Spanish Idioms

Quick Answer

Do you want to sound more like a native speaker? Start learning modismos(idioms)! Every language has its own collection of idioms that enrich the language and help add character when speaking and writing.

Idioms can be difficult for learners of foreign languages because they have a figurative meaning that is different from the literal meanings of each individual word.

Keep reading to learn idioms that are easy to remember and relevant in everyday conversations.

Idioms That Use Familiar Vocabulary

Learning these Spanish idioms will be pan comido(a piece of cake) because they use basic vocabulary you are probably already familiar with. Let’s take a closer look at some common Spanish idioms that use vocabulary related to food, animals, and body parts.

Food

Let's learn some easy-to-memorize idioms that use food vocabulary in Spanish.

Idiom in SpanishLiteral TranslationMeaning
A buen hambre, no hay pan duro.
To good hunger there is no hard bread.Beggars can’t be choosers.
estar como una sopaor estar hecho una sopato be like a soupto be soaked to the bone
estar como un fideo
to be like a noodleto be thin as a rail
estar como un queso
to be like a cheeseto be hot (sexually attractive)
no importar un pepino
to not give a cucumberto not care at all
ponerse como un tomate
to turn into a tomatoto blush
ser del año de la pera
to be from the year of the pearto be ancient/to be out of fashion
ser pan comido
to be eaten breadto be a piece of cake

Take a look at some examples!

examples
¿Te molesta que tu amiga salga con tu hermano? - No me importa un pepino.
Does it bother you that your friend is going out with your brother? - I couldn’t care less.
¡Tu móvil es del año de la pera!
Your cellphone is ancient!

Animals

Here is a list of common idioms that use animal vocabulary in Spanish.

Idiom in SpanishLiteral TranslationMeaning
acostarse con las gallinas
to sleep with the chickensto go to sleep early
A perro flaco, todo son pulgas.
To a skinny dog, everything is fleas.When it rains it pours.
dar gato por liebre
to give a cat instead of a hareto rip off/to take for a ride
estar en la edad del pavo
to be in the turkey’s ageto be at that difficult/awkward age
La curiosidad mató al gato.
Curiosity killed the cat.Don’t try to find out about something that doesn’t concern you.
¿Se te ha comido la lengua el gato?or ¿Te han comido la lengua los ratones?Has the cat eaten your tongue? or Have mice eaten your tongue?Cat got your tongue? (Used to ask someone why he or she is not saying anything.)

Take a look at these examples!

examples
El vendedor de coches intentó darme gato por liebre.
The car salesman tried to rip me off.
Dudo que estén despiertos aún. Se acuestan con las gallinas.
I doubt they’re still up. They go to sleep early.

Body Parts

The following idioms include body parts in Spanish.

Idiom in SpanishLiteral TranslationMeaning
costar un ojo de la cara
to cost an eye from the faceto cost an arm and a leg
estar hasta las narices
to be up to the nosesto be fed up
hablar hasta por los codos
to talk even through your elbowsto be a chatterbox/to talk up a storm
no pegar ojo
to not paste an eyeto not sleep a wink
no tener ni pies ni cabeza
to not have either feet or headto make no sense
no tener pelos en la lengua
to not have hairs on the tongueto be outspoken
quemarse las pestañas
to singe one’s eyelashesto burn the midnight oil
ser uña y carne
to be nail and fleshto be joined at the hip
tomar el pelo
to grab by the hairto pull someone’s leg

Here are some examples!

examples
Mi amigo me dijo que conoció a Kim Kardashian, pero creo que me estaba tomando el pelo.
My friend told me he met Kim Kardashian, but I think he was pulling my leg.
Estoy hasta las narices de tus quejas.
I’m fed up with your complaints.

Wise Words and Giving Advice

Using an idiom is an indirect way to give advice in Spanish.

Idiom in SpanishLiteral TranslationMeaning
no ahogarse en un vaso de agua
to not drown yourself in a glass of waterto not sweat the small stuff
Al mal tiempo, buena cara.
To bad weather, good face.When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
buscarle tres pies al gato
to look for three feet on the catto make something more complicated than necessary
Camarón que se duerme se lo lleva la corriente.
A shrimp that falls asleep is taken away by the current.Pay attention or the opportunities will pass you by.
consultar con la almohada
to consult the pillowto sleep on it
En casa del herrero, cuchillo de palo.
In the house of the blacksmith, knife of wood.When you’re an expert in something, you don’t apply it to your own life.
Cuando se cierra una puerta, se abre una ventana.
When a door closes, a window opens.Where one door closes, another one opens.
Las palabras se las lleva el viento.
Words are taken by the wind.Actions speak louder than words.
Más vale pájaro en mano que ciento volando.
One bird in the hand is more valuable than one hundred flying birds.Focus on what you have instead of what you don’t have.
meterse en camisa de once varas
to get into a 30-foot-long shirtto be out of your depth
Un clavo saca a otro clavo.
One nail pulls out another nail.A new person will make you forget the old one.
Zapatero, a tus zapatos.
Shoemaker to your shoes.Focus on doing what you’re good at.

Check out these examples!

examples
Mi novia me dejó por su ex. - Al mal tiempo, buena cara.
My girlfriend left me for her ex. - When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
No te ahogues en un vaso de agua. El estrés es malo para la salud.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. Stress is bad for your health.

Human Behavior and Personality

Use these idioms to comment on human behavior, tendencies, and personality.

Idiom in SpanishLiteral TranslationMeaning
despedirse a la francesa
to say goodbye the French styleto leave without saying goodbye
De tal palo, tal astilla.
As such the stick, such the splinter.The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Dios los cría y ellos se juntan.
God raises them and they come together.Birds of a feather flock together.
dormirse en los laureles
to fall asleep in the laurelsto rest on your laurels
echar agua al mar
to throw water to the seato do something pointless
echarle leña al fuego
to add wood to the fireto make matters worse
faltarle un tornillo
to be missing a screwto have a screw loose
irse por las ramas
to go along the branchesto beat around the bush
subirse al carro
to get in the carto jump on the bandwagon
ver todo color de rosa
to see everything in pink colorto see through rose-colored glasses

Here are a few examples!

examples
El hijo de Roberto tuvo una aventura. - De tal palo, tal astilla.
Roberto’s son had an affair. - The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Los políticos tienden a irse por las ramas cuando tienen que abordar temas polémicos.
Politicians tend to beat around the bush when they have to deal with controversial topics.

Idioms Used to Describe Your Physical/Emotional State

Use these idioms to spice things up when talking about your physical or emotional state.

Idiom in SpanishLiteral TranslationMeaning
estar como unas castañuelas
to be like a pair of castanetsto be happy as a clam
estar de mala leche
to be of bad milkto be in a bad mood
estar frito
to be friedto be done for
estar hecho polvo
to have been turned into dustto be exhausted
estar hecho un ají
to have become a chileto be very angry
estar loco de contento
to be crazy with happinessto be over the moon
estar de mala uva
to be bad grapesto be in a bad mood
quedarse de piedra
to stay like a stoneto be shocked

Check out these examples!

examples
Me quedé de piedra cuando anunciaron su compromiso.
I was shocked when they announced their engagement.
¿Quieres ir al gimnasio? - No. Estoy hecho polvo.
Do you want to go to the gym? - No. I’m exhausted.

Other Idioms

Here is a list of more easy-to-memorize Spanish idioms that will improve your fluency!

Idiom in SpanishLiteral TranslationMeaning
Cada loco con su tema.
Each crazy with his theme.To each their own.
dar en el clavo
to hit on the nailto hit the nail on the head
llover a cántaros
to rain in pitchersto rain cats and dogs
meter la pata
to put the pawto mess up
matar dos pájaros de un tiro
to kill two birds with one shotto kill two birds with one stone
perder los estribos
to lose the stirrupto fly off the handle
tirar la casa por la ventana
to throw the house out the windowto spare no expense

Check out these examples!

examples
El papá de la cumpleañera tiró la casa por la ventana con esta fiesta.
The birthday girl’s dad spared no expense on this party.
No es el tipo de carro que yo me compraría, pero cada loco con su tema.
That's not the kind of car I would ever buy, but to each their own.