20 Mexican Quotes, Sayings and Proverbs for Life, Love and Language Learning

Mexican quotes, sayings and proverbs bring the vibrant culture of this stunning country alive.

They also give us a great way to flavor our own Spanish language practice.

Let’s check out some common sayings from Mexico!


Mexican Quotes, Sayings and Proverbs

1. Con dinero baila el perro

Literal meaning: With money the dog dances.

This is one of those two-sided proverbs. That is, it’s got more than one meaning.

To some, it means that everybody has a price. Pay enough and even a dog will dance.

It also means that if you work hard to get paid, you’ll be happy. You might even be happy enough to dance!

2. El que con lobos anda, a aullar se enseña

Literal meaning: He who runs with wolves will learn to howl.

You’re influenced by the company you keep.

And yes, this is a proverb that many of us hear a lot from parents and grandparents during those teenage years!

It’s not confined to Mexico: Other Spanish-speaking countries use this proverb, too.

3. Árbol que nace torcido, jamás su tronco endereza

Literal meaning: A bent tree never has a straight trunk.

I think a lot of us can relate to this one—especially around the New Year.

Can you guess what it might mean? Yep: Árbol que nace torcido, jamás su tronco endereza is the equivalent to “Old habits die hard.”

4. Al mal tiempo, buena cara

Literal meaning: To bad times, a good face.

The power of positive thinking crosses cultures. This is a saying that reminds us to be positive even through the hard times.

5. En boca cerrada no entran moscas

Literal meaning: No flies enter a closed mouth.

If I had a dollar for every time my Abuela (Grandma) said this to me and my cousins, I’d be rich!

It basically means to keep quiet, mind your own business or don’t comment on something that you know nothing about.

6. Cuando el río suena es que agua lleva

Literal meaning: When the river sounds, water is running.

This one’s similar to the “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire” maxim.

It’s often used to mean that if you want to get to the truth of something, go to the source.

7. A darle, que es mole de olla

Literal meaning: Hit it, cause it’s mole de olla

This is such a great cultural tidbit. It means that you need to have enthusiasm for whatever task is before you.

Mole de olla is a traditional Mexican soup. It’s nourishing and tasty and is a staple for many families. In short, mole de olla is widely eaten and well-loved!

It’s considered to be a fine addition to one’s life, so when something’s compared to the soup, it must be something worth doing.

This soup doesn’t just pull itself together; it’s not a recipe for beginners. So to many, this proverb indicates that a task might be lengthy or difficult but it’s still something worth doing.

8. Más sabe el diablo por viejo que por diablo

Literal meaning: The devil knows more because he is old rather than because he is a devil.

In other words, wisdom comes with age.

This one’s really popular, which can tell you heaps about the way the culture sees its elderly. If you spend any time in Mexico, you’re sure to hear it!

9. Más vale un pájaro en mano, que cien volando

Literal meaning: A bird in hand is worth more than one hundred in flight.

This is similar to the well-known “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” proverb you’ve probably heard in English. In other words, it’s better to do one thing right than many things poorly.

The Mexican twist goes a bit further by replacing bushes with 100 flying birds. That paints a vivid mind picture, doesn’t it?

10. Lo barato cuesta caro

Literal meaning: Cheap is expensive.

Invest wisely so you don’t need to replace a cheap item. In other words, buy quality and you won’t need to buy the same product again when it inevitably falls apart.

11. Zapatero, a tus zapatos

Literal meaning: Shoemaker, to your shoes.

This is a nice way of telling someone to mind their own business.

12. El que busca encuentra

Literal meaning: If you search you will find.

Look for what you want out of life and you’re sure to find it! The key is to actively go out there and do something, rather than sit around waiting for something nice to happen to you.

13. A falta de pan, tortillas

Literal meaning: Lack of bread, tortillas.

If you don’t have bread, use tortillas. Although honestly, this has little to do with either bread or tortillas!

It’s all about making do with what’s on hand. Use what you have and it’ll work out!

14. Poco a poco se anda lejos

Literal meaning: Little by little one goes far.

This adage shows that progress comes with commitment. Keep at it and you’ll go far. (Like your Spanish studies!)

15. A falta de amor, unos tacos al pastor

Literal meaning: In the absence of love, some tacos al pastor.

Tacos al pastor originate in Mexico and feature pork that’s been marinated in pineapple, peppers and spices, usually with bits of pineapple included in the mix. Yum!

So if your love life isn’t going too well, or you’re feeling lonely, don’t waste too much time worrying about it. Have a taco, instead!

16. Estoy pariendo chayotes

Literal meaning: I’m birthing chayotes.

A chayote is a type of gourd that’s found in Mexico and other parts of Central and South America. It’s bumpy and hard, something that’s definitely more pleasant to eat than give birth to.

This saying indicates that, like giving birth to a spiky pear-shaped pumpkin, you’re going through a difficult or unpleasant time.

17. Perro que ladra no muerde

Literal meaning: A dog that barks does not bite.

As you can guess from the literal meaning, our equivalent to this phrase in English is when someone’s “bark is worse than their bite.”

This phrase always reminds me of this hilarious video which perfectly demonstrates Perro que ladra no muerde.

18. A la mejor cocinera se le queman los frijoles

Literal meaning: Even the best cook burns her beans.

This proverb is used to remind people that even someone who’s an expert at something can mess it up on occasion. Basically, we all make mistakes!

19. Camarón que se duerme, se lo lleva la corriente

Literal meaning: The shrimp that falls asleep is swept away by the current.

This saying is much more creative than our English version, “You snooze, you lose.”

I’m not sure about you, but I can picture it clearly (sleeping shrimp and all) in my head!

20.Cuentas claras, amistades largas

Literal meaning: Clear accounts, long friendships.

Similar to our saying “Short reckonings make long friendships,” this proverb serves as a reminder to settle your accounts as soon as possible!

If you ever borrow something or owe money to someone, you should return or pay it back in a timely manner to ensure your relationship continues smoothly. 

Mexican Slang and Expressions

Mexican sayings and proverbs often make their way into everyday language, especially in the form of slang. Common expressions that might not make sense translated literally bring color to Mexican Spanish.

If you’re at the point in your language learning journey where you want to add some authentic proverbs to your vocab arsenal, you may also want to look into these Mexican slang words and expressions:

You can find even more essential expressions and sayings from Mexico in this YouTube video, as well as a great tool for how to learn the phrases and more like them:

If you want to watch how Mexican people really use slang (and the sayings we’ve seen in this post), the FluentU program uses authentic videos like movie clips and commercials to teach Spanish.

The videos have interactive captions and the ability to save any word as a flashcard so you can see what other contexts native speakers use it in. You can also try searching for words and phrases in the contextual video dictionary to see videos where it appears.

Plus, the program is available as an iOS and Android app, so you can learn from wherever.

How Mexican Sayings Help Your Spanish

It’s generally accepted that the best way to learn language is through immersion: just go someplace, study the language and absorb the culture.

In theory, that’s a super idea but in reality, it’s not possible for everyone to head out on an immersive trip.

An alternative is bringing language and culture to the learner. That means a solid language course and exposure to some first-rate cultural points.

How do proverbs fit into this? They’re nuggets of wisdom that are indicative of a culture. So learning about people, how they live and what they think through the proverbs they use is an excellent way to gain cultural insight.

Additionally, Mexican proverbs provide lots of vocabulary to help build strong language skills.

Keep a dicho journal to add to your reading and writing practice. It’s a fun way to add proverbs to your Spanish program.


If you’re planning to dive a cenote on the Yucatan Peninsula, attend Mexican cooking school or just wander the incredible ruins in this history-rich country, you’ll want to get some of these proverbs under your belt.

Proverbs help understand the culture and make it easier to fit into new situations. They’re a language-learners dream because they teach more than words—they teach customs and beliefs!

Good luck!

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