Spanish Idioms: 46 Expressions You’ll Hear From Native Speakers

Spanish Idioms

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A fun part of learning to become a more well-rounded Spanish speaker, is learning the more nuanced Spanish, be it slang vocabulary or expressions, that native speakers use in everyday life.

In this post, you’ll learn 46 of the most common Spanish Idioms that native speakers use, so that you can add some flavor to the conversation the next time you are speaking to a friend, colleague or stranger.

So what exactly do we mean by: Spanish idioms.

An idiom is a phrase or fixed expression, which is used with a figurative meaning, rather than the literal meaning.

For example:

  • Every cloud has a silver lining
  • A stitch in time saves nine
  • When life gives you lemons, make lemonade

Just like the English language, many of these idiomatic expressions don’t make a whole pile of sense when translated directly – but are used on a frequent basis by native speakers. Idioms are an abstract entity, often with layers of meaning, nuance, and humor which means that typically you won’t understand what they mean when used in Spanish conversation if you haven’t already learned them.

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A List of Spanish Idioms That You Should Know

Idioms tend to be used most often in certain countries or regions (e.g Latin America vs Spain), which means that the number of idioms we could cover in this post is huge!

For now, we’ll stick the most popular ones in general.

Our list of Spanish idioms includes many familiar English Idioms, but also some idioms that only exist in the Spanish language.

Let’s begin

Spanish Idioms With Colors

# Idiom Literal Translation Meaning English Counterpart
1 De punta en blanco On white tip Well dressed for a special occasion Dressed to the nines, dressed to kill
2 Dar en el blanco To throw in the white To be right, to be assertive To hit the bullseye
3 Ver todo color de rosa To see everything in pink color To be or see everything with excessive optimism To see all peaches and cream
4 Buscar el príncipe azul To look for the blue prince To look for the perfect man To look for prince charming
5 Tener sangre azul To have blue blood To belong to a royal or very rich family To be born with a silver spoon in your mouth
6 Encontrar tu media naranja To find your half orange To find the perfect or ideal partner To find you other/better half
7 Ponerse rojo como un tomate To turn red as a tomato To feel very embarrassed about something To turn red as a beetroot
8 No hay color There is no colour There is no comparison It’s like apples and oranges
9 Tener la negra To have the black To have bad luck To be jinxed

Spanish Idioms with Animals

# Idiom Literal Translation Meaning English Counterpart
10 Tener vista de lince To have the eyesight of a lynx To have an excellent vision To have an eagle eye
11 Tener memoria de pez To have the memory of a fish To have a bad memory To have a memory of a sieve
12 Ser la oveja negra To be the black sheep To be good for nothing To be the black sheep
13 Ser un gallina To be a hen To be a coward To be a chicken
14 Dar gato por liebre To give cat for hare To trick someone, to rip someone off To take for a ride
15 Estar como una cabra to be like a goat to be crazy To be mad as a hornet, to be crazy as a loon
16 Ser una rata To be a rat A treacherous person, a person who cheats or mocks another one To be a snake in the grass, or a rat
17 Tener más vidas que un gato To have more lives than a cat To be a very lucky person To have more lives than a cat
18 Ser más astuto que un zorro To be cleverer than a fox To be cunning and sharp in practical matters To be sly as a fox

Spanish Idioms with Food and Drinks

# Idiom Literal translation Meaning English counterpart
19 Ser pan comido To be eaten bread To be very easy To be a piece of cake
20 Ser un bombón To be a bonbon To be very good looking To be eye candy
21 Ser del año de la pera To be from the year of the pear To be very very old To be from another era
22 Dar la vuelta a la tortilla To turn the omelet around To turn the situation around To turn the tables
23 No importar un pepino/rábano Not to matter a cucumber/radish To be irrelevant Do not care, couldn’t care less
24 Ser un melón To be a melon To be not very smart or intelligent To be a blockhead
25 Ser la gallina de los huevos de oro The hen with the golden eggs To be a source of wealth To be the goose that lays the golden eggs
26 Estar hasta en la sopa To be even in the soup To find the same person anywhere and everywhere you go To be here, there and everywhere
27 Comer la papa To eat a potato To have lunch To eat (one’s) lunch

Spanish Idioms with Body Parts

# Idiom Literal Translation Meaning English Counterpart
28 Meter la pata To put the leg in it To make a mistake To put your foot in it
29 No tener pies ni cabeza Without feet or head Not to make any sense Without rhyme or reason
30 No pegar un ojo Not to strike an eye Not being able to sleep Without sleeping a wink
31 Andar con pies de plomo To walk with lead feet To be very careful to walk on eggshells
32 Con la soga al cuello With the rope around the neck To be in a situation with a lot of pressure To be in trouble, or up to one’s neck
33 Costar un ojo de la cara To cost an eye of the face Something extremely expensive To cost a fortune, to cost an arm and a leg
34 Sin pelos en la lengua Without hair on your tongue To be straightforward, to be completely honest To not mince your words
35 Buscar la quinta pata al gato To look for the fifth leg of the cat To make something way more complicated than it is To take the scenic route
36 Estar hasta las narices To be up to the nose To be annoyed, to be tired of something To be sick to death, to be fed up

Other Important Spanish Idioms

# Idiom Literal translation Meaning English counterpart
37 Dar en el clavo To hit on the nail To be assertive To be spot on
38 Dormirse en los laureles To fall asleep in the laurels To cease to make an effort after achieving success To rest on your laurels
39 Entre la espada y la pared Between the sword and the wall Having to choose between two bad things Rock and a hard place
40 Matar dos pájaros de un tiro Two birds with one shot To get two things done at once To hit two birds with one stone
41 A duras penas At tough hardship To barely achieve something To be hard-pressed
42 Perder los estribos To lose the stirrup To get angry To fly off the handle
43 De buena fe Of good faith To do something with good intentions An act of good faith
44 Faltarle un tornillo Missing a screw To be insane To be nuts, or missing a screw
45 Pasarse de la raya To cross the line To do something that can’t be tolerated To cross the line
46 Salirse con la suya To get away with To succeed at getting something through annoying methods To get away with

Did we miss any Spanish idioms that should be on this list?

Comment below and let us know!

Spanish Idioms: Exercises

Change the word in bold from the sentence with a correct Spanish Idiom

  1. Rafael compró un auto nuevo la semana pasada, y le costó muchísimo dinero
  2. Claudia sueña con conocer a su pareja perfecta en el crucero al que irá en diciembre.
  3. Luis se consigue a su ex-jefa en la farmacia, en la panadería, en el cine. Ella está en todos los lugares donde él va.
  4. El hermano de mi mejor amiga nunca le ha gustado estudiar, trabajar o hacer algo productivo. Es el bueno para nada de su familia.
  5. Mi esposa no pudo dormir anoche, debido a su importante entrevista de trabajo de hoy.
  6. Daniela olvidó el cumpleaños de su hermana como siempre. Ella tiene muy mala memoria.
  7. La esposa de Francisco se enojó muchísimo cuando se enteró de la verdad.
  8. La familia de mi vecino se comporta de forma muy extraña. Parece que están locos.
  9. Él proviene de una familia muy adinerada y educada. Es un joven perteneciente a la realeza.
  10. Estoy leyendo un libro muy interesante sobre la mitología griega, pero es muy muy viejo.
  11. La chica nueva del trabajo es muy guapa. Le preguntaré su nombre.
  12. La estudiante acertó la respuesta rápidamente.
  13. Las integrantes de mi familia son personas que hablan de forma directa, y siempre dicen lo que piensan.
  14. José llegó con mucha dificultad a su trabajo, a causa del tráfico de la mañana.
  15. Mi abuelo solía ser una persona muy sagaz.. Siempre con una respuesta a los problemas.

Answers

Change the word in bold from the sentence with the correct Spanish Idiom

  1. Rafael compró un auto nuevo la semana pasada, y le costó un ojo de la cara.
  2. Claudia sueña con conocer a su media naranja / príncipe azul, en el crucero al que irá en diciembre.
  3. Luis se consigue a sus ex-jefa en la farmacia, en la panadería, en el cine. Ella está hasta en la sopa.
  4. El hermano de mi mejor amiga nunca le ha gustado estudiar, trabajar o hacer algo productivo. Es la oveja negra de su familia.
  5. Mi esposa no pegó un ojo anoche, debido a su importante entrevista de trabajo de hoy.
  6. Daniela olvidó el cumpleaños de su hermana como siempre. Ella tiene memoria de un pez.
  7. La esposa de Francisco perdió los estribos cuando se enteró de la verdad.
  8. La familia de mi vecino se comporta de forma muy extraña. Parece que le falta un tornillo / está como una cabra.
  9. Él proviene de una familia muy adinerada y educada. Es un joven de sangre azul.
  10. Estoy leyendo un libro muy interesante sobre la mitología griega, pero es del año de la pera.
  11. La chica nueva del trabajo es un bombón. Le preguntaré su nombre.
  12. La estudiante dio en el clavo rápidamente.
  13. Los integrantes de mi familia son personas que hablan sin pelos en la lengua.
  14. José llegó a duras penas a su trabajo, a causa del tráfico de la mañana.
  15. Mi abuelo solía ser más astuto que un zorro. Siempre con una respuesta a los problemas.
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