20 Spanish Idioms You’ll Love

From being in the fifth pine to looking for the cat with three feet to finding your half orange, Spanish is full of delightful idioms.

‘Estás como una cabra’ means “you are like a goat.”
‘Estás como una cabra’ means “you are like a goat.” / Tambako the Jaguar/Moment/Getty Images (goat), Justin Dodd/Mental Floss (speech bubble)

One of the joys of learning a language is gaining an understanding of more than just the standard words and phrases. Idioms not only give us an insight into a culture—they’re also fun to use because they rarely translate literally into what they mean. English speakers will use phrases like cold feet or on the same page without a thought, for example, but a non-native English speaker might struggle to grasp what they’re trying to say.

According to Babbel, there are more native Spanish speakers in the world (485 million) than English speakers, so it’s a very useful language to know. If you want to take your Spanish to the next level (or el siguiente nivel), why not brush up on these idioms?

1. En todas las familias, hay un muerto en el armario

We all know the phrase about skeletons in closets, right? This is the Spanish equivalent, which literally translates to “in every family there is a dead person in the closet.”

2. Encontrar tu media naranja

A slice of orange on a blue background
mrs/Moment/Getty Images

If you’re lucky enough “to find your half orange,” or encontrar tu media naranja, then you’ve found the love of your life.

3. Como Pedro por su casa

This phrase is used to describe someone who is swanning around acting as if they own the place—“like Peter in his own house.”

4. Sin pelos en la lengua

Close up of woman's face with tongue sticking out
Jonathan Knowles/Stone/Getty Images

Someone without hairs on their tongue (sin pelos en la lengua) is a person who always speaks their mind.

5. Estar en la luna de Valencia

Estar en la luna de Valencia literally means “to be on the moon of Valencia,” but it has nothing to do with the city in Spain and everything to do with to someone who is absent-minded or in a dream world.

6. Me comería una vaca

Cow in a field with mountains in the background
Johannes Simon/GettyImages

Ravenous English speakers might say they could eat a horse. In Spanish, it’s me comería una vaca, or “I would eat a cow.”

7. Más vale malo conocido que bueno por conocer

This phrase loosely translates to “Much better the bad you know than the good you don’t”—or as English speakers might say, “Better the devil you know.”

8. Esta en el quinto pino

Forest full of trees
Sean Gallup/GettyImages

Esta en el quinto pino, “to be in the fifth pine,” is to be very far away or out in the sticks.

9. Buscarle tres pies al gato

This phrase, which translates to “to look for three feet on the cat,” means “to go looking for trouble.”

10. Directo al grano

Grain Harvest Underway Across Germany
Sean Gallup/GettyImages

Directo al grano means “straight to the grain” and is perfect when you want to tell someone to cut to the chase.

11. Dar la vuelta a la tortilla

You might flip an omelette while cooking, but in Spanish, to “turn the omelette around” (dar la vuelta a la tortilla) means you’re changing things completely or turning a situation around.

12. Entre la espada y la pared

Sword stuck into grass
© Rune S. Johnsson/Moment/Getty Images

If you’re entre la espada y la pared, or “between the sword and the wall,” then you’re in the unenviable position of choosing between two evils, much like the English phrase between a rock and a hard place.

13. Sin saber ni jota

If you say “without knowing a jot” you mean “without knowing a thing.” Aprobé el examen sin saber ni jota means “I passed the exam without knowing a thing.”

15. Estar en su salsa

Close up of red sauce
Oliver Strewe/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Fortunately, estar en su salsa, “to be in their sauce,” doesn’t indicate a kitchen disaster—the person in their sauce is just in their element.

14. Meter la pata

Meter la pata, “to put the leg in it,” is similar to the English put your foot in it—you’ve made a mistake.

16. No se me caen los anillos

Hand wearing many rings
The Image Source/Getty Images

If you say “no se me caen los anillos,” or “I don’t let my rings fall off,” you’re saying that you don’t feel a menial task is beneath you or you aren’t afraid to get your hands dirty. (It can also be used in a critical way to tell a person that performing a particular task isn’t beneath them.) It’s believed to have originated from the fact that historically, wealthy people who wore rings didn’t perform manual labor.

17. Empezar la casa por el tejado

Empezar la casa por el tejado literally means “to start the house with the roof,” but signifies having things in the wrong order. The English equivalent would be to put the cart before the horse.

18. Estar como una cabra

Goat looking out a barn door
Fox Photos/GettyImages

If you want to tell someone they are acting loco or behaving more strangely than usual, then estás como una cabra—which literally means “you are like a goat”—will fit the bill.

19. Más lento que el caballo del malo

Más lento que el caballo del malo means “slower than the bad guy’s horse.” In old Westerns, the baddie’s horse would always be slower, allowing the hero to save the day.

20. Entre pitos y flautas

Close up of a flute on a black background
Thomas Bishop/500px Prime/Getty Images

Entre pitos y flautas, literally “between whistles and the flutes,” has nothing to do with music, but describes a situation where time gets away from someone or they forget to do something. Entre pitos y flautas me olvidé de todo might translate to “between one thing and another I forgot about everything.