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Piece of cake! 7 Fun Spanish Idioms

Updated on May 8, 2015

Expresiones Idiomáticas usadas en Español

Idioms exist in every language. An idiom is a phrase or an expression that has a figurative meaning, so it has a different meaning than the one you will find in the dictionary. Idioms are widely used in a colloquial communication, and they give an insight into a culture's values, principles and make the process of learning a language much more interesting!

So let's learn some common Spanish idioms!

Dar gato por liebre

This one is very intriguing. It literally means "Giving cat for (instead of) hare (rabbit)", and the real meaning is "trick and rip off someone".

Example: Yo fui al mercado a comprar mangos y me dieron peras en su lugar. Me dieron gato por liebre.

I went to the market to buy mangos and they gave me pears instead. They sold me a pig in a poke.

-Where does that expression come from?

In Spain, in times of food scarcity (XVI and XVII centuries), sometimes people would serve cat cooked like rabbit. This was called "giving cat for hare" and the expression "dar gato por liebre" was incorporated into the Spanish language with the meaning of scamming.

Tomar el pelo

The literal translation of “tomar el pelo” is “to take the hair”, and it means to trick , make fun of someone or to joke but in a mild way.

Example: ¿Me estás tomando el pelo?

"Are you kidding me?" "Are you pulling my leg?”

Ser pan comido

This idiom is definitely not self explanatory! The literal translation of “ser pan comido” is “to be bread eaten” but it actually have nothing to do with bread, and it refers to something that is very easy to do. It is the English equivalent of saying something is a piece of cake.

For example:

“Su trabajo es pan comido”.

“Your job is a piece of cake.”

Estar como agua para chocolate

Here is another idiomatic expression associated with food. The literal translation is "to be like boiling water (as) for chocolate". It actually means that one is very angry and has reached their boiling point. It's a common expression specially in Mexico, where hot chocolate is made not with milk, but with near-boiling water instead.

This phrase was the inspiration for Mexican novelist Laura Esquivel's novel title which later became a famous film.

Hablar hasta por los codos

Unless you speak Spanish or Portuguese this one will be hard to guess.

The literal translation is: He or she talks even through the elbows, which is said when a person talks a lot. It's the equivalent of the English phrase: "talk your ears off."

Example: María habla por los codos. Cuando empieza a hablar, no hay quien la pare!

Maria talks everyone’s ears off. When she starts talking no one can stop her!

There are two different versions regarding the origin of this expression. Some believe that it originates from the habit that very talkative Spanish and Latin people have in touching others with their elbows while talking.

The other version states that people who talk to much use theirs hands and gesticulate a lot.

Más vale pájaro en mano que ciento volando

Have you heard this phrase before? This is a very common expression in Spanish speaker countries. It's literally translated as: One bird in hand is worth more than a hundred flying, which means it is better to keep what you have than to risk losing it by trying to get something better or uncertain.

The English equivalent is: "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush".

No tener pelos en la lengua

The literal translation of “no tener pelos en la lengua” is “not to have hairs on one's tongue.” This Spanish idiom means that someone is a straight shooter and will always speak their mind.

The etymology is unknown but if we analyze it, we can get to a conclusion that if a person had hairs on her/his tongue, the communication would be very difficult. But, without them one can speak freely and without restraints.

Example: Me encantan los niños porque no tienen pelos en la lengua. Dicen las cosas tal y como piensan.

I love children because they don't mince their words. They say things just the way they think them.

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