funny-spanish-phrases

26 Funny Spanish Phrases and Sayings Sure to Make You Smile

You’re the bee’s knees, the cat’s pajamas, all that and a bag of chips.

It’s raining cats and dogs.

Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite.

To someone who isn’t a native English speaker, these phrases are bizarre to say the least. 

Similarly, Spanish has some funny phrases like this that aren’t at all uncommon to native speakers but may well surprise non-natives.

This post will cover 26 of these funny Spanish phrases and sayings so you can use them yourself!

Contents

Funny Spanish Phrases

Ponerse las pilas

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Literal translation: To put in your batteries

English equivalent: To look alive

I heard this often when I was in high school. The teacher would walk by, see me gazing aimlessly into space and say “Ponte las pilas!”

This phrase is used in both Latin America and Spain. However, I found that it’s more commonly used in Argentina

Ponte pilas (note the missing las) is used in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

Yo sé que es temprano, pero ponte las pilas. (I know that it’s early, but look alive.)

Comer moscas

Literal translation: To eat flies

English equivalent: To speak aimlessly

We all have a friend that’ll start a story about going to the grocery store, but somehow manage to turn it into an hour long autobiography.

A person who comer moscas is a person who often goes off on tangents or speaks aimlessly.

This phrase is also used in both Latin America and Spain. 

Sara siempre come moscas. (Sara always goes off on a tangent.)

Papar moscas

Literal translation: To eat/gulp down flies

English equivalent: To daydream

Every single time I hear this phrase, I imagine Homer Simpson dreaming about a delicious donut.

A daydreaming person can sometimes look quite similar to Homer, with their mouth open, and their thoughts far from where they actually are.

And that is the moment when a fly will fly directly down your throat. Suddenly, you awake from your daydream and snap back to reality.

¿Estás papando moscas? (Are you daydreaming?)

Buena onda

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Literal translation: Good wave

English equivalent: Good vibes

With this phrase, I can’t help but picture someone in their home with incense, dimly-lit red lights, a long skirt and some chill music playing in the background.

This phrase is usually used when talking about a person that has a great aura or energy.

Buena onda is used more often in Spain than it is in Latin America, but it’s not uncommon to hear it there as well.

Me da buena onda. (He’s giving me good vibes.)

Me pica el bagre

Literal translation: The catfish is biting me

English equivalent: I am very hungry

You know that feeling when you’re so hungry that your stomach starts to cramp or there’s a pinching feeling?

In Spanish, we say that feeling comes from a catfish biting your stomach. Of course, this isn’t literal, but that’s how it feels!

This phrase is most common in South America, especially Argentina.

Me olvidé de desayunar, me pica el bagre. (I forgot to eat breakfast, I’m so hungry.)

Ojo

Literal translation: Eye

English equivalent: Watch yourself, I’m watching you

When I lived in Spain, we had a woman come to our home to help my mom take care of the apartment.

Whenever I was doing something naughty, she would pull down the skin beneath her eye and say, “Ojo, Devyn, ojo.” 

This almost always stopped me in my tracks, since I knew she was watching.

¡Ojo! Viene un coche. (Watch out! There’s a car coming.)

Corto de luces

Literal translation: Short of lights

English equivalent: Not the brightest bulb

In English we say things like, “the lights are on, but nobody’s home” or “not the brightest bulb” to say someone might not be very smart.

This phrase is the Spanish equivalent to say someone is ditsy or slow.

You’ll hear this phrase more often on the streets of Mexico than you will on the streets of Spain.

Soy corto de luces, olvidé mis llaves. (I’m not the brightest bulb, I forgot my keys.)

Hablar del rey de Roma

Literal translation: To speak of the king of Rome

English equivalent: To speak of the devil

Isn’t it amazing how as soon as you start talking about someone they manage to walk into the room?

Or maybe you’re talking about some old nostalgic memories and one of your friends calls you that very moment?

That’s what this phrase refers to! It’s used more often in Spain than in Latin America.

¡Rafael! Hablando del rey de Roma, hablábamos de ti. (Rafael! Speak of the devil, we were just talking about you.)

El mismo perro con diferente collar

Literal translation: The same dog with a different collar

English equivalent: People don’t change

This phrase means that people don’t change or that a situation doesn’t change.

You’ll hear this phrase often when elections come around. A new person is put into office, but es el mismo perro.

This phrase is used a lot in Latin America, which is ironic because things are always changing down there.

Los gentes tiene esperanzas, pero el presidente es el mismo perro con diferente collar. (The people are hopeful, but the president hasn’t changed.)

Más se perdió en Cuba

Literal translation: More was lost in Cuba

English equivalent: It could be worse

Looking at Cuba and their political climate over the last one hundred years, it’s clear that they’ve had it rough.

It’s easy to see the reality of how minor a situation is when you compare it to what Cuba has been through.

So maybe next time my young daughter comes to me wailing over a dropped toy I’ll just say, “más se perdió en Cuba.” 

Se te cayó tu juguete? Más se perdió en Cuba. (You dropped your toy? There are worse things.)

Ser pan comido

Literal translation: To be eaten bread

English equivalent: To be a piece of cake

If something is a piece of bread that was already eaten, that means there’s no further work that needs to be done. 

In other words, something can be seen as easy as in it could’ve already been done. 

In English, we’d call the same thing a piece of cake.

No estoy preocupada del examen, es pan comido. (I’m not worried about the exam, it’s a piece of cake.)

Tener mala leche

Literal translation: To have bad milk

English equivalent: To have bad luck

If you happen to open your fridge and grab the milk, only to find that it smells sour, I’d venture to say that you’d consider yourself unlucky. 

And that’s exactly what this phrase means in Spanish! To have bad milk is to have bad luck. 

Tenemos mala leche, llueve cada vacaciones. (We have bad luck, it rains every vacation.)

Estar como una cabra

Literal translation: To be like a goat

English equivalent: To be crazy

This phrase is extremely common in most, if not all, Spanish speaking countries. 

Goats are known to be a bit temperamental or to do strange and crazy things. So if someone says you’re like a goat, they are saying you are crazy!

Estás como una cabra cuando estás enojado. (You are crazy when you’re mad.)

 

And we’re halfway through! Some of these phrases might sound a bit strange at first, but with time (and practice) they’ll start to feel more natural. 

The best way to really understand how these phrases are used is to hear them be used in context, and to do this I recommend listening to native speakers and noting how they incorporate these phrases naturally. 

Even if you can’t have a conversation with a native speaker, you can still find ways to hear these phrases from your home, whether it’s listening to Spanish music, watching Spanish movies or reading Spanish books. 

Learning programs such as FluentU are a great option to practice this as well.

FluentU uses authentic Spanish videos (like music videos, commercials and inspiring talks) featuring native speakers to teach you Spanish through context and natural speech. 

Each video comes with interactive subtitles and other tools to help you learn more efficiently. Plus, you might even learn even more funny Spanish phrases in the process.

FluentU is available on iOS and Android

Funny Spanish Sayings

Creerse la última coca-cola en el desierto

Literal translation: To think that you’re the last coke in the desert

English equivalent: To think you’re the bee’s knees

This phrase means that you think that you’re pretty darn cool or even God’s gift to humanity.

We have a lot of phrases that say basically the same thing. “you think you’re the bee’s knees,” “the cat’s pajamas” or “all that and a bag of chips” are just a few examples. 

This phrase is used more often in Latin America than in Spain.

Pablo se cree la última coca-cola en el desierto. (Pablo se cree la última coca-cola en el desierto.)

Aunque la mona se vista de seda, mona se queda

Literal translation: Even if the female monkey dresses in silk, she will remain a female monkey

English equivalent: You can’t put lipstick on a pig

I personally can’t imagine a female monkey dressed in silk. Actually, I can’t imagine any monkey dressing in anything.

Monkeys are monkeys, and you are… you. You have to accept yourself as you are, no lipstick added!

This phrase points out that you can’t hide who you are. No matter what you do to change your personality or appearance for others, you’ll still be you.

La cirugía plástica es peligrosa, además, aunque la mona se vista de seda, mona se queda. (Plastic surgery is dangerous, plus, you’ll still be the same person.)

A pan de quince días, hambre de tres semanas

funny-Spanish-phrases

Literal translation: To a 15-day bread, a 3-week hunger

English equivalent: Beggars can’t be choosers

In Spain, we love exaggerating, especially within our humor.

So when we use this phrase, we are saying that even a fifteen day old bread won’t be too hard to chew when hungry.

In reality, most people wouldn’t actually eat bread that old, unless they were legitimately starving. 

Rather, the phrase suggests you just accept what you are given.

Pediste un favor, a pan de quince días, hambre de tres semanas. (You asked for a favor, beggars can’t be choosers.)

Lavar cerdos con jabón es perder tiempo y jabón

Literal translation: Washing pigs with soap is losing time and soap

English equivalent: Some things are a waste of time

Accept it, pigs are not clean. They smell really bad. If you try to wash a pig, there’s little effect your soap and scrubbing will have on the stench.

In other words, a pig bath is a waste of time when you could be doing things that will actually have a result. 

This phrase means that not everything is worth your time and it’s okay to accept that and prioritize.

Lavar cerdos con jabón es perder tiempo y jabón, céntrese en lo que puede controlar. (Some things are a waste of time, focus on what you can control.)

Como el que oye llover

Literal translation: Like he who hears raining

English equivalent: It’s like water off a duck’s back

There is now a tendency in our world to ignore what people say, to pretend that it doesn’t affect us.

For some people, hearing how raindrops fall is tedious, boring and they try to turn their faces away from it. 

This phrase is a metaphor for those words that we try to let past us without being too affected.

Sus insultos son como el que oye llover. (Your insults are like water off a ducks back.)

No hay burro calvo, ni calabaza con pelo

funny-spanish-phrases

Literal translation: There isn’t any bald donkey nor any pumpkin with hair

English equivalent: Say what you really know and do what you can really do

Now this one is funny, isn’t it? It is actually one of my favorites, not only because of the expression itself, but because of its meaning.

Imagine a bald donkey or a pumpkin with hair… it wouldn’t make any sense!

The point is, talk about what you know, do what you can do, period. Just be yourself and don’t pretend to know everything.

Eres nuevo en este trabajo, no hay burro calvo, ni calabaza con pelo. (You are new to this job, so say what you really know and do what you can really do.)

Con paciencia y con maña, un elefante se comió una araña.

Literal translation: With patience and skill, an elephant ate a spider

English equivalent: Little strokes fell great oaks

Now this needs to be your mantra when learning Spanish, since it means that anybody can do anything when they put their mind to it and remain patient.

Little by little, step by step, you can become fluent.

You do not need to be an elephant to do this, nor do you need to eat a spider, but you surely need to stock on some patience and persistence if you want to get there.

Es dificíl, pero con paciencia y con maña, un elefante se comió una araña. (It’s hard, but with patience and skill, you can do it.)

Cría fama y échate a dormir

Literal translation: Breed fame and crash out

English equivalent: Give a dog a bad name and hang it

We know it is very difficult to lose a bad reputation, even if it happens to be unjustified.

This proverb means just that: Once you have a bad reputation, there is almost nothing you can do to clean your name. 

I think this saying is a great example of how differently Spaniards and Americans (or English-speaking people, for that matter) handle things.

Su reputación es importante para él, cría fama y échate a dormir. (His reputation is important to him, once you have a bad reputation, you can’t change it.) 

Quien fue a Sevilla, perdió su silla

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Literal translation: He who went to Seville lost his chair

English equivalent: If you leave your place, you lose it

This is one of those sayings that has that multipurpose flavor I love the most in Spanish language.

It can be applied not only to the fact that if you leave your seat unattended you can lose it, but also to any other situation when you leave something unattended and return to find someone has it.

If you feel brave enough to have a look (in Spanish!) at the origin of this saying, you can visit this webpage.

Robé tu silla porque quien fue a Sevilla, perdió su silla. (I stole your chair because if you leave your place, you lose it.)

Ojos que no ven, corazón que no siente

Literal translation: Eyes that don’t see, heart that doesn’t feel

English equivalent: Out of sight, out of mind

There is a lot of discussion among Spanish speakers about the real meaning of this saying, and I guess each of us uses it in a different way depending on where we grew up.

I prefer the translation “Out of sight, out of mind” because it seems to be closer with the literal Spanish meaning.

If you don’t see what is happening then you don’t think about it, so you don’t worry.

You can also interpret it as “Long absent, soon forgotten” as in you don’t see your ex anymore, so you forget them.

Estoy feliz que su exnovio se fue a la escuela porque ojos que no ven, corazón que no siente. (I’m happy her ex-boyfriend left for school because out of sight, out of mind.)

Las palabras se las lleva el viento

Literal translation: The wind blows words away

English equivalent: Actions speak louder than words

I am a firm believer in this saying. I don’t want any talky-talky, I want you to show that you mean what you say, so start moving!

In the literal translation, this phrase essentially says that words are so weak that they could be blown over by the wind, so you should solidify your promises by acting on them.

Las palabras se las lleva el viento, quiero ver que te importa. (Actions speak louder than words, I want to see that you care.)

No hay mal que cien años dure, ni cuerpo que lo resista

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Literal translation: There is no evil that could last one hundred years, nor a body that could endure that

English equivalent: Nothing goes on forever

Now this saying may not be funny at first sight. 

The humorous bit comes from the fact that you can change this saying to make it suitable for the situation someone is going through. 

These are the more humorous versions of this phrase:

No hay mal aliento que cien años dure.
(Bad breath doesn’t go on forever)

No hay camisa manchada de vino que cien años dure.
(No wine-stained shirt will be like that forever.)

Dame pan y dime tonto

Literal translation: Give me bread and call me stupid

English equivalent: I get what I want

In the business world, really in any industry, there are people who are willing to do anything to get to the top.

Some people don’t care whose feet they step on or whose feelings they hurt, they’ll do everything they can to get what they want, so you might hear them say this.

This phrase is heard more commonly in South and Central America.

Dame pan y dime tonto, voy a ser el presidente. (I get what I want, I will be the president.)

 

Now you have 26 funny Spanish phrases to add to your own vocabulary, so give them a try!

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