Spanish Idioms are used a lot by native speakers in everyday conversation, so using them will allow you to fit in with the locals and sound like you have been speaking Spanish your entire life! If you want to improve your Spanish and boost your conversational skills, start using Idioms in Spanish to boost your Speaking Skills.
Why are Spanish idioms so important when you are learning Spanish?
If you can use idioms, you will show that you understand the cultural meaning and context behind the idiom. Spanish idioms are different from country to country. Online Spanish lessons are a great way to practise Spanish idioms with a native speaking Spanish teacher.
The idioms from Latin-America (Mexico, Peru, Colombia…) can be very different than the expressions used in Spain. Knowing Spanish idioms, you will feel more confident and comfortable to speak in Spanish; you’ll improve and learn Spanish fast. If you use idioms, it will help you to sound like a native speaker of Spanish. Are you taking online Spanish classes? Don’t miss this opportunity to learn more and new Spanish words.
To top it off, you will greatly increase your conversational skills in Spanish!
Spanish idioms: 14 important idioms
- Spanish: No tener pelos en la lengua.
English: To tell it like it is.
The literal translation is not to have hairs on your tongue. This idiom means when someone always speaks their mind or is a straight shooter. You can imagine that if someone has hair on their tongue pronunciation and clarity would be quite difficult. Without the annoyance of the hair, things would be said with absolute clarity.
¡Camarero! Esta sopa es horrible, la peor sopa que he comido nunca. Lo siento si soy muy sincero, pero yo no tengo pelos en la lengua.
Waiter! This soup is horrible, the worst soup I have ever eaten. I’m sorry if I’m very being brutally honest, but I tell it like it is.
- Spanish: Estar hasta las narices.
English: I’ve had it up to here with…
This common Spanish expression is used to express being fed up with or growing tired of someone or something. We could imagine that in this case the nose has been taken to visually mark a limit. The idiom is generally expressed by bringing the edge of your open hand to an area at the level of your nose.
¡Estoy hasta las narices de tus quejas!
I’m fed up with your complaints!
- Spanish: Ponerse de mala leche.
English: To be a bad apple.
Similar to ponerse de mala uva this expression is also used to describe someone with a bad attitude, mood, intentions, or a bad character. The thought is that this expression goes back to the ancient belief that the milk which one was breastfed influenced character.
N.B. this expression is mainly use in Spain – like many other Spanish idioms that include ‘leche’.
Antonio siempre está fastidiando a los demás, tiene muy mala leche.
Antonio is always annoying others; he has a very bad temper.
- Spanish: Verlo todo en color rosa.
English: To see everything with the glass half-full or to see things through rose-colored glass or to look on the bright side.
This Spanish idiom is literally translated as to see everything in the color pink. In Spanish culture, the color pink is related to optimism, positivity and pleasant things. We can also use this expression in specific situations that fill us with happiness and confidence when thinking about the future.
For example, it is normal to see everything in pink when we have just fallen in love or when there is something pleasant to look forward to, such as a trip or a new job. It is the feeling that everything will be fine before it happens.
Cuando se casó, la muchacha veía todo de color de rosa aunque su matrimonio tenía graves problemas.
When she first got married, she saw everything glass half-full even though her marriage had serious problems.
- Spanish: Buscar el príncipe azul.
English: To look for prince charming.
This idiom is literally translated as to look for the blue prince and it is used to refer to the perfect man who will sweep you off your feet and whom you will live with happily ever after. The fact that the color blue was chosen to define those handsome princes is due to the belief, from a few centuries ago, that royals have blue blood. In fact, the phrase to refer to royals, born of celestial blood, actually referred to their divine or celestial origin (the heavens or sky) as opposed to actual blue blood.
No quiero desilusiones. No soy ningún príncipe azul.
Bear in mind that I’m not a prince charming.
- Spanish: Ponerse morado.
English: To be stuffed.
We use the phrase to turn purple when someone has eaten a lot and with great satisfaction, or, when someone has eaten their fill. The origin of this expression could be found in a disease called cyanosis, in which there is a bluish color to the skin and which is a disorder that in the past could be associated with a large food intake causing a series of disorders.
However, today this expression reflects satisfaction and happiness after having eaten copiously.
Ayer me puse morado en casa de mi abuela… ¡cocina tan bien!
Yesterday I was so stuffed at my grandmother’s house… she cooks so well!
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- Spanish: Tomar el pelo
English: To pull someone’s leg.
This expression is literally translated as to take the hair and is used when someone is tricking, teasing or making fun of someone else but normally in a light-hearted or good-natured way.
¿30 euros por una cerveza y una tapa? ¿Me estas tomando el pelo?
30 euros for a beer and a tapa? Are you kidding me?
- Spanish: Tirar la casa por la ventana.
English: To spare no expense.
This idiom is directly translated as to throw the house through the window and it means when someone wastes or spends money without control or measure.
Antonio y Clara tiraron la casa por la ventana en su boda y eso que les queda toda una hipoteca por pagar.
Antonio and Clara spared no expense at their wedding and they still have a whole mortgage to pay.
- Spanish: Ser uña y carne.
English: To be best friends.
The meaning of this idiom is quite visual. If you look at your hand, your nails are so close to the skin that it’s impossible to separate them. Thus, this expression is used to refer to relationships between people, whether they are friends or family, who spend a lot of time together, who get along very well and are very close.
Persona A: ¡Qué bien se llevan María y Manuel! Están juntos en clase desde los 5 años y nunca se pelean, siempre se ayudan…
Persona B: ¡Es verdad! Es que son uña y carne.
Person A: Maria and Manuel get along so well! They’ve been together in class since they were 5 years old and they never fight, they always help each other…
Person B: It’s true! They are best friends!
- Spanish: Tener un humor de perros.
English: To be in a bad mood.
This Spanish idiom is translated as to have a mood of dogs and it means to be in a very bad mood.
Ellos tienen un humor de perros porque no aprobaron los exámenes en la Universidad. They are in a bad mood because they didn’t pass their university exams.
- Spanish: No saber ni jota.
English: To not have a clue.
This idiom is normally applied to those people who are usually ignorant in a certain subject or know little or nothing about a particular topic. The letter that we know today as J is from Hebrew origins, but was later picked up by the Greek alphabet, in which it was called jota.
This letter was the simplest to write, as it was represented with the simple stick, without the dot that it has today. If an individual didn’t know how to write j, he didn’t know anything.
Mañana es el examen y no sabemos ni jota.
There’s a test tomorrow and we don’t know anything.
- Spanish: No hay moros en la costa.
English: The coast is clear.
This idiom is translated as there are no moors on the coast and is a very popular phrase used to signal that there are no dangers in sight. Its origin is very interesting and very old. The Spanish Mediterranean area was, in ancient times, the object of frequent attacks by the inhabitants of the northwestern region of Africa.
The people who lived on the shore, because of this, were in constant danger and to prevent it they erected numerous watchtowers along the coast. From the top of those towers they watched the sea and, as soon as they saw the approaching ships, they began to shout: “There are moors on the coast!”, and so people prepared to defend themselves.
¿Te importaría mirar si no hay moros en la costa?
Would you mind seeing if the coast is clear?
Bonus Idioms in Spanish
But wait! We aren’t done yet! We’re going to give you two bonus idioms that are specifically from Mexico!
- Spanish: Ya te cargó el payaso.
English: You’re done for or You’re screwed.
This idiom is used when something is hopeless, expresses total failure or is used to talk about huge or imminent problems that cannot be solved.
The idiom originally came about from rodeo entertainment. When cowboys ride bulls and can’t hold on any longer they tend to fall to the ground, which is very dangerous. If they fall to the ground and are hurt or stunned they cannot run to safety.
To avoid that the cowboys at rodeo shows would get fatally injured after falling from the bull, clown cowboys would distract or taunt the bull to keep their attention away from the cowboy who lost and of course to entertain the spectators. So, when the clown comes, it is only at the ultimate moment when the cowboys are completely beaten and unable to even stand up and run for their own life, hence the hopelessness or looming problem.
Un ladrón le dice a un sujeto “ya te cargó el payaso” lo cual significa que será asaltado y no podrá evitar.
A thief tells a victim ” you’re done for” which means that the victim will be assaulted and that the victim will not be able to do anything about it.
Olvidé mi computadora en mi casa, ya me cargó el payaso.
I forgot my computer in my house. I screwed up
Ya me cargó el payaso, no hice mi tarea.
I screwed up. I didn’t do my homework.
- Spanish: Sepa la bola.
English: Who knows?
This phrase is used, and originates in Mexico, since the time of the Revolution. Where does the Spanish expression come from?
At the time of the Mexican Revolution, when there were armed uprisings, there were groups of men and women that were made up of people from all different backgrounds that came together for one specific purpose, they were known as la bola.
When there was destruction or looting and people did not know whom to blame, it was simply said that it had been la bola.
According to the Mexican Academy of Language, it is likely that the phrase was created to be similar to the expression ¡saber Dios!, changing the noun God for the ball.
The ball knows is a way of saying that you do not know who did something, and at the same time ignore the situation. When someone says this popular phrase, they are also saying, in some way, I don’t know anything, it is not my responsibility.
Although the most common meaning of ball refers to a spherical body, for Mexicans, this word may have other connotations. According to the Royal Spanish Academy, in México the term ball can mean heap, quarrel, tumult, revolution or noisy gathering of people in disorder.
Hijos ¿Quién tiró la basura del patio? – Sepa la bola mama.
Oye¡ sabes a qué hora empieza la pelea? – Sepa la bola, no me dijeron.
Amiga no encuentro mis aretes ¿Dónde los habré dejado? – Sepa la bola amiga, búscalos bien.
Kids. Who threw away the garbage from the yard? – The ball knows, mom.
Hey, do you know what time the fight starts? – The ball knows, they didn’t tell me.
Hey, I can’t find my earrings, where did I leave them? – The ball knows, look for them well.
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