Spanish Proverbs, Phrases, And Idioms

A collection of Spanish Proverbs, Phrases, and Idioms to inspire you. Wise Spanish Sayings in the form of proverbs have been passed down for generations. Proverbs from all Spanish-speaking parts of the whole world.

Spanish sayings are gems of popular wisdom, the fruit of observation and life experience. They express “timeless truths” and judgments on just about every subject.

Spanish is one of the most beautiful languages and one of the six official languages of the United Nations. It is loaded with some phonetically magnificent words, quotes, phrases, and idioms. Below listed are a few of the proverbs that you should learn.

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Al Mal Tiempo Buena Cara
English Equivalent: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
The literal translation: “to bad weather, good face.” This means that you should keep on smiling, even when things start to turn bad.
This is good advice to give your friends if they are having a bad time. Reminding them that bad weather is temporary is useful, but their positivity can last for as long as they want.

Si Mi Abuela Tuviera Ruedas Sería Una Bicicleta
English Equivalent: Ask a silly question and you’ll get a silly answer
The literal translation: “If my grandmother was on wheels/had wheels, she would be a bicycle.”  People often use this idiom as a response for people when they wish that things happened in a different way for them. Often used as a way to end such conversations.
This means that if things were different in the past, then things would be different in the present, therefore it is absurd to talk about it. Is good when you want to point out the silliness of an obvious point of view.  It is obvious that if things happened different differently, they would be different.

Spanish Proverbs

He who asks does not get to choose.

  • El que no es conmigo, contra mi es.
    • Meaning: ‘He who is not with me is against me.’ Originated from Holy Bible
  • El mal escribano le echa la culpa a la pluma.
    • Meaning: ‘The poor writer blames the pen.’
  • A quien madruga, Dios le ayuda.
    • Meaning: ‘God helps those who rise early.’
  • El que ee mucho y anda mucho, ve mucho y sabe mucho.
    • Meaning: He who walks a lot and reads a lot, sees a lot and knows a lot.
  • Con el tiempo todo se consigue
    • Meaning: ‘In time, everything is gotten.’ Clearly, time is the ultimate healer.
  • Donde hay gana hay maña.
    • Meaning: ‘Where there is desire, there is ability.’
  • El amor todo de puete.
    • Meaning: ‘Love can do it all.’
  • Quien bien ama, tarde sde olvida.
    • Meaning: ‘He who loves well, forgets the afternoon.’
  • No dejes para mañana lo que puedas hacer hoy.
      • Meaning: ’Don’t wait for tomorrow to do something you can do today.’
  • Que bonito es ver la lluvia y no mojarse
    • Meaning: ‘How nice it is to see the rain without getting wet.’
  • Quien quiera peces, que se moje el culo.
    • Meaning: You have to go through unpleasant circumstances to get to your goal.
  • Pedro ladrador, poco mordedor.
    • Meaning: People who boast won’t follow through.
  • Lo que no mata, engorda.
    • Meaning: If bad or unhealthy food doesn’t kill you, it’ll at least make you fat.
  • De noche todos los gatos son pardos.
    • Meaning: It’s easy to conceal faults in low light.
  • Como éramos pocos, parió la abuela.
    • Meaning: Things went from bad to worse.
  • Gato escaldado, del agua fría huye.
    • Meaning: Once something has hurt you once, avoid it from then on.
  • El mejor escribano echa un borrón.
    • Meaning: Nobody’s perfect.
  • A quien madruga, Dios le ayuda.
    • Meaning: The early bird catches the worm.
  • A caballo regalado no le mires el diente.
    • Meaning: Beggars can’t be choosers.
  • Menea la cola el can, no por ti, sino por el pan.
    • Meaning: Affection may be out of self-interest, rather than love.
  • Una golondrina no hace verano.
    • Meaning: Don’t assume a general rule, based on one observation.
  • Qué bonito es ver la lluvia y no mojarse.
    • Meaning: Don’t criticize others for the way they do something unless you’ve done it yourself.
  • En boca cerrada no entran moscas
    • Translation: “With a closed mouth, files don’t enter.”
    • Meaning: You would probably use this proverb when referring to an opinion you rather don’t share because of the consequences this may bring upon you. The proverb means that whenever we speak our mind without thinking about it, we could hurt others and even cause irreversible damage.
  • Borra con el codo lo que escribe con la mano
    • Translation: “Erase with the elbow what you write with the hand.”
    • Meaning: Refers to those situations when we show a strong stand on an issue but later contradict ourselves, causing our credibility to fade away. The proverb pictures handwriting and an elbow erasing.
  • Aunque la mona se vista de seda, mona se queda
    • Translation: “No matter if a monkey wears silk, it’ll always be a monkey.”
    • Meaning: The proverb is directed to those individuals who try to imitate or pretend to be someone they’re not, we also call this type of people “wannabes.”
  • Cría cuervos y te sacarán los ojos
    • Translation: “Raise crows and they’ll poke your eye out.”
    • Meaning: A proverb that refers to parenthood, especially when kids or teens turn out to be very troublesome. The meaning behind the proverb relates to bad parenting or incorrect teachings that consequently lead to a child’s improper behavior. It can also be used on teachers and mentors, just to name a few.
  • Donde hubo fuego, cenizas quedan
    • Translation: “Where there was fire, ashes remain.”
    • Meaning: A proverb meant for former lovers. It insinuates that although couples split, they might still have feelings for each other despite the distance that separates them, or the time passed since they were together.
  • Camarón que se duerme se lo lleva la corriente
    • Translation: “Shrimp that falls asleep, is carried away by the current.”
    • Meaning: One of the most popular proverbs that although sounds funny, it actually talks about the consequences of laziness and being clueless. It is a motivational proverb, inspiring you to be proactive.
  • Del dicho al hecho hay un buen trecho
    • Translation: “From speech to deed there’s a good stretch.”
    • Meaning: A metaphor to distinguish those who talk a lot, from those who actually take action. If you are having trouble understanding this proverd, think of the saying “actions speak louder than words,” both refer to the same thing.
  • No dejes para mañana lo que puedas hacer hoy
    • Translation: “Don’t leave for tomorrow what you can do today.”
    • Meaning: A pretty self explanatory proverb that actually speaks a lot of truth. We tend to neglect things, or leave them for the last minute, encouraging an irresponsible attitude that has many consequences. By taking action on thing you can do today, you can become a more efficient and active individual.
  • Zapatero a tus zapatos
    • Translation: “Shoemaker to your shoes.”
    • Meaning: I remember my grandma yelling this proverb at my grandpa (an accountant) because whenever he wanted to save some money on repairs, like fixing the washer, he would end up making things worse. Thus, keep on doing what you are good at and leave what you are not to experts. It also refers to keeping your nose out of situations that don’t concern you.
  • De tal palo, tal astilla
    • Translation: “From such a branch, such a twig.”
    • Meaning: A proverb referring to the similarities parents and offspring share.
      Although we’re never really told what these proverbs actually mean, they are stored in our heads and tend to come out when we less expect it. They are life lessons passed down from one generation to another, and they remind us of the consequences that come from poor decisions. Take advantage of your heritage and teach others the wisdom of your proverbs. Which one is your favorite?
  • Dar en el clavo
    • Literal meaning: Hit on the nail
      What it really means: To be assertive
      Aggressive, assertive, unyielding….hard-hitting. This one’s pretty easy to understand.
      Example: ¡Nuestro gobierno nunca parece dar en el clavo con sus decisiones! Our government never seems to hit on the nail with their decisions!
  • Dormirse en los laureles
    • Literal meaning: Fall asleep in the laurels
      What it really means: To cease to make an effort after achieving success
      This is quite similar to the English version “to rest on your laurels”.
      Example: Nuestro equipo simplemente se ha dormido en los laureles. Our team has simply fallen asleep on the laurels.
  • Entre la espada y la pared
    • Literal meaning: Between the sword and the wall
      What it really means: Having to choose between two equally bad things
      Does this remind you of “a rock and a hard place”? It’s basically the same thing.
      Example: Mi amigo me ha puesto entre la espada y la pared, ¡quiere que elija entre gatos o perros! My friend put me between the sword and the wall, he wants me to pick a favourite between cats or dogs!
  • Con la soga al cuello
    • Literal meaning: With the rope to the neck
      What it really means: To be in a situation of a lot of pressure
      A noose around your neck. That sure feels like a whole lot of pressure, doesn’t it?
      Example: Cuando mi novia quiere salir de compras conmigo me siento como con la soga al cuello. Whenever my girlfriend wants to go out shopping I feel as if I have a rope tied to the neck.
  • Le falta un tornillo
    • Literal meaning: Missing a screw
      What it really means: To be crazy
      To put it nicely, someone with a screw loose is an eccentric person. Or a nutjob and a wacko, if one can be so blunt about it.
      Example: Está comprobado que las personas que odian el chocolate sufren de una rara enfermedad: ¡les hace falta un tornillo. / It has been scientifically proven that those who hate chocolate suffer from a rare disease: they’re missing a screw!
  • Dos pajaros de un tiro
    • Literal meaning: Two birds with one shot
      What it really means: To get two things done at once
      Similar to its English counterpart, when you hit two birds with one shot (or with one stone), you are accomplishing two things at once! (hey, good for you)
      Example: Al quedarme dormido mate dos pájaros de un solo tiro: ahorre energía y mis empleados tienen tiempo extra para terminar sus obligaciones. By falling asleep I killed two birds with one stone: I saved some energy and my employees have extra time to finish their obligations.
  • La gallina de los huevos de oro
    • Literal meaning: The hen that lays the golden eggs
      What it really means: A source of wealth
      Example:¡Algún día encontrare mi gallina de los huevos de oro!  Someday I will find my chicken with the golden eggs!
  • Meter la pata
    • Literal meaning: Put the foot in
      What it really means: To screw up/ to mess up/ make a blunder
      Example:  Cuando me preguntan si poseo alguna habilidad especial yo siempre hago alarde de mi talento para meter la pata. Whenever I’m asked if I have any special skill I always brag about my talent to screw up
  • Pasarse de la raya
    • Literal meaning: To cross the line
      What it really means: To do something that can’t be tolerated
      I’m pretty sure you already know what crossing the line means, right? Same as with English, this one means that you have reached a point where you can no longer be tolerated.
      Example: Nunca me paso de la raya, pero siempre busco estar encima de ella.  I never cross the line, but I always try to stay on top of it.
  • Pedir peras al olmo
    • Literal meaning: Asking for pears from the elm
      What it really means: Expect something that is impossible
      This one is somewhat similar to the English counterpart “getting blood from a stone” or “trying to squeeze blood from a stone”. Either way, what you’re asking for is impossible.
      Example: Pedirle a nuestro gobierno transparencia total es como pedirle peras al olmo. Asking our government for total transparency is like asking pears from an elm tree.
  • Poner el dedo en la llaga
    • Literal meaning: To put your finger on it
      What it really means: To be straightforward about the source of a bad situation
      Example: No le preguntes sobre su ruptura con su novio, eso si es poner el dedo en la llaga. Don’t ask her about her breakup with her boyfriend, now that’s really putting the finger on the wound.
  • Salirse con la suya
    • Literal meaning: Get away with it
      What it really means: To succeed at getting something through obnoxious methods
      Example: Nuestra mascota siempre logra salirse con la suya. Our pet always manages to get away with it.
  • Ser pan comido
    • Literal meaning: to be eating bread
      What it really means: to be easy
      Example: Para mi todas esas actividades son pan comido. To me all of those activities are eaten bread.
  • Ser un cero a la izquierda
    • Literal meaning: To be a zero to the left
      What it really means: To not have any influence
      Example: Tus comentarios negativos son un cero a la izquierda para nosotros. Your negative comments are just a zero to the left to us.
  • Tener agallas
    • Literal meaning: to have guts
      What it really means: To be brave
      Example: Tener las agallas para decir que no a una pizza gratis es una acción respetable.. ¡y muy tonta! Having the guts to say no to a free pizza is a respectable action.. and a very foolish one too!
  • A duras penas
    • Literal meaning: At tough hardship
      What it really means: To barely achieve something
      Example: Pude terminar todo mi trabajo pendiente a duras penas.  I was barely able to finish all of my pending work.
  • Costar un ojo de la cara
    • Literal meaning: To cost an eye off the face
      What it really means: Something very expensive
      In English, it would cost you an arm and a leg. The Spanish version, however, is an eye. Either way, it means that something would cost you a fortune.
      Example: Salir con mi familia casi siempre me cuesta un ojo de la cara. Going out with my family almost always cost me an eye off my face.
  • Perder los estribos
    • Literal meaning: To lose the stirrup
      What it really means: To get angry.
      When you “lose the stirrup”, you’ve basically lost your temper. It is also similar to the English idiom “to fly off the handle”.
      Example: Siempre pierdo los estribos cuando hablan mal de Derrick Rose.  I always lose it when people talk badly about Derrick Rose.
  • Echar leña al fuego
    • Literal meaning: To throw wood to the fire
      What it really means: To raise the intensity of something
      When something is already burning and you add more wood to it, you are making things escalate further. This is quite similar to the English version “to add fuel to the fire”.
      Example:  Echar leña al fuego cuando otros discuten es malo, ¡debemos asegurarnos de echar suficiente gasolina primero! Throwing wood into the fire when others argue is bad, we should always make sure to put enough gasoline first!
  • De buena fe
    • Literal meaning: Of good faith
      What it really means: To do something with good intentions
      This one is self-explanatory. Doing something in good faith means you have clear intentions and aren’t up to something shady.
      Example: Todo lo que hago por mis amigos es de buena fe. Everything I do for my friends is in good faith
  • No es tan bravo el león como lo pintan
    • English Counterpart: The lion is not as fierce as it is made out to be.
      This Spanish proverb is used to point out that a certain person is not as bad or fearsome as one had been led to think.
  • Lo cortés no quita lo valiente
    • English Counterpart: Courtesy does not exclude courage
      Being courteous and respectful does not mean we have to put up with everything…There’s nothing intrinsically wrong or impolite about protecting one’s dignity!
  • El hábito hace al monje
    • English Counterpart: The habit makes the monk. The suit makes the man, it is said.
      Our choice of clothing does not merely affect our appearance and define the persona we wish society to know us by. It can actually be a tool for molding our inner being. For instance, for the person wishing to acquire the virtue of modesty, wearing modest clothing is a good start.
  • La curiosidad mató al gato
    • English Counterpart: Curiosity killed the cat
      We say this whenever we want to discourage a person from indulging in excessive interest in other people’s business… for instance our own.
  • Las paredes oyen
    • English Counterpart: Walls have ears
      We use this Spanish proverb as a hint to the person we are talking with that he should either avoid being explicit or, better still, change the subject altogether. Our concern is that there are people around who, under cover of being busy with their own business, are actually all ears for ours…. We are reminded of the Spanish saying: A buen entendedor, pocas palabras bastan.
  • Las malas noticias vuelan
    • English Counterpart: Bad news flies
      Human nature being what it is, the average mortal finds far more pleasure in spreading word about other people’s misfortunes than about their good luck…Accordingly, bad news travels faster.
  • Muchos cocineros estropean el caldo
    • English Counterpart: Too many cooks spoil the broth
      By getting in each other’s way and applying different methods and recipes to one same dish, multiple cooks are likely to end up with a soup salted twice over or not at all. In other words, it’s not always convenient to get too many people involved with a task…
  • Los trapos sucios se lavan en casa
    • English Counterpart: Dirty clothes are washed at home
      If you have issues to sort out with your spouse or other family members, do it in the privacy of your home. No need to let other people on!
  • El hambre agudiza el ingenio
    • English Counterpart: Hunger sharpens the wit
      Necessity is the mother of invention There’s nothing like necessity to bring out the best in us.
  • Cada uno sabe dónde le aprieta el zapato
    • English Counterpart: Each person knows where his shoe hurts
      Nobody knows as well as oneself where one’s sensitivities, foibles and vulnerabilities lie.
  • El águila no se entretiene en cazar moscas
    • English Counterpart: The eagle doesn’t waste time hunting flies
      Each according to his standing… Just like the eagle, in its majesty, chooses prey worthy of its dignity and size, so the stature of people is reflected in their choice of endeavors…and even in their choice of victims.
  • No se acuerda el cura de cuando fue sacristán
    • English Counterpart: The priest doesn’t remember his days as a verger
      On escalating to more influential positions, it’s a test not to forget our humbler days and continue being understanding of people of lower standing.
  • La cabra siempre tira al monte
    • English Counterpart: The goat always seeks out the mountain heights
      Sometimes we think we’ve come a long way in our life-time; but just like the goat, with its preference for high, rocky places, time and again we find ourselves acting the way we were conditioned to act in infancy and following our genetic predisposition.
  • La venganza es un plato que se sirve frío
    • English Counterpart: Revenge is a dish which is served cold
      Acts of revenge, more often than not, are not carried out in the heat of the moment. Rather, the person who keeps a grudge for an offense, real or imaginary, often thinks a good deal before acting, all the while stalking for an opportunity.
  • Una golondrina no hace verano
    • English Counterpart: One swallow doesn’t make a summer
      A single occurrence is insufficient to prove a theory or establish a rule.
  • Nunca falta un roto para un descosido
    • English Counterpart: For someone unstitched there is always someone broken
      This Spanish proverb can be used with two different meanings:
      Firstly, as a consolation to the effect that we are not the only ones struck by a particular affliction. Somewhere, somebody suffers a lot similar to our own…
      And secondly, as an ironically-tinged comment when somebody with an evident disability or disadvantage pairs up with someone else with some analogous condition.
  • El infierno está empedrado de buenas intenciones
    • English Counterpart: Hell is paved with good intentions. – This phrase is attributed to Samuel Johnson.
      To have good intentions is just not good enough… One needs to convert them into deeds. This is said to reprove the person who makes promises but is not punctilious about keeping them, or who has plans but fails to make good on them.
  • Lo prometido es deuda
    • English Counterpart: What has been promised, is debt.
      How did our words become so devoid of meaning? We would do well by taking this Spanish proverb to heart and starting to regard our words as oaths.
  • El mundo es un pañuelo
    • English Counterpart: The world is a handkerchief
      Ours is, indeed, a small world. This Spanish proverb is used upon meeting somebody unexpectedly after a long time and in an unlikely place.
  • La verdad es hija del tiempo
    • English Counterpart: Truth is time’s daughter
      Things may be confused and what exactly “happened” may be unclear. But the truth will come out in time.
      Or, according to my own interpretation: Being only humans, we often lack the perspective to see the “big picture” and assess the real value of things. But time is sure to tell…
  • No hay rosa sin espinas
    • English Counterpart: No rose without thorns
      Happiness is never quite perfect. There’ll always be some trouble or displeasure. This Spanish proverb reminds us of the Mexican saying: Nunca falta un pelo en la sopa.
  • No hay que mentar la soga en casa del ahorcado
    • English Counterpart: Don’t mention the hangman’s noose in the house of someone who died by it.
      This proverb exhorts us to be sensitive of other people’s feelings and not to mention anything bound to evoke pain.
  • De ilusión también se vive
    • English Counterpart: Also of hope and aspiration do we live
      Life is not only about “getting there” but also about “dreaming of getting there”. And even when we do not quite get to the place we dream of, hope is what keeps us going and allows us get anywhere at all. This Spanish proverb is said by way of consolation when life doesn’t grant us our yearnings.
  • De noche, todos los gatos son pardos
    • English Counterpart: By night, all cats are brownish-gray
      In the darkness, all things –and all people- look pretty much the same, making it easy to hide defects.
  • Del dicho al hecho hay gran trecho
    • English Counterpart: Said and done are worlds apart
      Don’t rely on other people fulfilling their promises.
  • De tal palo, tal astilla
    • English Counterpart: From such a stick, such a splinter
      Children tend to resemble their parents in character, propensities and customs.
  • De músico, poeta y loco, todos tenemos un poco
    • English Counterpart: Of musician, poet and madman we all have our measure
      Nobody is totally rational. Some more, some less, everyone has his share of the soul of an artist.
  • Cuando el gato sale, los ratones bailan
    • English Counterpart: When the cat’s not in, the mice dance and play
      When authority is weakened, liberties are taken.
  • Aunque la mona se vista de seda, mona se queda
    • English Counterpart: The she-monkey, even if dressed up in silk, remains a monkey
      Improving the essence of a person or his natural qualities is not accomplished by merely donning fancy apparel.
  • A caballo regalado, no le mires el diente
    • English Counterpart: Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth
      This Spanish saying reminds us to be appreciative when presented with a gift. One will do well by refraining from examining its quality and pointing out its faults.
      To understand the imagery of this saying we must bear in mind that the health and age of horses was traditionally ascertained by inspecting the animals’ teeth.
  • Ojos que no ven, corazón que no siente
    • English Counterpart: Whatever the eyes don’t see, the heart doesn’t feel. Out of sight out of mind, they say.
      Human nature is such that our heart usually fails to engage in matters which are not immediate to us or which we don’t experience directly.
  • Hasta los gatos quieren zapatos
    • English Counterpart: Even cats want shoes
      This saying reprehends and makes fun of individuals who fail to moderate their ambition with a healthy assessment of their proper place and standing.
  • Más vale maña que fuerza
    • English Counterpart: Cleverness achieves more than strength
      Just check out the upper and lower ends of any payroll to confirm this Spanish saying’s accuracy: What’s worth more, ideas or physical might?
  • A buen hambre no hay pan duro
    • English Counterpart: When hungry, there’s no such thing as bread that is too hard
      Necessity makes us more appreciative of things that are less than perfect.
  • Lo que no mata, engorda
    • English Counterpart: Whatever doesn’t kill, makes thicker
      Once upon a time, when food was scarcer, extra pounds were a blessing and a sign of good health rather than a cause of concern. This saying is used when eating food of dubious quality: if it’s not bad enough to kill, the saying implies, it might actually nourish… A rather hopeful expectation, I would say, but that’s what the saying would have us believe.
      A modern version, also very much in use, is:

        • Lo que no te mata, te hace más fuerte
          • English Counterpart: Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger
  • Las cuentas claras y el chocolate espeso
    • English Counterpart: The accounts are transparent and the cocoa thick
      This Spanish saying advises us not to mix up friendship and business, for friendship’s sake.
  • Hombre prevenido, vale por dos
    • English Counterpart: A man forewarned is worth two
  • Más vale tarde que nunca
    • English Counterpart: Better late than never
      A handy reassurance in a culture of unpunctuality…
  • Hablando del rey de Roma, por la puerta se asoma
    • English Counterpart: Talking about the King of Rome, he looks in
      We use this saying when the person we are talking about shows up unexpectedly. “Speaking of the devil…”…isn’t that what you English-speaking folks say?
  • Gota a gota, la mar se agota
    • English Counterpart: Drop by drop, the sea dries up
      This praises the virtue of constancy: “slow and steady” takes us a long way.
  • El comer y el rascar, todo es empezar
    • English Counterpart: In matters of eating and scratching, it’s all a question of getting started
      This is said to encourage somebody to begin with something he is reluctant to do: just get going, the saying tells us, and you will get under way. This saying is sometimes used to encourage a guest to overcome his shyness and help himself to food and drink.
  • Donde menos se piensa salta la liebre
    • English Counterpart: The hare jumps out where one least expects it
      The speed and lightness of the hare makes it into a good metaphor for unexpected happenings.
  • Cría cuervos, y te sacarán los ojos
    • English Counterpart: Breed ravens and they’ll pull out your eyes
      Ravens’ way of eating up cadavers starting by the eyes makes them a symbol of ingratitude. This Spanish saying warns us that there are advantageous and ungrateful people out there who will pay back good with evil…
  • Al mejor cazador, se le va la liebre
    • English Counterpart: Even the best hunter lets the hare go
      Something went wrong? Don’t take it to heart. Nobody’s perfect.
  • A perro flaco, todo son pulgas
    • English Counterpart: A thin dog, a flea bag
      This Spanish saying is used when a new misfortune befalls somebody who is already downtrodden.
  • A otro perro con ese hueso
    • English Counterpart: Give that bone to some other dog
      “I won’t bite your bait. Try your tricks elsewhere”.
  • A grandes males, grandes remedios
    • English Counterpart: Big troubles call for big remedies
  • Tomar el pelo
    • English Counterpart: To pull someone’s leg
      “Tomar el pelo” literally means “to take the hair,” and is used when someone is tricking or making fun of someone else, but in a good-natured way. So if a friend tells you he won $10 million, you might say: “Me estás tomando el pelo.” (You’re pulling my leg.)
  • Ser pan comido
    • English Counterpart: To be a piece of cake
      The literal translation of “ser pan comido” is “to be bread eaten,” and it means that something is very easy to do. It’s the English equivalent of saying something is a piece of cake. For example: “El trabajo es pan comido.” (The job is a piece of cake.)
  • Estar como una cabra
    • English Counterpart: To be a little crazy
      “Estar como una cabra” is a commonly used Spanish idiom for when somebody is doing something bizarre or a little out of the ordinary. The literal translation is “to be like a goat,” and the English equivalent is saying someone is a little nuts or crazy. So if a friend has had too much to drink one evening, and he or she gets up and dances on a table, you might say: “Esta noche estás como una cabra.” (Tonight you are a little crazy.)
  • No tener pelos en la lengua
    • English Counterpart: To be straightforward / To tell it like it is
      The literal translation of “no tener pelos en la lengua” is “not to have hairs on your tongue.” This Spanish idiom means that someone is a straight shooter and will always speak their mind. For example: “Mi amigo no tiene pelos en la lengua.” (My friend tells it how it is.)
  • Tirar la casa por la ventana
  • English Counterpart: To spare no expense
    “Tirar la casa por la ventana” is literally translated as “to throw the house through the window,” and it means that no expense has been spared or that money is no object. For example: “Tiré la casa por la ventana cuando compré mi nuevo coche.” (I spared no expense when I bought my new car.)
  • Quedarse de piedra
    • English Counterpart: To be stunned
      “Quedarse de piedra” is literally to “stay like a stone,” and it means to be amazed. In other words, you’re so stunned by something that you stay like a stone. For example: “Me quedé de piedra cuando me dijo la historia.” (I was stunned when he told me the story.) Another idiom to express surprise and astonishment is “quedarse con la boca abierta,” literally “to stay with the mouth open.”
  • Lo dijo de labios para fuera
    • English Counterpart: To say something you didn’t mean
      “Lo dijo de labios para fuera” is literally translated as “he said it from the lips outwards,” and it means that a person didn’t mean what they said. For example: “Lo dijo de labios para fuera cuando dijo que era culpable.” (He didn’t mean it when he said he was guilty.)
  • Estar hecho un ají
    • English Counterpart: To be very angry
      “Estar hecho un ají” is literally translated as “to be made a chili,” and it means to be hopping mad (very angry) about something. For example: “No le gustó el resultado. Está hecho un ají.” (He didn’t like the outcome. He’s hopping mad.)
  • Empezar la casa por el tejado
    • English Counterpart: To put the cart before the horse
      “Empezar la casa por el tejado” is literally “to start the house by the roof,” and it means to put the cart before the horse, or to have things in the wrong order. For example: “Si empezáramos la construcción sin los fondos, estaríamos empezando la casa por el tejado.” (If we started construction without the funds, we’d be putting the cart before the horse.)
  • Estar más sano que una pera
    • English Counterpart: To be fit as a fiddle
      “Estar más sano que una pera” is literally translated as “to be healthier than a pear.” The English equivalent is to be as fit as a fiddle, and it means that someone feels great and is very healthy. For example: “Mi abuela tiene 85 años, pero está más sana que una pera.” (My grandmother is 85, but she’s as fit as a fiddle.)
  • Ser uña y carne
    • English Counterpart: To be bosom buddies
      The literal translation of “ser uña y carne” is “to be fingernail and flesh,” and it means to be inseparable, or to be bosom buddies. For example: “Juan y Pedro son uña y carne.” John and Peter are bosom buddies.)
  • Tener un humor de perros
    • English Counterpart: To be in a bad mood
      “Tenemos un humor de perros” is literally translated as “to have a mood of dogs,” and it means to be in a bad mood. For example: “Ellos tienen un humor de perros porque no aprobaron los exámenes en la universidad.” (They’re in a bad mood because they didn’t pass their exams at the university.)
  • Se me hace agua la boca
    • English Counterpart: To make one’s mouth water / To be mouthwatering
      “Se me hace agua la boca” is a common Spanish idiom translated as “it makes my mouth water,” meaning that an item of food or a meal is so delicious it makes the saliva flow in a person’s mouth. For example: “Se me hace agua la boca solo pensar en la paella.” (It makes my mouth water just thinking about paella.)
  • Tiene más lana que un borrego
    • English Counterpart: To be loaded [with cash]
      “Tiene más lana que un borrego” translates as “he has more wool than a lamb,” and it means that a person is loaded with cash. “Lana” is slang for “cash.” For example: “Él pagó la cuenta en el restaurante porque tiene más lana que un borrego”. (He paid the bill in the restaurant because he’s loaded with cash.)
  • Echar agua al mar
    • English Counterpart: To do something pointless / To put a drop in the bucket
      “Echar agua al mar” is literally translated as “to throw water into the sea,” a Spanish idiom used in some Spanish-speaking regions to mean that something is pointless. For example: “Tratar de convencerla es como echar agua al mar. Ella nunca va a cambiar.” (Trying to convince her is pointless. She’s never going to change.)

Spanish Proverbs

A beber y a tragar, que el mundo se va a acabar.

Here’s to drinking and swallowing, for the world is going to end.

(Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.)

A cada cerdo le llega su San Martín.
Every pig gets its San Martín.

(What goes around comes around. You deserve what you get. San Martín refers to a traditional celebration in which a pig is sacrificed.)

A falta de pan, tortillas.

Lack of bread, tortillas.

(Make do with what you have. Half a loaf is better than none.)

A lo hecho, pecho.

To what is done, the chest.

(Face up to what is. What is done is done.)

A los tontos no les dura el dinero.
Money does not last for fools.

(A fool and his money are soon parted.)

A otro perro con ese hueso.

To another dog with that bone.

(Tell that to someone who will believe you.)

Al mejor escribano se le va un borrón.

To the best scribe comes a smudge.

(Even the best of us make mistakes. Nobody’s perfect.)

Algo es algo; menos es nada.

Something is something; less is nothing.

(It’s better than nothing. Half a loaf is better than none.)

Borra con el codo lo que escribe con la mano.

He/she erases with the elbow what his/her hand is writing.

(Whatever good actions or decisions he makes, he invalidates by other actions)

Camarón que se duerme se lo lleva la corriente.

The shrimp that falls asleep is carried by the current.

(Don’t let the world pass you by. Stay alert and be proactive. Don’t fall asleep at the wheel.)

Consejo no pedido, consejo mal oído.

Advice not asked for, advice poorly heard.

(Someone who doesn’t ask for advice doesn’t want to hear it. Don’t give advice unless you’re asked.)

Dame pan y dime tonto.

Give me bread and call me a fool.

(Think of me what you will. As long as I get what I want, it doesn’t matter what you think.)

De músico, poeta y loco, todos tenemos un poco.

We all have a little bit of musician, poet and crazy person in ourselves.

(We’re all a little bit crazy.)

Desgracia compartida, menos sentida.

Shared misfortune, less sorrow.

(Misery loves company.)

Donde hay humo, hay fuego.

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

Donde no hay harina, todo es mohina.

Where there’s no flour, everything is an annoyance.

(Poverty breeds discontent. If your needs aren’t met, you won’t be happy.)

El amor es como el agua que no se seca.
Love is like water that never evaporates.

(True love lasts forever.)

El amor todo lo puede.
Love can do it all.

(Love will find a way.)

El hábito no hace al monje.

The habit doesn’t make the monk.

(Clothes do not make the man.)

El mundo es un pañuelo.

The world is a handkerchief.

(It’s a small world.)

Gobernar es prever.

To govern is to foresee.

(It is better to prevent problems than to fix them. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.)

La cabra siempre tira al monte.

The goat always heads toward the mountain.

(The leopard doesn’t change its spots. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.)

La lengua no tiene hueso, pero corta lo más grueso. 

The tongue doesn’t have a bone, but it cuts the thickest thing.

(Words are more powerful than weapons.)

La raíz de todos los males es el amor al dinero. 

The root of all evils is love toward money.

(Love of money is the root of all evil.)

Los árboles no están dejando ver el bosque.

The trees aren’t allowing one to see the forest.

(You can’t see the forest for the trees.)

Nadie da palos de blade.

Nobody gives sticks for free.

(You can’t get something for nothing. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.)

No dejes camino viejo por sendero nuevo.

Don’t leave the old road for a new trail.

(It’s better to stick with what works. A shortcut isn’t always quicker.)

No dejes para mañana lo que puedas hacer hoy.

Don’t leave for tomorrow that which you can do today.

No hay peor sordo que el que no quiere oír.

There is not a worse deaf person than the one who doesn’t want to hear.

(There is none so blind as he who will not see.)

No hay que ahogarse en un vaso de agua.

It isn’t necessary to drown oneself in a glass of water.

(Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.)

No vendas la piel del oso antes de cazarlo.

Don’t sell the bear’s hide before you hunt it.

(Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.)

Nunca es tarde para aprender. 

It never is late for learning.

(It is never too late to learn.)

Obras son amores y no buenas razones.

Acts are love and good reasons aren’t.

(Actions speak louder than words.)

Qué bonito es ver la lluvia y no mojarse.

How nice it is to see the rain and not get wet.

(Don’t criticize others for the way they do something unless you’ve done it yourself.)

Todos los caminos llevan a Roma.
All roads lead to Rome.

(There’s more than one way to reach a goal. All actions have the same result.)

No es tan bravo el león como lo pintan.

Literal Translation: The lion is not as fierce as he is made out to be.

In English, we would say, “his bark is worse than his bite.” This proverb implies that a person who seems fierce might be a reasonable human being.

El que no llora, no mama.

Literal Translation: The one that does not cry, does not suck.

In other words, the child who doesn’t cry, does not get nursed. This is the equivalent of the English “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.”

A río revuelto, ganancia de pescadores.

Literal Translation: At troubled waters, fishermen gain.

The proverb implies that there’s always someone waiting to profit from the disadvantages of others. It’s interesting to note that the word revuelto also means scrambled and disorganized. Throughout Latin American history, cultural chaos has triggered dictatorships. Thus, the “fishermen” gain from the disorder.

A las mujeres bonitas y a los buenos caballos los echan a perder los pendejos.

Literal Translation: Beautiful women and good horses are corrupted by idiots.

Self-explanatory. This proverb comes from Mexico, a country with many horse and women proverbs. Here’s another example: “No compres caballo de muchos fierros, ni te cases con muchacha de muchos novios.” Don’t buy a horse with many irons, or marry a girl with too many boyfriends.

Lavar puercos con jabón es perder tiempo y jabón.

Literal Translation: Washing a pig with soap is to lose time and soap.

This popular Spanish proverb implies that some things are simply a waste of time. A similar English language quote comes from George Bernard Shaw: “Never wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.”

El que lee mucho y anda mucho, ve mucho y sabe mucho.

Literal Translation: He who walks a lot and reads a lot, sees a lot and knows a lot.

This is one of the many proverbs that dot the pages of “El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha,” (AKA Don Quixote) by Miguel de Cervantes, and it also happens to be one of my favorites. The proverb encourages travel and scholarship.

¿Qué locura o qué desatino me lleva a contar las ajenas faltas, teniendo tanto que decir de las mías?

Literal Translation: “What madness or folly leads me to count the faults of others, having so much to say about mine?”

Another Don Quixote quote. Note the Spanish formatting of a question, with the upside down question mark at the beginning and the right-side-up question mark at the close of the sentence. The closest English equivalent to this Spanish proverb is “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”

La senda de la virtud es muy estrecha y el camino del vicio, ancho y espacioso.

Literal Translation: The path of virtue is very narrow and the road of vice broad and spacious.

Yes, yet another “Don Quixote” derived proverb. Its meaning is self-explanatory.

A caballo regalado, no se le miran los dientes.

Literal Translation: Don’t look at the teeth of a gift horse.

In other words, accept a gift, or accept good luck, and do not criticize. The English language equivalent is “Never look a gift horse straight in the mouth.”

Como agua para chocolate.

Literal Translation: Like water for chocolate.

Author Laura Esquivel used this Spanish proverb as the title of her book. In certain Latin American countries, especially Mexico, hot chocolate is made with water instead of milk. The cook boils the water, then drops the chunks of chocolate into the pot. The saying, “como agua para chocolate” describes an emotional state: either boiling over in anger or in passion.

Las cuentas claras y el chocolate espeso.

Literal Translation: The accounts clear and the chocolate thick.

Speaking of chocolate, this Spanish proverb is often used in reference to business. It advises you to clarify the terms, and examine the accounts of any business relationship, before getting to it. It compares clear accounting to chocolate, which is best when it’s thick.

Donde hay gana, hay maña.

Literal Translation: Where there is desire, there is ability.

This one is straightforward. In other words, “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” This could apply to anyone who started studying Spanish as an adult. Because, to quote another Spanish proverb, “Nunca es tarde si la dicha es buena.” Better late than never.


Famous Spanish Proverbs and Idioms


  1. Más vale pájaro en mano que cien volando.

Literal Translation: A bird in hand is worth more than a hundred in flight.

English Counterpart: A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

This Spanish phrase is actually a near-perfect replica of its English counterpart, and the proverb’s meaning remains the same in both English and Spanish, regardless of where the other birds are or how many there may be.

Essentially, what you already have at the moment is more valuable than what you don’t.

When to Use This Phrase: You can safely bust out this phrase whenever you realize that something you have right now is of greater immediate importance to you than something you may be considering.

For instance, you’ve ordered a meal that isn’t quite what you had in mind… ¡Más vale pájaro en mano que cien volando!

  1. Cuando el gato va a sus devociones, ¡bailan los ratones!

Literal Translation: When the cat goes to his devotions, the rats dance!

English Counterpart: When the cat’s away, the mice will play.

This classic Spanish rhyme is actually a classic English rhyme as well. Both versions work well in verse and carry an identical message.

Give or take dancing rats for playing mice, and the meaning of this Spanish saying remains the same as its English counterpart.

When to Use This Phrase: There are numerous occasions into which you could slip this phrase. For example, when you notice someone doing something you know they’d never do in the presence of an authority figure (such as when you see an unattended child diving headfirst into a chocolate cake), this phrase will fit right in.

  1. Del dicho al hecho hay un buen trecho.

Literal Translation: From speech to deed there is a good stretch.

English Counterpart: Talk is cheap.

A reference to the divide between the talkers and the time-wasters in life, this phrase takes a charming metaphorical approach to saying, in essence, that talk is cheap.

You could also compare this to “talking the talk and walking the walk.” The meaning is much the same.

When to Use This Phrase: This phrase is perfect for disputing questionable claims.

For example, if you’ve been promised your very own cafetal (coffee farm) in exchange for a hair dryer, then this is the phrase to use.

  1. El hábito no hace al monje.

Literal Translation: The habit does not make the monk.

English Counterpart: Don’t judge a book by its cover.

We all know what it means to judge a book by its cover, but native Spanish-speakers might be a bit more familiar with the perils of judging a monk by his habit. It’s a valuable, albeit interestingly expressed insight.

When to Use This Phrase: You certainly don’t need to be in a monastery to make use of this slightly ecclesiastical proverb!

All you need is a person, place or thing worthy of being judged by their substance as opposed to their outwardly beauty (or lack thereof).

You can succinctly remind others of this important philosophical inclination with a quick “El hábito no hace al monje.”

  1. De tal palo, tal astilla.

Literal Translation: From such a branch, such a twig.

English Counterpart: The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Yes, these two branch-centric proverbs mean essentially the same thing.

In other words, if one person or thing begat the other, they’re bound to be similar in some ways.

When to Use This Phrase: This phrase is mostly fit for pointing out familial similarities (in appearance or otherwise).

For example, if you meet someone who bears a striking resemblance to their mother, you can quite astutely state “de tal palo, tal astilla” and they’ll nod in deference to your worldly wisdom.

  1. Hablando del rey de Roma, por la puerta asoma.

Literal Translation: Speaking of the king of Rome, he’s appearing at the door.

English Counterpart: Speak of the devil and he shall appear.

The king of Rome might not have known about this phrase as it’s used to describe that uncomfortable instance in which someone you’re speaking ill of suddenly appears.

We use the English equivalent similarly, although it’s not usually considered negative if you only say “speak of the devil” when you see a person you’ve just been talking about. Instead, it means just that: Hey, we were just talking about you!

When to Use This Phrase: In Spanish, this is the type of proverb that’s only used in uncomfortable situations, so hopefully you won’t need to use it at all.

However, if you ever find yourself discussing someone’s bad breath just as they come bustling through the door, you can maybe soften the blow by calling them the king of Rome.

  1. Echar margaritas a los cerdos / Arrojar perlas a los cerdos

Literal Translation: Give daisies to the hogs. / Cast pearls to the hogs.

English Counterpart: Cast/throw your pearls before swine.

The Bible brought us the popular proverb “Do not cast your pearls before swine,” but the Spanish language brings us a slightly different expression than the original Bible verse.

“Echar margaritas a los cerdos” translates to “give daisies to the hogs,” and it’s commonly used to express the same sentiment as the biblical phrase.

Of course, Spanish versions of the Holy Bible translate the actual phrase a bit more accurately as “arrojar perlas a los cerdos” or “cast pearls to the hogs.” If the Bible reference doesn’t have you convinced, the phrase is even dropped into the lyrics of the Shakira song “La Tortura,” so you know it’s legit.

When to Use This Phrase: This proverb is great for casual use—with or without actual pigs. As we already discussed in the intro, this is a good go-to proverb when people just don’t appreciate you or your efforts.

Ideally, you could mix this phrase into deep discussions on wasted time and bad company. Just as a flower would go to waste if served to a feral hog, good ideas and intelligent thoughts are all but wasted on poor company.


  1. Costar un ojo de la cara

Literal Translation: To cost an eye from the face.

English Counterpart: To cost an arm and a leg.

Excessively expensive things cost an “arm and a leg” in English, but what would you need to pay for them in Spanish?

Apparently, they’d “cost an eye from your face.”

Where else would you get an eye from? Who knows, but I’m sure these phrases mean the exact same thing in their respective languages.

When to Use This Phrase: We all know why someone would say something like this in English and the use of the phrase is largely the same in Spanish.

Naturally, conjugation can come into play—transforming the original phrase into“cuesta un ojo de la cara” (it costs an eye from your face) when referring to something that simply costs more than it’s worth.

  1. Dar en el clavo

Literal Translation: Give on the nail.

English Counterpart: Hit the nail on the head.

Hitting the nail on the head or “nailing it” is the English version of “dar en el clavo.”

This means precisely what it means in English, so if you guessed as much, le diste en el clavo (you hit it on the nail)!

When to Use This Phrase: You can make use of this phrase at the same moments in which you would typically use its English equivalent.

A good example would be when you’ve just done something right. However, if you’re letting someone else know they’ve done something right, conjugation would also alter this phrase a bit and turn it into “le diste en el clavo” (you hit it on the nail).

These proverbs may seem a bit exotic when compared to their English variations, but they can help you better express yourself in Spanish-speaking communities.

1. Antes de hacer nada, consúltalo con la almohada. 

It’s better to sleep on it.

2. Camarón que se duerme se lo lleva la corriente

If you snooze it, you lose it.

3. Un lugar para cada cosa, y cada cosa en su lugar. 

A place for everything and everything in its place.

4. A caballo regalado no se le mira el colmillo. 

Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

5. De tal palo, tal astilla. 

Like father, like son.

6. Niño que no llora, no mama.

The Squaky wheel gets the oil.

7. Nunca es tarde para aprender.

You’re never too old to learn.

8. El que no oye un consejo no llega a viejo.

Advice when most needed is least heeded.

9. Árbol que nace torcido jamás su tronco endereza.

As the twig is bent, so is the tree inclined.

10. Hombre prevenido vale por dos.

Forwarned is forearmed.

11. El que ríe al último, ríe mejor.

He who laughs last, laughs best.

12. De noche todos los gatos son pardos.

All cats are gray in the dark.

13. Al César lo que es del César y a Dios lo que es de Dios.

Give credit where credit is due.

14. Aprendiz de todo y maestro de nada.

Jack of all trades, master of none.

15. Antes que te cases, mira lo que haces.

Look before you leap.

16. La unión hace la fuerza. 

In unity there is strength.

17. Haz el bien y no mires a quién. 

A good deed is never lost.

18. El amor es ciego.

Love is blind.

19. Con los años vienen los desengaños. 

Familiarity breeds contempt.

20. En boca cerrada no entran moscas 

A closed mouth catches no flies.

21. El que con lobos anda, a aullar aprende.

If you lie down with dogs, you’ll get up with fleas.

22. Mas vale malo conocido, que bueno por conocer. 

Better the devil you know, than the devil you don’t know.

23. No hay mal que por bien no venga.

Every cloud has a silver lining.

24. Amigo en la adversidad, es un amigo de verdad.

A friend in need is a friend indeed.

25. Quien siembra vientos recoge tempestades. 

You reap what you sow.

26. Más vale tarde que nunca. 

Better late than never.

27. Matar dos pájaros de un tiro.

To kill two birds with a stone.




List of famous Spanish proverbs

  • Quien se fue a Sevilla perdió su silla
  • The English translation (who went to Seville, lost his chair): it means that if somebody leaves a position or a role, this will be taken by another person. The story that talks about the origin of this proverb claims that the Archbishop of Seville lost his job after travelling to Compostela in order to arrange the position of Archbishop of Santiago for his nephew. However, when he came back to Seville his nephew had taken his job and occupied his role as Archbishop of Seville. The expression has changed throughout the years until becoming the current one.
  • A las mujeres bonitas y a los buenos caballos los echan a perder los pendejos.
  • The English translation for this proverb is ‘Beautiful women and good horses are corrupted by idiots.’ This proverb originates from Mexico, where there are many proverbs that include horses (and women too!). This basically means that beautiful women and good horses are wasted on idiotic men.
  • Dar gato por liebre (translation: to give cat instead of hare): this proverb means that there has been a trick in order to lie about a service or an item that has been offered that doesn’t have the quality expected. Its origin dates back to Middle Age, when it was common to offer hare as food, while it was actually cat.
  • A buenas horas mangas verdes
  • The English translation ( too late for green sleeves): This expression is used when somebody is late after being asked for help. It’s said that it was created during the 15th century when Queen Isabella I of Castile created the first police force in Spain. Its members wore uniforms with green sleeves, and they were always late when needed.
  • Lavar puercos con jabón es perder tiempo y jabón.
  • The literal translation is ‘To wash a pig with soap is to lose time and soap.’ This proverb is used in Spanish to express that to do something would be a waste of time. It is very similar to the English proverb ‘Never wrestle with pigs, you both get dirty, and the pig likes it.’
  • Hacerse el sueco
  • The English translation (pretend to be Swedish): this proverb refers to somebody that pretends not to know what is happening or what is going on. It was created during the 50s and 60s, when a lot of Swedish tourists spent their holidays in Spain, and they didn’t understand Spanish when somebody tried to talk to them.
  • Dormirse en los laureles
  • The English translation (to fall asleep on the laurels): it means that somebody becomes lazy or stops working efficiently after succeeding. It dates back to the Roman Empire, when people were crowned with a laurel wreath after a victory. You might have already heard this proverb used in English!
  • Salvado por la campana
  • The English translation (to be saved by the bell): this expression is used when an unpleasant situation is avoided because something unexpected happens. Its origin is very interesting: centuries ago, when medicine wasn’t as advanced as nowadays, many people were buried alive because they were supposed to be dead. In order to avoid their death underground, a bell was placed out of the coffin. They could make it sound using a rope from inside the coffin, so they could be heard from outside and somebody could help them. This proverb is also used in the English language.
  • No es tan bravo el león como lo pintan. 
  • The English translation (literal) is ‘The Lion is not as brave as he is painted,’ but the equivalent English proverb would be something like ‘His bark is worse than his bite.’ This one basically means that you shouldn’t believe everything someone tells you. If someone says this to you in Spanish, they are trying to tell you not to worry about someone; they are not so scary!

Common Proverbs & Sayings in Spanish

Dime con quién andas, y te diré quién eres.
Translation: Tell me who you hang out wth and I’ll tell you who you are.
Meaning / English equivalent: Birds of a feather flock together.

Caballo regalado no se le mira el diente.
Translation: Don’t look for faults in a gift.
Meaning / English equivalent: Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

Al mal tiempo, buena cara.
Translation: Put a good face to the bad times.
Meaning / English equivalent: Be positive even in bad situations.

A falta de pan, buenas son tortas.
Translation: If there’s no pan, cakes will do.
Meaning / English equivalent: Beggars can’t be choosers.

Barriga llena, corazón contento.
Translation: Full stomach, happy heart.

Camarón que se duerme se lo lleva la corriente.
Translation: The shrimp that falls asleep is swept away by the current.
Meaning / English equivalent: You snooze, you lose.

Cría cuervos y te sacarán los ojos.
Translation: Raise crows and they will peck your eyes out.
Meaning / English equivalent: If you take care of indecent people, they will take advantage of you in the end.

Cuando el río suena, agua lleva.
Translation: When the river makes noise, it’s carrying water.
Meaning / English equivalent: Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

Del tal palo, tal astilla.
Translation: Such is the stick, such is the chip.
Meaning / English equivalent: A chip off the old block
Meaning / English equivalent: The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Meaning / English equivalent: Like father, like son.

El que madruga coge agua clara.
Translation: He who rises early gets clear water.
Meaning / English equivalent: Early bird gets the worm.

El que quiera pescado que se moje el culo.
Translation: He who wants fish should get his butt wet.
Meaning / English equivalent. If you want something, get it yourself.

Hablando del rey de Roma…
Translation: Speaking of the king of Rome…
Meaning / English equivalent: Speak of the Devil…

Más vale tarde que nunca.
Translation: Better late than never.

Más vale pájaro en mano que cien volando.
Translation: A bird in the hand is worth more than one hundred flying.
Meaning / English equivalent: A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

Moro viejo nunca será buen cristiano.
Translation: An old Moor will never be a good Christian.
Meaning / English equivalen: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

No hay mal que por bien no venga.
Translation: There’s no bad from which something good doesn’t come.
Meaning / English equivalent: Every cloud has a silver lining.

Ojos que no ven, corazón que no siente.
Translation: Eyes that don’t see, heart that doesn’t feel.
Meaning / English equivalent: Out of sight, out of mind.

Quien fue a Sevilla perdió su silla.
Translation: He who went to Sevilla, lost his seat.
Meaning / English equivalent: Move your feet, lose your seat.

Vivieron felices y comieron perdices (y a mí no me dieron).
Translation: They lived happily and ate partridge (and didn’t give me any).
Meaning / English equivalent: And they lived happily ever after.

All about Spanish Proverbs

Lo que no cuesta dinero, siempre es bueno

The best things in life are free

Ojos que no ven, corazón que no siente

Out of sight, out of mind

En el peligro se conoce el amigo

A friend in need is a friend indeed

Loro viejo no aprende a hablar/Perro viejo no aprende trucos

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks

El que ríe último, ríe mejor

He who laughs last laughs longest

Más vale tarde que nunca

Better late than never

El tiempo es oro

Time is money

No hay tiempo como el presente

There’s no time like the present

Cuatro ojos ven más que dos

Two heads are better than one

Poner toda la carne en el asador

To put all your eggs in one basket

No hay mal que por bien no venga

Every cloud has a silver lining

Nadie está contento con su suerte

The grass is always greener on the other side

A lo hecho pecho

It’s no use crying over spilt milk

Lo barato sale caro

If you buy cheaply, you pay dearly

En boca cerrada no entran moscas

If you keep your mouth shut, you won’t put your foot in it




Spanish proverbs are bits of common sense and cultural wisdom.

English Spanish Literal Translation
Actions speak louder than words. Obras son amores, que no buenas razones. Deeds are love, good reasons aren’t.
Advice when most needed is least heeded. El que no oye consejo no llega a viejo. He who hears no advice will not reach old age.
After the feast comes the reckoning. A un gustazo, un trancazo. To a pleasure, a blow with a club.
All cats are gray in the dark. De noche todos los gatos son pardos. At night all cats are brown.
All that glitters is not gold. No es oro todo lo que brilla.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away. La mejor medicina es la buena comida. The best medecine is good food.
Ask and you shall receive. Quien tiene lengua, a Roma llega. Who has a tongue, gets to Rome.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. El sapo a la sapa tiénela por muy guapa. The male toad finds the female toad very pretty.
Better late than never. Más vale tarde que nunca.
Better safe than sorry. Más vale precaver que tener que lamentar. Better to prevent than have to lament.
Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t. Más vale malo conocido que bueno por conocer. Better known evil than good yet to know.
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Más vale pájaro en mano que ciento volando. Better to have bird in hand than a hundred flying.
Birds of a feather flock together. Cada quien con su cada cual. Each person with his each one.
Clean slate. Borrón y cuenta nueva. Smudge and new account.
A closed mouth catches no flies. En boca cerrada no entran moscas. In a closed mouth flies do not enter.
Clothes do not make the man. El hábito no hace al monje. The habit does not make the monk.
Cold hands, warm heart. No hay pan sin corteza. There is no bread without crust.
The devil finds work for idle hands to do. Cuando el diablo no tiene qué hacer, con el rabo mata moscas. When the devil has nothing to do, he kills flies with his tail.
Do as I say, not as I do. Haz lo que yo digo y no lo que yo hago. Do what I say and not what I do.
Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched. Hacer las cuentas de la lechera. Do the dairymaid’s accounts.
Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. A caballo regalado no se le mira el colmillo. Don’t look a gift horse in the eyetooth.
Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill. No hay que ahogarse en un vaso de agua. One should not drown in a glass of water.
Don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today. No dejes para mañana lo que puedes hacer hoy.
Don’t rest on your laurels. Camarón que se duerme, se lo lleva la corriente. The shrimp that falls asleep, is carried off by the current.
Don’t spread yourself too thin. Quien mucho abarca, poco aprieta. One who spreads out too much squeezes little.
The early bird catches the worm. Al que madruga Dios lo ayuda. God helps the one who gets up early.
Easier said than done. Del dicho al hecho hay largo trecho. From said to done there is a long way.
Easy come, easy go. Los dineros del sacristán, cantando se vienen y cantando se van. The sexton’s money sing as it comes and sings as it goes.
Eat to live, don’t live to eat. Come para vivir y no vivas para comer.
Empty vessels make the most noise. Mucho hablar y poco decir juntos suelen ir. Talking much and saying little usually go together.
Every cloud has a silver lining. No hay mal que por bien no venga. There’s no evil that does not bring some good.
Familiarity breeds contempt. Con los años vienen los desengaños. With the years come the disappointments.
Forewarned is forearmed. Hombre prevenido vale por dos. A warned man is worth two.
A friend in need is a friend indeed. Amigo en la adversidad, es amigo de verdad. Friend in adversity is a real friend.
Give credit where credit is due. Al César lo que es del César y a Dios lo que es de Dios. To Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.
A good deed is never lost. Haz bien y no mires a quién. Do good and do not look to whom.
Good neighbors are hard to find. No hay mejor hermano que un buen vecino al lado. There is no better brother than a good neighbor.
The greatest scholars are not the best preachers. Unos dicen lo que saben y otros saben lo que dicen. Some say what they know and others know what they say.
Healthy mind, healthy body. Mente sana en cuerpo sano.
He that knows nothing doubts nothing. Quien nada sabe, de nada duda.
He who laughs last laughs best. El que ríe último ríe mejor.
His bark is worse than his bite. Perro ladrador, poco mordedor. Barking dog, little biting.
Honesty is the best policy. Vale más una verdad amarga que muchas mentiras dulces. Better a bitter truth than many sweet lies.
If you lie down with dogs, you’ll get up with fleas. El que anda con lobos, a aullar se enseña. He who walks with wolves learns to howl.
In unity there’s strength. En la unión está la fuerza.
It’s a labor of love. Todo sea por el amor al arte. All be for the love of art.
Jack of all trades, master of none. Aprendiz de todo y maestro de nada. Apprentice of everything and master of nothing.
Keep your chin up. A mal tiempo buena cara. To bad weather, good face.
Kill two birds with one stone. Matar dos pájaros de un tiro. Kill two birds with one shot.
Knowledge is power. El saber no ocupa lugar. Knowledge does not occupy space.
Know your neighbor from the books he reads. Si a tu vecino quieres conocer, averigua qué libros suele leer. If you want to know your neighbor, find out which books he usually reads.
Let sleeping dogs lie. Agua que no has de beber, déjala correr. Water that you shall not drink, let it run.
Like father, like son. De tal palo, tal astilla. From such wood, such splinter.
Live within your means. Vive como rico y ahorrarás como pobre. Live like a rich man and you will save like a poor one.
Look before you leap. Antes que te cases, mira lo que haces. Before you marry, look at what you do.
Love is blind. El amor es ciego.
Man does not live on bread alone. No sólo de pan vive el hombre.
A man is known by the company he keeps. Dime con quién andas y te diré quién eres. Tell me who you walk with and I’ll tell you who you are.
Man is the master of his destiny. Cada quien es el arquitecto de su propio destino. Each one is the architect of his own destiny.
Misery loves company. Como el perro del hortelano, ni come ni deja comer. The farmer’s dog neither eats nor allows others to eat.
A moment on the lips, a lifetime in the heart. El que dice lo que quiere, oye lo que no quiere. He who says what he wants, hears what he does not want.
Money talks. Con dinero baila el perro. With money the dog dances.
Necessity is the mother of invention. La experiencia es la madre de ciencia. Experience is the mother of science.
Nobody’s perfect. Al mejor escribano se le va un borrón. Even the best writer slips up with a smudge.
Nothing is certain but death and taxes. Todo tiene solución, menos la muerte. Everything has a solution, except death.
Once bitten twice shy. El gato escaldado del agua fría huye. The scalded cat flees from cold water.
One good turn deserves another. Amor con amor se paga. Love is paid with love.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. El piso de uno es el techo de otro. The floor of one is the ceiling of another.
One swallow does not a summer make. Una golondrina no hace el verano.
Out of sight, out of mind. Ojos que no ven, corazón que no siente. Eyes that do not see, heart that does not feel.
Out of the mouths of babes. Los niños y los locos dicen las verdades. Children and crazy people tell truths.
The pen is mightier than the sword. Más vale maña que fuerza. Better cunning than force.
A picture is worth a thousand words. Vale más una imagen que mil palabras. A picture is worth more than a thousand words.
A place for everything and everything in its place. Un lugar para cada cosa y cada cosa en su lugar.
Possession is nine-tenths of the law. El que se fue a Sevilla, perdió la silla. He who went to Seville lost his chair.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions. El infierno está lleno de buenas propósitos, y el cielo de buenas obras. Hell is full of good intentions, and heaven with good works.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. En una hora no se ganó Zamora. Zamora didn’t win in an hour.
Seeing is believing. Ver y creer.
Sleep on it. Antes de hacer nada, consúltalo con la almohada. Before doing anything, consult your pillow.
Something is better than nothing. Algo es algo, peor es nada. Something is something, nothing is worse.
The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Niño que no llora no mama. Child who does not cry does not nurse.
There’s more than one way to skin a cat. Todos los caminos llevan a Roma. All the roads go to Rome.
There’s no honor among thieves. Piensa el ladrón que todos son de su condición. The thief thinks that all are of his condition.
There’s none so deaf as those who will not hear. No hay peor sordo que el que no quiere oír.
To each his own. Sobre gustos no hay nada escrito. There is nothing written about taste.
Too many cooks spoil the broth. Son muchas manos en un plato. There are a lot of hands on one plate.
The walls have ears. Las paredes oyen. The walls hear.
A watched pot never boils. No por mucho madrugar amanece más temprano. For the early riser the dawn comes not the sooner.
What’s done is done. A lo hecho, pecho. To what’s done, courage.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Allá donde fueres, haz como vieres. There where you go, do as you see.
When one door shuts, another opens. Donde una puerta se cierra, otra se abre.
The woman is the key of the house. Casa sin madre, río sin cauce. A house without a mother, a river without a course.
You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Aunque la mona se vista de seda, mona se queda. Even if a monkey dresses in silk, it’s still a monkey.
You can’t see the forest for the trees. Los árboles no están dejando ver el bosque. The trees don’t let you see the woods.
You can’t turn back the clock. El diente miente, la cana engaña, pero la arruga no ofrece duda. The tooth lies, the gray hair fools, but the wrinkle offers no doubt.
You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Más moscas se cogen con una gota de miel que con un cuarto de vinagre. More flies are caught with a drop of honey than with a quart of vinegar.
You reap what you sow. Quien siembra vientos recoge tempestados. He who sows winds reaps tempests.
You’re never too late to learn. Nunca es tarde para aprender.
You’ve made your bed, now lie in it. Quien mala cama hace, en ella se yace. He who makes a bad bad lies in it.

Check out these Spanish proverbs and see how many you can guess from the literal translation.

Spanish saying/proverb Literal translation Equivalent proverb in English/other meanings
Corto de luces To be short of lights  Not the sharpest knife in the drawer
Tiene más lana que un borrego He has more wool than a sheep To have a lot of money
En boca cerrada no entran moscas


Into a closed mouth flies will not enter Think before you speak
En martes, ni te cases ni te embarques On a Tuesday, don’t get married nor get on board Tuesday is an unlucky day in Spanish culture – Tuesday 13th holds the same connotations as Friday 13th in the English-speaking world
El hijo de la gato, ratones mata


The son of a cat kills mice  Like father like son
No todo el monte es orégano The whole hillside is not covered in oregano All is not as it seems
Tomar el pelo To take hold of the hair To pull someone’s leg
Las mentiras tienen las patas cortas


Lies have short legs The truth will out
Más vale pájaro en mano que cien volando


A bird in the hand is worth more than 100 flying A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
Yo tengo una tía que toca la guitarra


I have an aunt who plays the guitar What’s that got to do with the price of fish?
Aunque la mona se vista de seda, mona se queda If you dress a monkey in silk it will still be a monkey You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear
No hay mal que por bien no venga


There is no bad of which good does not come  Every cloud has a silver lining

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