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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.


dar margarits a los cerdos
cast pearls before swine

dar margarits a los puercos
cast pearls before swine

de casi no se muere nadie
a miss is as good as a mile. (lit.: no one ever died of almost; i.e.: you are either dead or not dead)

de casta le viene al galgo ser rabilargo
like father like son; like mother like daughter. (from the pedigree of a greyhound will come a long-tailed [dog])

de cuerdo y loco todos tenemos un poco
we’re all a bit nuts. (lit.: we all have a little sanity and insanity)

de hombre a hombre no va nada
it all depends on luck, fate, or circumstances. (lit.: from one man to another man nothing changes)

de ingratos está el mundo lleno
desert and reward seldom keep company. (lit.: the world is full of ingrates)

de la abundancia del corazón habla la boca
when the heart is full, it’s the mouth that overflows. (lit.: the mouth speaks of the abundance of the heart)

de lo bueno, poco
less is more. (lit.: of what is good, a little; n.b.: a Mexican saying)

de los escarmentados nacen los avisados
once bitten, twice shy. (lit.: from learning [the hard way] is born the informed)

de malas en el juego, de buenas en amores
unlucky at cards, lucky in love. (lit.: bad in the game, good in love)

de noche todos los gatos son pardos
at night all cats are grey. (lit.: at night all cats are grey; n.b.: pardo can be an offensive term for someone of mixed ancestry)

de que el escribiente es malo, le echa la culpa a la pluma
a bad writer blames his pen. (i.e.: it is difficult to admit to or accept shortcomings, so people tend to find someone or something to blame; a Mexican aphorism)

de repente, ni el Diablo lo siente
even the Devil does not know what will happen. (lit.: surpise, not even the Devil feels it; i.e.: suprises can catch even the most alert off guard; a Mexican saying)

de tal costilla, tal astilla
the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. (lit.: from such a rib, such a chip)

de tal pal tal astilla
like father, like son

de todo hay en la viña del Señor
it takes all kinds to make a world; nobody’s perfect. (lit.: the vineyard of God has some of everything)

de todo tiene la viña del Señor
it takes all kinds to make a world; nobody’s perfect. (lit.: the vineyard of God has some of everything)

del agua mansa líbreme Dios que de la brava me libro yo
still waters run deep

del dicho al hecho hay mucho trecho
there’s many a slip twixt cup and lip. (lit.: from saying to doing there is much distance)

del plato a la boca se pierde la sopa
there’s many a slip ‘twixt cup and lip. (lit.: from the plate to the mouth the soup is lost)

dentro de cien años todos calvos
eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die

desde lejos lo parecen; de cerca ni duda cabe
examine things closely and thoroughly. (lit.: appearing similar at a distance; then no doubt from up close; a Mexican saying)

desgraciado en el juego, afortunado en amores
unlucky at cards, lucky in love. (lit.: disgraced in the  game, fortunate in love)

dice más una imagen que mil palabras
a picture is worth a thousand words. (n.b.: a Mexican saying)

dicho sin hecho no trae provecho
actions speak louder than words; easier said than done. (lit.: speech without acts brings no benefit)

dime con quién andas y te diré quién eres
a man is known by the company he keeps. (lit.: tell me who you walk with, and I’ll tell you who you are)

dinero llama a dinero
the rich get richer. (lit.: money calls to money; a Mexican saying)

Dios aprieta pero no ahoga
these things are sent to try us. (lit.: God presses but does not drown)

Dios da pan a quien no tiene dientes
it’s an unfair world. (lit.: God gives bread to those who don’t have teeth)

Dios los cría y ellos se juntan
birds of a feather flock together. (lit.: God calls to them and they come together)

donde fuego se hace, humo sale
where there’s smoke, there’s fire. (lit.: where a fire is going, smoke comes out)

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

donde hay amor hay dolor
love hurts. (lit.: where there is love, there is pain; n.b.: a Mexican saying)

donde hay gana, hay maña
where there’s a will, there’s a way. (lit.: where there is desire, there is skill)

donde las dan, las toman
an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth; tit for tat. (lit.: where they give something, they take something)

donde menos se piensa, salta la liebre
things often hapen when you least expect. (lit.: where it is least thought, the hare jumps out)

donde ronca tigre, no hay burro con reumatismo
necessity is the mother of invention. (lit.: where a jaguar roars, there are no donkeys with rheumatism; n.b.: a Venezuelan expression)

dos cabezas piensan más que una
two heads are better than one. (lit.: two heads think more than one; n.b.: a Mexican saying)

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