If you are learning Spanish, it’s quite likely that you have already heard some confusing expressions. It’s possible that they don’t make sense if you translate them literally into your own language. Maybe you think they don’t seem to make sense in the context of the conversation. Don’t worry, it’s not that you didn’t hear it right, It’s probably just a Spanish idiom.
What is an idiom anyway?
You use them every day but you’re probably thinking, what is an idiom? Idioms are phrases or fixed expressions that are used with a figurative meaning, rather than the literal meaning. It is estimated that the English language has more than 25,000 idiomatic expressions. Since languages undergo a constant evolution, that number is growing every day.
Why you have to learn Spanish Idioms
The Spanish language uses many idioms. Some of them have a direct equivalent in other languages, whilst some of them are almost impossible to translate. In some cases, we could guess the meaning of these Spanish expressions when we hear them in context. However, in many cases it’s impossible to understand them if we haven’t heard them before, even if you speak Spanish at a high level.
Most idioms are very typical to the country or region they are from. For a language as widely spoken as Spanish, that means the number of idioms is huge! The sayings and idioms used by Spanish speakers from Spain are different to those used by the population in Mexico, Argentina, Colombia or Venezuela.
Here we have 40 Spanish idioms typical from Spain (although some of them are used internationally). We have classified them in four different groups with a literal translation, their meaning and an equivalent in English.
Spanish idioms with animals
|Tener vista de lince||To have the eyesight of a lynx||Having an excellent vision||Have an eagle eye|
|Ser un gallina||To be a hen||To be a coward||To be a chicken|
|Estar en la edad del pavo||To be in the turkey’s age||To be a teenager, to be in puberty||To go through teenage angst|
|Ser la oveja negra||To be the black sheep||To be good for nothing, to be the unsuccessful one||To go off the rails|
|Estar como una cabra||To be like a goat||To be crazy||To be mad as a hornet, to be crazy as a bat|
|No ver tres en un burro||Not being able to see three on a donkey||Having a really bad vision||To be blind as a bat|
|Dar gato por liebre||To give cat for hare||To trick / rip off someone||To take for a ride|
|Ser un rata||To be a rat||To be stingy||To be a tightwad|
|Verle las orejas al lobo||To see the ears of the wolf||To notice danger||To see the writing on the wall|
|Tener memoria de pez||To have the memory of a fish||To have a bad memory||To have a memory like a sieve|
Spanish idioms with food and drinks
|No importar un pepino / un rábano / un pimiento||Not to matter a cucumber / radish / pepper||To be irrelevant||To not give a monkey about it|
|Ser pan comido||To be eaten bread||To be very easy||To be a piece of cake|
|Ponerse de mala leche||To get in bad milk||To get in a bad mood||To get bent out of shape|
|Dar calabazas a alguien||To give pumpkins to someone||To reject someone||To give somebody the brush off|
|Ser un melón||To be a melon||To be not very intelligent||To be a blockhead|
|Temblar como un flan||To be shaky like a pudding||To be very nervous||To be a cat on hot bricks|
|Ponerse como un tomate||To turn into a tomato||To blush||To turn as red as a beetroot|
|Ser un bombón||To be a bonbon||To be very good looking||To be eye candy|
|Dar la vuelta a la tortilla||To turn the omelette around||To turn the situation around||To turn the tables|
|Ser del año de la pera||To be from the year of the pear||To be very old||To be from another era|
Spanish idioms with body parts
|Lavarse las manos||To wash your hands||To avoid your responsibility||To pass the bucket|
|Hacer algo al pie de la letra||To do something to the foot of the letter||Do something exactly as instructed||To do something to the T|
|No tener ni pies ni cabeza||Without feet or head||Not to make sense||Without rhyme or reason|
|Meter la pata||To put the leg on it||To make a mistake||To put your foot in it|
|No pegar ojo||To not strike an eye||Not being able to sleep||Without sleeping a wink|
|Sin pelos en la lengua||Without hair in your tongue||To be outspoken||Without mince words|
|Estar hasta las narices||To be up the nose||To be annoyed / tired of something||To be sick to death / fed up|
|Dormir a pierna suelta||Sleep with a loose leg||To sleep deeply||To sleep like a log|
|Buscar tres pies al gato||To look for the three feet on a cat||To make something more complicated than it is||To take the scenic route|
|Andar con pies de plomo||To walk with lead feet||To be very careful||To walk on the safe side|
Spanish idioms with colours
|No haber color||There is no colour||There is no comparison||To be like apples and oranges|
|Tener la negra||To have the black||To have bad luck||To be jinxed|
|Dar en el blanco||To throw in the white||To be right||To hit the bulls-eye|
|Verlo todo de color de rosa||To see everything in pink colour||To be everything with excessive optimism||To see all peaches and cream|
|Buscar el príncipe azul||To look for the blue prince||To look for the perfect man||To look for Prince Charming|
|Ponerse morado||To get purple||To eat a lot||To eat like a horse|
|Estar sin blanca||To be without white||To be broke||To be down-and-out|
|Poner verde a alguien||To turn someone green||To criticize / gossip about someone||To call someone every name in the book|
|Tener sangre azul||To have blue blood||To be from a royal or very rich family||To be born with a silver spoon in your mouth|
|Encontrar tu media naranja||To find your half orange||To find the perfect partner||To find your other / better half|
When learning a language, it is important to learn not just the formal register, but to be able to understand informal speech. This is the language that we hear in the streets, in social interactions, on TV shows, etc. The best way to learn Spanish online is with a native speaker, as they possess a deep knowledge of their language and how to use it in real life.