15 Spanish Sayings That Sound Comical When Translated To English

Discovering idiomatic expressions adds fun to language learning. However, phrases that feel natural in our native language may sound comical when translated and are equally true for foreign idioms.

Spanish Idioms

spanish woman

Here, you’ll find 15 Spanish Idioms, some familiar, some silly, and some you’d never think of!

1. El camarón que se duerme, se lo lleva la corriente– the shrimp that falls asleep gets swept away by the current

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This expression has a similar English equivalent. If you snooze, you lose. Only now you get to picture a beautiful beach backdrop while telling those around you to hurry on up.

2. Como Pedro por su casa – like Peter in his own house

man having cup of coffee

Ever had a guest over who got a little too comfortable? They’re opening your fridge, putting feet on the furniture, and you’re starting to regret saying, “make yourself at home”.

Well, that person is acting like Peter in his own house. It doesn’t even have to be a house; the person can swagger around acting like he owns the place anywhere. Peter has zero manners and doesn’t care who’s around.

3. Sin pelos en la lengua – without hairs on their tongue

student messing

This saying is reserved for the boldest and bravest. To not have hairs on the tongue means that a person speaks their mind—raw and unfiltered. Hairless tongues are unafraid.

4. Meter la pata – put One’s Foot in It

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Everyone makes mistakes. But while in English someone might say they “scr*wed up,” the Spanish equivalent is putting a leg in. Why a leg? What is it getting put into? The origins of this silly expression remain vague, and you’d likely hear it when someone doing something stupid.

5. Buscarle la quinta pata al gato – looking for the fifth leg on the cat

cat looking surprised

Ever met someone that’s constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop? They have a negative outlook. They go looking for trouble. They’re hunting for the fifth leg on a cat. This expression means you’re trying to find an issue where there is none.

6. No importar un pepino – doesn’t matter a cucumber

Basic Spanish Terms

This expression means the problem is insignificant. Like cucumbers. Because everyone knows cucumbers are the least important of members of the produce aisle…

7. Buscar el príncipe azul – to look for the blue prince

happy couple

Looking out for a blue prince is the equivalent of waiting for Prince Charming. However instead of charming, the Spanish version describes this dream man as “blue”. Why not give the prince a signature color?

8. Un clavo saca otro clavo – one nail removes another nail

couple having argument

If you’ve just been broken up with, don’t fret. As most carpenters will tell you, one nail takes out another nail. Wait—is how nails work…? This Spanish idiom is all about rebounds—replace “nail” with lover and you get the gist.

9. Estar como una cabra – to be like a goat

goat

Everyone’s aware goats are insane. Obviously. To be like a goat means to act crazy.

10. Estoy feo para la foto – I’m ugly for the picture

reflecting

Did your house just burn down? Lost your job? Can’t make it to an event due to some unforeseen crisis? Well, you’re ugly for the photo.

This phrase is used to express hardship. No matter what you’re going through, it can be described as a failure to look Instagram-ready.

11. No es que María estaba lavando los platos y se le acabó el jabón – it’s not like Maria was washing dishes and the soap ran out

womn drinking glass of wine

This idiom is a way to call out cheap excuses. The situation was entirely in your control, and you failed to do what you were supposed to—therefore, the fault is all yours. It’s not like you ran out of soap mid-chore and that’s why you didn’t get things done.

12. Ponerse las pilas – to put on your batteries

superhero teacher

To put on your batteries means to get your act together. Picture the Energizer Bunny, once the batteries are in you are ready to go!

13. Poner los cuernos – to put on horns

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Cheaters never prosper. This expression means that you’ve cheated on your significant other, or you’ve put horns on them.

14. Sana, sana culito de rana, si no sanas hoy sanarás mañana – heal, heal a** of a frog, if you don’t heal today you’ll heal tomorrow

kid crying

If your kid scraped their knee, fear not. You can comfort them with this silly rhyme. Parents will chant it over booboos to make their children feel better. Where did the frog come from? Why is a frog’s rear end essential to the rhyme’s healing powers? The world may never know. 

15. Por la boca muere el pez – by the mouth dies the fish

pet fish

Be careful what you say. We know that gossip and boasting can come back to bite a person in the butt. Much like a fish getting caught on a line, a person’s mouth could very well lead to their downfall.

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This article was produced and syndicated by TPR Teaching.

Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.

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