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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.


nadie nace enseñado
we all have to learn. (lit.: no one is born taught)

ni están todos los que son, ni son todos los que están
appearances can be deceptive. (lit.: neither seem all things as they are, nor are all things as they seem)

ni tanto alumbrar al santo, ni tanto dejarlo a oscuras
nothing in excess. (lit.: do not overly illuminate the saint, nor leave him in shadows; n.b.: a Mexican proverb)

ninguno diga quién es, que sus obras lo dirán
the work speaks for the person. (lit.: no one may say who you are the way your work will speak; n.b.: a Mexican proverb)

no es oro todo lo que reluce
all that glitters is not gold

no es tan feo el diablo como le pintan
it’s not as bad as you think. (lit.: the devil is not as ugly as people paint him)

no hay atajo sin trabajo
no pain, no gain. (lit.: there are no shortcuts without work)

no hay barranco sin atranco
no pain, no gain

no hay bien ni mal que cien años dure
nothing lasts forever; there’s an end to everything. (lit.: there is neither good nor evil that lasts 100 years)

no hay boda sin tornaboda
there’s no rose without thorns

no hay burro calvo, ni calabaza con pelo
speak what you know and what you can do. (lit.: there is no [such thing as a] bald donkey, nor a pumpkin with fur; n.b.: a Mexican proverb)

no hay mal que por bien no venga
every cloud has a silver lining; a blessing in disguise. (lit.: there is no evil/harm that does not come to some good)

no hay mal que por bien no venga
every cloud has a silver lining. (lit.: there is no evil that may not bring good; n.b.: a Mexican proverb)

no hay miel sin hiel
there’s no rose without a thorn; there’s always a catch. (lit.: there is no honey without bitterness)

no hay peor sordo que el que no quiere oír
there are none so deaf as those who will not listen

no hay rosa(s) sin espinas
every rose has a thorn

no se ganó Zamora en una hora
Rome was not built in a day. (lit.: Zamora was not won in an hour)

no se le puede pedir peras al olmo
you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. (lit.: you cannot ask for pears from an oak)

no se pescan truchas a bragas enjutas
no pain, no gain. (lit.: one does not catch trout in tight pants)

no se puede hacer tortillas sin romper huevos
you cannot make an omelet without breaking eggs

no se puede repicar y estar en la procesión
you can’t be in two places at once. (lit.: you cannot peal and be in the procession)

no se puede servir a Dios y al diablo
no man can serve two masters. (lit.: one cannot serve God and the devil)

no se puede servir a dos señores
no man can serve two masters

no se vive más que una vez
you only have one life to live; you only live once. (you only have one life to live; you only live once

no sólo de pan vive el hombre
man does not live on bread alone

no todo el monte es orégano
life isn’t a bowl of cherries. (lit.: the entire mountain isn’t oregano)

no todo lo que brilla es oro
all that glitters is not gold

nunca digas de esta agua no beberé
you never know when the same thing might happen to you; never say never. (lit.: never say that you won’t drink of this water)

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