Spanish language has an endless number of expressions worthy of the most creative minds. Many of these idioms in Spanish have very curious stories that were born in past centuries.
Popular sayings vary from region to region and from country to country – what can we say about the diversity of Spanish! All the variants we appreciate are what make our language so rich and diverse.
Discover different ways of expressing situations like a real Spanish speaker. iScribo explains how to say some everyday Spanish expressions in a vivid way.
Expressions with Household Utensils
1. En casa de herrero, cuchillo de palo (the shoemaker’s son always goes barefoot): Apart from Spain, this is a very popular saying in Latin America. It means that someone lacks something they should have. It is also used when children do not follow the same career path as their parents.
— Tú eres profesor de inglés, seguro que hay algún diccionario por aquí.
— ¡No tengo ninguno! En casa de herrero, cuchillo de palo.
(You’re an English teacher, I’m sure there’s a dictionary around here somewhere.
I don’t have one! The shoemaker’s son always goes barefoot.)
2. Irse la olla (to lose your marbles): There are variants such as irse la pinza. Its origin goes back to the time of Louis XV of France, when the pot containing the entire court’s dinner disappeared. It had been a joke by the kitchen helpers, but it was decided that it was the cooker’s fault because he was mad.
Se me ha ido la olla y no he cerrado la puerta de casa al salir.
(I lost my marbles, I didn’t close the door when I left the house.)
3. Pagar los platos rotos (to pay the price): When you unjustly suffer the consequences of an action committed by a third party. Another expression that means the same thing is pagar el pato or cargar con el mochuelo. Its origin dates back to the 16th and 17th centuries when the Christian society charged against the Jewish people.
He pagado los platos rotos por tu culpa.
(I have paid the price for you.)
Expressions with Animals
4. Dar gato por liebre (to take for a ride): To deceive or cheat someone. The expression dates back to the Middle Ages, when due to the similarity of the two animals, cat was served as the main course but was advertised as a hare instead.
Creía que este bolso era verdadero pero me han dado gato por liebre.
(I thought this bag was original, but I’ve been taken for a ride!)
5. Ver las orejas al lobo (to see the writing on the wall): Means that you have become aware of imminent danger. Its origin is unknown.
Están despidiendo a mucha gente en mi trabajo y le he visto las orejas al lobo.
(A lot of people are being made redundant at my job and I’ve seen the writing on the wall.)
6. Tener memoria de elefante: (to have an elephant’s memory): To have a brilliant memory. It comes from a study published in the 19th century in which the brains of some animals were measured. It was surprising that elephants had this muscle very well developed and, moreover, their learning capacity was extraordinary. The opposite expression is tener memoria de pez (to have a goldfish memory.)
Marcos se acuerda de lo que hizo hace diez años, tiene memoria de elefante. Yo, en cambio, tengo memoria de pez.
(Marcos remembers what he did ten years ago, he has the memory of an elephant. I, on the other hand, have the memory of a goldfish.)
Expressions with Colours
7. Verlo de color de rosa (to see all peaches and cream): It means that someone is too optimistic. It comes from the 19th century when optimistic ladies became interested in current affairs.
El examen no es tan fácil, lo ves todo de color de rosa.
(The test is not so easy, you see all peaches and cream.)
8. Poner verde a alguien (to call someone every name in the book): It means that someone is being criticised. The origin is uncertain, one of the theories is that when food expires, it turns green. However, all the supposed origins coincide with the negativity of the expression.
No deberíais poner verde a Carla si ella no está delante, qué mala educación.
(You shouldn’t call Carla every name in the book if she’s not here, that’s rude.
9. Ponerse morado/a (to fill your boots): overeating until you can’t eat anymore. There is also the variant ponerse ciego/a or ponerse las botas. Its origin is purely medical, as there is a disease called cyanosis, which consists of having breathing problems after having eaten too much and the skin turning purple.
Me puse morada en la boda de Pepe, qué rica estaba la comida.
(I filled my boots at Pepe’s wedding, the food was so good.)
Expressions for All Tastes
Idioms in Spanish are used on a daily basis. Knowing the expressions of all the Spanish-speaking countries is a complicated task, as there are countless of them.
The best way to learn them correctly is to use them over and over again until they stick in your mind. Don’t forget to use iScribo’s spelling and grammar checker to improve the level of your Spanish documents. Ensure the correct spelling of your Spanish documents with our artificial intelligence-based tool.