Say your Say
with Spanish Sayings

Learning Spanish sayings is not only an excellent way of expanding our knowledge of the Spanish language. It also gives us intuitive insight into the mood and mindset of the Spanish people.

After getting acquainted with these basic Spanish sayings, follow the links you´ll see along this page to find more sayings.

Let´s get started!

De noche, todos los gatos son pardos
By night, all cats are brownish-gray
In the darkness, all things –and all people- look pretty much the same, making it easy to hide defects.

Del dicho al hecho hay gran trecho
Said and done are worlds apart
Don´t rely on other people fulfilling their promises.

De tal palo, tal astilla
From such a stick, such a splinter
Children tend to resemble their parents in character, propensities and customs.

De músico, poeta y loco, todos tenemos un poco
Of musician, poet and madman we all have our measure
Nobody is totally rational. Some more, some less, everyone has his share of the soul of an artist.

Cuando el gato sale, los ratones bailan
When the cat's not in, the mice dance and play
When authority is weakened, liberties are taken.

Aunque la mona se vista de seda, mona se queda
The she-monkey, even if dressed up in silk, remains a monkey
Improving the essence of a person or his natural qualities is not accomplished by merely donning fancy apparel.

A caballo regalado, no le mires el diente
Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth
This Spanish saying reminds us to be appreciative when presented with a gift. One will do well by refraining from examining its quality and pointing out its faults.
To understand the imagery of this saying we must bear in mind that the health and age of horses was traditionally ascertained by inspecting the animals’ teeth.

For more Spanish sayings that give practical rules for living, follow the link, either here or at the bottom of this page.

Ojos que no ven, corazón que no siente
Whatever the eyes don´t see, the heart doesn´t feel. Out of sight out of mind, they say.
Human nature is such that our heart usually fails to engage in matters which are not immediate to us or which we don´t experience directly.

Hasta los gatos quieren zapatos
Even cats want shoes
This saying reprehends and makes fun of individuals who fail to moderate their ambition with a healthy assessment of their proper place and standing.

Más vale maña que fuerza
Cleverness achieves more than strength
Just check out the upper and lower ends of any payroll to confirm this Spanish saying’s accuracy: What´s worth more, ideas or physical might?

A buen hambre no hay pan duro
When hungry, there´s no such thing as bread that is too hard
Necessity makes us more appreciative of things that are less than perfect.

Lo que no mata, engorda
Whatever doesn´t kill, makes thicker
Once upon a time, when food was scarcer, extra pounds were a blessing and a sign of good health rather than a cause of concern. This saying is used when eating food of dubious quality: if it´s not bad enough to kill, the saying implies, it might actually nourish… A rather hopeful expectation, I would say, but that´s what the saying would have us believe. A modern version, also very much in use, is:

Lo que no te mata, te hace más fuerte
Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger

Las cuentas claras y el chocolate espeso
The accounts transparent and the cocoa thick
This Spanish saying advises us not to mix up friendship and business, for friendship’s sake.

Casas Blancas Alozaina

Panorama de Cenicero
Enrique López Suárez

Hombre prevenido, vale por dos
A man forewarned is worth two

Más vale tarde que nunca
Better late than never
A handy reassurance in a culture of unpunctuality…

Hablando del rey de Roma, por la puerta se asoma
Talking about the King of Rome, he looks in
We use this saying when the person we are talking about shows up unexpectedly. “Speaking of the devil…”...isn´t that what you English-speaking folks say?

Gota a gota, la mar se agota
Drop by drop, the sea dries up
This praises the virtue of constancy: “slow and steady” takes us a long way.

Spanish sayings run pretty much the whole gamut of character traits. Follow the link to visit a page of Spanish sayings about character flaws and virtues.

El comer y el rascar, todo es empezar
In matters of eating and scratching, it´s all a question of getting started
This is said to encourage somebody to begin with something he is reluctant to do: just get going, the saying tells us, and you will get under way. This saying is sometimes used to encourage a guest to overcome his shyness and help himself to food and drink.

Donde menos se piensa salta la liebre
The hare jumps out where one least expects it
The speed and lightness of the hare makes it into a good metaphor for unexpected happenings.

Cría cuervos, y te sacarán los ojos
Breed ravens and they’ll pull out your eyes
Ravens’ way of eating up cadavers starting by the eyes makes them a symbol of ingratitude. This Spanish saying warns us that there are advantageous and ungrateful people out there who will pay back good with evil…

Al mejor cazador, se le va la liebre
Even the best hunter lets the hare go
Something went wrong? Don´t take it to heart. Nobody´s perfect.

A perro flaco, todo son pulgas
A thin dog, a flea bag
This Spanish saying is used when a new misfortune befalls somebody who is already downtrodden.

A otro perro con ese hueso
Give that bone to some other dog
“I won’t bite your bait. Try your tricks elsewhere”.

A grandes males, grandes remedios
Big troubles call for big remedies

Spanish sayings are gems of popular wisdom, the fruit of observation and life experience. They express “timeless truths” and judgments on just about every subject.

Follow the link to visit our page of Spanish sayings that give us practical rules for living.

We Spanish speakers, on both sides of the Atlantic, like to sprinkle our conversation generously with sayings. By learning some of the most commonly used sayings of the Spanish people you will stand out among students of the Spanish language as someone who has not only gained some proficiency with the rudimentary basics but who actually lives and feels the tongue as an “insider”.

A big thank you to the Spanish painter Jose Luis Suárez Suárez for letting us reproduce some of his work on this site. To visit José Luis Suarez Suárez's gallery please follow the link.


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