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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.


mal de muchos, consuelo de todos
what is bad for some may be good for others. (lit.: evil/harm for many, advice for all)

más fuerte es la pluma que la espada
the pen is mightier than the sword

más vale bien quedada que mal casada
better alone than in a bad marriage. (n.b.: this refers to women in particular)

más vale malo conocido que bueno por conocer
better the devil yo know than the one you don’t. (lit.: better a known evil than something good that is yet to be known)

mas vale maña que fuerza
brain is better than brawn

más vale muchos pocos que pocos muchos
less is more. (lit.: better a lot of a little than a little of a lot; n.b.: a Mexican expression)

más vale pájaro en mano que cien volando
a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. (lit.: a bird in hand is worth more than one hundred aloft)

más vale prevenir que curar
prevention is better than cure; an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

más vale prevenir que lamentar
better to be safe than sorry. (lit.: better to prevent than to lament)

más vale ser cabeza de ratón qu cola de león
better to be a big fish in a small pond than a small fish in a big pond. (lit.: it’s better to be the head of a rat than the tail of a lion)

más vale solo que mal acompañado
better to be alone than in poor company

más vale tarde que nunca
better late than never

más vale un “por si acaso” que “¿quién pensara?”
better safe than sorry. (lit.: better “just in case” than “who would have thought?”)

más vale un toma que dos te daré
a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. (lit.: better one taken now than two given later)

matar a la gallina de los huevos de oro
to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. (n.b.: lit.: to kill the goose of the golden eggs)

matar dos pájaros de un tiro
kill two birds with one stone, to. (lit.: to kill two birds with one shot)

matar la gallina de los heuvos de oro
to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs

mientras hay vida hay esperanza
where there is life there is hope

muchas manos en la olla echan el guiso a perder
too many cooks spoil the broth. (lit.: many hands in the pot cause the stew to be lost)

muchas manos en un plato hacen much garabato
too many cooks spoil the broth

muchs pocos hacen un mucho
a lot of a little is a lot

muerto el perro, se acabó la rabia
to solve a problem, attack it at its root. (lit.: the dog dead, the rabies are gone)

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