No matter how old you get, you can always benefit from a little advice when it comes to el amor.
So how about some advice on love in Spanish?
Even better—some of what the Spanish language has to say about love doesn’t even exist in English!
Once you’re done with this list you’ll be ready to dar consejos (give advice) to Spanish and English speakers alike (and hopefully take some of it for yourself!).
You’ll be surprised by how much learning a few proverbs by heart helps you connect with Spanish speakers along your journey to fluency. A proverb can go a long way in striking up a friendly conversation or perhaps a good-natured cultural debate.
Here is a list of some of the best Spanish love proverbs—both new and old—to guide you along the path of life, love and Spanish language acquirement.
33 Timeless Spanish Proverbs About Love
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We’ve all been there at one point or another. When we were young our crush would check “yes” or “no.” Now we’re the ones checking our cell phones every five minutes to see if our beloved has texted us back.
Unrequited love hurts, but it can sure become a great muse for poetry. Here’s some wisdom from the Spanish language to help you make it through.
1. Amor no correspondido, tiempo perdido./Amar y no ser amado es tiempo mal empleado.
Literal Translation: Love uncorresponded, time lost./To love and not be loved is time badly employed.
Figurative Translation: To love and not be loved in return is time poorly spent. (Think: Of all pains, the greatest pain, is to love, but love in vain.)
Yes, this does include Facebook stalking your crush. From someone who’s been there, believe me when I say it’s a complete waste of time.
2. Amor loco, yo por vos y vos por otro.
Literal Translation: Crazy love, I for you and you for another.
Figurative Translation: It’s crazy to love someone who doesn’t love you, but loves another instead. (Note: vos means “you” in Argentinean Spanish.)
3. De ilusión también se vive.
Literal Translation: Of hope also one lives.
Figurative Translation: Life is not always about “getting there” or getting what you want, but also about the dreaming of getting there. Hopes and dreams are what keep us going.
This Spanish proverb is said to console when life doesn’t grant us our yearnings. Whenever I hear the Spanish word ilusión it always makes me think of “illusion” because of its similarity in spelling to this English word. Ilusión is an interesting Spanish word because it can be used in three different ways:
- to speak of enthusiasm, excitement and hopeful anticipation of something that will happen
- to speak of wishful thinking, hopes and dreams (things you want to happen)
- to speak of illusion, delusion and mirages
Among the popular Spanish phrases I hear in Madrid, “me hace ilusión” (literally: “it makes me illusion”) and “tengo ilusión” (“I have illusion”) are common ones. I would compare them to the phrase “estoy emocionado/a” (I’m excited) but say that they both take “I’m excited” to a slightly higher level of intricacy because of the richness in meaning behind the word ilusión.
Most of us have been here as well, although we may have been in denial of the fact throughout the entire relationship. We knew the relationship was all wrong, but we didn’t really want to be right. The Spanish advice? Let it go!
4. Agua que no has de beber, déjala correr.
Literal translation: Water that you shouldn’t drink, let it run.
Figurative translation: If it’s not working, let it go.
Never before has this advice been so relevant! In modern times, you decide you need to let someone go and then you still see their face in your cell phone contacts and on at least three different social platforms. Block them, delete them, do whatever is necessary. Let them go.
5. Amor de niño, agua en cestillo.
Literal Translation: Love of child, water in basket.
Figurative Translation: Young love is fickle.
This Spanish proverb is used both to refer to the love that children can give and to the temporal nature of the love between adolescents. What a great metaphor for the instability that often comes with young love!
Note that cestillo is the Spanish diminutive for cesto/a, which means basket. Canasta/o is another synonym for basket.
6. Amor y celos, hermanos gemelos.
Literal Translation: Love and jealousy, twin siblings.
Figurative Translation: It’s rare to find love without jealousy.
While gemelos/gemelas is the Spanish word for “identical twins,” mellizos/mellizas is the word used for “fraternal twins.”
7. Del amor al odio hay un paso.
Literal Translation: From love to hate there is one step.
Figurative Translation: There’s a fine line between love and hate. (Neuroscience has proved this to be true! The emotions of love and hate take place in overlapping parts of the brain.)
This is the kind of love we do want to let go of sometimes, but—according to these Spanish proverbs—should hold on to.
8. Quien bien te quiere, te hará llorar.
Literal Translation: Who loves you well will make you cry.
Figurative Translation: Those who really care about you will give you tough love.
9. Donde hay amor, hay dolor.
Literal Translation: Where there’s love, there’s pain.
Figurative Translation: When you love someone you’ll suffer pain albeit through empathy or jealousy.
This should be easy to remember considering the fact that “love” and “pain” rhyme in Spanish: amor, dolor, amor, dolor…but, then again, do we really need a reminder of their inextricability?
10. Hijo sin dolor, madre sin amor.
Literal Translation: Child without pain, mother without love.
Figurative Translation: If you love your children you’ll discipline them.
I think this old Spanish proverb might have escaped some of the parents of the children in my high school. Although I’ll admit that this proverb is much easier said than done!
Love the One You’re With
Similar to tough love, here we have the kind of love that’s just getting a bit boring and tedious. The Spanish advice in this case? Just stick it out.
11. Más vale pájaro en mano que cien volando.
Literal translation: More is worth bird in hand than a hundred flying.
Figurative translation: A small thing in hand is worth more than a great thing in prospect. Be grateful for what you have rather than what you think might be out there.
This proverb can obviously be applied to more than just love. Of all the Spanish proverbs I’ve come across in the past two years, I’d say that I hear this one often and in a variety of situations, gambling being a more obvious one.
12. No dejes camino viejo por sendero nuevo.
Literal Translation: Don’t leave old road for new trail.
Figurative Translation: It’s better to stick with what you already know works.
Once again, this proverb could be applied to more than just romantic situations. For example, you could give this advice to a friend looking at a new job in a different country. I, however, would tell that friend “Go for it!”
Spanish culture is very family-oriented, which is part of why I fell in love with the culture here, but sometimes that tightly knit community can keep the Spanish from ever venturing out of their neighborhoods.
13. Riñen a menudo los amantes, por el gusto de hacer las paces.
Literal Translation: Quarrel often lovers for the pleasure of making peace.
Figurative Translation: Lovers quarrels are soon mended.
Ever met a couple that just loved to fight? According to the Spanish, lovers will do this just for the heck of the pleasurable experience of making up afterwards. If you’re not used to being around Spaniards, it sometimes sounds like they’re always fighting during discussions. I used to get a little tense in these situations, but now I understand that the excited intonation is all just part of the pleasure of discourse here.
Even with an incredible and free invention like Skype, Spanish proverbs on long-distance love haven’t really become more optimistic over the years. Here’s an older proverb followed by a more recent one.
14. El que no mira, no suspira.
Literal Translation: The one that doesn’t look doesn’t sigh.
Figurative Translation: If you don’t see your loved one, you’ll stop sighing: long absent, soon forgotten.
15. Amor de lejos, amor de pendejos.
Literal Translation: Long-distance love is for a**holes.
Figurative Translation: Long-distance relationships are for fools.
The “p” word is not used in Spain so this isn’t a proverb I’ve personally ever put to use here in Madrid. However, in other Spanish-speaking countries you’ll be sure to come across this fun saying. As you can see, in general Spanish proverbs seem to shun long-distance love. However, the following phrase shows some optimism towards the idea.
16. La ausencia es al amor lo que al fuego el aire: que apaga al pequeño y aviva al grande.
Literal Translation: Absence is to love what fire to air: that it puts out the small and rekindles the big.
Figurative Translation: Absence makes the heart grow fonder. (But only if your love is big enough in this case.)
Be bold in love—YOLO!
17. El amor no respeta la ley, ni obedece a rey.
Literal Translation: Love doesn’t respect the law, nor obeys king.
Figurative Translation: Love laughs at locksmiths./Love knows no bounds.
18. Frente al amor y la muerte no sirve de nada ser fuerte.
Literal translation: Face love and death doesn’t serve of anything to be strong.
Figurative translation: Face love head on and death has no strength.
19. El amor todo lo puede.
Literal Translation: Love everything it can.
Figurative Translation: Love can do anything/love will find a way.
20. Más tira el amor que una yunta de bueyes.
Literal Translation: More pulls love than a pair of oxen.
Figurative Translation: “Love pulls stronger than a pair of oxen”or simply “love is stronger.”
This Spanish proverb is slightly old-fashioned but useful nonetheless. I’ve also come across a slightly more colorful rendition of this saying which shifts the focus to a woman’s generous endowment: un par de tetas tira más que una yunta de bueyes (a woman’s chest pulls more than a pair of oxen). I’m sure you can guess what the figurative meaning of that might be.
Sorrow, heartache, lost love—sounds like a good recipe for a flamenco song. Not exactly where we’d like to find ourselves in the game of love though. According to these Spanish proverbs being alone isn’t so bad, however.
21. El tiempo lo cura todo.
Literal Translation: Time it cures everything.
Figurative Translation: Time heals all wounds.
Time heals all wounds or time wounds all heels? Perhaps a bit of both.
Spain has taught me that una caña (a small beer) and dry-cured jamón (ham) also heal all wounds.
22. Un clavo saca otro clavo.
Literal Translation: One nail takes out another nail.
Figurative translation: In order to forget a lost love you must find a new one.
This phrase originates from the poem “Tonás y livianas” by Spanish poet Manuel Machado (older brother of the famous Antonio Machado):
“Quita una pena otra pena, un dolor otro dolor,
un clavo saca otro clavo y un amor quita otro amor.”
(One sorrow wipes out another sorrow, one pain another pain,
a nail takes out another nail and a new love erases the memory of an old one.)
23. Chancla que yo tiro, no la vuelvo a levantar.
Literal translation: Flip-flop that I throw, I won’t return to pick it up.
Figurative translation: Once I let you go, I will never take you back.
I’ve yet to figure out what the origin of this proverb is, but I wonder if the choice of the word “flip-flop” has anything to do with the English use of this word to mean someone who is wishy-washy. (In the case of this proverb, perhaps someone who would expect to be able to be taken back once a relationship has ended).
24. Hay mucho más donde elegir.
Literal Translation: There’s a lot more where to choose.
Figurative Translation: There are plenty more fish in the sea.
English definitely takes the cake here for the more metaphorical proverb.
25. Más vale estar solo que mal acompañado.
Literal Translation: More worth being alone than badly accompanied.
Figurative Translation: It’s better to be on your own than with people you don’t like.
Love and Money
The financial crisis in Spain has money at the forefront of many Spaniard’s minds these days. According to the majority of these proverbs, the prospect of love flourishing in tough financial times is unlikely. According to my PDA radar, however, the crisis hasn’t changed anything in terms of love here in Madrid.
26. Amor con amor se paga; y lo demás con dinero.
Literal Translation: Love with love is paid and the rest with money.
Figurative Translation: You can buy a lot with money, but love only with love.
27. Amor con amor se paga.
Literal Translation: Love with love is paid.
Figurative Translation: Love is rewarded with love.
28. Cuando la pobreza entra por la puerta, el amor salta por la ventana.
Literal Translation: When poverty enters through the door, love jumps through the window.
Figurative Translation: When poverty walks through the door, love flies out the window.
29. Sin pan y sin vino, no hay amor fino.
Literal Translation: Without bread and without wine there’s not smooth love.
Figurative Translation: Where basic needs aren’t met love won’t abound.
According to the Spanish, without bread and without wine there’s also no meal. Bread and wine—bread more so than wine—are absolute staples at every table for almost every meal. “Man does not live by bread alone” is a proverb that the Spanish might be willing to challenge.
Perhaps the best remedy for getting through the ups and downs of love is a good dose of humor. These Spanish proverbs will give you just that.
30. El amor es ciego, pero los vecinos no.
Literal Translation: Love is blind; but the neighbors aren’t.
Figurative Translation: There’s always someone around to gossip about lovers.
This is especially true if you live in a Spanish pueblo (village/town). There is an entire comedy sketch based on the premise of the typical cotilla (gossip) who perches at her window to listen in on the chisme (gossip) in Spanish villages. One of Spain’s most famous comedians, José Mota, plays the character of “la vieja’l visillo” (literally: “the old woman of the lace curtain”) in these hilarious sketches.
31. El amor entra por la cocina.
Literal Translation: Love enters through the kitchen.
Figurative Translation: The quickest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.
32. Desgraciado en el juego, afortunado en el amor.
Literal Translation: Unlucky in the game, lucky in love.
Figurative Translation: Unlucky at cards, lucky in love.
If this were actually true I would have been saved a lot of pain in my life.
33. Antes que te cases, mira lo que haces.
Literal Translation: Before you marry, look what you are doing.
Figurative Translation: Look before you leap. / Think before you act.
As you may have noticed, there seem to be certain sentiments about love that are universally shared, so many of the Spanish proverbs you have learned also have English equivalents. However, there are also a few proverbs on the list that the English language can’t match.
Thankfully for you, a lot of these Spanish proverbs rhyme which should help you memorize them. Choose your favorites from the list and learn them by heart. I can assure you that in doing so you will enrich your vocabulary and create a vital source of Spanish wisdom for all those deep conversations on love that you will eventually be having with native Spanish speakers.
Here’s to life, love and the pursuit of Spanish fluency!
Constance Chase is a writer and English teacher living in Madrid, Spain with her Spanish husband, Javier.
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