spanish-idioms

80 Hilarious Spanish Idioms and What They Mean

When you study a foreign language, sooner or later you come to a realization that it is not always possible to translate things word by word. 

Every language has developed a great deal of idiomatic expressions that – translated literally – don’t make much sense, sound weird or funny. 

English, for once, is packed with them: 

I’m pulling your leg…

It’s raining cats and dogs…

She’s at her wit ends…

For those of you who have chosen Spanish as their second language, let me assure you that the language of Cervantes is no different. 

With the help of my family and friends, I have prepared a big collection of the funniest, the craziest, and the most surprising Spanish idiomatic expressions.

Animal-Related Spanish Idioms

I dare say animals are the preferred topic for Spanish idioms and each of the 20 Spanish-speaking countries has developed a wide array of expressions featuring cats, dogs, ducks, and…even earthworms. 

Spanish idiomLiteral translationEnglish equivalent
1. Hacer una vaca.To make a cow.To have everybody chip in to buy something.
2. Andar pato.To walk duck.To be broke.
3. Hacer perro muerto.To do a dead dog.To leave a restaurant without paying.
4. Caen los patos asados.Roast ducks are falling.It’s boiling hot.
5. Feliz como una lombriz.Happy as an earthworm.Happy as a sandboy.
6. Buscar la quinta pata al gato.To look for the cat’s fifth paw. To overcomplicate things.
7. Ser sapo.To be a toad.To meddle.
8. Estar como una cabra.To be like a goatTo be nuts.
9. Camarón que se duerme, se lo lleva la corriente.A sleeping shrimp gets carried away by the current.You snooze, you lose.
10. Pasar gato por liebre.To pass off a cat for a hareTo try to trick someone.
11. Ser rata.To be a rat.To be stingy.
12. Estar en la edad del pavo.To be in the turkey’s age.To go through teenage angst
13. A otro perro con ese hueso.Try to give this bone to a different bone.Try to fool someone else, you won’t fool me. 
14. Estar más aburrido que la ostra.To be more bored than an oysterTo be dying of boredom.
15. Hacerse la mosca muerta.To make yourself (look) like a dead fly.To pretend to be innocent and naïve.
16. Ir cargado como una mula.To go loaded down like a mule.To carry a lot of heavy things.
17. Estar más contento que el perro con dos colas.To be happier than the dog with two tails.To be beyond oneself with joy.
18. Tener malas pulgasTo have bad fleas.To be in a bad mood.
19. Acostarse con las gallinasTo go to sleep with the hens.To go to bed early
20. Hay un gato encerrado.There is a locked cat.There is something fishy.
21. Un burro hablando de orejas.A donkey talking about ears.The pot calling the kettle black.

Aren’t they funny? I especially like the one about turkey’s age. My two teenagers don’t seem to ever come out of it. 

And here’s how you can use these hilarious Spanish idioms in a context:

🇪🇸 Dicen que mañana van a caer patos asados.
🇬🇧 They say it is going to be boiling hot tomorrow.

🇪🇸 A María le gusta hacerse la mosca muerta, pero en realidad es muy astuta.
🇬🇧 María likes to pretend she is naïve and innocent, but in fact, she is very sly.

🇪🇸 ¿Me está tratando de pasar el gato por liebre? Está claro que este diamante no es de verdad.
🇬🇧 Are you trying to trick me? This diamond clearly isn’t real.

🇪🇸 Lucía le dijo a Juana que era gorda. Un burro hablando de orejas.
🇬🇧 Lucía called Juana fat. The pot calling the kettle black.

🇪🇸 ¡Hagamos algo divertido! Estoy más aburrido que la ostra.
🇬🇧 Let’s do something fun. I’m dying of boredom.

🇪🇸 Mi abuela siempre se acuesta con las gallinas.
🇬🇧 My granny always goes to bed early.

In case you want to review the names of different relatives and family members in Spanish, make sure to check out my post on that topic. 

Humorous Spanish idioms with body parts

Another plentiful group of funny expressions that Spanish speakers use in everyday conversations is the one that relies on body parts as its main reference. 

Words like pata (paw), cara (face), mano (hand), etc. will definitely come in handy when trying to understand the meaning of these idioms:

Spanish idiomLiteral translationEnglish equivalent
22. Dormir a pata suelta.To sleep at a loose paw.To sleep deep and sound.
23. Ser como uña y mugreTo be like a fingernail and dirt.To be inseparable.
24. Meter la pata.To stick one’s paw.To screw up.
25. Poner la mano en el fuego por alguien.To put your hand in the fire for someone.To swear blind by someone.
26. Tener dos dedos de frenteTo have two fingers on the forehead.To be on the ball, to be clever.
27. Caerse la cara de vergüenza.To have one’s face fall off in shameTo feel ashamed.
28. Tomar el pelo.To take the hair.To pull someone’s leg, to make fun.
29. Estar hasta las narices.To be up to one’s noses.To be sick and tired of something.
30. Rascarse la barriga.To scratch one’s belly.To do nothing, be lazy.
31. Tomarse (algo) muy a pecho.To take (something) very (close) to the chest.To take something very seriously
32. No tener pelos en la lengua.Not to have hair on one’s tongue.Not to mince words.
33. Echar una cabezadaTo throw a nod.To sleep a wink.
34. Pillar a alguien con las manos en la masa.To catch someone with their hands in the dough.To catch someone red-handed.
35. Tener la mano de monja.To have a nun’s hand.To be very skilled (usually and cooking).
36. Hablar por los codos.To speak through one’s elbows.To speak too much.
37. Creerse el ombligo del mundo.To consider oneself the navel of the world.To think the world revolves around you.
38. Estar con el agua hasta el cuelloTo be with water up to one’s neck.To be in deep trouble.
39. Ser caradura.To be a hard-face.To have no shame.
40. Costar un ojo de la cara.To cost an eye of the face.To cost an arm and a leg.
41. Empinar el codo.To raise one´s elbow.To booze.
42. No tener ni pies ni cabeza.To have neither feet nor head.Without rhyme or reason.
43. Pegar el ojo.To stick the eye.To sleep.

Introducing some of these expressions in your daily communication will take your Spanish to a whole new level. 

🇪🇸 Deja de rascarse la barriga y ven a ayudarme.
🇬🇧 Stop scratching your belly and come and help me.

🇪🇸 Amigo, ¿me prestas un poco de plata? Estoy con el agua hasta el cuello.
🇬🇧 Buddy, can you lend me a little cash? I’m in deep trouble.

🇪🇸 Carlos es insoportable. Se cree el ombligo del mundo.
🇬🇧 Carlos is unbearable. He thinks the world revolves around him.

🇪🇸 Anoche los vecinos tuvieron una fiesta. Por el ruido no pegué el ojo.
🇬🇧 My neighbors threw a party last night. I didn’t get any sleep because of the noise.

🇪🇸 La cajera le estaba robando al dueño de la tienda. La pillaron con las manos en la masa.
🇬🇧 The cashier was stealing from the store owner. She was caught red-handed.

🇪🇸 Pedro y Joaquín son como uña y mugre. Siempre andan juntos.
🇬🇧 Pedro and Joaquín are inseparable. They are always together.

🇪🇸 Mi jefe dijo que fue él quien hizo todo el trabajo. Es muy caradura.
🇬🇧 My boss said it was he who did all the work. He has no shame.

🇪🇸 Macarena es la persona más honesta que conozco. Podría meter mi mano al fuego por ella. 
🇬🇧 Macarena is the most honest person I know. I could swear blind by her. 

🇪🇸 La torta está exquisita, doña Carmen. Tiene usted una verdadera mano de monja.
🇬🇧 The cake tastes like heaven, Carmen. You are such a good baker.

Food is such a common topic for people to discuss, isn’t it? 

This is why I highly recommend reviewing vocabulary related to restaurants, shopping, fruit and vegetables, and meat and fish.  It will come in quite handy if you want to get a better grasp of the next category of Spanish idioms:

Spanish Expressions with Food That Will Make You Crack-Up

Food-related vocabulary proves to be an excellent source for many amusing idioms in Spanish. 

Let me show you some of them:

Spanish idiomLiteral translationEnglish equivalent
44. Pan para hoy, hambre para mañana.Bread for today, hunger for tomorrow.Feast today, famine tomorrow
45. Estar fresco como una lechuga.To be as fresh as lettuce.To be cool as a cucumber.
46. Ser mala leche.To be spoiled milk.To be mean.
47. Andar pisando huevos.To walk (as if) stepping on eggs.To tiptoe around someone.
48. Estar más sano que una pera.To be healthier than a pear.To be as fit as a fiddle
49. Importar un pepino.To be as important as a cucumber.Couldn’t care less.
50. Ser pan comido.To be eaten bread.To be a piece of cake.
51. Pedir peras al olmo.To ask the elm tree for pears.To expect the impossible.
52. Al pan, pan y al vino, vino.Bread for bread and wine for wine.Not to beat around the bush.
53. Cortar el queque.To cut the cake.To be the boss.
54. Creerse la última chupada del mate.To think you are the last sip of mateTo think you are the center of the world.
55. Quemarse arroz (a alguien).Someone’s rice is getting burnt.Someone is gay.
56. Estar filete.To be fillet.To be great.
57. Dar la vuelta a la tortilla.To turn the omelet around.To turn the tables.
58. Estar como tuna.To be like prickly pear.To be ready for action.

See? You don’t really need that much to add a little color to your Spanish!

And here are some ideas of how to use the idioms above:

🇪🇸 Ayer me sentí enferma, pero hoy estoy como tuna.
🇬🇧 I felt sick yesterday, but today I´m ready for action.

🇪🇸 Jacinta se sacó un C + en la prueba de matemática. Pero bueno, no se le puede pedir peras al olmo.
🇬🇧 Jacinta got a C+ on her math test. But well, you can’t expect the impossible.

🇪🇸 Mi mamá está de muy mal humor, así que andamos todos pisando huevos.
🇬🇧 My mom is in a bad mood, so we are all tiptoeing around her.

🇪🇸 Me importa un pepino que estés cansado. Te pedí hace mucho que limpiaras la cocina.
🇬🇧 I couldn’t care less if you are tired. I asked you a long time ago to clean the kitchen.

🇪🇸 Alex es el gerente, pero la que verdaderamente corta el queque en la empresa es su esposa.
🇬🇧 Alex is the manager, but the one who truly is the company boss is his wife.

🇪🇸 España iba perdiendo dos a uno contra Alemania, pero en el segundo tiempo dieron vuelta a la tortilla y ganaron.
🇬🇧 Spain was losing two to one against Germany, but in the second half of the match, they turned the tables and won.

Other Funny Idioms in Spanish

If you think that food, body parts, and animals are the only 3 types of funny Spanish expressions, you couldn’t be more wrong.

There are tons of other idioms, based on such a diverse vocabulary that it seems impossible to separate them. 

Have a look:

Spanish idiomLiteral translationEnglish equivalent
59. Tirar la casa por la ventana.To throw the house through the window.To spare no expenses.
60. Ponerse las pilas.To put on batteries.Stop procrastinating.
61. ¡Qué lata!What a can!How dull!
62. Pasó la vieja.The old woman has passed.It’s too late.
63. Pagar los platos rotos.To pay for the broken plates.To get punished without being guilty.
64. Estar hecho polvo.To be made dust.To be dead tired.
65. Pelar el cable.To strip the wire.To be talking nonsense.
66. Caerse el cassette (a alguien).To drop the cassette.To spill the beans. To tell a secret.
67. Ponerle el gorro (a tu pareja).To put antlers (on your couple).To cheat on your couple.
68. Tirarse a la piscina.To jump in the pool.To take a chance.
69. Estar en marcha blanca.To be in the white march.To be still in the trial period.
70. Serruchar el piso a alguien.To saw someone’s floorTo try to steal someone’s position.
71. Vender la pomada.To sell the ointment.To make up a story.
72. Dar en el blanco.To hit the target.To be right on the button.
73. Buscar al príncipe azulTo look for the blue prince.To look for Mr. Right.
74. Entre la espada y la pared.Between the sword and the wallBetween a rock and a hard place.
75. Faltar un tornillo.Missing a screw.To be nuts.
76. Hablando del rey de Roma.Speaking of the King of Rome.Speak of the devil.
77. Más se perdió en la guerra.More was lost at war.It’s not the end of the world.
78. Peinar la muñeca.To comb the doll.To be crazy.
79. Se le pasó el tren.She missed the train.Old spinster.
80. Sudar la gota gorda.To sweat the fat drop.To sweat blood.

Parts of the house, tools, colors, everyday objects, you name it. The historical and cultural background of Spanish idioms is extremely rich and diverse.

To finish with, here’s the last bunch of examples of idiomatic expressions appearing in everyday context:

🇪🇸 La vacuna contra coronavirus aún está en marcha blanca.
🇬🇧 The covid-19 vaccine is still in the trial period.

🇪🇸 Estoy entre la espada y la pared: o renuncio, o me despiden.
🇬🇧 I’m caught between a rock and a hard place: either I quit or they’ll fire me.

🇪🇸 No te preocupes por el carro. Más se perdió en la guerra. Lo importante es que tú saliste ileso del accidente.
🇬🇧 Don’t worry about the car. It’s not the end of the world. What really matters is that you didn’t get hurt in the accident.

🇪🇸 Siento que Juan, mi nuevo asistente, me está serruchando el piso.
🇬🇧 I feel that Juan, my assistant, is trying to steal my position.

🇪🇸 Marcos, ponte las pilas con lavar el auto. Tenemos que salir en media hora.
🇬🇧 Marcos, stop procrastinating, and go wash the car. We need to leave in half an hour.

🇪🇸 Después de 8 horas de caminata, estoy hecho polvo.
🇬🇧 After 8 hours of walking, I am dead tired.

🇪🇸 Gracias por venir pero ya pasó la vieja. Conseguí ayuda en otra parte.
🇬🇧 Thanks for coming but it is too late. I got help somewhere else.

🇪🇸 ¿Conoces a Carlitos del segundo piso? Parece que le falta un tornillo. Ayer lo escuché hablar solo.
🇬🇧 Do you know Carlitos from the second floor? He seems to be nuts. Yesterday I heard him speak to himself.  

🇪🇸 Cociné por 10 horas, sudé la gota gorda, pero la cena quedó espectacular.
🇬🇧 I spent 10 hours cooking, I sweated blood, but the dinner turned out to be a huge success.

🇪🇸 Pablo y Carla se van a divorciar. Al parecer él le estaba poniendo el gorro. 
🇬🇧 Pablo and Carla are going to divorce. It seems that he was cheating on her. 

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Joanna Lupa

Joanna Lupa

Polish by birth, Chilean by the turns of life. Has spent 20 years in that beautiful South American country working as a language teacher and translator. Has taught Spanish and English to students of all proficiency levels. Passionate about languages, books, and traveling. A mother of 2 trilingual teenagers.