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Spanish Proverbs





Spanish proverbs offer insight into Spanish culture, history, and society, and are often used in speech and writing. There is no substitute for knowing them, and if you can use them in yourself, so much the better. Below are all the standard proverbs used in Spanish, along with English translations and explanations. Use the Search Box at left if you cant't navigate your way to what you want.

A B C D E H L M N O P Q R S T U V Z


a batalla de amor, campo de plumas
in the fight for love, a soft playing field. (lit.: in the battle of love, a field of feathers; n.b.: Mexican saying)

a boca de borracho, oídos de cantinero
pay not attention to the loud talk of a drunk. (lit.: from the mouth of a drunk, the sounds of a bar; n.b.: Mexican saying)

a buen hambre no hay mal pan
beggars can't be choosers. (lit.: for strong hunger there's no bad bread; used in Colombia)

a buen hambre no hay pan duro
beggars cant be choosers. (lit.: for strong hunger there’s no bad bread)

a buen sueño no hay mala cama
a tired person can sleep anywhere. (lit.: there is no bad bed for good sleep; n.b.: Mexican saying)

a buenas horas, mangas verdes
lock the barn door after the horse is stolen. (lit.: at good times, green sleeves)

a burro viejo, aparejo nuevo
age can only be hidden so much. (lit.: for an old donkey, a new bridle; n.b.: Mexican saying)

a caballo regalado no se le miran los dientes
don't look a gift horse in the mouth

a cada cerdo le llega su San Martin
everyone gets their just desserts; everyone gets their come-uppance. (lit.: each pig gets his Saint Martin)

a cada nidito le gusta su pajarito
a man's home is his castle. (lit.: each little bird likes his small nest; n.b.: Mexican saying)

a cada puerco le llega su San Martin
everyone gets their just desserts; everyone gets their come-uppance. (lit.: each pig gets his Saint Martin)

a cazador nuevo, perro viejo
experience counts. (lit.: an old/experienced dog for a new hunter; n.b.: Mexican saying)

a Dios rogando y con el mazo dando
God helps those who help themselves. (lit.: to God begging and with the mallet in action)

a falta de pan, buenas son tortas
any port in a storm; beggars cannot be choosers. (lit.: for lack of brean, pies are good)

a flaco perro todo son pulgas
it never rains but it pours

a gato satisfecho no le preocupa ratón
a satisfied cat does not care about a mouse. (n.b.: Mexican saying, which of course does not generally hold true for people)

a gran caballo, grandes espuelas
make the suit fit the occasion. (lit.: for a great horse, large spurs; n.b.: a Mexican saying)

a la mula y a la mujer, a palos se ha de vencer
a mule and a woman must be defeated with blows from sticks. (n.b.: a Mexican saying; probably not the best approach with women)

a la vejez, viruelas
there’s no fool like an old fool. (lit.: at old age, smallpox)

a las mujeres bonitas y a los buenos caballos los echan a perder los pendejos
beautiful women and good horses are lost by idiots. (n.b.: a Mexican saying)

a los amigos uno los escoge; los parientes son a huevo
one chooses one's friends, but family is from birth. (n.b.: a Mexican saying)

a mal tiempo, buena cara
look on the bright side. (lit.: during a bad time, a nice face)

a mucha hambre, no hay pan duro
hunger is the best sauce. (lit.: when very hungry, there is no hard/stale bread)

a oscuras y en silencio, no hay mujer sin ingenio
in the dark and quiet, all women are smart. (n.b.: a Mexican saying)

a quien cuida la peseta nunca le falta un duro
look after the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves. (lit.: he who takes care with pesetas [Spanish coin] never has any hardship)

a quien dan no escoge
beggers cannot be choosers. (lit.: he who is given [something] does not choose)

a quien madruga, Dios le ayuda
God helps those who help themselves; the early bird catches the worm. (lit.: God helps he who awakens early)

a quien tiene buenos dineros, le huelen bien hasta los pedos
those with wealth smell good right down to their farts. (n.b.: a Mexican saying)

a rey muerto, rey puesto
as soon as one goes out the window, another comes in the door. (lit.: a king dead, a king in place)

a río revuelto, ganancia de pescadores
there’s good fishing in troubled waters

abejas que tienen miel tienen aguijón
every rose has its thorns. (lit.: bees with honey have stingers; a Mexican saying)

abierto el cajón, hasta el más honrado es ladrón
deep down we are all thieves. (lit.: when the box is open, even the most honorable is a thief)

agua pasada no mueve molino
it’s no use crying over spilt milk. (lit.: water that has past by does not move mill)

aguacero a las tres, buena tarde es
a downpower at three makes for a good afternoon. (n.b.: in many regions a sudden storm is followed by clear, sunny weather; a Mexican expression)

al buen entendedor, pocas palabras (le bastan)
a word to the wise is sufficient. (lit.: to an expert, few words [are needed])

al buen pagador no le duelen prendas
a good payer will not object to leaving a deposit. (i.e.: good faith is easy for someone with good intentions)

al freír será el reír
he who laughs last laughs best. (lit.: when one fries will be when one laughs)

al hierro caliente batir de repente
strike while the iron is hot. (lit.: strike the hot iron suddenly)

al jacal viejo no le faltan goteras
the old house does not not lack for leaks. (i.e.: older people and things suffer from problems constantly; a Mexican expression)

al llegar a la vejez, se oye y mira lo que no es
when old age arrives, what isn't is still seen and heard. (n.b.: a Mexican saying)

al pescando y a la mujer, con los dedos ha de ser
when fishing or with women, one must use one's fingers. (i.e.: one must act carefully and gently; a Mexican expression)

al primer tapón, zurrapa(s)
everyone has to learn. (lit.: at the plug, dregs)

al probar se ve el mosto
the proof of the pudding is in the eating. (lit.: the grape juice is seen upon testing)

al que madruga, Dios lo ayuda
the early bird catches the worm. (lit.: he who wakes early, God helps)

al que nace barrigón es al ñudo que lo fajen
a leopard does not change its spots. (n.b.: used in Cono Sur)

al que se aleja lo olvidan y al que se muere lo entierran
out of sight, out of mind, and when dead, buried. (n.b.: a Mexican expression that reminds us that to be taken into consideration we must be present at all times)

allá van leyes, do quieren reyes
might makes right. (lit.: the laws go where the kings want; n.b.: "do" is a literary form of "donde"; a Mexican saying)

allí donde fueres haz como vieres
when in Rome, do as the Romans do. (lit.: where you may be, do as you see)

allí tampoco atan los perros con longaniza(s)
it’s the same all over the world. (lit.: there they don’t tie dogs with sausages either

amor con celos, causa develos
love with jealousy causes sleepless nights. (n.b.: a Mexican aphorism)

antes se coge al embustero que al cojo
your lies will catch up with you in the end. (lit.: the liar is caught before a lame person is)

arroz que no se menea, se quema
rice that is not stirred will burn. (n.b.: a Mexican saying urging activity and involvement in life)

asno muerto, la cebada al rabo
lock the barn door after the horse has gone. (lit.: donkey dead, the barley to the tail)

aunque la mona se vista de seda, mona se queda
fine feathers don’t make fine birds. (lit.: although the [female] monkey is dressed in silk, she remains a monkey)

aunque lo que dicen no es, con que lo aseguren basta
although what they say is not so, with assurances, it is enough. (n.b.: a Mexican saying which reminds us that those in power do not admit mistakes)


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