idiomatic expressions in spanish

Why You Should Learn Idiomatic Expressions in Spanish

An idiom or idiomatic expression is a phrase that generally has a figurative meaning. These symbolic expressions, called expresiones idiomáticas in Spanish, form part of the cultural identity of all social groups.

When you are acquiring a foreign language, idiomatic expressions usually come last in the vocabulary lesson.

Then again, learning them well is fundamental, no to only to speak Spanish correctly, but to express yourself more naturally and truly speak like a local.

Basic Spanish Expressions

These Spanish phrases will help you to get around and up your language game. Do not be afraid to use them. Own them and say them as you mean them!

Estirar la pata To pass away
Tomarle el pelo To deceive/cheat someone
Dar gato por liebre To fool someone by giving them something similar but from inferior quality
Tirar la casa por la ventana To throw a really big party
No tener pelos en la lengua To speak your mind without thinking
Echar agua al mar To do something pointless
Montar un pollo To make a scandal
Coser y cantar To achieve something without too much trouble
Echar más agua a los frijoles To prepare more food because unexpected guests have arrived to your house
Tener mucho morro To be brave or shameless
Pedalear la bicicleta (de otro) To date someone else’s partner

The Translation Dilemma

spanish expressions

Idioms are structured with language’s raw material, consisting of words, like any other sentences.

Nonetheless, the allegorical significance do not derives from the lexical semantics or grammatical composition of its individual elements.

It emanates from the totality of the text, working as one block.

Even though you may be familiar or fully understand single words in Spanish, when these are literally translated to English, they may not make any sense; as the true meaning comes from the sum of the words when put together as a whole.


From time to time, there are equivalents in both languages, although they might not use the same words, they can share the same connotation.


In this instance, taking language lessons from a native Spanish speaker has great advantages because (needless to say) idioms are already part of their vocabulary and cultural identity.

That is why at Live Lingua all our certified teachers are also native speakers! Plus an immersive program will allow you to pick up the expressions and the accent of the Spanish territory you are most looking forward to.

idiomatic expressions in spanish

The Role of Spanish Idioms

Idioms serve as imagery or symbols of teachings, historical references, warnings or even jokes; showcasing the moral values, religious beliefs, social structures, political rightness, and economic ideals that forge the worldview of a community.

Thus, Spanish idioms are diverse and colorful as the territories where Castilian is spoken.

Christianity, for example, has permeated Spanish history, art, music, and literature in many ways.

And while the Catholic Church has dropped its congregation numbers in Spain (and some Latin American countries) ‘God’ and ‘Christ’ still remain part of everyday talks.


Nowadays, it is generally used to insinuate that someone looks terrible.


In addition, there are many old sayings that refer to God’s help or his omnipotence.


Interestingly, there are other idiomatic expressions that contradict the teachings of “receiving without complaints” and recognize our power and free will to make things happen.

Learn Spanish Idioms Today

spanish idioms

As you can see, some idioms can be adages or proverbs like Es pan comido (piece of cake), which refers to a task that is really easy or simple to achieve. 

However, some phrases can be born from current affairs such as technological advances.

That is the case of the verb ‘to google’, which has been adapted to Spanish as guglear. So, when people say “gugléalo”,they actually mean “go and search it in Google”.

The Real Academia de la Lengua Española (The Royal Academy of the Spanish Language), the highest authority in Castilian studies, is still debating whether it should be added to the dictionary or not. Yet, people don’t need permission from a top power to embrace the expression.

It has simply made its way amongst daily conversations between native Spanish speakers because languages are alive and constantly evolving. Thus, there are new idioms continuously added to the collection.

Spanish Animal Idioms

I will tell you a little bit about myself when I was younger…My sister and I would andar como perros y gatos.

Maybe this was you and your sibling when you were young? It literally means: To conduct yourself like dogs and cats. In English, it’s “fight like cats and dogs.” I am the oldest child and I always felt as if I was the ser perro viejo.

Literally meaning: To be an old dog, or in English “ A wise old owl.” I was always so bossy to my sister and thought I knew it all! I thought I was a “big shot”, un pez gordo. Literally meaning : A fat fish.

While I was busy thinking I was a un pez gordo, I also found my self buscarle tres pies al gato. Literally meaning: To look for three feet of the cat, or in English, “looking for trouble.”

Perhaps I wanted attention? Or was just curious?

I am not sure why I acted out, but my mother would get upset with me and tell me I was si esta vi­bora te pica, no hay remedio en la botica. Literally meaning: If this viper bites you, there’s no remedy in the pharmacy/drugstore, or in English, “playing with fire.”

I sometimes got punished when I acted out. I thought I knew more than my mother. I think all young teenagers go through this stage. Did you?

As a young teenager I didn’t like studying or school very much and I often would pensar en las musarañas. Literally: to think about the field mice, or in English “daydream.”

However, my mother always taught me that I must do well in school if I wanted to do well in life, and although I thought I knew it all, I secretly did believe my mother and listened to her (of course I wouldn’t let her know this though).

She also told me, camaron que se duerme, se lo lleva la corriente. Literally meaning: Sleeping shrimp are carried by the current, or in English, “you snooze you lose.”

And boy was she right! I am glad I ended up listening to my mother and got good grades despite how much I hated school, because if not, I would have missed out on many opportunities in life. I guess you can only crí­a cuervos y te sacaran los ojos.

Literally meaning: Breed cow and they will poke out your eyes, or English, “You reap what you sow.” This is so true!

Going deeper with Spanish

If you are serious about learning Spanish, consider perusing our free Spanish Survival Crash Course. The course is made up of a series of audio files and PDF downloads that you can study at your own pace. Sign up here or click the image below!

Consequently, if you are interested in broadening your own assortment of Spanish expressions and expanding your vocabulary, onsider perusing our free Spanish Survival Crash Course. The course is made up of a series of audio files and PDF downloads that you can study at your own pace. Sign up here or click the image below!

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