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Spanish Idioms

Spanish idioms are essential to understanding and communicating with native speakers. Because Spanish is spoken in so many different countries, extra care is required when learning idioms. Make sure to pay attention to who is saying what under what circumstances before you attempt to use anything but the most common expression. Browse below to take a look at just how many different ways you can express yourself in Spanish.


a (la) merced de
at the mercy of (n.b.: the “la” is often omitted)

a altas horas de la madrugada
in the small hours of the morning

a cargo de
in charge of; responsible for; by

a causa de
because of; as a result of (lit.: at the cause of)

a chorros
in abundance; plenty; lots

a contrapelo
wrong way; backwards; backassed

a corto plazo
in the short run; short-term; in the short term (lit.: at short place)

a deshora
at an inconvenient time

a diario
daily; every day

a disgusto

a duras penas
hardly; barely; with difficulty

a eso de
around, about (time) (lit.: a this of)

a estas alturas
at this point; in this situation

a fin de cuentas
in the end; after all

a fondo
in depth; deeply; fully

a gatas
crawling (lit.: on legs/feet; used with the verbs estar or andar)

a juro
no matter what (used in Venezuela)

a la altura
at the level; up to (lit.: at the height)

a la intemperie
in the open (lit.: at/on the elements. Intemperie refers to the weather and other forces in the physical, natural world, particularly as experienced without the benefits of technology, particularly modern technology)

a la par de
on the same level as

a la salida del sol
sunrise (lit.: at the appearance of the sun)

a la vez
at once; at the same time (lit.: at the time)

a la vista
in view; in sight (lit.: at the sight)

a la vuelta
on the way back (lit: at the turn)

a la vuelta de
just around the corner (lit.: at the turn of). 1. Mi restaurante favorito está justo a la vuelta de mi oficina.

a largo plazo
in the long run; long-term; in the long term (lit.: at long place)

a lo largo (de)
along; at the other end (lit.: at the far/long)

a lo lejos
from afar; at a distance (lit.: at the distant; allso in the form “a los lejos.”)

a lo mejor
probably; most likely (lit.: to the better)

a manos de
at the hands of

a manos llenas
generously; lavishly (lit.: with full hands)

a medida que
as (something happens or happened); in the process of (something happening)

a medio plazo
medium-term; in the medium term

a menudo
often, frequently (lit.: of often)

a mi modo de pensar
in my view; the way I see it

a mi modo de ver
in my view; the way I see it

a otro perro con ese hueso
go tell it to the marines (lit.: [give] this bone to another dog)

a palo seco
on its own; with nothing else

a partir de ahora
from now one (lit.: at the start of now)

a pesar de
despite; in spite of

a plazo
on credit

a plena luz
in broad daylight

a primera hora
at the earliest moment

a primera vista
at first sight; at first blush (lit.: at first sight)

a propósito
on purpose; deliberately

a propósito
by the way; speaking of which

a punto de
on the verge of, about to (lit.: at point of)

a que
I bet (lit.: to what)

a ratos
from time to time

a sus espaldas
behind someone's back

a tientas
by touch, by feel

a toda costa
at all costs (lit.: at all cost)

a todo dar
with full speed, far out, fabulous, great

a toda máquina
quickly, fast (lit.: at all machine)

a toda prisa
with all speed, hastily, quickly (lit.: at all haste)

a todas luces
by any reckoning

a todo correr
with all speed, hastily, quickly (lit.: at full running (run))

a toro pasado
in retrospect; in hindsight (lit.: by the bull gone past)

a trabajar
to work (n.b.: said when encouraging yourself or others to start working)

a tráves de

a veces
sometimes; at times

a ver
now then; let's see; hm-m

a verga
by hook or by crook

a(l) fin de cuentas
when all’s said and done; when it comes down to it (lit.: at (the) end of accounts)

ahora mismo
right now; this minute

al azar
at random; randomly (lit.: to chance)

al cabo de
after, since (lit.: at the finish of)

al fin y al cabo
in the end; ultimately (lit.: at (the) end and at (the) finish)

al final
in the end, finally (lit.: at (the) end)

al menos
at least, at a minimum (lit.: at the least)

al oro
good; well done (used in Venezuela)

al parecer
apparently; apparent; by appearances

al pelo
just what is wanted or needed

al poco rato
after a little while

al rape
closely-cropped; close cut (lit.: to the monkfish)

al revés
backwards; the other way around; the opposite

blockhead; dunderhead; nincompoop (lit.: cork oak)

almas gemelas
soulmates (lit.: twin souls)

andar a palos
be fighting or squabbling all the time

andar como burro sin mecate
be wild; be out of control (lit.: to walk like a donkey wihout a leash)

año nuevo, vida nueva
Happy New Year (lit.: new year, new life; used as a greeting or statement around Jan. 1)

apalear oro
be rolling in dough; be made of money

apretarse el cinturón
tighten one's belt; economize

armar un jaleo
make a fuss, commotion (lit.: to arm or raise a fuss)

armar una bronca
kick up a fuss

armarse la gorda
cause a ruckus; have all hell break loose (lit.: to arm oneself the fat one)

armarse un lio
raise hell; make a fuss (lit.: to arm or raise a fight)

arrimar el ascua a su sardina
put one’s own interests first; work things to one’s advantage (lit.: to bring coals or embers to one’s sardine)

así que
so that, which means that (lit.: thus that)

atar corto a alg
keep someone on a short leash; keep someone under tight rein (lit.: tie someone close)

ausente sin culpa ni presente sin disculpa
the absentee is always in the wrong (lit.: absent without blame and no present without excuses)

Ave María Purísima
for heaven’s sake (lit.: hail most pure Mary; n.b.: used in religious services, and as an exclamation)

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