common-spanish-expressions

47 Common Spanish Expressions That Give Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes New Meanings

Did you know that your tongue could have hair?

Or that you can speak from your elbows?

Has anyone ever told you that they are up to the noses?

Or that they walk with a hundred eyes?

I know what you may be thinking: This time Franko has definitely gone mad!

Why, no!

If you have a look at the previous questions you will soon realize they all have something in common: They involve some part of your body.

As in almost any other language in the world, people tend to use a lot of idioms in Spanish, and one of my favorite groups is the one concerning body parts.

Have a look at the following conversation. Don’t panic if you don’t understand everything. After having read this post this conversation will be crystal clear for you:

Pedro: “¡Cállate! ¡Me tienes hasta las narices!”

Miguel: Es que hoy no doy pie con bola… me he levantado con mal pie.”

Pedro: El problema es que hablas por los codos.”

Miguel: No me lo eches en cara. Llevo todo el día solo sin hablar con nadie.”

As you can see, you can have a whole conversation using just idioms—in this case, body part idioms. That should show you the importance of these expressions in our everyday lives.
 


 
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On the Importance of Idioms

Simply put, an idiom is a common expression which cannot normally be translated literally if you want to understand its real meaning. They use descriptive phrases to figuratively express an idea.

Idioms are very common among native speakers of any language, and their use by foreign students demonstrates a high level of knowledge.

Since we use them every day, idioms are an essential part of our vocabulary. Of course you can express the same idea by using other words, but not only will that take you more time, it will also show that you are not a native speaker, or that your level of fluency is rather on the lower side.

If you want to impress your Spanish friends while abroad, if you want them to compliment your Spanish and if you really want to feel like you are getting closer to fluency, you need to use idioms in your conversations.

There are a lot of idioms in Spanish, all of them more or less useful in different contexts, but I think body part idioms are the closest to our hearts. They are like an extension of our own bodies, and, believe it or not, some of them are just hilarious.

So sit back, relax and enjoy this journey through the fantastic world of body part idioms. It is going to be fun, it is going to be useful and it will definitely help you boost your level of Spanish just by using your body.

Have fun!

47 Common Spanish Expressions That Use “Body Language”

I love lists. I really do. There is something about a long sequence of numbers and examples that makes me happy.

At the beginning I thought of writing this post classifying the idioms into body parts, but then I decided to go one by one through all the vibrant Spanish idioms I love that are related to the human body.

So here you have it: A list of the 47 funniest, most interesting and useful Spanish body part idioms.

Under each number you will find the original Spanish idiom in bold, its literal translation into English, its meaning in English (between parentheses) and an example of the idiom used in a sentence.

I hope you enjoy them!

1. Estar hasta las narices / Tener a alguien hasta las narices

Literal Translation: To be up to the noses / to have somebody up to the noses.

Actual Meaning: To be fed up.

¡Cállate! ¡Me tienes hasta las narices!

(Shut up! I am fed up!)

2. Dar en la nariz 

Literal Translation: To give in the nose.

Actual Meaning: To suspect.

Me da en la nariz que es culpable.

(I suspect he is guilty.)

3. Poner los ojos en blanco 

Literal Translation: To put one’s eyes in white.

Actual Meaning: To roll one’s eyes.

Puso los ojos en blanco y se fue.

(She rolled her eyes and left.)

4. No pegar ojo

Literal Translation: Not to paste an eye.

Actual Meaning: To not sleep a wink.

No he pegado ojo en toda la noche.

 (I haven’t slept a wink all night.)

5. Hacerse la boca agua

Literal Translation & Actual Meaning: To make the mouth water, to make one’s mouth water.

Con el olor a pastel se me está haciendo la boca agua.

(The smell of cake is making my mouth water.)

6. Levantarse con mal pie

Literal Translation: To wake up with bad foot.

Actual Meaning: To wake up on the wrong side of the bed.

Hoy todo te molesta. ¿Te has levantado con mal pie, o qué?

(Everything bothers you today. Have you woken up on the wrong side of the bed, or what?)

7. Estar con el agua al cuello

Literal Translation: To be with the water at the neck.

Actual Meaning: To be up to one’s neck.

Lo ha perdido todo y está con el agua al cuello.

(He has lost everything and is up to his neck.)

8. Hablar por los codos

Literal Translation: To speak from the elbows.

Actual Meaning: To talk a lot.

¡El problema es que hablas por los codos!

(The problem is that you speak a lot!)

9. Echar una mano a alguien

Literal Translation: To throw a hand to someone.

Actual Meaning: To lend a hand to someone.

¿Podrías echarme una mano? No entiendo estas instrucciones.

(Could you please lend me a hand? I do not understand these instructions.)

10. Poner al mal tiempo buena cara

Literal Translation: To put a good face to bad weather.

Actual Meaning: To put on a happy face.

Sé que no has aprobado el examen, pero recuerda poner al mal tiempo buena cara. Pronto lo habrás superado todo.

(I know you haven’t passed your exam, but remember to put on a happy face. Everything will be over soon)

11. No dar pie con bola

Literal Translation: Not to give foot with ball

Actual Meaning: To be unable to do anything right.

Hoy no doy pie con bola. He tirado el yogurt con la cuchara dentro…

(I can’t do anything right today. I have thrown away the yogurt with the spoon inside…)

12. Estar metido hasta la cabeza en algo

Literal Translation: To be inside up to the head in something.

Actual Meaning: To be fully involved.

Estamos metidos hasta la cabeza en el proyecto. Lo terminaremos para el lunes.

(We are fully involved in the project. We will finish it by Monday.)

13. Ponérsele los pelos de punta a alguien

Literal Translation: To make one’s hair stand on end.

Actual Meaning: To be very scared.

Se me ponen los pelos de punta cada vez que veo una araña.

(I get very scared every time I see a spider.)

14. Tener mucha cara

Literal Translation: To have a lot of face.

Actual Meaning: To be shameless.

Mario tiene mucha cara. Ha venido sin invitación.

(Mario is shameless. He has come without an invitation.)

15. Andarse con mil ojos 

Literal Translation: To walk with a thousand eyes.

Actual Meaning: To be very careful.

Ándate con ojo si vuelves a casa tarde.

(Be very careful if you come back home late.)

16. No tener pelos en la lengua

Literal Translation: Not to have hairs in the tongue.

Actual Meaning: To not mince words.

Mi hermana no tiene pelos en la lengua. Siempre dice lo que realmente piensa.

(My sister doesn’t mince words. She always says what she really thinks.)

17. Echar en cara

Literal Translation: To throw in face.

Actual Meaning: To throw something in someone’s face.

No me eches en cara que no tenemos dinero. Compraste un coche la semana pasada.

(Don’t throw the fact that we don’t have money in my face. You bought a car last week.)

18. No tener dos dedos de frente

Literal Translation: Not to have two fingers of forehead.

Actual Meaning: To not be very smart.

Ese hombre no tiene dos dedos de frente. ¡Está conduciendo borracho!

(That man is not very smart. He is driving while under the influence of alcohol!)

19. Tener la mosca detrás de la oreja

Literal Translation: To have the fly behind the ear.

Actual Meaning: To be suspicious, to smell a rat.

Desde que su novio le fue infiel, siempre tiene la mosca detrás de la oreja.

(Ever since her boyfriend betrayed her she is always being suspicious.)

20. Tomarle el pelo a alguien

Literal Translation: To take someone’s hair.

Actual Meaning: To pull someone’s leg.

¡Dejad de tomarme el pelo y decidme qué está pasando!

(Stop pulling my leg and tell me what’s going on!)

21. No dar alguien su brazo a torcer

Literal Translation: Not to let one’s arm be twisted.

Actual Meaning: To not give in.

No me importa lo bonito que sea. Es muy caro y no daré mi brazo a torcer.

(It doesn’t matter how beautiful it is. It is very expensive, so I am not giving in.)

22. Salir por piernas

Literal Translation: To go out by legs.

Actual Meaning: To rush out of a place.

En cuanto vi al perro salí por piernas.

(I rushed out the moment I saw the dog.)

23. Cruzarse de brazos

Literal Translation: To cross oneself of arms.

Actual Meaning: To fold one’s arms, to stubbornly resist something, to be closed off.

No me gusta la gente que se cruza de brazos y no echa una mano.

(I don’t like people who just fold their arms and don’t lend a hand.)

24. Dormir a pierna suelta

Literal Translation: To sleep at loose leg.

Actual Meaning: To sleep soundly.

Anoche dormí a pierna suelta toda la noche.

(I slept soundly all night last night.)

25. Estar para chuparse los dedos

Literal Translation: To be to lick one’s fingers.

Actual Meaning: To be delicious.

Este pollo está para chuparse los dedos.

(This chicken is simply delicious.)

26. Poner el dedo en la llaga

Literal Translation: To put the finger in the sore.

Actual Meaning: To rub salt into the wound.

Mejor cállate. Tus palabras le están poniendo el dedo en la llaga al pobre Juan.

(You better shut up. Your words are just rubbing salt into poor Juan’s wound.)

27. Metérsele a alguien hacer algo entre ceja y ceja 

Literal Translation: To put somebody to do something between eyebrow and eyebrow.

Actual Meaning: To get it into one’s head to do something.

A Lorena se le ha metido entre ceja y ceja ponerse el vestido rojo.

(Lorena has gotten it into her head to put on the red dress.)

28. Costar un ojo de la cara

Literal Translation: To cost an eye of the face.

Actual Meaning: To be very expensive.

Su nuevo reloj le ha costado un ojo de la cara.

(His new watch is very expensive.)

29. Arrimar el hombro

Literal Translation: To bring the shoulder closer.

Actual Meaning: To help.

Todos tenemos que arrimar el hombro si queremos terminar a tiempo.

(We all need to help if we want to finish on time.)

30. Ser todo oídos

Literal Translation: To be all ears.

Actual Meaning: To be very interested.

Cuéntamelo todo. ¡Soy todo oídos!

(Tell me everything. I’m all ears!)

31. Nacer con un pan bajo el brazo

Literal Translation: To be born with a piece of bread under the arm.

Actual Meaning: To be born with a silver spoon in your mouth. To bring good fortune to your family.

Antonio nació con un pan bajo el brazo. Su padre es el hombre más rico de la ciudad.

(Antonio was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. His father is the richest man in the city.)

32. Tener agallas

Literal Translation: To have the guts.

Actual Meaning: To be brave enough to do something.

Finalmente tuve agallas para decirle la verdad.

(I finally had the guts to tell her the truth.)

33. Morderse la lengua

Literal Translation: To bite one’s tongue.

Actual Meaning: To not to say a word.

Mejor muérdete la lengua y no empeores las cosas.

(Better don’t say a word and don’t make things worse.)

34. A sangre fría

Literal Translation: At cold blood.

Actual Meaning: In cold blood.

Mi vecino fue asesinado a sangre fría la semana pasada.

(My neighbor was murdered in cold blood last week.)

35. A ojo de buen cubero

Literal Translation: At a good barrel-maker’s eye.

Actual Meaning: Approximately.

 A ojo de buen cubero debe haber unas mil personas aquí.

(There are approximately one thousand people in here.)

36. Comerse a alguien con los ojos

Literal Translation: To eat someone with the eyes.

Actual Meaning: To stare at someone, usually feeling attraction.

Matthew se está comiendo con los ojos a esa chica.

(Matthew is drooling over that girl.)

37. En un abrir y cerrar de ojos

Literal Translation: In an opening and closing of the eyes.

Actual Meaning: In the blink of an eye.

Eso puedo hacerlo en un abrir y cerrar de ojos.

(I can do that in the blink of an eye.)

38. Regalarle el oído a alguien

Literal Translation: To gift the ear to someone.

Actual Meaning: To flatter someone.

Deja de regalarme el oído. No quiero salir contigo.

(Stop flattering me. I don’t want to go out with you.)

39. Hacer oídos sordos

Literal Translation: To turn a deaf ear.

Actual Meaning: To make ears deaf.

Hizo oídos sordos a mis advertencias y siguió conduciendo con el cinturón de seguridad desabrochado.

(He turned a deaf ear to my warnings and kept on driving with his seat belt unfastened.)

40. No tener ni pies ni cabeza

Literal Translation: To not have neither feet nor head.

Actual Meaning: To make no sense at all.

Lo que dices no tiene ni pies ni cabeza. Es imposible que mi hermano haya llamado por teléfono. ¡Está volando a Barcelona en este momento!

(What you say makes no sense at all. It is impossible for my brother to have called. He is on a plane to Barcelona at the moment!)

41. Ser el ombligo del mundo

Literal Translation: To be the bellybutton of the world.

Actual Meaning: To be the center of the world (universe).

¡Carlos es tan engreído! Se cree que es el ombligo del mundo y en realidad es un don nadie.

(Carlos is so conceited! He thinks he is the center of the universe but he is just a John Doe.)

42. Ser uña y carne

Literal Translation: To be nail and flesh.

Actual Meaning: To be inseparable.

Son uña y carne. Van juntos a todos sitios.

(They are inseparable. They go together everywhere.)

43. Dar la espalda a alguien

Literal Translation: To give the back to someone.

Actual Meaning: To give the cold shoulder.

Todos mis amigos me dieron la espalda cuando descubrieron que estaba embarazada.

(All my friends gave me the cold shoulder when they found out I was pregnant.)

44. Llegar a las manos

Literal Translation: To arrive to the hands.

Actual Meaning: To come to blows.

Al final llegaron a las manos y tuvo que venir la policía.

(At the end they came to blows and the police had to come.)

45. Hincar los codos

Literal Translation: To stick one’s elbows.

Actual Meaning: To study hard.

Bruno ha estado hincando los codos todo el verano para el examen de matemáticas.

(Bruno has been studying hard all summer for his math exam.)

46. Tener la cabeza dura

Literal Translation: To have a hard head.

Actual Meaning: To be stubborn.

Kelly tiene la cabeza muy dura y siempre hace lo que quiere.

(Kelly is very stubborn and she is always doing what she wants.)

47. Tener mucha mano izquierda

Literal Translation: To have a lot of left hand.

Actual Meaning: To be very diplomatic.

Tienes que tener mano izquierda en este mundo si quieres sobrevivir.

(You have to be very diplomatic in this world if you want to survive.)

Of course, we have many more idioms in Spanish, but I don’t want to overwhelm you. Plus, I’d be overwhelmed myself by trying to compile them all—there must be thousands!

Maybe I will write another post with a second list of idioms, but for now, try to remember these 47 and you will feel your Spanish getting better right away.

Now that you have read through the whole thing, go back and have another look at the dialogue at the beginning of the post. Yes, the one you didn’t understand so well. Are you now able to decipher it?

Yes? Bravo!
 


 

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