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Aside from learning common Spanish words and phrases, one of the best ways to gain fluency and sound like a native speaker is to learn Spanish slang words and expressions. It’s also very important to learn Spanish idioms.
Idioms are phrases that native speakers use daily in informal conversations. While most Spanish idioms can be translated to other languages, the translation of the idiom often doesn’t cover its real meaning.
When Spanish language learners hear an idiom in conversation, it might take them aback as they just don’t understand why the speaker has said that. This is because they don’t grasp the real meaning of the phrase.
Confusion over the true meaning of a Spanish idiom can bring the conversation to a halt or just to an awkward pause. If you want to avoid such incidents it’s important to learn the true meaning of commons Spanish idioms like the ones we are about to discuss below.
Translation: Sometimes one wins, others one loses
Meaning: You win some, you lose some
This is a wise Spanish idiom that basically reminds us that everyone goes through good and bad times. Everyone wins and loses sometimes.
Translation: To give light
Meaning: To give birth
Spanish is a language full of beautiful words and they have several beautiful idioms as well. This is one of them. Isn’t it a nice way to describe the act of childbirth?
Translation: To open the box of thunder
Meaning: Look for trouble
If you hear this from a Spanish speaker, they are warning you about continuing in your line of inquiry as you might not like the answer. It can also mean that your actions are going to get you in a bad situation. It’s similar to “opening Pandora’s box”.
Translation: to have blue blood
Meaning: Born rich
This Spanish idiom is used to say that someone was born into a rich family.
Translation: Talking through one’s elbows
Meaning: Talking too much
If you have a professor who drones on and on or a friend who takes forever to get to the point, this is the Spanish idiom to describe them.
Translation: Being from the year of the pear
This Spanish idiom is used to describe someone who is old or old-fashioned.
Translation: To be healthier than an apple
Meaning: To be healthy, feeling healthy
If a Spanish speaker has recovered from an illness, they might use this idiom to answer you if you ask how they are.
Translation: To get in the car
Meaning: Join in
This Spanish idiom is similar to the English idiom “jump on the bandwagon”. It means to join a group, usually because the group is now associated with something popular.
Translation: Stay blank
Meaning: Doesn’t have an answer
This Spanish idiom is similar to the English idiom “draw a blank”. If you have forgotten the answer to a quiz question or just don’t know what to say, these are examples of “quedarse en blanco”.
Translation: Put a foot on it
Meaning: To have done the wrong thing
When a Spanish speaker uses this idiom, they are basically saying that they have done the wrong thing and gotten themselves in a bad situation.
Translation: See everything in pink
Meaning: Always optimistic
The meaning of this Spanish idiom is similar to “seeing everything with rose-colored glasses”. It describes an irrepressible optimist, someone who always tries to see the bright, or in this case the pink, side.
Translation: See everything in black
This is the opposite of the idiom above. It describes a hopeless or gloomy person.
Translation: To be a hen
This Spanish idiom is used to say someone is cowardly or easily frightened.
Translation: To shake like pudding
This Spanish idiom is used to describe someone who is nervous.
Translation: To cover one’s eyes
This Spanish idiom is similar to the English idiom, to turn a blind eye. The implication here is that someone is being willfully blind or ignoring what is happening around them.
Translation: Turn the omelet the other way
Meaning: To gain the advantage
This might sound like a cooking instruction, but it actually has nothing to do with cooking or even food. This idiom is similar to the English expression “the tables have turned”. It means that someone has managed to change a bad situation so it is now in their favor.
Translation: To have a fish’s memory
If you want to say someone has a bad memory, this is the Spanish idiom to use.
Translation: Turn purple
Meaning: Stuffed or full of food and drink
This might sound alarming to English speakers if they first hear it, turning purple usually means choking or being unable to breathe in English, but it isn’t that bad. A Spanish speaker will use this phrase similar to how an English speaker will say that they are “stuffed.” They are saying they ate and drank a lot, maybe too much.
Translation: It makes my mouth water
Meaning: The dish looks/smells delicious
If you want to compliment a Spanish-speaking friend who likes to cook when they invite you to try what they’ve made, use this idiom.
Translation: Be like a goat
Meaning: Acting crazy
If someone is acting a little crazy or behaving in an erratic and uncharacteristic way, this is the Spanish idiom to describe them.
Translation: To introduce your hands in a place
Meaning: Help someone
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This is similar to the English idiom “lend a hand”. It is basically used to either say that they are going to help or to ask you if you can help.
Translation: To be green
This Spanish idiom is used to describe someone who lacks experience. So, someone like the new intern in your office. It can also be used to imply that someone is naïve or innocent.
Translation: He/she is the black sheep of the family
Meaning: Different from the rest
When a Spanish speaker uses this idiom to describe a member of their family, they are saying that they are different. It can also be used to describe someone who doesn’t really belong to the group.
Translation: He/she is your half orange
Meaning: He/she is your significant other
This is a sweet way that Spanish speaker might tease a friend who is in a relationship. It means that they think you have found a good partner.
Translation: Start the house by the roof
Meaning: Doing things out of order
If someone says this, they believe that you are getting ahead of yourself. You are planning something wrong or skipping to many steps.
Translation: Wash your hands
Meaning: I won’t be responsible
If a Spanish speaker uses this idiom, they are saying that they refuse to take responsibility for a situation or to get involved. It can be a bit of a warning, they are saying they think you are making a mistake but don’t know how they can stop you.
Translation: Made a chili
This is a Spanish idiom that can be used to describe someone who is very angry.
Translation: It’s eaten bread
Meaning: It’s simple or it’s easy
A native Spanish speaker will use this idiom if they are talking about a certain task or job. If they say this, they are saying that the task is easy. This is similar to the English idiom “piece of cake”.
Translation: Take the hair
Meaning: Your joking, I don’t believe you
If you hear this from a Spanish speaker, they are asking if you are joking.
Translation: Speak without hairs on the tongue
Meaning: To be frank
If you hear this Spanish idiom, the speaker is about to be direct and frank with you.
Translation: To become a tomato
This is a Spanish idiom that refers to the act of blushing. If you are flushed due to embarrassment or shyness, you might hear a Spanish speaker comment on it using this idiom.
Translation: To have it up to your nose
Meaning: To be annoyed
If you have been patient with someone but they have now irritated you beyond reason, you can use this idiom to describe your feelings. If a Spanish speaker says this, they are frustrated or irritated with a situation.
Translation: Throw the house through the window
Meaning: Spend a lot
This is a funny-sounding Spanish idiom whose translation really doesn’t make sense but it just means that someone is willing to spend a lot. It’s similar to the idea of sparing no expense.
Translation: Walk with lead feet
Meaning: Be cautious
You might think that this is similar to the English idiom of “dragging one’s feet” or moving slowly, but it actually means to be careful to act cautiously.
Translation: To become bad milk
Meaning: To be in a bad mood
A Spanish speaker will use this idiom to call you annoying or irritating. It implies that something has happened to make them “sour” or put them in a bad mood.
Translation: Stay like a stone
If you were shocked so amazed at something that you were stunned into silence or to not moving or reacting, you experienced “quedarse de piedra”.
Translation: To not stick an eye
Meaning: Slept badly
If you hear this from a Spanish speaker, they are saying that they didn’t sleep well.
Translation: Get up with the chickens
Meaning: Get up early
This Spanish idiom describes the act of getting up early in the morning.
Translation: To be a bonbon
Meaning: Someone is attractive
A “bombón” is a piece of candy or a sweet, and the implication of this idiom is that you are sweet on someone or find them attractive.
Translation: Said from the lips outwards
Meaning: Said something they didn’t mean
If a Spanish speaker said something hurtful or thoughtless that they were sorry for afterward, this is the idiom that describes what they did.
Translation: To have a plug
Meaning: To be well connected
If a Spanish speaker describes someone like this, they are saying that they are well connected and possibly influential.
If you want to learn a language like Spanish, it’s important to add some fun to your language lessons. One good way to learn Spanish is to listen to Spanish music, not only will you pick up some great new vocabulary words this way and learn the accent, but you can learn a lot about the culture of Spanish speakers.
You can also consider watching Spanish cinema, or TV shows, or even listen to Spanish language podcasts.
Studying Spanish idioms is also a fun way to gain fluency learn how Spanish speakers think. One of the best ways to get a good feel for idioms and how to use them in daily conversation is to work with a native Spanish-speaking tutor.
We suggest that you download this PDF file of the 41 Spanish idioms that we listed here. Take the list and go through them with your Spanish-speaking tutor. They can help you memorize the idioms and their meanings and provide some helpful feedback on your pronunciation. They are also sure to have even more fun and funny Spanish idioms that you can learn and use.
Merendar, Pardo, Enchilar, La Sobremesa, Friolero, Enmadrarse, Duende
Unas veces se gana, otras se pierde, Dar a luz, Abrir la caja de los truenos, Tener sangre azul, Hablar por los codos, Subirse al carro, Quedarse en blanco, Meter la pata, Verlo todo de color rosa, Verlo todo negro, Ser una gallina, Taparse los ojos
Translation: Turn the omelet the other way Meaning: To gain the advantage This might sound like a cooking instruction, but it actually has nothing to do with cooking or even food. This idiom is similar to the English expression “the tables have turned”. It means that someone has managed to change a bad situation so it is now in their favor.
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