30 Authentic Spanish Idioms That Will Get You Mistaken For A Native Speaker
30 Authentic Spanish Idioms That Will Get You Mistaken For A Native Speaker
You can measure your success inlearning Spanish or any other language by how well you understand and use its idioms.
Idioms are phrases that have a figurative meaning, often very different from the literal translation of the words. Idioms are sometimes strange, often funny, and can be quite confusing to non-native speakers.
Think about the following phrases in English and imagine how they would sound to someone learning English.
Friends like that are a ten a penny
I just had to bite the bullet
Don't get bent out of shape over it!
You probably know exactly what the sentences are trying to convey. But the meaning is not readily apparent with the words alone.
Spanish, like English, has a whole slew of idiomatic expressions and phrases that can add colour to your speech…if you can understand them.
And going back to the list of English idioms, how did you learn what those phrases mean?
Chances are good you just know them through hearing them over and over in context.
That's also the trick when it comes to idioms in Spanish.
There's no substitute for hearing, reading, and saying idioms hundreds of times in authentic conversation to truly master their usage in Spanish. But before you can try them out yourself, it helps to know what they mean.
That's where this post comes in!
Here are 30 Spanish idioms, including the most common and some of the most memorable you will come across in the Spanish-speaking world.
Yes, this list will help you master Spanish idioms. But I hope it will also be fun to read. The literal translations of many idioms are just plain funny.
See if you can guess the meaning to any of these idioms before reading the translation!
By the way, if you want to master Spanish idioms and sound like a native speaker, then check out the Fluent Spanish Academy, a library of material with audio and transcripts to help you get off the intermediate plateau.
7 Spanish Idioms (And What They Really Mean)
The first 7 idioms on this list are also explained at length in the Fluent Spanish Academy YouTube video below. Click to hear the pronunciation and detailed descriptions of each.
#1 Ser Pan Comido
literal translation: bread to be eaten
what it means: to be easy or simple
English equivalent: a piece of cake
ejemplo: Este examen es pan comido. (This exam is a piece of cake)
#2 Acostarse Con Las Gallinas
literal translation: to go to bed with the chickens
what it means: to go to bed early
ejemplo: Ya eres muy aburrido, ahora solo te acuestas con las gallinas (You are so boring, you only go to bed early now)
#3 Andarse Por Las Ramas
literal translation: to walk around the branches
what it means: to avoid the subject
English equivalent: to beat around the bush
ejemplo: Se anda por las ramas. Aún no me ha confirmado nada (He's beating around the bush. He still hasn't confirmed anything.)
#4 Peor Es Nada
literal translation: worse is nothing
what it means: better than nothing
ejemplo: Esperaba tener más que una semana de vacaciones, pero peor es nada. (I was hoping to get more than a week of holidays, but it's better than nothing.)
#5 Tal Para Cual
literal translation: such for which
what it means: very similar
English equivalent: like two peas in a pod
ejemplo: Sandra y Ismael son tal para cual (Sandra and Ismael are like two peas in a pod)
#6 Quemarse Las Cejas
literal translation: to burn your own eyebrows
what it means: to stay up late working on something
English equivalent: to burn the midnight oil
ejemplo: No sé por qué te quemaste las cejas, yo te di que sería fácil (I don't know why you worked so hard. I told you it would be easy)
#7 Buscarle Tres Pies Al Gato
literal meaning: to look for three legs on the cat
what it means: to go looking for trouble
ejemplo: No les busques tres pies al gato. Sabes que tienes que hablar primero con tu novia (Don't go looking for trouble. You know you have to talk to your girlfriend first)
Pretty fun, right?
Idioms make you sound less like you're speaking from a textbook and more like a native speaker. They use colourful language and can add variety and personality to your conversations.
Some idioms are more common in some areas or have slightly different meanings from place to place, so always take your cues from the native speakers you associate with.
Don't be afraid to ask if you need an idiomatic expression explained…but also don't be surprised if your Spanish-speaking friends have to think for a minute before they can explain what an idiom means.
Ready for more idioms? Then keep reading…
23 More Spanish Idioms To Liven Up Your Speech
Now that you have a feel for what idioms are like in Spanish, here are 23 more colourful idioms you can use to impress your friends:
#1 Con La Manos En La Masa
literal translation: with hands in the dough
what it means: to be caught in the act of misbehaving
English equivalent: to be caught red-handed
#2 ¿Qué Le Hace Una Mancha Más Al Tigre?
literal translation: what is one more stripe to a tiger?
what it means: a little more won't make a difference
#3 Al Mal Tiempo, Buena Cara
literal translation: to bad weather, a good face
what it means: face disappointment and make the best of it
English equivalent: when life gives you lemons, make lemonade
#4 Tener Memoria De Pez
literal translation: to have the memory of a fish
what it means: an inability to remember things
#5 Empezar La Casa Por El Tejado
literal translation: to start the house with the roof
what it means: do things out of order
English equivalent: to place the cart before the horse
#6 Meter La Pata
literal translation: to put the foot in, as into a trap
what it means: to make a mistake or mess up
#7 Estar Hasta Las Narices
literal translation: to be in all the way up to the noses
what it means: to be fed up with something
English equivalent: neck-deep, in over your head
#8 Estar Como Una Cabra
literal translation: to be like a goat
what it means: to act crazy
#9 Como Llevar Arena A La Playa
literal translation: like taking sand to the beach
what it means: to do something pointless
#10 Tirar La Casa Por La Ventana
literal translation: to throw the house out the window
what it means: to spare no expense and worry about the bill tomorrow
#11 Dar La Vuelta A La Tortilla
literal translation: to turn the tortilla around
what it means: to look at something from another side or to turn the tables
English equivalent: the other side of the coin, on the other hand
#12 Tener Más Lana Que Un Borrego
literal translation: to have more wool than a lamb
what it means: to have lots of money
#13 Quedarse De Piedra
literal translation: to stay like a stone
what it means: to be shocked, especially into silence
#14 Hablando Del Rey Del Roma
literal translation: speaking of the king of Rome
what it means: when you're talking about someone and they just show up
English equivalent: speak of the devil
#15 Sin Pelos En La Lengua
literal translation: without hair on your tongue
what it means: to speak in a straightforward manner
#16 Echar Agua El Mar
literal translation: to throw water into the sea
what it means: to do something pointless or that makes no difference
#17 Si Mi Abuela Tuviera Ruedas Sería Una Bicicleta
literal translation: if my grandmother had wheels she would be a bicycle
what it means: this expression is used as a response when someone is wishing something had happened differently or wishing for something that just won't happen
#18 Una Media Naranja / Encontrar Tu Media Naranja
literal translation: a half an orange / to find your orange half
what it means: a soul mate/ to find your soul mate
#19 Bueno Y Barato No Caben En Un Zapato
literal translation: good and cheap won't fit in the same shoe
what it means: you get what you pay for
#20 No Tener Pies Ni Cabeza
literal translation: to have neither feet nor head
what it means: not making any sense
#21 Camarrón Que Se Duerme Se Lo Lleva La Corrientes
literal translation: sleeping shrimp get carried by the current
what it means: if you don't do anything, you have no control over what happens
English equivalent: you snooze, you lose
#22 Estar Hecho Un Ají
literal translation: to be made into a chile
what it means: to be or get very angry
#23 Estaban Como Tres En Un Zapato
literal translation: they were like three in a shoe
what it means: to be squished in or packed in tight
English equivalent: packed like sardines
Spanish Idioms: The Fun Has Only Just Begun
This list is not exhaustive. Each countryand region in the Spanish-speaking world has more idioms than I can list here.
In fact, many Spanish idioms are quite similar to those in English, but I've chosen to focus on those you might not be able to guess the meaning of straightaway.
Idioms are yet another reason why relying on straight translation will only get you so far in learning a new language.
Hopefully this list has inspired you to try your hand at some more colourful expressions. Idioms are supposed to be fun, after all!
Like I said at the start though, there's no substitute for getting exposure to or using idioms when you speak. So that's another great excuse, if ever you need one, to dive into Spanish-speaking literature or movies in Spanish.
What are some of your favourite Spanish idioms? And which ones did you like best in this list? Let me know in the comments.