Common Spanish Idioms

My dad wakes up really early to go for a run.

Mi papá se levanta con las gallinas para ir a correr.

    My dad wakes up really early to go for a run.
    Used under license from Getty Images

Once you become more advanced in Spanish, you may start to notice native speakers using idiomatic expressions. Chances are you have probably heard several of these expressions, however, you may not have understood their figurative meaning or may not know how to use them yourself. This guide will take you through some of the most popular and widely used Spanish idioms.

30 of the Most Used Spanish Idioms

  1. acostarse/levantarse con las gallinas
    Meaning “to go to bed or get up with the chickens,” this idiom refers to waking up or going to bed very early.

    Mi papá se levanta con las gallinas para ir a correr. → My dad wakes up really early to go for a run.
  1. andar con pies de plomo
    Literally this expression translates to “walking with lead feet.” However, this idiom refers to being very careful or cautious.

    Mi hermano caminaba con pies de plomo cuando llegó a casa muy tarde anoche. → My brother walked very carefully into the house when he arrived late last night.
  1. buscar tres pies al gato
    Native Spanish speakers use this expression to refer to the idea of making something more complicated than it is.

    Todos le buscaron tres pies al gato cuando ordenamos pizza para el grupo. → Everyone made it so complicated when we ordered pizza for the group.
  1. dar a luz
    Literally meaning “to give light,” this idiom is a beautiful way native speakers refer to giving birth, or bringing a child into the world.

    Mi mamá dio a luz a mi nuevo hermanito. → My mom gave birth to my new little brother.
  1. dar calabazas a alguien
    This expression has absolutely nothing to do with pumpkins, or calabazas, but rather, it refers to rejecting someone or brushing them off.

    Ella me dio calabazas cuando le pedí su teléfono. → She totally rejected me when I asked for her phone number.
  1. darle la vuelta a la tortilla
    Similar to its literal translation of “flipping a tortilla,” this expression is used when someone “turns the situation around.” It is similar to the English idiom, “to turn the tables” on someone or a situation.

    Los políticos intentaron darle la vuelta a la tortilla a la situación pero el público no lo aceptó. → The politicians tried to turn the tables on the situation but the public didn’t accept it.
  1. dormir a pierna suelta
    Creating the image of a leg slipping out from one’s bed sheets, this idiom implies “to sleep deeply” or to” sleep like a log.”

    Anoche dormí a pierna suelta. Ya tenía días que no dormía tan bien. → I slept deeply last night. It had been days since I slept that well.
  1. encontrar tu media naranja
    This cute expression which translates to “finding your orange half” has the same meaning as the English idiom “finding one’s better half.” This is used for people in serious relationships or spouses.

    Somos muy felices juntos porque tenemos tanto en común. Eres mi media naranja. → We are very happy together because we have so much in common. You are my other half.
  1. estar en la edad del pavo
    This idiomatic expression is used to expresses that someone is in adolescence or puberty.

    Mi hijo está en la edad del pavo, piensa que lo sabe todo. → My son is in his adolescence and thinks he knows it all.
  1. estar más sano que una pera
    The English idiom “to be fit as a fiddle” is the equivalent of this Spanish expression which is used to describe someone who is very healthy.

    Mi papá tiene 80 años y aún está más sano que una pera. → My dad is 80 years old and still is very healthy.
  1. estar hasta las narices
    This common phrase is used to express being fed up with or growing tired of someone or something. It has the same meaning as the English phrase, “I’ve had it up to here with…”

    ¡Estoy hasta las narices de tus quejas! → I am fed up with your complaints!
  1. hacer algo al pie de la letra
    The figurative meaning of this idiomatic phrases is used to express the idea of doing something thoroughly and step-by-step.

    El famoso detective inició la investigación del crimen al pie de la letra. → The famous detective started the investigation by conducting a thorough procedure.
  1. hablar por los codos
    Literally translating to “talking through one’s elbows,” this idiomatic expressions is used to describe someone who talks too much or rambles on.

    Mi abuela habla por los codos y no deja a nadie comentar ni una palabra. → My grandmother rambles and won't let anyone say a word.
  1. meter la pata
    This is a very common phrase used to express that someone made a mistake. A similar idiom used in English is “to shoot yourself in the foot.”

    Yo metí la pata cuando le dije a mis suegros que estamos embarazados. Mi esposa quería darles una sorpresa. → I made a mistake by telling my in-laws that we were pregnant. My wife wanted to surprise them.
  1. no tener pelos en la lengua
    This humorous term is used to describe someone who is outspoken and tells it like it is.

    Mi mamá no tiene pelos en la lengua, siempre nos dice que es lo que piensa. → My mom is very outspoken, she always tells us what's on her mind.
  1. no tener ni pies ni cabeza
    This phrase describes a thing or an action that it absurd or without logic.

    Tu plan no tiene ni pies ni cabeza, por eso va a fracasar. → Your plan has no logic, that is why it is going to fail.
  1. Me importa un pepino / un rábano / un pimiento
    In Spain and Latin America, you will hear a variety of these food items used with the verb “importar” which translates to, “it does not matter in the least bit” or “ I don’t care.”

    Me importa un pepino lo que diga el vecino, todavía voy a pintar la casa azul. → I don't care what the neighbor says, I’m still painting the house blue.
  1. ponerse de mala leche / ostia
    This peculiar phrase is used to describe someone with a bad attitude/mood.

    Mi papá se puso de mala leche cuando empezó a llover porque quería plantar un árbol en el jardín. → My dad was in a bad mood when it started raining. He wanted to plant a tree in the garden.
  1. ponerse como un tomate
    Referring to the redness of a tomato, this expression means to feel embarrassed or humiliated.

    La maestra se puso como un tomate cuando se dio cuenta de que tenía la camisa al revés. → The teacher was so embarrassed when she realized that her shirt was on backwards.
  1. ser del año de la pera
    This phrase, which translates to “being from the year of the pear,” is used to refer to someone who is “from another era” or, in other words, just plain old!

    Mi tio es del año de la pera, no sabe cómo usar la televisión. → My uncle is so old, he doesn't even know how to use the television.
  1. ser pan comido
    This is a simple term that is used to express that something is very easy.

    Este trabajo es pan comido, solo tengo que atender la puerta. → That job is very easy, all I have to do is watch the door.
  1. se me hace agua la boca
    This is the typical phrase used when we see food and get a craving. In English, a similar expression is, “It’s making my mouth water!”

    Se me hizo agua la boca cuando vi enorme la pizza en el restaurante. → My mouth started to water when I saw the giant pizza at the restaurant.
  1. ser uña y carne
    This phrase is used to describe two people or two things that are inseparable.

    Desde que se conocieron, han sido como uña y carne las amigas. → From the moment they met, they’ve been inseparable friends.
  1. temblar como un flan
    This expression has a funny literal translation, “to shake like pudding,” and is used to talk about someone who is very nervous.

    Temblé como un flan cuando me subí a la tirolina. → I was shaking/so nervous when I got on the zipline.
  1. tener un humor de perros
    When someone has a bad attitude, you might hear this expression thrown around.

    El policía tenía un humor de perros cuando hablaba con los peatones. → The police officer had a very bad attitude when he would talk with the pedestrians.
  1. tener memoria de pez
    Translating to “having the memory of a fish,” you might hear this idiom being used to refer to someone with a bad memory.

    El profesor tiene memoria de pez, no nos pidió entregar la tarea. → The teacher has very bad memory, he didn’t ask us to turn in our homework.
  1. tener más lana que un borrego
    This phrase is the Spanish equivalent of “having money to burn.”

    Ese empresario tiene mas lana que un borrego con todos sus carros de lujo. → That business man has money to burn with all those new luxury cars.
  1. tirar la casa por la ventana
    This idiomatic expression literally means “to throw the house out the window” but figuratively means, “to spare no expense” or “to pull out all the stops.”

    ¿Por qué no tirar la casa por la ventana en tu boda? → Why not pull out all the stops for your wedding?
  1. tomar el pelo
    Similar to the English expression, “to pull one’s leg,” this idiomatic phrase means to mislead, joke with, or trick someone.

    No le hagas caso a tu amigo, solo te está tomando el pelo. → Don't pay attention to your friend, he is only trying to trick you.
  1. ver todo de color de rosa
    Literally translating to, “seeing everything in the color pink” this idiomatic expression is used to describe someone who is optimistic. Similar expressions in English are, “to see everything with the glass half-full,” “to see things through rose-colored glasses,” or “to look on the bright side.”

    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.

Identifying an Idiom

If you translate a Spanish phrase and it doesn’t make sense in the literal translation, or seems like it might be a metaphor, it may be an idiom. YourDictionary’s Spanish-English dictionary includes common idioms with many of its definitions to help clarify their usage for you.

Now that you have a list of some of the most commonly used idiomatic expressions in Spanish, you are prepared to start trying them out in your everyday conversation.