Idioms are a fun way to become more acquainted to a new language. They give an insight into a culture’s values, and incorporating them will make you sound more natural when talking to a native speaker.
Here are some popular and funny Spanish idioms:
Dar gato por liebre
It literally translates to “Giving cat for (instead of) hare (rabbit)”, but the real meaning is “trick and rip off someone”.
Example: Yo fui al mercado a comprar manzanas pero me dieron peras en su lugar. Me dieron gato por liebre.
Translation: I went to the market to buy apples but they gave me pears instead. They sold me a pig in a poke.
It seems that this expression was originated in times of food scarcity in Spain – XVI and XVII centuries- when people would sometimes serve cat cooked like rabbit. This was called “giving cat for hare” and the expression “dar gato por liebre” was incorporated into the Spanish language with the meaning of scamming.
Ser Pan Comido
This is a funny one. The literal translation is “to be bread eaten” but (not surprisingly) it have nothing to do with bread. The expressions refers to something that is very easy to do. Something like: a piece of cake.
Example: “Su tarea de español es pan comido”.
Translation: “Your Spanish homework is a piece of cake.”
Tomar El Pelo
The literal translation of “tomar el pelo” is “to take the hair”, and it means to trick , make fun of someone or to joke.
Example: ¿Me estás tomando el pelo?
Translation: “Are you kidding me?” or “Are you pulling my leg?”
Más Vale Pájaro En Mano Que Ciento Volando
If you’re studying Spanish chances are you have already heard this phrase. This is a very common expression in Spanish speaker countries.
It means: “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”
Estar Como Agua Para Chocolate
Another idiom associated with food. It means that one is very angry and has reached their boiling point. It’s a common expression specially in Mexico, where hot chocolate is commonly made with near-boiling water.
This phrase was the inspiration for Mexican author Laura Esquivel’s 1989 book title which later became a well known film.
Hablar Hasta Por Los Codos
If you speak Portuguese you will be able to guess this one, as it is also common in Brazil as well. It’s a popular phrase used to refer to a very talkative person.
It’s the equivalent of the English phrase: “talk your ears off.”
Example: Juanita habla por los codos. Cuando empieza a hablar, no hay quien la pare!
Translation: Juanita talks everyone’s ears off. When she starts talking no one can stop her!
The origin of this expression is interesting. Some believe that it originates from the habit that very talkative Spanish and Latin people have in touching others with their elbows while talking.
No tener pelos en la lengua
This is one of my favorites. It literally translates to “not to have hairs on one’s tongue”(!) The real meaning is of course very different: it refers to someone who always speak their mind.
The etymology is unfortunately unknown, but we can affirm with certainty that if someone had hairs on her/his tongue, the communication would be very difficult! But, without them they can speak easily and freely.
Example: Me encantan los niños porque no tienen pelos en la lengua. Dicen las cosas tal y como piensan.
Translation: I love children because they don’t mince their words. They say things just the way they think them.
Are you interested in learning more Spanish idioms, discover more facts about this rich culture? BRIC offers one on one live instruction Spanish classes for all levels of proficiency and interests.