Spanish idioms

A collection of idiomatic expressions in Spanish with recordings, English equivalents and translations.

Idioms English versions
Abrir la caja de los truenos to open a can of worms / Pandora's box
("to open the box of thunder")
Taparse los ojos to turn a blind eye
("to cover one's eyes")
No hay que buscarle cinco patas al gato Don't split hairs
("there's no need to look for five paws on a cat")
El santo suelo the Holy Land
Mostrarse reacio a to be reluctant
("to appear reluctant to")
Poner en tela de juicio to challenge; to bring into question
("to put in fabic of judgement/trial")
No andar(se) por rodeos to not beat about the bush
("to not go on detours")
No llegarle a alguién ni a los tobillos can't keep up with somebody
("to not reach out to somebody or to the ankles")
Todos los días no son iguales days pass by, yet each one is different
("not all days are equal")
Decirle a uno cuantas son cinco give it to someone straight
("to tell somebody how much is five")
Descornar la flor let the cat out of the bag
("to de-horn the flower")
En un abrir y cerrar de ojos in the blink of an eye
("in an opening and closing of the eyes")
Ir de mal en peor going from bad to worse
Cada gallo en su gallinero each one at home
("every cockrel in his roost/henhouse")
De sol a sol all day along
("from sun to sun")
A gatas on all fours
("like cats")
Cada dos por tres usually
("every two for three")
De noche todos los gatos son pardos all cats are grey in the dark
("at night all cats are brown")
Días y ollas what will be will be
("days and pots")
En comer y en rascar todo es empezar the more you eat, the bigger your appetite
("when eating and scratching everything is starting")
Parecerse como un huevo a otro to be like two peas in a pod
("to be like an egg to another egg")
como el día y la noche; se parecen como un huevo a una castaña; no se parecen ni en lo blanco de los ojos like chalk and cheese
("like day and night; they resemble one another like an egg and a chestnut; not even the white of their eyes is similar")
Jugar a pan o vino
jugar/echar(lo) a cara o cruz
to flip a coin
("to play for bread or wine;
to play/throw for face or cross")
Los recién casados the newlyweds
Hay gato escondido something is afoot
("there's a secret cat")
Más vale pájaro en la mano que buitre volando a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
("a bird in the hand is worth more than a flying vulture")
Olivo y aceituno, es todo uno it's six of one and half dozen of the other
("an olive and an olive tree are all one")
Ser blanco como la nieve snow white
("to be white like the snow")
Volver a la misma canción to repeat the same old story
("to return to the same song")
Afición ciega razón love makes lovers blind
("love blinds reason")
Quien fue a Sevilla perdió su silla while the cat's away, the mice will play
("The one who went to Sevilla lost his seat")
Cuando las gallinas meen pigs might fly
("when hens pee")
echar de menos to miss (someone)
dar la espalda to turn your back (on someone)
("to give the back")

Spanish idioms from Mexico

Idioms English versions
hacerse de la vista gorda to turn a blind eye
("to make / develop a thick eyesight")
decirle a uno cuatro verdades to give it to someone straight
("to tell someone four truths")
caer de la sartén al fuego To go from bad to worse
("to jump from the frying pan into the fire")
ir de Guatemala a Guatepeor
(ir de mal a peor)
to worsen one's position
("to go from Guatebad to Guateworse")
echar un volado to flip a coin in order to decide
("to toss a flying coin")
aquí hay gato encerrado there's something fishy going on here
("there's a hidden / locked cat around here")

Download all the audio files (Zip format, 612K)

Idioms provided by Ludovic Martin of 365jourspourapprendre, with additions by Abel Aabel and Javier Barrientos, and recordings by Francisco Valencia of Lyceum Español

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