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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.


la cabra siempre tira al monte
a leopard never changes its spots. (lit.: the goat always heads to the mountain)

la ceniza iguala a todos
death makes equals of us all. (lit.: ash makes us equal; n.b.: from the Roman author Seneca)

la cuenta es cuenta
business is business. (lit.: the bill is the bill)

la letra con sangre entra
there’s no royal road to learning; no pain, no gain. (lit.: the letter with blood enters [in one’s head])

la mejor almohada es una conciencia tranquila
with a clear conscience you sleep well

la necesidad carece la ley
necessity knows no law. (lit.: necessity lacks law)

la necesidad hace maestros
necessity is the mother of invention. (lit.: necessity creates experts)

la necesidad tiene cara de hereje
beggars cannot be choosers. (lit.: necessity has the appearance of a heretic)

la ocasión hace al ladrón
opportunity makes the thief

la ociosidad es la madre de todos los vicios
idleness is the root of all evil; the devil finds work for idle hands. (lit.: idleness is the mother of all other vices)

la verdad no peca, pero incomoda
the truth may hurt but it does not harm. (lit.: the truth does not sin, though it is uncomfortable; n.b.: a Mexican saying)

la vida es un sueño del que se despierta al morir
life is a dream that one wakes from upon death. (n.b.: a Meixcan proverb)

las mentiras tienen patas cortas
truth will out. (lit.: lies have short legs)

lavar puercos con jabón es perder tiempo y jabón
carry coals to Newcastle; preach to the choir. (lit.: to wash pigs with soap is to waste time and soap; a Mexican saying)

ley pareja no es dura
a rule isn't unfair if it applies to all. (lit.: a similar law or rule is not harsh)

ley pareja no es rigurosa
a rule isn't unfair if it applies to all. (lit.: a similar law or rule is not harsh)

llevar hierro al Vizcaya
carry coals to Newcastle. (lit.: carry iron to Vizcaya)

lo bueno, si breve, dos veces bueno
brevity is the soul of wit. (lit.: what is good, if brief, is twice as good)

lo ganado por lo gastado
easy come, easy go

lo que sobra, estorba
excess gets in the way. (lit.: what is left over obstructs; n.b.: a Mexican saying)

los dineros del sacristán cantando se vienen y cantando se van
easy come, easy go. (lit.: the money of sacristan comes singing and goes singing)

los golpes hacen jinete
no pain, no gain; what does not kill you makes you stronger. (lit.: blows make the horserider/cavalryman; n.b.: a Mexican expression)

los ojos son el espejo del alma
the eyes are windows on the soul. (lit.: the eyes are the mirror of the soul)

los vicios son los hijos del ocio
vices are born of idleness

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