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Sayings and Idioms: Speak Spanish Like a Native Speaker

When studying a foreign language, sometimes people don’t learn phrases and expressions for speaking colloquially, as people really speak on the street. Become familiar with Spanish sayings and idioms and speak Spanish like a native speaker.

Spanish Sayings and Idioms

Colloquial language —which includes idioms, sayings and slang phrases— is distinct from formal speech or formal writing. It is the variety of language that speakers typically use when they are relaxed and not especially self-conscious.

Spanish Sayings

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a saying as an “old and well-known phrase that expresses an idea that most people believe is true.” The Macmillan Dictionary also defines it as “a well-known statement about what often happens in life.” For example, “No news is good news” is a saying meaning that if we are waiting for news about someone, it's probably good if we hear nothing because “bad news” would arrive quickly.

Here are some examples of Spanish sayings:

  • ¡Es pan comido! - It's a piece of cake!

  • Borrón y cuenta nueva - Kiss and make up

  • De tal palo, tal astilla - Like father, like son

  • Dejemos las cosas en claro - Let's get things clear

  • ¡Qué pequeño es el mundo! - (It's a) Small world!

  • Más vale pájaro en mano que ciento volando - A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush

  • A palabras necias, oídos sordos - A foolish words, deaf ears

  • En las malas se conoce a los amigos - A friend in need is a friend indeed

  • Las palabras se las lleva el viento - Actions speak louder than words/voice

  • Las penas con pan son menos - All griefs with bread are less

  • No todo lo que brilla es oro - All that glitters is not gold

  • Tan claro como el agua - It's as clear as day

  • Más vale tarde que nunca - Better late than never

  • Más vale prevenir que lamentar - Better safe than sorry

  • Más vale malo conocido que bueno por conocer - Better the devil you know than the devil you don't

  • Caiga quien caiga - Come hell or high water

  • No hay mal que por bien no venga - Every cloud has a silver lining

  • Cada quién habla como le va en la feria - Everyone sees things from his / her own point of view

  • Cría fama y échate a dormir - Give a dog a bad name (and hang it)

  • Haz el bien sin mirar a quién - Do what is right, come what may

  • El que quiera azul celeste, que le cueste - He that would have the fruit must climb the tree

  • El que ríe último ríe mejor - He who laughs last, laughs longest

  • Lo barato sale caro - If you buy cheaply, you pay dearly

  • En boca cerrada no entran moscas - If you keep your mouth shut, you won't put your foot in it

  • El que se fue a la Villa perdió su silla - If you leave your place, you lose it

  • Piensa mal y acertarás - If you think the worst, you won't be far wrong

  • Es cuestión de vida o muerte - It's a matter of life and death

  • Está para chuparse los dedos - It's finger licking good

  • Más vale solo que mal acompañado - It's better to be on your own than with people you don't like

  • Que sea lo que Dios quiera - It's in the lap of the Gods

  • Ladrón que roba a ladrón tiene cien años de perdón - It's no crime to steal from a thief

  • Más se perdió en la guerra - It's not the end of the world

  • Al que madruga Dios lo ayuda - It's the early bird that catches the worm

  • Cuentas claras, amistades largas - Let's get things clear

  • La distancia es el olvido - Long absent, soon forgotten

  • Ahogarse en un vaso de agua - Make a mountain out of a molehill

  • No sólo de pan vive el hombre - Man cannot live by bread alone

  • Dinero llama a dinero - Money goes where money is

  • No dejes para mañana lo que puedes hacer hoy - Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today

  • No hay mal que dure cien años - Nothing goes on for ever

  • Hombre prevenido vale por dos - One good fore wit is worth two after wits

  • Ojos que no ven, corazón que no siente - Out of sight, out of mind

  • Roma no se construyó en un día - Rome wasn't built in a day

  • Muerto el perro se acaba la rabia - The best way to solve a problem is to attack the cause/root of it

  • Sale peor el remedio que la enfermedad - The cure is worse than the cause

  • Sale más caro el caldo que las albóndigas - The cure is worse than the cause

  • Hierba mala nunca muere - The devil looks after himself / his own

  • El que a hierro mata, a hierro muere - They that live by the sword shall die by the sword

  • El tiempo lo cura todo - Time heals all wounds

  • Estar entre la espada y la pared - To be between the devil and the deep/between a rock and a hard place

  • Mal de muchos, consuelo de tontos - Two in distress makes sorrow less

  • El sol brilla para todos - We are all equal in the eyes of the Lord

  • De (sabio) poeta y loco, todos tenemos un poco - We're all a little crazy in one way or another

  • Hacer de tripas corazón - What can't be cured must be endured

  • Donde manda capitán no gobierna marinero - What the boss says goes

  • Dime con quién andas y te diré quién eres - You can judge a man by the company he keeps

  • Aunque la mona se vista de seda mona se queda - You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear

  • Nadie sabe lo que tiene hasta que lo ve perdido - You never know what you've got till it's gone

  • Cuesta un ojo de la cara - It costs an arm and a leg

  • En casa del herrero azadón de palo - The shoemaker's son always goes barefoot

Spanish Idioms

On the other hand, an idiom is an expression or a group of words whose meaning is different from the meaning of the individual words. For example, “to have your feet on the ground” is an idiom meaning to be very practical and see things as they really are, as well as the expression “give up,” meaning to abandon someone or something as being lost; to quit looking for someone or something that is lost. It is also a form of a language that is spoken in a particular area and that uses some of its own words, grammar, and pronunciations.

Here are some examples of Spanish idioms:

  • Montón - A lot of, a bunch

  • Chocante - Annoying, unpleasant

  • Chelas - Beers

  • Cuentón - Big bill, check

  • Piropo - Compliment

  • Padre - Cool

  • Gentío - Crowd

  • Colarse - Cut in line

  • Mugre - Dirt

  • Tener ganas de… - Feel like...

  • Arreglarse - Fix oneself up, to make oneself look attractive

  • Cuate - Friend, buddy, pal

  • Caramba - Geez

  • Llevarse bien - Get along

  • Deshacerse de alguien - Get rid of someone

  • Ponerse las pilas - Get/put one's skates on

  • Me saca de quicio - Gets on my nerves

  • Reunirse - Get-together

  • ¡Vengan esos cinco! - Give me five!

  • ¡Choca esos cinco! - High five!

  • Ganga - Good deal

  • Buena onda - Good egg, good person

  • Banda - Group of friends, gang

  • Tipo - Guy, dude

  • Cruda - Hangover

  • Para tu carro - Hold your horses!

  • A que... - I'll bet...

  • En un abrir y cerrar de ojos - In the twinkle of an eye

  • Llueve a cántaros - It's raining cats and dogs

  • Bote - Jail, prison

  • Menso - Jerk, fool

  • Por si las moscas - Just in case

  • Por si acaso - Just in case

  • Echar un ojo a... - Keep an eye on...

  • Borrón y cuenta nueva - Let bygones be bygones

  • Chamaco - Little child, little kid

  • Suertudo - Lucky person

  • Lío - Mess, jam

  • Lana - Money

  • Plata - Money

  • Música para los oídos - Music to one's ears

  • No es para tanto - No big deal

  • Vale - Okay

  • Carcacha - Old wreck, jalopy

  • Latoso - Pain in the neck, annoying person

  • Viejos - Parents, folks

  • Pachanga - Party

  • Pez gordo - Person of great importance, "bigwig"

  • Estar enojado/cabreado - Pissed off

  • Vergüenza debería darte - Shame on you!

  • Escuincle - Small child, little kid

  • Hablando del rey de Roma... - Speak of the devil...

  • Dejar plantado - Stand someone up

  • Dar gato por liebre - Take somebody for a ride

  • El fin justifica los medios - The end justifies the means

  • Ratero - Thief

  • Ver el mundo color de rosa - Through rose-colored glasses

  • El tiempo es oro - Time is money

  • Chocar - To annoy, to get annoyed, to hate something/someone

  • Vestir de gala - To be all dressed up

  • Estar agotado - To be exhausted, pooped

  • Ponerse como loco - To be furious, angry

  • Tener suerte - To be lucky

  • Estar en ascuas, tener en ascuas - To be on pins and needles

  • Estar corto de dinero - To be short of money

  • Estar borracho/tomado - To be wasted/drunk

  • Sentirse mal/enfermo - To be/feel under the weather

  • Poner los cuernos - To cheat on

  • Chupar - To drink

  • Poncharse la llanta - To get a flat tire

  • Echar una mano - To give someone a hand

  • Largarse - To go away/beat it

  • Chismear - To gossip

  • Vacilar - To joke around

  • Mantener a raya - To keep at bay

  • Verse con alguien - To meet someone

  • Echar de menos - To miss someone/something

  • Pagar al contado - To pay cash

  • Poner toda la carne en el asador - To pull out all the stops

  • Tomar el pelo - To pull someone's leg

  • Encontrarse con alguien - To run into someone

  • Comerse el mundo - To set the world on fire

  • Presumir - To show off

  • Tragarse el orgullo - To swallow one's pride

  • Hacer trampa - To swindle, trick or cheat someone

  • Ser el colmo - That takes the cake!

  • Platicar - To talk, to have a little chat

  • Hacerse de la vista gorda - To turn a blind eye

  • Chambear - To work

  • Raro - Weird, strange

  • ¿Qué onda? - What's up?

  • Dar gato por liebre - Take somebody for a ride


Finally, slang refers to words or expressions that are very informal and are not considered suitable for more formal situations. This kind of speech and writing is characterized by the use of vulgar and socially taboo vocabulary and idiomatic expressions, and is used only by a particular group of people.

There are hundreds of Spanish sayings, idioms and slang phrases. In our blog we publish common sayings and idioms used in the Spanish language, with an approximate English translation, because in many cases, popular sayings cannot be translated literally. We'll also take a look at a few examples of Spanish sayings and idioms used in different contexts.

Do you know other Spanish sayings and idioms?

Feel free to share them below.


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