Spanish idioms with countries

¡Hola a todos!


Today I’d like to talk again about Spanish Idioms! What topic this time? Well… I’ve already talked to you about Spanish Idioms with Spanish cities, and this time I’m talking about Spanish Idioms with other countries or nationalities. Not all of them are idioms, but you’ll also find some frequent collocations we use in Spanish.

Ready? There we go!


Me suena a chino

This is the Spanish equivalent to “sounds like Greek to me”, only that we don’t use Greek language, but Chinese!


Montaña rusa

We call “Russian mountain” to the roller-coasters we can find at fairs or amusement parks.


Ensaladilla rusa

The “Russian salad” is a salad consisting in boiled potatoes, boiled eggs, mayonnaise and different vegetables (depending on every person’s tastes) which is served cool. Perfect for summer!


Hacerse el sueco

This is one of my favourites, meaning something like playing dumb. For example:

¿Por qué no me contestaste el otro día? ¡Te llamé por la calle y te hiciste el sueco!


Cuento chino

The “Chinese tale” is an elaborated lie that somebody tells. I must emphasize the elaborated, because it’s usually a lie told within a long and hardly believable story.


Hablando del rey de Roma, por la puerta asoma

This is the Spanish way to say “talk of the devil, here he is!”, but we talk about Rome’s King instead of the devil.


Cabeza de turco

The “Turkish head” is an innocent person who will be blamed in order to avoid the real responsibles to be judged. For example:

Necesitamos encontrar a los verdaderos asesinos, este chico solo es un cabeza de turco.


No hay moros en la costa

We use this expression if there’s no risk of being brought to light. It has its origins in ancient times, when the Spanish coasts were usually attacked by the North African people (moorish, “moros”) and Spanish guards were in constant guard. If they saw the enemies coming, they said “hay moros en la costa”, and today we still use the negative form of this expression to say there’s no danger.


Hacer el indio

In Spanish, it means mess around, to have a good time playing dumb. But I’ve found out that, more than 300 years ago, it didn’t have the same meaning: it meant to assume humiliations with no complain. It has changed a little bit, hasn’t it?


I hope that you liked it and that it’s been crystal clear. All week long you will find some pictures on my Instagram and Facebook profiles to review this, so if you don’t follow me yet, follow me now!

If you have any question about this, don’t hesitate to ask me. Remember that you can study Spanish online with me, you can ask for a 30 minutes free trial lesson, where we will get to know each other and start your Spanish adventure!

Also, if you like my job and you want to support me so I can keep sharing all this with you, kindly have a look to my Patreon page here.

¡Hasta la próxima!

Expresiones con colores (II)

¡Hola a todos!

Some time ago, I published some Spanish idioms related to colors (you can read it here in case you didn’t!), and I’m here today with the second part of these idioms!


Estar al rojo vivo

In Spanish, we say “to be in live red color” when something is at its peak, in the most interesting part. It could be similar to the English “to be on fire”.

No puedo dejar de mirar, el asunto está al rojo vivo.


Ser un rojo

I don’t know if this is used out of Spain, but Spanish people talk about “being a red” when we talk about Republicans during the Civil War.

En la Guerra Civil, todo era sobre rojos y fascistas.


Tener sangre azul

Those “having blue blood” were people belonging to nobility, wealthy people in ancient times. Once a teacher told me we use this expression because they didn’t have any kind of sunbath, and their skin were so clear that you could see the veins, and instead of red blood it looked like blue blood.

Antiguamente, si no eras de sangre azul, tenías que trabajar muy duro.


Poner verde a alguien

We “turn somebody into green” when we badmouth him/her.

No dejaba de poner verde a su hermano: decía que era un maleducado, estúpido…


Chiste verde

A “green joke” is, simply, a dirty joke. The most usual ones in Spain are about old people.

Me contó un chiste verde sobre un viejo y una chica joven.


A buenas horas mangas verdes

We say “good time, green sleeves” when something happens too late and is not useful anymore. This one has an historical origin, as the members of the Santa Hermandad (15th Century) were usually late when they were called to solve a problem. And yes, they used to wear clothes with green sleeves.

Sí, a buenas horas, mangas verdes. Has llegado cuando todo ha terminado.


Prensa rosa

The “pink press” is about gossips: fights, divorces, weddings…

La prensa rosa no deja en paz a Antonio Banderas.


Novela rosa

The “pink novel” is, obviously, a romantic novel.

Esta novela rosa lo tiene todo: romance, ruptura, drama, infidelidades…


Dinero negro

The “black money” is the same than in English: that money that has been got in a dirty or illegal way.

Tenía una cuenta en Suiza con millones en dinero negro.


Ponerse negro

We “turn into black” when we are tired, when we can’t bear anymore with something or somebody. Usually, it also includes some rage.

No te aguanto más, me estás poniendo negro.


Novela negra

The “black novel” is a thriller, a novel about detectives or police solving crimes.

Me encanta la novela negra, siempre resuelven los crímenes.


Pasar la noche en blanco

When we “stay the night in white”, means that we didn’t sleep at all during the night.

Estoy muy cansada, he pasado la noche en blanco.


Estar sin blanca

If you “are without a white”, you’re broke, you have no money at all.

No puedo ir de vacaciones este año, estoy sin blanca.


Do you want to know other Spanish idioms related to something specific? Let me know and I’ll prepare it for you!


I hope that you liked it and that it’s been clear. All week long you will find some pictures on my Instagram and Facebook profiles to review this, so if you don’t follow me yet, follow me now!

If you have any question about this, don’t hesitate to ask me. Remember that you can study Spanish online with me, you can ask for a 30 minutes free trial lesson, where we will get to know each other and start your Spanish adventure!

Also, if you like my job and you want to support me so I can keep sharing all this with you, kindly have a look to my Patreon page here.

¡Hasta la próxima!

Spanish Idioms with colours

¡Hola a todos!

As you know, I really like idioms, so today I’m giving you some Spanish idioms related to colors.

Are you ready?

Let’s go!


Rojo como un tomate

“Red as a tomato”, we use it when somebody blushes because of embarrassment. It could be the equivalent to “go red as a beetroot”.

¡Nunca había pasado tanta vergüenza! Me puse roja como un tomate.


Príncipe azul

The “Blue Prince” is that man every girl dreams about when we were kids. Now we all know they aren’t the same than we saw in Disney films, but still…

Era todo lo que siempre había soñado: guapo, simpático, bueno… Era su Príncipe Azul.


Prensa amarilla

The “yellow press” is the one using sensationalist headlines in order to attract people’s attention. It is known in English as gutter press.

Mira este periódico: inundación, secuestro… ¡solo les interesa la prensa amarilla!


Estar verde en un tema

We say that somebody “is green about something” when he doesn’t know pretty much about a specific topic.

Está todavía un poco verde, acaba de llegar y está aprendiendo.


De color de rosa

We use the idiom “in pink color” when talking in a very optimistic way. We can also use it in a pessimistic way if we use it like this: no todo es de color de rosa.

Está muy feliz, últimamente le va muy bien y lo ve todo de color de rosa.


Ponerse morado

“To get purple” means in Spanish to get filled up, when you’ve eaten too much and you can’t get even one more bite.

¡Cuánta comida! Me he puesto morado, no puedo ni moverme.


Verlo muy negro

This one is the opposite to the pink one, “to see it very black” means to be very pessimistic about something.

No me gusta esta situación, lo veo muy negro.


Quedarse en blanco

When you are white in Spanish, it means that you went blank, that you have no ideas left.

Me he quedado completamente en blanco, no recuerdo lo que tenía en mente.


Tener/comerse un marrón

If you “have or eat a brown” in Spanish, run away because you have a problem. Tener un marrón is that you have a problem, but comerse un marrón means that you pay for the consequences of that problem.

Mi amigo salió corriendo y me comí yo todo el marrón.


Media naranja

Okay, this one makes reference to the fruit, but it’s also a color, so I include it here! When we talk in Spanish about our “half orange” we talk about our soulmate.

He salido con muchas personas, pero ninguna era mi media naranja.


Do you know other Spanish idioms with colors? Let me know if you want me to publish the second part of this post!


I hope that you liked it and that it’s been clear. All week long you will find some pictures on my Instagram and Facebook profiles to review this, so if you don’t follow me yet, follow me now!

If you have any question about this, don’t hesitate to ask me. Remember that you can study Spanish online with me, you can ask for a 30 minutes free trial lesson, where we will get to know each other and start your Spanish adventure!

¡Hasta la próxima!

Spanish Idioms With Spanish Cities (II)

¡Hola a todos!

Today I’m writing about the second part of Spanish idioms using Spanish locations. You can read the first part here if you didn’t!

  • Estar a la luna de Valencia / Quedarse a la luna de Valencia

Literally, it is “to be under Valencia’s moon”. And you may think: “but the moon is the same everywhere in the world”. Yes, but this idiom’s origin is about Valencia. Long time ago, Valencia was surrounded by a wall whose gates were shut all night long. People who didn’t reach the gates before they were closed, had to stay out of the city during the night, under the moonlight.

About its use, you may guess. Somebody who left behind or, according to our dictionary (RAE), to talk about the failed hopes (like sleeping in your bed instead of the ground out of the walls).




  • Barcelona es buena si la bolsa suena

This is not an idiom itself, but it can work too. If we translate it into English, would be something like “Barcelona is good if your bag sounds”. Sounds like what? Well, we’re talking about money. Currently, it makes reference to the high prices you can find in Barcelona (although we all know there both are expensive and cheap deals everywhere).

It is said that, originally, this expression was about the businesses in Barcelona, where Italian people went trying to make big deals and said that it was a good place if you made it, that is, if you got the money in your bag.


  • De Madrid al cielo

This is also not an idiom, but a very popular expression that describes Madrid: “From Madrid to the sky”. But its origin is very confusing.

Some people say its due to the remodeling plan that Carlos III carried out in the city. Other people say there is a house in Garabitas’ Hill where souls of deceased people born in Madrid gather and ascend to the sky.

But the most reliable is the one related to Luis Quiñones de Benavente, a writer from the Spanish Golden Age. He wrote the following words in one of his dramas:

“Pues el inverno y el verano,

En Madrid solo son buenos,

Desde la cuna a Madrid,

Y desde Madrid al cielo.”




  • Tomar las de Villadiego

Villadiego is a town located in Burgos, west of Spain. We say “to take the Villadiego ones” when running away from something.

Its origin is as follows. When Jewish were persecuted in Spain, Fernando III ordered that no Jewish in Villadiego could be caught. Then, when they felt threatened, they went to Villadiego seeking protection. Once there, they had to wear yellow tights as a sign of the King’s protection.

  • Salir de Málaga y meterse en Malagón

“Leave Málaga and get into Malagón”. Its literally meaning makes sense if you’re going for a trip from the Southern city to the town located in Ciudad Real, middle area of Spain. As an idiom, it has a different meaning: escaping from a bad situation and get into a worse one.

About its origin, I’m afraid to say that there are no kings involved here, it’s just a pun. As you may know, “mala” means “bad” (female form), hence using Málaga. The second part is about the augmentative suffix. We add “-ón” to some words to make them look bigger, for example: cabeza – cabezón (head – big head). So if we put this suffix into Málaga, it turns Malagón (I’m not saying this is the origin of the town’s name!), and we can make reference to the small problem (Málaga) and the bigger one (Malagón).




  • Son como los amantes de Teruel, tonta ella, tonto él

“They are like the Teruel lovers, she’s a fool, he’s a fool”. This is used to people who match really good because… well, they’re just silly. We use it due to the rhyme, but there is a story behind it.

To sum up, it’s a typical tragedy (but you can read the whole story here): a man loves a woman, the woman loves the man, but her dad doesn’t want her to marry him, so he married her to a wealthy man. Once, the man asked her to kiss him, but she didn’t want, as she was married. Suddenly, he died of pity, and so she did. Finally, they were buried together.


  • Poner pies en Polvorosa

“To put the foot in Polvorosa”. It is an expression that we use when somebody runs away (literally or not) from a problem. The popular origin of the idiom is about the dust (“polvo”) that raises when we run on a dirt road.

But there is also a historic theory. When Alfonso III noticed the danger about the Moorish people conquering his Kingdom, he took the troops to Polvorosa (in Palencia) to settle the battle. Once there, they obtained the victory because the Moorish run away completely terrified… due to a moon eclipse that frightened them.



  • Pa’lante como los de Alicante

This is only about the rhyme. Alicante is a Southern city in Spain, a coast one, and the whole sentence means “Forward like those from Alicante”. It is used when you have to go straight or go ahead with a plan.

It is a very colloquial sentence, and we can see that on the contraction. The correct way should be “para adelante”, but we cut it and say “pa’lante”. This is a very common linguistic resource in Southern Spain: shorter words in order to speak faster.


That’s all, folks! I hope you enjoyed reading these idioms as much as I enjoyed putting them together on this post. If you liked it, please let me know, and if you want more, I could write about more idioms with cities… from other parts of the world!

If you have any question about this, don’t hesitate to ask me. Remember that you can study Spanish online with me, you can ask for a 30 minutes free trial lesson, where we will get to know each other and start your Spanish adventure!

Also remember to follow me on Instagram and Facebook, where I publish daily contents.

Thank you! 😊

Spanish idioms with cats! – Aquí hay gato encerrado

Hello everyone!

I would like to show you today some idioms. Last time, I talked about Spanish Idioms with Spanish Cities, but now I’m going to talk about idioms with one of my favorite animals: the cat.

Cats have been adored since ancient times; Egyptians and people from China and India loved him, and even some gods in the ancient Egypt were made up of cats, like Bastet, goddess of warfare in Lower Egypt.

Nowadays, some people all over the world, including Spain, think that black cats are a symbol of bad luck, as they are linked to witches and horror stories, like The Black Cat, by Edgar Allan Poe.

But this is not a blog about cats (I should reconsider to create one about animals, I think), so here we go with the cats’ expressions I collected in Spanish!

  • Aquí hay gato encerrado.

We use this expression when we mean that something is fishy.

For example: somebody you don’t get along with invites you to his birthday party, with an evil smile at his face; then you think “aquí hay gato encerrado”.

What’s the origin of this idiom? Well, we must go back to sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when it was typical to use the word “gato” referring to the rucksack where the money was kept. To avoid robberies, some people hid the sack behind the clothes, so the thieves created a code to express they found somebody with a hidden bag. This code was “gato encerrado” (enclosed cat).

  • Llevarse como el perro y el gato

“To get along like dog and cat”. This one is very easy to guess, and it means to get like dogs and cats, that is, bad.

It has no other origin that the real relationship between dogs and cats in real life, although there are many homes where dogs and cats are best friends forever! But to understand this idiom, we must stick to the classic bad relation among these animals.

As an example, we can think about two siblings who fight every day, and I’m sure a Spanish mum would say “¡se llevan como el perro y el gato!”.

  • Buscarle tres pies al gato

You literally look for three cat’s feet when you are complicating your life or looking for trouble.

For example, you saw somebody doing something wrong and you try that person to tell you by herself, but she starts giving you bad excuses. At the moment you get tired of those excuses, you say: “deja de buscarle tres pies al gato, te vi ayer”.

But, why three feet instead of five, which would be the logical? I mean, 99% of the cats have four feet, so it makes more sense looking for the fifth foot, which is an extra. Indeed, originally that was the expression: “buscarle cinco pies al gato”. Well, it is said that this is due to Miguel de Cervantes, the illustrious writer mostly known by his work Don Quijote de la Mancha, who is said that modified the expression to use it on his work. Some people say it was a mistake, some other people say he did it deliberately to add an irony note to the text. The only true fact is that the expression changed since then.

  • Tener más vidas que un gato

Why do we say that somebody would have more lives than a cat? Nobody has more than one life, then, why? We must go back in time to understand this.

As I said before, cats were considered gods in the Ancient Egypt, but later on, Catholics prosecuted cats because they thought cats were a Devil’s symbol. As a result of this swinging of the cat’s superstitions, along with cats’ ability to came out unhurt of a high fall, the myth of cats’ resurrection was created. In Spain, we also say that cats’ have seven lives (“siete vidas tiene un gato”). Not five nor eight, but seven!

So, for example, we will say that somebody has “más vidas que un gato” when, after a car accident, the person is completely or almost uninjured. And it may even not be the first time!

  • El gato escaldado, del agua fría huye

We use this expression to talk about somebody who runs away from a situation that once hurt him. Literally meaning “a scalded cat runs away from cold water”, it could be translated as “once bitten, twice shy”.

We don’t need to think too much about its origin, as it is an action-reaction fact: you trust in something, you get hurt, you don’t trust in that anymore. For example, a kid at school is told to go to the gym because a teacher wants to talk to him, but once there he finds the big guys who want to humiliate him. That kid will never trust those guys again, and even other boys who have something in common, so that kid will became the cat who runs away from cold water.

  • De noche, todos los gatos son pardos

This expression would be literally translated as “at night, all cats are grey-brown”, but it basically means that everything looks the same in the dark.

It is used to talk about people who are about doing bad businesses, like committing a crime or cheating on someone, and they do it at night so they won’t be recognized by the victim.

For example, think about a couple with two kids. Everyone is supposed to be sleeping, but the dad wants to drink water, so he heads to the kitchen. But he sees a kid running to the bedroom and finds the evidence: a chocolate paper on the kitchen table! With sunlight, he might have known who was the kid who ate the chocolate, but as it was dark, he doesn’t know either it was one or the other boy. So, he will say to his wife “¡No lo vi! De noche, todos los gatos son pardos”.

  • Dar gato por liebre

This idiom has its origin in ancient times, when it was said that some innkeepers served cat meat instead of rabbit or mutton as offered. This was also said about people selling hare pies at the street markets. Customers complained about it because they were supposed to pay for hare or mutton meat, but they got cooked cat instead.

So, when we “give a cat instead of a hare”, we are conning somebody by giving a lower quality article than expected. For example, if you go to a second-hand shop to buy a new phone but don’t really know about the features that you need, the person in charge will try to convince you that the worst phone is the best one for you. Then you get home and you proudly show it to your brother, and he laughs at you because you got a really bad phone for an extremely high price, so he says to you “te han dado gato por liebre”.

  • Haber cuatro gatos

Els Quatre Gats was a hostel located in Barcelona built by the end of the nineteenth century. It was usually frequented by some of the most important Modernism figures. Unfortunately, they used to be few people, so the place had to close seven years later.

But seven years were enough to settle down a new idiom in our language. As the place used to be almost empty, people associated the four cats to an empty place, and nowadays we say “hay cuatro gatos” when there is hardly anyone somewhere.

For example, you go to a pub that usually is full of people, but today you can see that is almost empty, so you say “hay cuatro gatos, vámonos de aquí”.

From gods to demons in different cultures, if we consider them a language resource, cats are so versatile! Of course, they are way much more than a resource; personally I love cats, but you can’t deny they give place to many issues in language and history!

I hope you liked it! If so, please share it and tell me if you know other idioms with cats, both in Spanish or your own language. 😊

¡Hasta la próxima!

Spanish idioms with Spanish cities


Today I want to introduce you some Spanish places. Not their history or culture, but some expressions we say using Spanish cities or villages.


El que se fue a Sevilla perdió su silla

If we translate it literally, it means “the one who went to Seville lost his chair”. We use it when you sit on somebody’s seat when he stands up. If that person asks you to stand up because he was sitting there, you just say that he lost it!

El que se fue a León perdió su sillón

This one is very similar to the previous one, and sometimes we use them together. Its translation would be “The one who went to León lost his armchair”.

(These two would get Sheldon Cooper crazy.)

Irse por los cerros de Úbeda

“Go through Úbeda’s hills”. Úbeda is a village located in Jaén, in South Spain. It is often used when, telling a story, instead of going to the point, the teller starts saying many useless details.

It seems that, before an important battle, a High Command of the King Fernando III disappeared and nobody knew where he was. When he finally showed up, he said that he was lost in Úbeda’s hills.

Estar entre Pinto y Valdemoro

This is a very… weird one. Pinto and Valdemoro are two towns located in Madrid, and we use it to express indecision. Why so? Well, there are several theories about its origin, but I’ll explain my favorite one: the drunk.

It is said that, in ancient times, Pinto and Valdemoro were separated by a stream. There was a drunk who liked to jump over the stream saying “now I’m in Pinto, now in Valdemoro, and now back to Pinto!”. Once, he fell into the stream and said “now I’m between Pinto and Valdemoro!”.

Ancha es Castilla

“Castilla is wide”. Castilla is a region in the middle of Spain, and it’s quite big. We use this idiom when we mean to act deliberately. But, why Castilla and not any other region?

In Reconquest era, Castilla was a place where few people lived, so it was the perfect place to start a business you wanted nobody knew about. Of course, we are talking about both legal and illegal businesses.



No, this is not an idiom, but it is a very important part of Spanish jokes. Lepe is a town in Huelva, South Spain, that is often used to make jokes based on puns and stupid people. And no, I’m not saying these people are idiots, it’s just our language! The jokes are similar to the Polish jokes to the people from the USA. Something like:

Why do people from Lepe have a ketchup packet on the ear? To listen salsa.

Estar en Babia

It means “to be in Babia”. But what does it really mean “estar en Babia”? Well, if somebody tells you “estás en Babia”, you need to pay more attention, basically. We use this idiom to express that someone is thinking on a different thing than he should be. Like when you’re in a meeting but you’re not paying attention because you’re thinking about the pizza you’re going to have for dinner.

This expression is also due to our ancient kings. Babia is a Spanish region, located in León, where the kings used to stay for holidays. When somebody would go to the Palace to consult the King during his vocational period, they said: “El rey está en Babia”, so people knew he wouldn’t face his real responsibilities.


No se ganó Zamora en una hora

Why do we say “Zamora wasn’t won in one hour”? Well, its meaning is very easy to guess: you will not get difficult things solved in a short time, but you’ll need long time to get results.

The point about using Zamora here is that, in the year 1072, the city was besieged for seven months by Sancho II de Castilla, who wanted to conquer the city from his own sister. The end? Sancho II was murdered and didn’t get Zamora.

We still have more idioms using Spanish locations, so if you’ve liked it, please go here and read the second part!

Thank you. 😊