Famous Spanish Sayings and idioms

Top 10 Spanish Idioms to Help You Sound Smart

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Idioms, a.k.a. expressions or turns of phrase, are cultural savoir-faire that any language learner should invest in when learning a new language. Spanish sayings are great tools for learning Spanish for several reasons!

Benefits of Learning Spanish Idioms & Sayings

  • Idioms are mnemonic devices, or memory aids, that facilitate vocabulary retention.
  • They allow you to memorize whole phrases, like song lyrics, which you can apply to conversations without second-guessing yourself.
  • Once you’ve learned enough of them, they begin to display cultural patterns of beliefs.

Now that we know WHY Spanish idioms are useful let’s try our hand at some!

Top 10 Common Spanish Idioms to Use in Conversations

Let’s quickly break down the most common idioms so you can apply them to your conversations and become more fluent today.

1. De Tal Palo, Tal Astilla.

Literal translation: From such a stick, such a splinter.

The equivalent in English is “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” Neither does the stick, I suppose. The word astilla can also be translated as “chip,” such as “A chip of the old block,” someone who resembles physically or in character their parents.

2. Perro Que Ladra No Muerde.

Literal translation: A barking dog doesn’t bite.

You may recognize this popular idiom from the famous Netflix series Narcos. If you heard Escobar saying it to mock his adversaries, you probably have a good idea of what it means. “All talk and no action.” If a dog is busy barking, he’s not biting.

3. Entre Broma En Broma, La Verdad Se Asoma.

Literal translation: Between joke and joke, the truth peeks out.

In English, we say something along the lines of “There’s a little bit of truth in every just kidding.” It doesn’t rhyme like the Spanish, so it’s not quite as catchy, but the point remains!

4. Del Dicho Al Hecho Hay Mucho Trecho.

Literal translation: From spoken to done there is much stretch.

We would say, “It’s easier said than done.” In the same spirit, apply this idiom (but in Spanish, it rhymes, so again, Spanish 2, English 0!)

5. Secretos En Reunión Son De Mala Educación.

Literal translation: Secrets in meetings are poor manners.

A.K.A. Don’t be sly and deliberately disregard those around you by telling secrets in group settings. It is simply impolite.

This saying is more of a grade school tattletale’s retort when desiring to be included. Adults, however, sometimes use it jokingly. (But remember #3 – Entre broma en broma la verdad se asoma!)

P.S. Rhyming goes 3-0!

6. El Que Madruga Dios Le Ayuda.

Literal translation: God helps the one who wakes up early.

Basically, “The early bird gets the worm.” God favors hard workers. Also rhymes!

7. Más Sabe Diablo Por Viejo Que Por Diablo

Literal translation: The devil knows more because he is old than because he is the devil.

Another religious reference, but this one is tricky. Essentially, the devil is not inherently knowledgeable because he is the devil but simply because he is old and has been around quite a while.

An older person or someone with ample experience would use this Spanish saying to a younger person to emphasize their credibility – or rather, “Trust me, I know from experience,” or “I learned the hard way.”

8. A Palabras Necias, Oídos Sordos.

Literal translation: To foolish words, deaf ears.

That’s right, people! This proverb is so wise that it is clearly understood by all cultures. Don’t listen to chisme (gossip) and people who want to bring you down. Keep your head up! Speaking of which…

9. A Mal Tiempo, Buena Cara.

Literal translation: In hard times, good face.

This literally means “Keep your head up.” and “Keep a good head on your shoulders.” in hard times. Use this idiom to cheer someone up when they are going through a difficult situation.

10. Camarón Que Se Duerme Se Lo Lleva La Corriente.

Literal translation: The shrimp that sleeps gets taken by the current.

The natural antithesis of “The early bird gets the worm.” or “You snooze, you lose!” Use this idiom when you see that someone has foregone an opportunity because of tardiness or laziness, from something as small as missing the last piece of cake to something more significant like missing a job offer.

How to Hit The Spanish Nail On The Head By Memorizing Idioms

Did you nail these famous Spanish sayings? We know you did! Try leaving idiom reminders in your phone (one per day) to remind you to use them in conversation!

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