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9 Spanish Idioms: Express to Impress

Even within the same language idioms aren’t understood by everyone. This is especially true when the people who speak the language can be found all over the world. Spanish speakers are spread out far and wide and every country has its own way of doing things.

Below are some Spanish idioms, but be aware that they may not be understood in every country, or even in different regions (or by different generations) in the same country. Don’t worry though, most of them make sense without much explanation!


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1. Cuando las ranas críen pelo


Literally ‘when frogs grow hair’ this phrase is used for something that’s never going to happen. In other words, when pigs fly.


2. Tomar el pelo


In English, we pull someone’s leg if we’re kidding around. The Spanish equivalent is “to take hold of the hair.”


3. Mas cara que espalda


If you have a lot of cheek or are getting a bit too big for your boots, you have ‘more face than back’.


4. Corto de luces


Ever thought that someone was not the brightest bulb in the box? One sandwich short of a picnic? Well, the Spanish say that they’re corto de luces, or “short of lights.”


5. Esta lloviendo a cantaros


It’s unlikely that there’s any country in Europe that doesn’t have an expression for heavy rain. Britain says “it’s raining cats and dogs,” France says “it’s raining frogs” and Italy says “it’s raining from buckets,” but in Spain esta llovienda a cantaros:”‘it’s raining by the jugful.”


6. Llamar al pan pan y al vino vino


Llamar al pan pan y al vino vino is to call bread bread and to call wine wine. Or to say something like it is, be frank and upfront, to call a spade a spade.


7. No hay que ahogarse en un vaso de agua


A delightfully colorful and slightly morbid way to tell someone not to make a big deal out of nothing. No hay que ahogarse en un vaso de agua means “you don’t have to drown in a glass of water.”


8. Si el río suena, agua lleva


When people want to defend their belief in rumors, despite a lack of evidence, they say “no smoke without fire.” In Spanish, you can say si el río suena, agua lleva, which means that if a river is making noise, it’s carrying water.


9. No hay mal que por bien no venga


‘There is no bad from which good doesn’t come’ is pretty self-explanatory. Look on the bright side, because every cloud has a silver lining.


If you already knew all of these, you can take your Spanish skills to the next level with our tailored classes!

What are your favorite Spanish idioms? Do they come from Spain or elsewhere?

Sound more natural in Spanish with our custom-made courses! Explore them here.