Popular Spanish Sayings: 13 Popular Phrases You Need To Know

Barcelona, Spain
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Learning any language is a good way to delve into a country’s culture and past. It also helps in being able to understand someone and what they may be saying to you. Popular Spanish sayings are the perfect place to start when learning as you’ll be able to sound a little more like a local and a little less like a tourist.

The Spanish language has many weird and wonderful phrases, idioms, and expressions. Some can be translated and have the exact same meaning in English whereas others just sound odd when literally translated. But that’s all part of the beauty of the language itself. 

We’ve put together a list of 13 popular Spanish sayings so you can start learning Spanish right away. We’ve included the literal translation and the meaning behind each one. Some will be clear and easy to understand overs may need a little more thought and understanding. Read on to find out more.

Popular Spanish Sayings

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Whether you’re spending a week in Malaga or you’re thinking of living in Spain you should make some sort of effort to learn these popular Spanish sayings. Many of these sayings are full of wisdom, humor, and wit.

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Some of the sayings will be common knowledge and rather basic while others might not make much sense until you read the English equivalent. The key to sounding like a local and not coming across as peculiar is to use these phrases in moderation. 

1. Spanish Saying: Venga, hombre 

Literal Translation – Come on Man

English Equivalent – Hurry up

Meaning – While this might be a rather basic saying, it is one commonly used throughout Spain. This popular Spanish saying can be used in two ways. Either as a way of telling someone to hurry up because they are taking too long or as a way to brush off what someone is saying as if they are joking around.

2. Spanish Saying: Hasta Luego

Literal Translation – Bye

English Equivalent – See you later

Meaning – Although this Spanish phrase is basic, it should be one of the first phrases you learn along with Hello (Hola). This phrase is often used in the English language to mean goodbye and that you will see them again in the future. It means the same in Spanish. So the next time you meet someone make sure to use this phrase when saying goodbye. 

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3. Spanish Saying: Musto Gusto

Literal Translation – Pleasure

English Equivalent – Nice to meet you/a pleasure to meet you

Meaning – Again this phrase is pretty basic and one of the first Spanish phrases you should learn. It simply means nice to meet you and can be used at both the start and end of a conversation. It’s a nice way to say that you liked meeting someone for the first time. 

4. Spanish Saying: Buenos Dias/Noches

Literal Translation – Good morning/Good evening

English Equivalent – Good morning/Good evening

Meaning – Just like hello, this phrase is used as a greeting and depending on the time of day would depend on which phrase you used. The literal translation is exactly the same as the English and again this should be one you learn first before trying to learn and understand some others. 

5. Spanish Saying: Tengo mal de Puerco 

Literal Translation – I have pork sickness/I have a bad pig

English Equivalent – I’m so full, I can’t move

Meaning – The literal translation of this Spanish saying doesn’t make sense in English. But once you delve a little deeper and consider the English equivalent it starts to become clearer as to what this saying means. We can assure you though it doesn’t mean you have an unruly or ill pig. This saying is usually said after a large meal and captures how you might feel. In English, we’ll normally say ‘I’m stuffed’ or ‘I’m so full I can’t move’.

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6. Spanish Saying: Como Dios Manda

Literal Translation – As God commands/As God sends

English Equivalent – To do something properly

Meaning – Literally translated, this popular Spanish saying means “as God commands”, and it’s used to demonstrate that you will do something well or how it was properly intended. Unfortunately, there is no direct equivalent phrase in English but the meaning is pretty clear. This phrase is often used when you do something that is expected of you. For example, “hay que lavarse las manos como dios manda” in English means that it is expected that people wash their hands thoroughly.

7. Spanish Saying: No Hay Mal Que Por Bien No Venga

Literal Translation – There’s no bad from which something good doesn’t come

English Equivalent – Every cloud has a silver lining

Meaning – This proverbial saying is mostly used to convey the notion that, no matter how awful or bad a situation may be, there is always some good aspect to it. This phrase is most often used as encouragement and it’s one of the nicest phrases out there.

8. Spanish Saying: Más Vale Tarde Que Nunca.

Literal Translation – Better late than never

English Equivalent – Better late than never

Meaning – This popular phrase is pretty self-explanatory as the literal translation is exactly the same as the English equivalent. It’s often used sarcastically as a way of saying something positive while remarking on their lateness. After all, it’s better that you turn up instead of not showing up at all.

Alhambra, Granda, Spain
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9. Spanish Saying: Más Ven Cuatro Ojos Que Dos.

Literal Translation – Four eyes see more than two

English Equivalent – Two heads are better than one

Meaning – The idea behind this saying is that it’s better to have the advice or opinion of a second person. So instead of making a decision solo, it’s better to enlist the help of others. Enlisting the help of others it will result in an enriched understanding of any problem or situation.

10. Spanish Saying: Más Vale Ser Cabeza De Ratón Que Cola De León.

Literal Translation – Better to be the head of a mouse than the tail of a lion

English Equivalent – It’s better to be a big fish in a small pond than a little fish in a big ocean.

Meaning – This popular phrase is often used to convey the degree of ambition a person holds. When you break down this phrase, the implication behind labeling someone ‘a big fish in a small pond’ is that they are content with staying where they are. So it’s often better to be the best at something less ambitious than be average at something more impressive.

11. Spanish Saying: Hoy Por Ti, Mañana Por Mí.

Literal Translation – Today for you, tomorrow for me

English Equivalent – You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours

Meaning – This saying is all about reciprocity. It’s like asking someone to help you and then saying you’ll help them when they need it. You could use this saying when out for lunch with a friend “I’ll get this one, you get the next one”. The best thing about this popular Spanish saying is that it rhymes. Not only is the structure similar they also juxtapose the paired concepts of today and tomorrow with you and me, making it relatively easy to remember.

Sevilla, Spain
Photo by Joan Oger via Unsplash

12.  Spanish Saying: El Que Tiene Boca Se Equivoca.

Literal Translation – Whoever has a mouth makes mistakes

English Equivalent – Nobody’s perfect

Meaning – This idiom is used to portray the fact that everyone makes mistakes. This phrase can be used in many ways, for example, if someone said to you that they were worried about an exam they did and they think they failed, you could respond by saying ‘don’t worry, nobody’s perfect. We’ll celebrate if you pass’. The same could be said for any mistake you make as long as you learn from it. 

13.  Spanish Saying : La Curiosidad Mató al Gato

Literal Translation – Curiosity killed the cat

English Equivalent – Curiosity killed the cat
Meaning – This phrase is often used in English and its literal translation is exactly the same. It uses the premise that being nosy will often get you into trouble or cause you more problems. So if you hear this saying it’s likely that you might be being a little too curious so be prepared for any issues that might arise from you knowing all that information.

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Justine King is from the UK and has been a full-time traveller and freelance writer since 2020 after a 6-year career in Hospitality. Clients benefit from her love and knowledge of the sector as she creates informative and inspiring articles to help guide readers totheir next travel destination.