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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.


echar agua al vino
water down

echar ajos y cebollas
swear; curse; rant and rave (lit.: throw garlic and onions)

echar de menos
miss; feel the absence of (lit.: to throw less). 1. Puedes pasar una temporada en un país extranjero sin echar de menos tu comida, tu ropa o tú café favorito.

echar el pelo
waste time (used in Cono del Sur)

echar el toro a algn
scold somebody severely (lit.: throw the bull to somebody)

echar mano a
lay hands on; get one's hands on

echar mano de
make use of; resort to

echar por el atajo
take the easy way out (lit.: throw for the shortcut)

echar un mano
help; assist (lit.: to throw less)

echar un ojo a
have one’s eye on; covet (lit.: to throw an eye at)

echar un vistazo
look around; glance; take a look (lit.: to throw less)

echar una bronca
hit hard; come down on

echar una furia
throw a fit

echar una mano a algn
let someone a hand; give someone a hand; help someone (lit.: throw a hand to someone)

echarle los perros a algn
come down hard on someone (lit.: throw dogs at someone)

echarlo todo a rodar
mess it all up; make a mess of everything

echarse un novio/-a
get a boy/girlfriend (used in Spain)

el cuatro es nota, el resto es lugo
four is passing, anything else is a luxury (used in Argentina)

el pensamiento no tiene/conoce barreras
you can think whatever you like (lit.: thought does not have/know barriers)

el que se pica, ajos come
if the shoe fits, wear it

el último grito
the latest thing (lit.: the latest cry)

en absoluto
at all; (not) at all (usually used with a negative verb). 1. No, en absoluto.

en adelante
from now on

en bolas
naked; nude; in the buff (Spain usage; lit: in balls)

en bolas
in a group; together (Mexican usage; lit.: in balls)

en cambio
on the other hand

en carne viva
in the flesh (lit.: in living meat)

en carne viva
raw; full; complete

en carne y hueso
in the flesh

en caso de
in case of; in case

en cuanto a
as for; when it comes to (lit.: in how much to). 1. En cuanto a la comida, todo lo que preparan es riquísimo.

en cuerpo y alma
body and soul

en definitiva
in short; in brief

en el acto
in the act; red-handed

en el medio de la nada
in the middle of nowhere (lit.: in the middle of (the) nothing)

en fin
in short; in brief

en lo más mínimo
in the least bit

en lugar de
insted of, in place of (lit.: in place of)

en manos de
in the hands of

en pie de
on the verge of (lit.: at (the) foot of)

en pos de
in pursuit of; after

en realidad
actually; really; in reality

en resumen
in sum; in brief; briefly

en seguida
right away; at once; immediately

en serio
really, truly, seriously (lit.: in serious)

en todo caso
in any case; in any event; anyway

en tu/su lugar
in your/his/her place (lit.: in your/his/her place)

en un abrir y cerrar de ojos
very quickly; in a flash; in the blink of an eye (lit.: in the opening and closing of eyes.

en un decir amén
in a flash; in a jiffy; in next to no time (lit.: in the saying of amen)

en vez de
instead of (lit.: in time of)

entrar a hurtadillas
sneak in

entrar a saco
burst in; storm in (lit.: to enter at sack)

entrar bien
go down well

entrar de maravilla
go down well

entre algodones
be pampered; be coddled (lit.: between cotton)

entre bromas y veras
half-joking(ly); half-serious(ly) (lit.: between jokes and truths)

entre manos
on hand; at hand; immediately available

es la salsa de la vida
it's the spice of life

estallar en vivas
burst into applause (lit.: to burst into lives)

estar a cargo
be in charge

estar a dieta
be on a diet (lit.: to be at diet)

estar a disgusto
be unhappy; be displeased

estar a la miseria
be in a bad way; be in a bad state

estar a salvo
be safe; be secure (lit.: to be at saved)

estar a tope
be very busy

estar abocado al frasco
be doomed to failure

estar al loro
be on the alert; know the score (lit.: be at the parrot)

estar al palo
have an erection; be hard

estar al tanto
be abreast; be up to date (lit.: to be at the such)

estar como agua para chocolate
be at the boiling point (lit.: like water for chocolate. Indicates a boiling point of anger or passion. Note that this phrase was used as the title for a movie, translated into English as “Like Water for Chocolate.”)

estar como el burro del aguador; cargado de agua y muerto de sed
not to see what's right before one's eyes (lit.: be like the watercarrier's donkey; laden with water and dying of thirst; n.b.: a Mexican expression)

estar como las propias rosas
feel entirely at ease

estar como tres en un zapato
be packed like sardines; be crammed in (lit.: be like three in one shoe)

estar con el agua al cuello
be up to one’s neck in problems; be over a barrel (lit.: be with water at one’s collar)

estar con el agua al cuello
be up to one's neck in something (lit.: have water up to one's neck; n.b.: a Mexican saying)

estar conforme
be satisfied

estar curtido en
be expert at; be skilled at (lit.: be tanned, hardened in)

estar de bromas
be in a jokeing mood (lit.: to be for jokes)

estar de buenas
be in a good mood

estar de juerga
go out on the town; party; go clubbing

estar de la cabeza
be nuts; be insane

estar de oferta
be on sale; be discounted

estar de Rodrígues
be left on one's own (lit.: be Rodrigues; used in Spain)

estar de siesta
be on break; be on siesta

estar de viaje
be on vacation; be away (on vacation)

estar de vuelta
be back; have returned. 1. Ya estamos de vuelta.

estar del tomate
be nuts; be insane (n.b.: not used much anymore)

estar en ascuas
be on pins and needles; be on tenerhooks (lit.: to be on coals)

estar en Babia
have one’s head in the clouds (lit.: to be in Babia)

estar en camino
be on the way; be coming

estar en el ajo
be involved in; be mixed up in; be in the know (lit.: to be in the garlic)

estar en el orno
be in a tight spot; be very anxious (used in Argentina)

estar en juego
be in play; be up for grabs (lit.: to be in play)

estar en juego
be at stake (lit.: to be in play)

estar en la buena
be in a good mood; be in luck (used in the Andes region)

estar en la luna
be on cloud nine; be out to lunch (lit.: to be on the moon)

estar en la miseria
be broke; be poor (used in Spain)

estar en su salsa
be in one's element

estar harto de
be fed up with; have had it with (lit.: to be exhausted). 1. Estoy harto de esto.

estar hasta el gorro
be fed up; have had it (used in Spain)

estar hasta el moño
be fed up; have had it (used in Spain)

estar hasta la coronilla
be fed up; have had it

estar hasta las narices
be fed up; have had it (used in Spain)

estar hasta los cojones
be fed up; have had it (vulgar)

estar hecho un palo
be as skinny as a rake; be very thin

estar hecho una flauta
be thin as a rake (lit.: be like a flute)

estar loco por algo
be crazy for something; be nuts about something

estar mal de dinero
be hard up; have money problems

estar mal de la azotea
be off one’s rocker; be nuts; be crazy (lit.: to be bad in the roof)

estar para el arrastre
be done in; be dead on one’s feet; have had it (lit.: to be for dragging)

estar pedo
be sloshed; be drunk; be pissed; be high

estar que arde
be fuming; be hopping mad; be seething (lit.: to be that which burns)

estar seguro (de que)
be sure; be certain (lit.: to be sure)

estar sin animo
be down; be in low spirits

estar sin pasta
be broke; be poor

estar sin plata
be broke; be poor

estar sin un duro
be broke; be poor (used in Spain)

esto es el colmo
that’s the last straw

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