15 Mar, 2022 @ 10:00
2 mins read

14 common Spanish proverbs that you can use everyday without offending anyone

Bird Worm

EVERY language has its own particular sayings and proverbs that are passed down generation to generation and whose origins are often lost in the annals of time.

Many common Spanish phrases are completely baffling to an English speaker when translated literally – especially when it comes to swear words and insults.

So considering the difference in culture and history it’s surprising how often Spanish sayings have an almost exact equivalent in English.

Here are 14 proverbs in Spanish that can replace common sayings in English.

Al que madruga, Dios le ayuda 

While literally translated, this common Spanish saying means ‘God help those who wake up early’ the equivalent phrase in English would be ‘the early bird catches the worm’.

Bird Worm
The early bird catches the worm

No hay mal que por bien no venga 

This is the phrase to use when you are looking on the bright side. Translated as ‘All bad things bring good ones’ it can  be used in place of ‘every cloud has a silver lining’.

Every cloud has a silver lining

A la tercera va la vencida

While it translates as ‘the third time’s a charm’, here’s a phrase you use when you want to say ‘third time lucky’ in Spanish.

The third time’s a charm

El mundo es un pañuelo

If you translated this literally into English it does sound a bit odd. But instead of ‘the world is a handkerchief’, English speakers would say ‘it’s a small world’.

It’s a small world

A buen entendedor, pocas palabras bastan 

This phrase is the Spanish equivalent of ‘a word to the wise is enough’

A word to the wise is enough

Del dicho al hecho hay un trecho 

While the literal translation of this phrase is ‘it’s a stretch from said to done’, in English the phrase is ‘easier said than done’.

Mas vale prevenir que curar

This common saying is easily translated as ‘better safe than sorry’.

Better safe than sorry

Dios los cria y ellos se juntan 

While in the traditionally Catholic country of Spain, the phrase has more religious connotations in English we would just say:  ‘birds of a feather flock together’.

Cria cuervos y te sacaran los ojos

In Spain if you ‘raise crows, they will gouge out your eyes’ but in English the phrase best explaining the treacherous nature or ingratitude of someone we trust or care for is best explained with the phrase ‘nourish a viper in one’s bosom’.

Nourish a viper in one’s bosom

Mas vale malo conocido que bueno por conocer

Easily translated as ‘better the devil you know than the good you don’t know’ in English this is usually shortened to just ‘better the devil you know’.

Better the devil you know

Culo veo, culo quiero 

This Spanish phrase translates as the rather crude  ‘bottom I see, bottom I want’ and is best replaced with ‘monkey see, monkey do’ to describe a situation when one blindly acts without care of what comes next.

Monkey see, monkey do

En casa del herrero, cuchara de palo 

The Spanish phrase literally translates as ‘In the house of the blacksmith there’s only wooden spoons’ which is used in exactly the same way as the old English saying ‘the shoemaker’s son always goes barefoot’.

The shoemaker’s son always goes barefoot

Cuando el rio suena, agua lleva 

The Spanish equivalent of the oft-used English phrase ‘ where there’s smoke, there’s fire’ makes use of an entirely different element to make its point:‘When a river sounds, it’s carrying water.

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire

De perdidos al rio

Finally another use of to make the point in this Spanish phrase which means ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’.

In for a penny, in for a pound


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