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29 Most Common Spanish Idioms To Learn

There are many aspects of the Spanish language that made me fall in love with it. The idioms used were one of those.


With these fun, wise, and expressive idioms - you'll be able to shock just about any native speaker. In this article we'll go over the 29 most common Spanish idioms.


These idioms are used in every Spanish speaking country, however, if you would like to learn country-specific slang and expressions - check this out.


Now, let's jump into the article and take our Spanish to the next level.


woman pointing to a title that says "29 Most Common Spanish Idioms"


Most Common Idioms In Spanish

In this section we'll go over the most commonly used idioms in Spanish. You can hear just about all of these being used by natives if you watch movies in Spanish often.


Use these in conversation, and you'll definitely impress the listener by your command of the language.



1. Echar agua al mar 

Meaning: To do something which is pointless.

Literal Translation: To throw water into the sea.


picture of person throwing water into the ocean with the saying "Echar agua al mar" and the meaning and literal translation


"Echar agua al mar" is an idiomatic expression which is used quite commonly. Even with the literal translation "Throw water into the sea" we can see how this expression makes a lot of sense, and depicts well the idea of "Doing that which is pointless."


"No necesitas leer el mismo libro 25 veces, estás echando agua al mar."

(You don't need to read the same book 25 times, you're wasting your time.)



2. Se me hace agua la boca  

Meaning: It makes my mouth water.

Literal Translation: My mouth is made water.


picture of a face drooling with the saying "Se me hace agua la boca" with meaning and literal translation

"Se me hace agua la boca" is an expression used to describe ones love for a particular food. It's a bit like saying that a food is "to die for."


"Cuando pienso en ese delicioso postre, se me hace agua la boca."

(When I think about that delicious dessert, my mouth waters.)



3. Tirar la casa por la ventana 

Meaning: To spare no expense.

Literal Translation: To throw the house out of the window.


picture of a lot of money with the saying "tirar la casa por la venrtana" with meaning and literal translation

"Tirar la casa por la ventana" is a way of saying that somebody is spending a ton of money or "splurging."


"Para su boda, decidieron tirar la casa por la ventana y contrataron a un famoso chef."

(For their wedding, they decided to spare no expense and hired a famous chef.)



4. Ser pan comido

Meaning: To be a piece of cake.

Literal Translation: To be eaten bread.


picture of a piece of bread half eaten with the saying "Ser pan comido" with meaning and literal translation

"Ser pan comido," or "to be eaten bread," is a way to say that something is extremely easy. It's used just like the expression "To be a piece of cake" is in English.


"Resolver ese problema matemático es pan comido para ella."

(Solving that math problem is a piece of cake for her.)



5. Meter la pata 

Meaning: To put one's foot in one's mouth.

Literal Translation: To put the paw.


picture of a person saying "oops" with the saying "Meter la pata" with meaning and literal translation


When once happens to "Meter la pata," they generally say something that was stupid, forgetful, or just generally not well thought-out.


"Siempre meto la pata cuando hablo de política."

(I always put my foot in my mouth when I talk about politics.)



6. Tomar el pelo

Meaning: To pull someone's leg.

Literal Translation: To take the hair.


picture of two people joking with the saying "Tomar el pelo" with meaning and literal translation

"Tomar el pelo" is an idiomatic expression which means "To pull one's leg" and is used the same.


"No te enojes, solo te estoy tomando el pelo."

(Don't get upset; I'm just pulling your leg.)



7. Estar en las nubes

Meaning: To be daydreaming or not paying attention.

Literal Translation: To be in the clouds.


picture of clouds with the saying "Estar en las nubes" with meaning and literal translation

The expression "estar en las nubes" is one of those that you might hear from teacher if she/he sees you not paying attention. If this happens the teacher might say "Ey, ¿estás en las nubes o qué? (Hey, are you day dreaming or what?).


"Durante la reunión, María estaba en las nubes y no escuchó nada."

(During the meeting, María was in the clouds and didn't hear anything.)



8. Dar en el clavo

Meaning: To hit the nail on the head.

Literal Translation: To hit the nail.


picture of a person with a checkmark with the saying "Dar en el clavo" with meaning and literal translation

The expression "Dar en el clavo" is almost the exact same as the English equivalent "To hit the nail on the head." You can use this to tell somebody that you completely agree with their point.


"Su análisis dio en el clavo; identificó exactamente el problema."

(His analysis hit the nail on the head; he identified the problem exactly.)



9. Costar un ojo de la cara

Meaning: To cost an arm and a leg.

Literal Translation: To cost an eye from the face.


picture of a person with bills with the saying "Costar un ojo de la cara" with meaning and literal translation

The Spanish idiom "Costar un ojo de la cara" is used exactly like its English equivalent "To cost an arm and a leg." The only difference is that in Spanish it's an eye from the face instead of an arm and a leg.


"Comprar ese vestido de diseñador le costó un ojo de la cara."

(Buying that designer dress cost her an arm and a leg.)



10. Estar en las mismas

Meaning: To be in the same boat.

Literal Translation: To be in the same.


picture of many hands put in a circle with the saying "estar en las mismas" with meaning and literal translation

"Estar en las mismas" describes being in a similar situation or facing the same circumstances as others. The literal translation highlights the idea of being in the same, indicating a shared condition.


"Después de perder el vuelo, estábamos en las mismas que los demás pasajeros."

(After missing the flight, we were in the same boat as the other passengers.)



11. Tirar la toalla

Meaning: To throw in the towel.

Literal Translation: To throw the towel.


picture of a kid waving a white flag with the saying "tirar la toalla" with meaning and literal translation

"Tirar la toalla" signifies giving up on a task or goal, conceding defeat. The literal translation visualizes the action of throwing a towel, symbolizing surrender or resignation.


"Después de intentarlo varias veces, finalmente tiró la toalla y renunció."

(After trying several times, she finally threw in the towel and quit.)



12. Dejar plantado 

Meaning: To stand someone up.

Literal Translation: To leave planted.


picture of a sad woman with the saying "dejar plantado" with meaning and literal translation

"Dejar plantado" refers to the action of not showing up for a planned meeting or event, leaving the other person waiting. The literal translation conveys the idea of leaving someone standing, as if they were a planted object.


"Lamentablemente, la cita se canceló y lo dejaron plantado en el restaurante."

(Unfortunately, the date was canceled, and they stood him up at the restaurant.)



13. No tener pelos en la lengua

Meaning: To speak one's mind.

Literal Translation: To have no hairs on the tongue.


picture of a woman with a megaphone with the saying "no tener pelos en la langua" with meaning and literal translation

"No tener pelos en la lengua" describes someone who is straightforward and honest, not afraid to speak openly. The literal translation visualizes the directness by suggesting the person has no "hairs" (filters) on their tongue.


"Aunque es joven, María no tiene pelos en la lengua al expresar sus opiniones."

(Even though she's young, María speaks her mind without hesitation.)



14. Ser un cero a la izquierda

Meaning: To be useless.

Literal Translation: To be a zero on the left.


picture of a broken lightbulb with the saying "ser un cera a la izquierda" with meaning and literal translation

"Ser un cero a la izquierda" conveys the idea that someone or something is insignificant, useless, or adds no value. The literal translation refers to being a zero on the left, suggesting a lack of importance.


"En el proyecto de equipo, siempre me siento como si fuera un cero a la izquierda."

(In the team project, I always feel like I'm useless.)



15. No tener ni pies ni cabeza

Meaning: To make no sense.

Literal Translation: To have neither feet nor head.


picture of a person without a head or feet with the saying "No tener ni pies ni cabeza" with meaning and literal translation

"No tener ni pies ni cabeza" is used to describe something that lacks coherence or logic, making no sense whatsoever. The literal translation highlights the idea of having neither feet nor head, emphasizing the absence of structure.


"La explicación del profesor no tenía ni pies ni cabeza, nadie entendió."

(The professor's explanation made no sense, nobody understood.)



16. Más vale maña que fuerza

Meaning: Skill is better than strength.

Literal Translation: It's better to have skill than strength.


picture of a person with skills with the saying "Más vale maña que fuerza" with meaning and literal translation

"Más vale maña que fuerza" emphasizes the value of skill, cleverness, or expertise over brute strength. The literal translation underscores the idea that having skill (maña) is more valuable than having physical strength (fuerza).


""En este trabajo, más vale maña que fuerza; la inteligencia es clave.

Translation: In this job, skill is better than strength; intelligence is key.



17. Hablar con el corazón en la mano

Meaning: To speak sincerely.

Literal Translation: To speak with the heart in the hand.


picture of hands holding a heart with the saying "Hablar con el corazón en la mano" with meaning and literal translation

"Hablar con el corazón en la mano" describes the act of speaking openly, sincerely, and from the heart. The literal translation visualizes the sincerity by imagining the heart in the hand, emphasizing openness and honesty.


"Cuando le pidió disculpas, habló con el corazón en la mano."

(When he apologized, he spoke sincerely from the heart.)



18. Estar en las últimas.

Meaning: To be in a very bad condition or about to fail.

Literal Translation: "To be on one's last legs."


picture of a broken house with the saying "estar en las ultimas" with meaning and literal translation

"Estar en las últimas" is an expression indicating that someone or something is in a very deteriorated state or close to failure. The literal translation visualizes being in the last ones, implying a state of exhaustion or imminent decline.


"Después de correr un maratón, estaba en las últimas; apenas podía caminar."

(After running a marathon, he was on his last legs; he could barely walk.)



Wise Idiomatic Expressions

In this section, we'll go over 10 of the most common idioms in Spanish that show wisdom and insight. These are all phrases that can be heard in the everyday speech of normal people.


Use these, and you'll impress the listener. While we all know these phrases, for many of us it's not easy to produce them when the context is perfect to do so.



19. Más vale pájaro en mano que cien volando.

Meaning: It's better to have a sure thing than to risk it for more.

Literal Translation: It's better to have one bird in hand than a hundred flying.


picture of a bird in a hand with the saying "más vale pájaro en mano que cien volando" with meaning and literal translation

"Más vale pájaro en mano que cien volando" conveys the idea that it is wiser to appreciate and secure what you already have, even if it's modest, rather than risking it for something more uncertain or ambitious.


"Prefiero aceptar este trabajo seguro que esperar por uno mejor; más vale pájaro en mano que cien volando."

(I prefer to take this secure job than wait for a better one; better to have a bird in hand than a hundred flying.)



20. No hay mal que por bien no venga.

Meaning: Every cloud has a silver lining.

Literal Translation: There is no evil that doesn't bring some good.


picture of a dark and light side of a person with the saying "no hay mal que por bien no venga" with meaning and literal translation


"No hay mal que por bien no venga" expresses the optimistic belief that even in difficult or challenging situations, there is a potential for positive outcomes or opportunities.


"El accidente le llevó a conocer a su futura esposa; no hay mal que por bien no venga."

(The accident led him to meet his future wife; every cloud has a silver lining.)



21. Matar dos pájaros de un tiro.

Meaning: To kill two birds with one stone.

Literal Translation: To kill two birds with one shot.


picture of two birds with the saying "matar dos pájaros de un tiro" with meaning and literal translation

"Matar dos pájaros de un tiro" signifies the efficient accomplishment of two tasks or goals with a single action, maximizing productivity.


"Al hacer ejercicio diario, mato dos pájaros de un tiro: mantengo la forma física y reduzco el estrés."

(By exercising daily, I kill two birds with one stone: I stay in shape and reduce stress.)



23. Camarón que se duerme, se lo lleva la corriente.

Meaning: You snooze, you lose.

Literal Translation: The shrimp that sleeps is carried away by the current.


picture of a shrimp with the saying "camarón que se duerme se lo lleva la corriente" with meaning and literal translation

"Camarón que se duerme, se lo lleva la corriente" is a saying that warns against complacency, suggesting that those who are not alert or proactive may face negative consequences.


"No descuides tus responsabilidades; camarón que se duerme, se lo lleva la corriente."

(Don't neglect your responsibilities; the shrimp that sleeps is carried away by the current.)



26. Más vale tarde que nunca.

Meaning: Better late than never.

Literal Translation: It's better late than never.


picture of a man hurrying with the saying "más vale tarde que nunca" with meaning and literal translation

"Más vale tarde que nunca" suggests that taking action or arriving late is still better than not doing it at all. It emphasizes the value of completing a task or fulfilling a commitment, even if delayed.


"Aunque llegué tarde a la reunión, más vale tarde que nunca."

(Even though I arrived late to the meeting, better late than never.)



27. Cada loco con su tema.

Meaning: To each their own.

Literal Translation: Each crazy person with their own issue.


picture of a crazy kid with the saying "cada loco con su tema" with meaning and literal translation


"Cada loco con su tema" conveys the idea that everyone has their own preferences, interests, or ways of doing things, and these should be respected.


"Aunque no entiendo su hobby, cada loco con su tema."

(Even though I don't understand his hobby, to each their own.)



28. No hay mal que dure cien años.

Meaning: There's no evil that lasts a hundred years.

Literal Translation: There is no evil that lasts a hundred years.


picture of a smiley face and sad face together with the saying "no hay mal que dure cien años" with meaning and literal translation

"No hay mal que dure cien años" expresses optimism by suggesting that difficult times or challenges are temporary and will eventually pass.


"Aunque enfrentemos dificultades ahora, recuerda que no hay mal que dure cien años."

(Even though we face difficulties now, remember that there's no evil that lasts a hundred years.)



29. Más vale prevenir que lamentar.

Meaning: Better to prevent than to regret.

Literal Translation: It's better to prevent than to regret.


picture of a woman with a shield with the saying "más vale prevenir que lamentar" with meaning and literal translation

"Más vale prevenir que lamentar" emphasizes the importance of taking precautions or preventive measures to avoid problems or regrets later.


"Siempre uso protector solar; más vale prevenir que lamentar las quemaduras."

(I always use sunscreen; better to prevent than to regret sunburns.)



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