha was once a popular alcoholic beverage product of the fermentation of maize.

no tener dónde caerse muerto – This Spanish expression expresses the idea of abject poverty: not to have a penny to one’s name.

no tener pelos en la lengua – to not mince one’s words, to speak out without inhibition

oír como quien oye llover – To be indifferent to what one he hears; to neither take to heart nor to be moved to action or to be in any way affected by what is being said to one. like water off a duck’s back

ojos que no ven, corazón que no siente  –  Out of sight, out of mind.

ojos que no ven, corazón que no siente – Out of sight, out of mind

oler a rayos, saber a rayos – to stink, to taste awful

olérselas or olerse la tostada – to suspect what´s going on

otro gallo cantara – things would be different -better, it would be a different matter altogether

otro que bien baila – This Spanish expression is an ironical comparison between the person at hand and another with similar defects.

oveja negra or oveja negra de la familia – black sheep, black sheep of the family, a person who stands out in a family or group of people due to negative qualities.

pagar con la misma moneda – to return a favor or take revenge for an offense
English equivalents of this Spanish expression: to pay somebody with like coin, to pay back in kind. Also, but exclusively in the negative sense: to give as good as one gets, to give somebody a taste of his own medicine, to pay tit for tat

pagar el pato – to foot the bill, to get a bum rap, to suffer or be punished undeservedly for someone else´s negligence, mistake, wrongdoing, etc.

pagar justos por pecadores – innocents pay for the sins of the guilty

pagar los platos rotos – to foot the bill, to carry the can, to be left to clean up the mess, to assume responsability for the damage

para colmo de males – to top it all off, to make matters worse, This Spanish expression is used to name the “crowning” circumstance which makes an already uncomfortable situation unbearable.

partirse de la risa – to split your sides laughing

 pasar la noche en blanco – to spend a sleepless night, to not sleep a wink

pedir peras al olmo – to ask for the impossible, to try to squeeze blood out of a stone, to try to get blood out of a turnip

peor es nada – better than nothing

perder el tren – to miss the boat, to miss one´s opportunity

picar muy alto – to aim too high for one´s possibilities, to be over-ambitious

pisar los talons – to be at somebody´s heels, to follow closely

poner el arado delante de los bueyes – to put the cart before the horse, to do things the wrong way around making it impossible to obtain positive results

poner el dedo en la llaga – to rub salt into the wound, to touch a sore spot, This Spanish expression refers to someone mentioning, maybe even insistingly, a point which is a live source of pain or worry to the person he’s talking to.

poner el grito en el cielo – to hit the ceiling, to blow a fuse, to fly off the handle, to get a fit, to flip one’s lid, to give out a vehement cry of complaint and opposition

poner en tela de juicio – to call into question, to cast doubt on someone or something

poner las cartas sobre la mesa – to lay one’s cards on the table; to be totally open, truthful and sincere without holding anything back

poner las manos en el fuego por alguien – to put one’s hands in the fire for somebody, to stick one´s neck out for somebody, This Spanish expression is used to give testimony of one´s absolute faith in the moral integrity of a third person.

poner los pelos de punta – to make one’s hairs stand on end, to give the creeps, to provoke a state of extreme fear and alteration

poner los puntos sobre las íes – to dot the i’s and cross the t’s
This Spanish expression is used with two different meanings: to be overly meticulous and doctrinaire, and, as in the example below, to make a special effort to make matters clear and transparent.

poner pies en polvorosa – to go on the lam, to flee abruptly and hastily

poner toda la carne en el asador  –  To pull out all the stops/to go all out

poner u ofrecer la otra mejilla – to turn the other cheek, to remain lamely at the mercy of one´s agressor without attempting to defend oneself in any way

que si patatín, que si patatán…– This Spanish expression is an onomatopoeic rendition of stubborn, empty argumentation or vacuous excuses: blah, blah, blah.

quedar el rabo por desollar– This Spanish expression is used to say that the hardest part of a task still remains to be accomplished.

quedarse algo en el tintero – The meaning of this expression is that not all that could be said was said. Be it on purpose or due to forgetfulness certain things “remained in the inkwell”.

quedarse con los brazos cruzados – to remain with arms crossed/folded, to not lift a finger, to do nothing in a situation that calls for action

quedarse para vestir santos – to become an old maid, to remain unmarried

quemarse las cejasto burn the midnight oil, to read or study a lot

quemarse las pestañas – to burn the midnight oil, to read or study a lot

quien calla otorga – Silence speaks volumes

quitarse el sombrero ante alguien o algo – to take one’s hat off to somebody or something. We use this Spanish expression to express respect and admiration.

recoger el guante – to pick up the gauntlet, to accept a challenge

reinventar la rueda – to reinvent the wheel, to toil in serch of a solution to a problem which has been solved a myriad of times before us, usually for lack of knowledge of how the problem is habitually solved by others.

saber alguien dónde le aprieta el zapato – to know where one´s sensitivities, foibles and vulnerabilities lie

sacar a alguien de quicio – to infuriate, enrage or madden somebody

sacar a alguien de sus casillas – to make someone lose his temper, to make someone go off the deep end

salir el tiro por la culata – to backfire. This Spanish expression is used when somebody´s effort not only fails but has a contrary effect to the one wished for and expected.

salvarse por un pelo – to be saved by a hair

segundas partes nunca fueron buenas – A Spanish expression which means that the second part of anything is never better or as good as the first

ser algo el caballito de batalla de alguien – to be somebody’s “old reliable” or “old standby”. This Spanish expression is used when there is a certain ability somebody excells in and relies on whenever he needs a sure, uncomplicated success.

ser de armas tomar – This Spanish expression is used referring to someone who faces up to his circumstances and is determined and willing to fight, in the broader sense of the word.

ser de pocas pulgas – to be short tempered, to be easily annoyed, to be someone who tolerates no nonsense

ser harina de otro costal – to be another question altogether

ser más bueno que el pan – to be as good as gold. This Spanish expression is used to describe a person who is unusually good and kind, someone who would never hurt a fly.

ser más el ruido que las nueces – to be all smoke and no fire, to be all bark and no bite. We use this Spanish expression to indicate that something is less than what it appears to be.

ser más viejo que Matusalén – to be as old as the hills, to be older than dirt, to be extremely old

ser moneda corriente – to be an everyday occurence, to be common currency

ser pan comido – to be as good as done… or… very easy: a piece of cake

ser un cero a la izquierda – to be a nobody, to be useless, to be unworthy of being taken notice of

Ser uña y carne – to be bosom buddies.

Siempre llueve sobre mojado – It never rains, it pours

sobre gustos no hay nada escrito – different strokes for different folks

tal para cual – made for one another, two of a kind

tal vez – maybe, perhaps

Tan cierto como dos y dos son cuatro – As sure as eggs

Tanto monta, monta tanto – It’s as broad as it is long

tarde o temprano – sooner or later

tener a alguien en el bolsillo – to have somebody in one’s pocket, to have someone eating out of one’s hand. This Spanish idiom is used when a person can count on somebody else fully and entirely, either because he has won his confidence and goodwill, because there is a debt of gratitude or because he has him under his control.

tener agallas – to have guts, to be brave and daring

tener algo en la punta de la lengua – to have a word on the tip of one’s tongue. Depending on the context, this Spanish idiom could either mean that someone is just about to say something, or, as in the excerpt below, that someone is trying to remember some piece of information he wanted to mention and feels “it’s right there, right on the tip of his tounge” and yet cannot get hold of it, it keeps “slipping” and eluding his memory.

tener el alma en un hilo – to be on pins and needles, to be on tenterhooks, to be in a state of great distress and apprehension, to take into acccount, to take into consideration, to bear in mind

tener en mente – to keep in mind, to have in mind

tener siete vidas, como el gato – to have nine lives, like a cat

tirar de la lengua – to induce a person to talk about something he would rather not speak about

tirar la piedra y esconder la mano – to hide the hand that throws the stone. This Spanish expression refers to someone who pretends innocence after deliberately harming someone.

to be worth its weight in gold, to be extremely valuable – venderse como pan caliente
to sell like hot cakes, to sell very fast

tomar a pecho – to take to heart. This Spanish idiom can mean one of two different things: to apply oneself to a task with great determination and effort, or, to be excessively offended in a certain situation.

tomar el pelo – to pull somebody’s leg, to tease and make fun of someone by misleading him to believe something which is not true

tomar el sol – to bask in the sun

tomar el toro por los cuernos – to take the bull by the horns, to tackle one’s difficulties head on

valer la pena – to be worth it, to be worth one’s while, to be worthwhile, to be worth the candle

venir como anillo al dedo – to fit like a glove. We use this Spanish expression when just the right thing needed makes its appearance, when something fits the bill.

ver el cielo abierto – We apply this expression to someone who encounters an opportunity to get out of a troublesome situation or to fulfill his wishes.
to see a way out

ver las estrellas – to see stars, This Spanish expression refers to visual sensations that great physical pain or a blow to the head can cause.

vérselas negras – to face great difficulties, We apply this expression to someone going through a rough patch, when the going gets tough.

viento en popa – to have the wind in one’s sails; to be sailing with wind and tide; to fare well and prosperously, favoured by good luck

vivir en la luna – to be on the moon, to moon, This Spanish expression is applied to absent-minded individuals who lack awareness of what transpires around them.

vivito y coleando – live and kicking, This Spanish expression is used to say that someone’s healthy and well, especially when presumed otherwise.

volver a las andadas – to fall back into the grips of old, bad habits

zapatero, a tus zapatos – let the cobbler stick to his last
One should abstain from judging and criticizing in matters beyond one’s realm of knowledge.

Word document at:


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12 responses to “244 Spanish Idioms

  1. Pingback: Spanish idioms and vocabulary

  2. esta es la leche!


  3. Excellent resource to create an interactive matching activity for second language languages!

  4. Super interesting!

  5. Great compilation, thanks!

  6. Pingback: Idiom Resources For Interpreters

  7. Mrs Nicole Hughes-Chen

    Was looking for the idiom for ‘hit the ground running’ and sadly I could not see it, but found many other interesting idioms. Thanks

  8. christiaan hart nibbrig

    Very interesting website. Thanks. Are you familiar with the geography of the area between Caceres and Seville? At what point is it necessary to cross the Sierra Morenas range? Which towns (that existed in 1500) are located in the mountain range on the way to Seville? I can’t get a sense of it looking at maps. Thanks very much.

    • I grew up in Latin America not Spain. I can say Spain is a little more rigid in terms of culture than Latin America and of course Spain is in Europe and part of the EU. This means Spain is more developed but also more expensive. I have lived 40 years abroad and can say that one should visit before living in a place.

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