Talk:Spanish proverbs

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A[edit]

  • A Dios rogando y con el mazo dando
    • Translation: Praying to God but hitting with the mallet
    • Interpretation: Pray to God but also do your part (work for it). This is the right interpretation of this proverb, or at least the only one officially accepted by the Real Academia de la Lengua (Spanish normative language regulation institution).
    • Interpretation: Hypocrisy: being religious and at the same time not being good to other people. While this interpretation is widely spread among Spanish speakers, it is a common mistake, which is neither right nor officially accepted by the Real Academia de la Lengua (Spanish normative language regulation institution).
    • Interpretation: Beg from God but never forget to strike your blows with your hammer.
    • Italian: "Aiutati che Dio ti aiuta" , which is the same "Pray to God but also do your part", even is in a less violent way.


  • A carro entornado, todos son caminos.
    • Translations:
      • To a car that's half closed to your destiny to hell, all are roads.
      • To an upset wagon all are roads.
        (entornado: turned inwards, twisted, overturned; carro: carriage, cart, wagon)
    • Interpretations:
      • To the confused, panicked, gullible, or half-educated person, all answers seem equally valid.
      • To a corrupt person, everyone is a road (useable.)


  • A enemigo que huye, puente de plata.
    • Translations:
      • For fleeing enemies, a silver bridge.
    • Interpretations:
      • To get rid of people you don't like sometimes you have to "help" them to leave.
      • Gallantry assists a defeated foe. (Don't kick adversaries when they're down.)
      • Insult a defeated enemy with silver bridges of ridicule.
      • Don't let the door hit you in the rump.


  • Agua de mayo, pan para todo el año.
    • Translation: 'Water in May, bread for the whole year'
    • Interpretation: When it rains in May, there're good crops.
  • Agua que no has de beber, déjala correr.
    • Translations:
      • Water you should not drink, let it flow.
      • Water you are not going to drink, let it run
      • Let waters you will not be drinking run freely.
    • Interpretations:
      • If you don't need something, leave it for others to use; be generous; avoid greed.
      • Don't take that which is not rightly yours.
      • Avoid dangerous situations; avoid foreseeable problems.
      • Save some for the fish.
      • Don't get in other people business
      • Don't take or covet something that doesn't belong to you or it's out of your reach.
      • Do not hoard what you can't or won't use.
  • A la tercera va la vencida
  • Translation: 'Third try is the successful one.'
  • interpretation: You may fail in doing something, but you will have success on the third try.
    • Equivalent English proverbs:
      • "Third time's a charm"
      • "If at first you don't succeed;try, try and try again"[1]
  • Al buen entendedor, pocas palabras bastan. / A buen entendedor, pocas palabras.
    • Translation: To a good listener, few words (are enough).
    • Interpretations:
      • Erudition is brevity.
      • A good listener needs few words. (understanding comes easy).
      • To a careful listener, interpreting hidden or inferred meanings, oftentimes of veiled implications or innuendo, is easy;
    • Equivalent English proverbs:
      • "Brevity is the soul of wit."
      • "Read between the lines."
      • "A word to the wise is sufficient."
      • "Talk less. Listen more."
  • Al mal tiempo, buena cara
    • Translation: Put a nice face to the bad times.
    • Interpretation: Be positive even in bad situations.


  • Al que le van a dar, le guardan y si llega tarde, le calientan
    • Translation: He who is to receive, some is saved for him, and if he is late, it will be warmed up again.
    • Interpretation:
      • Sometimes, people tend to get stuck with ideas and principles and make way for them through rain and storm.
    • Whatever is meant for you, will be for you sooner or later


  • A rey muerto, rey puesto
    • Translation: 'To a dead king, a king crowned.'
    • Interpretation: in monarchies it was important to have a continuous succession line. A new King was named right after the old one passed.
    • Everyone is replaceable.


  • A lo hecho, pecho.
    • Translation: Of that which is/you have done, (take it on the) chest.
    • Interpretations:
      • Accept the consequences of what you do (to the chest; like a man).
      • Deeds are honor; claim your victories.
    • Equivalent English proverbs:
      • "Face the music."
      • "Take it like a man."


  • A perro flaco, todo son pulgas.
    • Translation: To a skinny dog, all are fleas.
    • Interpretations:
      • If/when you are weak, it will seem that only problems surround you.
      • To the weak of character, all responsibilities are irritating.
      • To misers, all are parasites.
    • Equivalent English proverbs:
      • "Misery loves company."


  • A perro flaco se le suben las pulgas.
    • Alt: A perro enfermo se le suben las pulgas.
      • Alt: "Al perro más flaco, se le suben más las pulgas"
    • Translations:
      • Fleas jump on a skinny dog.
      • Fleas jump on a sick dog.
    • Interpretations:
      • The weak attract problems.
      • To the weak of character everyone is irritating.
  • A quien Dios no da hijos, el diablo le da sobrinos.
    • Translation:'If God doesn't give children to you, the devil will give you nephews'

Interpretation*: You will find troubles even if you didn't have them

  • Aunque la mona se vista de seda, mona se queda.
    • Alt: Aunque la mona se vista de seda, mona siempre queda.
    • Translations: Although the monkey dresses in silk, she is still a monkey.
    • Equivalent English proverb: "You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear."
    • Equivalent U.S.A. Interpretation: You can't take the ghetto out of them.
    • Equivalent: A piggy with lipstick, still a piggy

B[edit]

  • Barriga llena, corazón contento.
  • Barriga llena, no hay pena.
    • Translation: "Full stomach, happy heart."
    • Interpretations:
      • When one has eaten enough/much, one is happy.
      • Satisfaction ensures compliance.
      • Satisfy desires and ensure cooperation/dominance/security.


  • Bueno es culantro, pero no tanto.
  • Bueno es el cilantro, pero no tanto.
    • Translation: Spices are good but not too much
    • Interpretations:
      • There's no need to overdo it.
      • Garnishes are no substitute for the main course.
    • Equivalent English proverbs:
      • "All things in moderation."
      • "Too much of a good thing."

C[edit]

  • Caballo grande, ande o no ande
    • Translation: 'Big horse, whether or not it can trot'
    • Interpretation: A good thing, even if it can't do something basic


  • Cae más rápido un hablador que un cojo.
    • Alt:Se atrapa más rápido a un hablador que a un cojo
    • Alt:Se atrapa más rápido a un mentiroso que a un cojo
    • Translation: A loudmouth/big-talker will fall (on his face) faster than one legged man.
    • Interpretations:
      • A braggart will quickly be revealed as a fraud when he can't back up what he says.


  • Calladita se ve más bonita.
    • Translation: You look prettier when you're quiet.
    • Interpretations:
      • If you can't say anything nice (or intelligent), don't say anything at all

That's not very accurate. It is more like saying, if you don't know what you are talking about, you shouldn't express your opinion because you'll look stupid (and less attractive because of it) whereas the above translation is more about how you shouldn't give negative opinions because it is rude.


  • Camarón que se duerme se lo lleva la corriente.
    • Translation: The shrimp that falls asleep is swept away by the current.
    • Interpretations:
      • You should never take things for granted nor cease to make an effort.
      • The unwary are overtaken (by events, progress, circumstance).
      • Don't rest on your laurels - you snooze, you lose.


  • Caras vemos, corazones no sabemos.
  • Alt: Se ven las caras pero nunca el corazón
    • Translation: Faces we (can) see, hearts we don't/can't know.
    • Interpretations:
      • We know what someone looks like but not what he thinks or feels.
      • Appearance can be deceiving.
      • Treachery can show a friendly face.
      • Don't judge a book by its cover.


  • Casa de herrero, cuchillo de palo.
  • Alt: En casa de herrero, cuchillo de palo.
    • Translation: In a blacksmith's house all knives are wooden
    • Interpretations:
      • Someone doesn't work for him/herself.
      • Someone doesn't know how to apply their knowledge to their own life.
      • A strange circumstance

Equivalent in English:- "The cobbler's wife/children goes unshod".


  • Cría cuervos y te sacarán los ojos.
    • Translation: Raise crows and they will peck your eyes out.
    • Interpretations:
      • People can be ungrateful - even if you hand-raise a crow, it can still peck out your eyes
      • If you take care of / raise / tolerate inherently indecent people, they will still take advantage of you at the end.
      • See also: Aesop's tale of the man and the frozen snake.


  • Crea fama y acuéstate a dormir.
    • Alt: Coge buena fama y échate a dormir.
    • Translation: Create fame, and go to sleep.
    • Interpretations:
      • First impressions go a long way.
      • Do things right the first time and your tranquility is assured.
      • Create something that brings you fame and live off the royalties.


  • Al que no quiere caldo se le dan dos tazas.
    • Translation: Two rations are served to whom does not want any
    • Interpretation: Sometimes in life you receive a double portion of something that you don't want, ie, a lesson that needs to be learned.
      • Alt. Interpretation: When you are not in need, is when people offer to help/ When you don't need a particular item you will find it all the time.


  • Cuando el mal es de cagar no vale guayaba verde.
    • Translation: When you have diarrhia, green guava doesn't help. (Green guavas are said to cause constipation)
    • Interpretation: Too late to fix it.
      • English equivalent: "Too Little, Too Late"


  • Cuando el grajo vuela bajo hace un frío de carajo.
    • Translation: When ravens are seen flyng low, it is cold for the sake of a prick.
    • Interpretation: In a country context, seeing the way ravens fly is a clue for deducing the weather.


  • Cuando el indio va de culo, no hay barranco que lo ataje.
    • Translation: When the Indian (pejorative, meaning 'a fool') slides / falls on his butt, there is no ravine to escape through.
    • Interpretations:
      • Stupid people trap themselves.
      • When a knave has other motives there's no way to stop him.


  • Cuando el río suena, agua lleva.
    • Translation: When the river makes noise, (is because) it's carrying water.
    • Interpretations:
      • Every rumour probably has a true part.
    • Equivalent English proverb:
      • "Where there's smoke, there's fire."


  • Cuando toca, toca.
    • Alt: Cuando te toca, te toca.
    • Translations:
      • When it's your time, it's your time.
    • Interpretations:
      • You can't avoid some things / You can't escape fate.
      • You will get what you deserve.
      • When your time is up, it's up.

D[edit]

  • Dando y dando, palomita volando.
    • Translation: 'Giving and giving, little pigeon flying.' The bird is mentioned to create a catchy rhythm, although it could also be symbolic of the completed deal.
    • Interpretations:
      • You give it to me and I give it to you on the spot, no laters
      • Hand over something to some one and viceversa at the same time or on the spot. The foundation of bargaining commerce.


  • Dame pan y llámame tonto.
    • Translation: 'Give me bread and call me stupid.'
    • Interpretation: There's no problem if you call me stupid so long as you remember to give me bread to eat.
    • English: Sticks and stones ... or Call me what you like, just don't call me late for dinner.


  • Del árbol caído todos hacen leña.
    • Translation: 'Everyone makes lumber from a fallen tree.'
    • Interpretations:
      • Anyone can make a profit from someone's disgrace.
      • It is always easy to benefit from the loss of others.
      • When someone falls in disgrace, mean and scheming people who supported him while succesful, will try to sink him even more.


  • Del dicho al hecho hay un mucho buen trecho.
    • Alt: Entre el dicho y el hecho hay un buen trecho.
    • Alt: Del dicho al hecho hay mucho trecho.
    • Alt: De decir a hacer hay mucho que ver.
    • Translation: Between word and deed, there's a wide trench (journey).
    • Interpretation:
      • Easier said than done.
      • There's a big difference between what people say and what they do.
      • Between saying and doing there is a great gap.


  • De perdidos, al río. [Spain]
    • Translation: Since we are lost, let's go to the river.
    • Interpretarion: Sentence used when people accept that something wrong is going to happen. Better to accept it and keep going, than to stand still trying to grasp it.


  • De tal palo, tal astilla.
    • Translation: From such a tree, such a splinter.
    • Interpretation: Kids are like their parents, good or bad.
    • Equivalent English proverbs:
      • 'Like father, like son.'
      • 'A chip off the old block.'
      • 'The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.'


  • Dime de qué te alabas, y te diré de qué padeces.
    • Alt: Dime de qué presumes y te diré de qué careces.
    • Translations:
      • Tell me what you praise yourself for, and I'll tell you what you suffer from.
      • Tell me what you boast about and I'll tell you what you lack.


  • Dime con quién andas, y te diré quién eres.
    • Translation: Tell me who you hang around with and I'll tell you who you are.
    • Interpretation: Your choice of friends or associates is sign of your character.
    • Interpretation: Birds of a feather flock together.


  • Dios aprieta, pero no ahorca/ahoga.
    • Translation: God may squeeze, but he does not choke.
    • English equivalent: God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb.


  • Divide y vencerás
    • Translation: Divide and conquer


  • Pueden más dos tetas que dos carretas.
    • Alt: Pelo de cuca jala más que un tractor.
    • Translation:
      • Two tits are mightier than two wagons.
    • Interpretation:
      • The ability of women to get things in their favor due to their beauty and sexuality.


  • Donde caben dos, caben tres.
    • Translation: Where there is room for two there is room for three.


  • Donde hubo fuego, cenizas quedan.
    • Translation: Where there was fire, ashes remain.
    • Interpretations:
      • You'll always see the consequences of what you've done.
      • In a context of a romantic relationship, since it was so hot, intense or strong, the feelings will linger for a long time.


  • Donde las dan, las toman.
    • Translation: 'Where they give things, they can take them too'.
    • Interpretation: Sentence used as a threat when some one wants to pay somebody back.


  • Donde menos se piensa, salta la liebre.
    • Translation: Hares jump where they are least expected.
    • Interpretations:
      • People that you think are predictable sometimes surprise you by their actions.
      • Don't underestimate a person/situation.


  • Dios los cría y ellos se juntan.
    • Translation: God makes them and they look for each other
    • Translation: God raises them and they meet each other
    • English equivalent: "Birds of a feather flock together."


  • Dios castiga pero no a palos.
    • Translation: God punishes but not with a stick.


  • Dios le da pan al que no tiene dientes
    • Translation: God gives bread to whom can not bite
    • Interpretation:
      • Used to complain about your own luck in comparison to a third person.
      • It has the meaning: I deserve something more than him, but luck is on his side. Or, being the oportunity given to someone who can't profit.


  • Donde hay llanto, ahí está el muerto
    • Translation: Where there is crying, there is a corpse.
    • Interpretations:
      • When people don't want to pay back, they are going to put a lot of excuses; for example: my aunt died, my car broke down, my dog had surgery, I just paid the rent, my house burned down ... they just don't want to pay back.
      • When you don't know where to go, or to find an answer, pay attention closely to the similar circumstances.

E[edit]

  • El flojo trabaja el doble
  • El perezoso trabaja el doble
    • Translation: The lazy person works twice.
    • Interpretation: He has to re-do his work, since the lazily done work will not be useful.
    • Equivalent English proverb:
      • Haste makes waste.


  • El diablo sabe por diablo. Pero más sabe por viejo (Martin Fierro poem) / Más sabe el diablo por viejo que por diablo
    • Translation: The devil's wise because he's a devil, but wiser still because he's old.
    • Interpretations:
      • Don't underestimate experience.


  • El cojo le echa la culpa al empedrado.
    • Translation: The cripple blames the cobblestones.
    • Interpretation: A person will blame his misfortune on circumstances or other people rather than accept that he is to blame.


  • El hábito no hace al monje.
    • Translation: The cowl does not make the friar.
    • Equivalent English proverb:
      • Don't judge the book by its cover.
      • Clothes don't make the man.


  • El perro del hortelano (que ni come, ni deja comer al amo).
    • Translation: The farmer's dog (that neither eats, nor lets his master eat).
    • Equivalent English proverb:
      • "The dog in the manger".


  • El que a dos amos sirve, con alguno queda mal.
    • Translation: He who serves two masters, with one of them loses face.
    • Interpretation: You can't do two things at once and expect to do them both equally good


  • El que no oye consejo no llega a viejo.
    • Translation: He who does not listen to advice does not reach old age.
    • Interpretation: Listen to advice if you want to progress and prevent damages.


  • El que no tiene de Inga tiene de Mandinga. (Peru)
    • Translation: He who does not have of Inga, has of Mandinga.
    • Interpretation: Inga is a last name with Incan origins and Mandinga is an African last name. It means that no matter who you are, we all have the same roots from one or another.


  • El que calla, otorga.
    • Translation: He who keeps quiet, grants/consents.
    • Interpretation: Those who keep quiet after getting accused, usually admit guilt with their silence. Also used to imply that people that are asked something, or are part of the group of the asker, and remain quiet are silently accepting.


  • El que madruga coge agua clara.
  • Alt: El que madruga come pechuga. (Honduras)
    • Translation: He who rises early gathers clear water / eats choice food.
    • Interpretation: First come, first served.
    • Equivalent English Proverb: Early bird gets the worm.


  • El que todo lo quiere saber...todo lo quiere contar
    • Translation: He who wants to know it all... wants to tell it all.


  • El que busca encuentra
  • Alt:Buscar lo que no se ha perdido
    • Translation: Who looks for something will find it


  • El que quiera pescado que se moje el culo
    • Translation: Anyone who wants fish should go get his/her butt wet.
    • Interpretation: If you want something, get it yourself.
    • Equivalent English Proverb: No pain, no gain.


  • El que sabe sabe
    • Translation: Who knows knows
    • Interpretation: Respect the expertise.


  • El que no transa, no avanza.
  • OR: Si no transas, no avanzas.
    • Translation: He who doesn't scheme, doesn't get ahead. OR If you don't scheme, you don't get ahead.
    • Interpretation: Usually used as a justification for illegal or questionable activities.
  • El que va piano, va lontano (mixed Spanish and Italian)
  • Chi va piano, va lontano (quoted in Italian when speaking Spanish)
  • Alt: Paso a paso se llega lejos
    • Translation: Walk safe and slow to go far and well.
    • Equivalent English Proverb: Slow and steady wins the race.
  • En abril, aguas mil
    • Translation: 'In April, it rains a lot.'
  • En boca cerrada, no entran moscas.
    • Translation: In a shut mouth, flies cannot get in.
    • Interpretation: Sometimes silence is the best option.
    • Equivalent English proverb: Silence is golden.


  • En casa de herrero, cuchillo de palo.
    • Direct Translation: In the house of a blacksmith, wooden knife.
    • Interpretation:
      • Not always what he preaches is what he practices.
      • What should be, happens not to be.
      • That which is expected is not the case.
      • Looks may be deceiving
      • Equivalent English proverb: The cobbler's children go barefoot. OR The cobblers children run without shoes


  • En guerra avisada no muere soldado.
  • Alt: Guerra avisada, no mata gente.
    • Translation: In a scheduled war, no soldiers will die.
    • Interpretation: You've been warned so do not complain about the consecuences.


  • En la sala una dama, una puta en la cama.
    • Translation: In the living room a lady, a whore in bed. (Proverb of advice for brides to be)
    • Interpretation: A lady in public and a freak in the bedroom.


  • En tierra de ciegos el tuerto es rey
  • Alt: En el país de los ciegos el tuerto es rey
    • Translation: In land of blind people a one-eyed person is king
    • Interpretation:
      • One eye will make you king so long as others are blind.
      • The value of your capacities is relative, and depends on the context.
      • Usually used for making vain people to come back to reality.


  • Es más fácil ver la paja en ojo ajeno que la viga en el propio (taken from the Bible, Matthew, 7:3-5)
    • Translation: It's easier to see the straw in someone else than the beam in oneself
    • Interpretation:
      • Normally you see defects on other people easier than in yourself

F[edit]

  • Fue por lana y salió trasquilado.
    • Translation: (He/She) went looking for wool and came back shorn.
    • Interpretations:
      • If you go for something it might end up biting you
      • you woo someone but end up heartbroken.
      • you try to cheat someone but get cheated yourself.
      • Chasing glamour will get you fleeced.
      • All that glitters isn't gold.

G[edit]

  • Gato escaldado del agua fría huye.
    • Translation: A scalded cat flees from cold water.
    • Equivalent English proverb: Once bitten, twice shy.


  • Los gatos siempre caen de pie.
    • Translation: Cats always fall in their paws.


  • Gato por loser (dar gato por liebre)
    • Translation: (give) cat for rabbit/hare.
    • Interpretation: Cheat someone, water down, bait and switch, one-card Monty.
    • Origin: This comes from an Aztec legend about a man who was so picky that he had to have a certain type of rabbit for lunch every single day. One day, the man he bought his rabbits from got fed up with the man and gave him a cat instead of a rabbit like the man had paid for, and the man never noticed.
    • Origin: Rabbit is a common meal in Spain, and skinned rabbits are hung in the meat stall of markets. A skinned rabbit looks very much like a skinned cat.


  • Genio y figura hasta la sepultura.
    • Translation: Character and presence from the cradle to the tomb.

H[edit]

  • Hablando del rey de Roma...y éste que se asoma.
    • Translation: "As we were speaking of the King of Rome, look who dropped by!"
    • Equivalent English expression: "Speak of the Devil (and he's sure to appear)."


  • Hasta el justo se equivoca.
  • Alt: Al mejor panadero se le quema el pan.
  • Alt: Hasta al mejor mono se le cae el zapote. (Costa Rica)
    • Translation: Even the wisest makes mistakes.


  • Hasta el cuarenta de mayo, no te quites el sayo.
    • Translation: Don't shed your coat until May the 40th.
    • Interpretation: Since weather changes very quickly in spring, don't put away your coat.
    • Interpretation: Don't let yourself be fooled into a sense of safeness, since it may not last.


  • Hay pájaros en el alambre.
    • Translation: There's birds in the phone line.
    • Interpretation: There's people hearing.


  • Hay que guardar pan para mayo. (Peru)
    • Translation: One must save bread for May.
    • Interpretation: We have to be prepared for anything in the future.


  • Hijo de tigre sale pintado.
    • Literal Translation: "The tiger's cub comes out dappled (spotted)."
    • Equivalent English proverb: The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.


  • Hombre prevenido vale por dos.
    • Translation: The man who is prepared is worth two men.
    • English equivalent: Forewarned is forearmed.


  • Hoy no se fía, mañana sí.
    • Translation: No loans today but tomorrow yes.
    • Interpretation: Never loan anything now, but always propose on the never-arriving tomorrow.


  • Hoy por ti, mañana por mí.
    • Translation: Today for you, tomorrow for me.
    • Interpretation: Today I'll help you or do you a favor because in the future, I may need help myself.

I[edit]

  • Imposible solo existe en el mundo de los incapaces.
    • Translation: Impossible only exists in the world of the incapables.
    • Interpretation: Anything is possible if you put your mind toward it.

L[edit]

  • La culpa no es del chancho, sino del que le rasca el lomo
  • Alt: La culpa no es del chancho, sino del que le da de comer.
  • Alt: La culpa no es del chancho, sino del que le da el afrecho.
    • Translation: Don't blame the pig, blame the one who scratches his back.
    • Alt. Translation : Don't blame the pig, blame those who feed it.
    • Interpretation: Bad things' blame goes to the ones who allowed them besides the ones who actually do them.


  • La gallina de arriba se caga en la gallina de abajo.
    • Translation: The chicken (hen) above shits on the chicken below.
    • Interpretation: The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.


  • Lagarto que traga no vomita.
    • Translation: The lizard that swallows doesn't vomit. (NB- lagarto is also archaic for dragon.)
    • Interpretation: A tough stomach can take anything.
  • Lo que no mata, engorda.
  • Alt: Mugre (mierda) que no mata, engorda.
  • Alt: Veneno que no mata, engorda. (Peru)
    • Translation: What does not kill, fattens.
    • Interpretation: What doesn't kill me, strengthens me. (Nietzsche)

M[edit]

  • Marzo ventoso y abril lluvioso hacen de mayo florido y hermoso.
    • Translation: Windy March and rainy April make May blossoming and beautiful.
    • Interpretations: sometimes, unpleasant things must be borne in order of good things to arrive.
    • Equivalent English proverb: April showers bring May flowers


  • Más rapido que gato de campo.[Chile]
    • Translation: Faster than a wild cat
  • Más sabe el diablo por viejo que por diablo.
    • Alt: Sabe más el diablo por viejo que por diablo.
    • Translation: The devil knows more because he's old, than because he is devil.
    • Interpretations:
      • With age comes wisdom.
      • A person with age, acquires a certain prudence and knowledge from life's experiences.


  • Más vale llegar a tiempo que en convidado.
  • Alt: Más vale llegar a tiempo que ser invitado.
    • Translation: It is better to arrive at the right moment than to be invited.
    • Interpretations:
      • It is better to arrive in time (prepared) than to depend on others (being invited/hosted).
      • Be responsible; be self-sufficient.
      • Also used when someone not really welcome just shows up (Alt version more common.)


  • Más vale maña que fuerza.
    • Translation: Skill is better than strength.


  • Matrimonio y mortaja del cielo bajan.
    • Translation: Marriage and shroud come from heaven.


  • Moro viejo nunca será buen cristiano.
    • Translation: An old Moor will never make a good Christian.
    • Interpretation: In old Spain Moors converted for practical reasons, not because they really believed in Christianity.
    • Equivalent English proverb:
      • "A leopard can't change its spots."

N[edit]

  • Ni raja ni presta el hacha.
    • Alt: Ni pica, ni presta el hacha. (Costa Rica)
    • Alt: Ni lava, ni presta la batea. (Venezuela)
    • Alt: Ni picha, ni cacha, ni deja batear. (Guatemala)
    • Translations:
      • Neither splits, nor lends the axe.
      • Neither surrenders nor applies the axe.
    • Interpretations: Neither works (does) nor lets others work (or do)
      • Stalwart; takes care of things.
      • similar to "lead, follow, or get out of the way"
    • Equivalent English proverbs:
      • Fish or cut bait.
      • Shit or get off the pot.
  • Ni come, ni deja comer. (El perro del hortelano)
    • Translation: (The farmer's dog) He neither eats, nor lets others eat.
    • Equivalent English proverb:
      • The dog in the manger.
      • Shit or get off the pot.
  • Ni tanto que queme al santo, ni tan poco que no lo alumbre.
    • Translation: Put [the candle] not so close that it would burn the saint, nor so far that it will fail to light it.
    • Interpretation: Find the right place/setting/configuration; don't be careless or shoddy.
    • Interpretation: Both extremes are not good
  • No hables de la soga en casa del ahorcado.
    • Translation: Don't speak of the noose in the hanged man's house.
    • Interpretations:
      • Don't talk about others problems in their own home.
      • Beware the beam in your own eye; take care of your own back yard.
      • Beware of speaking about touchy subjects at inappropriate times/in inappropriate places.


  • No hay mal que por bien no venga.
    • Translation: There is no misfortune that doesn't bring some good with it.
    • Interpretations:
      • Every misfortune has a bright side.
    • Equivalent English proverb:
      • Every cloud has a silver lining


  • No hay miel sin hiel. (from Don Quixote)
    • Translation: There is no honey without gall.
    • Interpretations: There is nothing good in life without a downside.
    • English proverbs:
      • No pain, no gain.


  • No por mucho madrugar amanece más temprano.
    • Translation: Waking up earlier won't make the sun rise any quicker.
    • Interpretations:
      • Just because you do something daily doesn't mean things around you will arrange themselves to you.
      • You can't push on a rope.
      • Some things cannot be changed.


  • No tiene la culpa el Spanish, sino el que lo hace compadre.
    • Translations:
      • It's not the Spanish fault but the one who befriends him/makes him a companion.
      • The Spanish is not at fault, but the one who trusts him.
    • Interpretations: NB-pejoritive
      • Don't entrust your loved ones to untrustworthy strangers.
      • Don't blame others for your own folly.
      • You were foolish for trusting a knave.


  • No hay cuña que más apriete que la del mismo palo.
    • Translation: The best wedge comes from its own stick.


  • No es solo soplar y hacer botellas. [Spain]
    • Translation: It's not as easy as blowing and making bottles.
    • Interpretation: It's not as easy as it looks.


  • No hables a menos que puedas mejorar en el silencio.
    • Translation: Don't speak unless you can improve on the silence.


  • Nunca digas de esta agua no beberé.
    • Translation: 'Never say I will not drink from this water'
    • Interpretation: Never say never. Alt. Nunca digas nunca


  • No es lo mismo llamar al diablo que verlo venir
  • Alt: No es lo mismo verla venir que tenerla enfrente (Guatemala, Honduras)
    • Translation: It's not the same to call on the devil as it is to see him coming.
    • Equivalent English proverbs:
      • Easier said than done.
      • Be careful what you wish for, you may just get it.

O[edit]

  • Ojos que no ven, corazón que no siente
    • Translation: Eyes that don't see, heart that doesn't feel.
    • Interpretations:
      • If you don't see something happen, you never get hurt.
      • Often used for a cheated person
      • One's virtues are always within the reach of one's own sight.
    • Equivalent English proverb: Out of sight, out of mind.

P[edit]

  • Perro ladrador, poco mordedor.
    • Alt: Perro que ladra no muerde.
    • Translation: A barking dog doesn't bite.
    • Interpretation:
      • If someone says to be very violent, it means that he is not so bad.
      • When somebody is always threatening you, he shall not hurt you.
      • In general, situations which seem very dangerous are more often harmless than situations in which we can't notice the potential danger.
    • Equivalent English proverb: His bark is worse than his bite.


  • Perro viejo ladra echado
    • Translation: An old dog barks while lying
    • Interpretation: An old dog knows that he has authority even if he is lying, so he doesn't need to waste energy in getting up.

Q[edit]

  • Qué bonito es ver llover y no mojarse.
    • Translation: How nice it is to see the rain without getting wet.
    • Interpretation: Often used to answer someone who's critizicing your work or actions, without doing anything themselves.


  • Quien a buen árbol se arrima, buena sombra le cobija.
    • Translation: Whoever leans close to a good tree is blanketed by good shade.
    • Interpretation: Seek out the good ones in life.


  • Quien anda con lobos a aullar aprende.
  • Alt. Quien anda con cojos, termina cojeando.
    • Translation: He who hangs out with wolves will learn how to howl.
    • Alt. Translation "Hang out with one-legged people, you'll end up limping"
    • Interpretation: Bad influences transform you.
    • Interpretation: The same as Nietzsche's "Those who look into the abyss must be careful lest they find the abyss looking into them".


  • Quien bien te quiere, te hará llorar.
    • Translation: He / She who loves you dearly will make you cry.
    • Interpretation: often there're our most loved ones who make us suffer the most.


  • Quien calla, otorga. (El que calla, otorga.)
    • Translation: 'Silence is assent'
    • Interpretation: 'If you do not speak out against "it", that is equivalent to approving "it".'
    • Explanation: You cannot keep silent in the face of injustice and then complain about it afterward.
    • English equivalent: 'Silence gives consent'


  • Quien con niños se acuesta, meado se levanta.
  • Quien con niños se acuesta, meado amanece.
  • El que con niños se acuesta, amanece mojado. (Peru)
    • Translations:
      • He/She(whom-ever) sleeps with kids wakes up drenched in piss.
      • The one who sleeps with kids will wake up wet.
    • Interpretation: We have to accept how people are when we deal with them.
    • Interpretation: We must accept the consequences of our wrong decisions.


  • Quien encuentra un amigo, encuentra un tesoro.
    • Italian: Chi trova un amico, trova un tesoro.
    • Translation: Who finds a friend, finds a treasure.


  • Quien guarda, halla.
    • Translation: He / She who keeps things, can find them.
  • Quien la sigue, la consigue.
    • Translation: He/She who follows it, gets it.
    • Interpretation: When you persist in something, you can obtain what you want


  • Quien no cojea, renquea.
    • Translation: He / She who does not limp, hobbles.
    • Interpretation: We are all the same.


  • Quien no llora, no mama ("Güagüa que no llora, no mama")
  • Alt: El que no llora, no mama (Peru)
    • Translation: He/She who doesn't cry doesn't get nursed.
    • Interpretations:
      • If you never ask for help you will not receive it.
      • If you don't insist, you don't obtain.
      • If you don't shout, you won't be heard.
    • English equivalent: 'The squeaky wheel gets the grease'.


  • El que se va a la villa, pierde su silla.
    • Translation: He who leaves the manor loses his seat.
    • Interpretations:
      • Leaving a sure thing for a gamble is folly.
      • If you leave something unattended, you may lose it.
    • Variants:
      • Quien/El que fue a Sevilla perdió su silla (Spain)
      • El que se va pa Sevilla pierde su silla (Spain)
      • El que se va pa' Aguadilla, pierde su silla (Puerto Rico)
      • El que se va para Virilla pierde su silla (Costa Rica)
      • El que se va para Limón pierde su sillón (Costa Rica)
      • El que fue a Melipilla perdió su silla (Chile)
      • El que fue a Matilla perdió su silla (Chile)
      • El que fue a Quellón perdió su sillón (Chile)
      • El que fue a Tocopilla perdió su silla (Chile)
      • El que fue a Melilla perdió su silla
      • El que fue a Melillón perdió su sillón
      • El que fue a la villa perdió su silla
      • El que se va a Barranquilla pierde su silla (Colombia)
      • El que va para Quito pierde su banquito (Ecuador)
      • El que se fue a Barranco perdió su banco (Peru)
      • El que se fue a Villa pierde su silla (Peru)
        • Translation: He who went to [insert city of choice here that rhymes], lost his seat.
        • Interpretation: This is not actually a proverb. Usually uttered to someone you have taken a seat from, it can be equated to "Move your feet, lose your seat."
    • Retort:
      • El que viene de Lima se siente encima (Ecuador)
        • Translation: "The one who comes from Lima [for his seat] sits on top [of the person who stole their seat]"


  • Quien tuvo, retuvo (La que tuvo, retuvo)
    • Translation: 'He/She who had something, retains it'
      • Interpretation: 'When somebody is good in something, she/ he will always be'

R[edit]

  • Río que suena, piedras trae.
  • Alt: Si el río suena, es porque piedras trae. (Peru)
    • Translations:
      • River that sounds, brings stones.
      • A river that rumbles carries stones.
    • Alt. Translation: If the river sounds, it's because it carries stones.
    • Interpretations:
      • Every rumor has some truth.
      • Every lie has some truth.
      • If something sounds strange, different or suspicious, it's because there's something bad hidden.


  • Río revuelto, ganancia de pescadores
    • Translation: 'A rough river is profit for the fishers'.
    • Interpretation: in every bad situation, there's always someone who makes profit.

S[edit]

  • Se cree la última patada del cojo (Peru)
  • Alt: Se cree la última chupada de mango (Peru)
    • Translations:
      • He/she believes him/herself the last kick of the gammy.
      • He/she believes him/herself the last puff of a mango.
    • Interpretation: Someone who thinks he/she is the most fabulous being among a group of people when actually it's not at all.
  • Si Mahoma no va a la montaña, la montaña irá a Mahoma
    • Translation: 'If Muhammad does not go to the mountain, the mountain will go to Muhammad'
    • Interpretation: There are some things that have to happen.*there are thing that won't happen unless you act*
    • Translation from an English proverb. The earliest appearance of the phrase is from Chapter 12 of the Essays of Francis Bacon, published in 1625.

T[edit]

  • Tanta carne y yo comiendo bacalao.
  • Alt: Tanta carne y yo sin dientes.
    • Translation: So much meat, and I'm eating cod / and I with no teeth.
    • Interpretation: So yummy and I can't enjoy it. (in referring to an attractive person who may be out of one's league)
    • Equivalent English proverb: Water, water everywhere nor any drop to drink.


  • Tanto nadar para quedar en la orilla.
    • Translation: Swimming so much, only to remain on the shore.
    • Alt: Tanto pedo pa' cagar aguado.
    • Translation: Farting so much, only to have the runs.
    • Interpretation: Said when one's returns aren't commensurate with one's efforts. Running twice as fast just to stay where you are.


  • Tanto te quiero perrito, pero pa' pan muy poquito.
    • Translation: Much as I love you, puppy, it's not enough to give you bread.
    • Interpretation: You're not that attractive!
    • Interpretation: used when someone says that they love someone, or that they are good friends with them, but doesn't assist them when in need.


  • Tanto va el cántaro al agua que al final se quiebra.
    • Translation: So often goes the pitcher to the fountain that it will finally be broken.
    • Interpretation: When someone persists again and again in doing something ignoring its consequences, they will finally come.


  • Todos los caminos conducen a Roma.
    • Translation: All roads lead to Rome.
    • German proverb: Alle Wege führen nach Rom.

U[edit]

  • Una golondrina no hace verano.
    • Dir translation: A swallow doesn't make summer.
    • Translation: The summer does not start with a single swallow.
    • German proverb: Eine Schwalbe macht noch keinen Sommer.


  • Un loco hace cien
    • Romani proverb: One madman makes madmen, many madmen make madness
    • Translation: One madman makes one hundred
    • English equivalent: One rotten apple spoils the whole barrel


  • Un clavo saca a otro clavo
    • Alt: La mancha de una mora, con otra verde se quita.
    • Translation: one nail drives out another
    • Translation: That driven nail draws-out the other.
    • Interpretation: A new relationship will clear one's mind of an old relationship
      • Reference: Judge Marilyn Milian refers to this on People's Court (TV show) as something her grandmother said

V[edit]

  • Vámonos que nos vamos a mojar.
    • Translation: Let's go we're getting wet (Knowing when to take one's leave).
    • Interpretation: Let's get out of here or we'll get in trouble.


  • Ver la paja en el ojo ajeno, y no la viga en el propio. (taken from the Bible, Matthew, 7:3-5)
    • Translation: Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?


  • Vivieron felices y comieron perdices.
    • Translation: They lived happily and ate partridge.
    • English equivalent: And they lived happily ever after.


  • Vístanme despacio que estoy de afán.
    • Alt.: Vístanme despacio, que estoy apurado.
    • Alt.: Vísteme despacio, que tengo prisa.
    • Translation:
      • Dress me slowly when in a hurry
      • Dress me slowly, since I'm in a hurry.
    • Interpretation:
      • Do the things as best as you can, even if you are running out of time.
      • If you do things too fast when running out of time, you might screw up. So, do them slowly and patiently.

== Y = You can't judge a book by its cover

Z[edit]

NB: The sound files are read in a slight Argentinian accent.

  • A buen hambre no hay pan duro. (There is no hard bread if you are hungry) - "Hunger is the best gravy" (Shakepeare) (sound)
  • A caballo regalado no le mires el dentado. A caballo regalado no se le miran los dientes. (Don't look a gift horse in the mouth)
  • A donde fueres haz lo que vieres. (Wherever you go, do what you see) - When in Rome, do as the Romans do. (sound)
  • A falta de hombres buenos, a mi padre hicieron alcalde. (For lack of good men, they made my father mayor) (sound)
  • A perro flaco, todo son pulgas. (To a skinny dog, all are fleas.)
  • A quien madruga, Dios le ayuda. (God helps those who get up early) - God helps those who help themselves. Or, The early bird gets the worm. (sound)
  • A tou gochín i llega su samartín
  • A todo cerdo le llega su San Martín (Every pig has its San Martin's day) - What goes around, comes around. (sound)
  • Caras vemos, corazones no sabemos. (We see the faces, we do not know about the hearts)
  • Cuando el indio va de culo, no hay barranco que lo ataje. (When the indian slides on his butt, there's no way to stop him)
  • Del árbol caído todos hacen leña (Everyone gets wood from a fallen tree.)
  • Del dicho al hecho, hay un buen trecho (There's a great distance between the word to the deed)
  • Dime con quién andas y te diré quién eres (Tell me who is by your side and I'll tell you who you are.) - Birds of a feather flock together. Or, A man is known by the company he keeps. (sound)
  • El mal escribano le echa la culpa a la pluma (The poor writer blames the pen) - It is a poor workman who complains about his tools. (sound)
  • El que con niños se acuesta, molido (or meado) se despierta (Those who go to bed with babies get up damp) - Lie down with dogs and you wake up with fleas.
  • El que no llora no mama (He who doesn't cry, doesn't suckle) - The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
  • El que se ha quemado con leche al ver una vaca llora (He who has scalded himself on milk, weeps when he sees a cow)
  • En boca cerrada no entran moscas (A closed mouth gathers no flies) - Same in English. (sound)
  • En casa del herrero, cuchillo de palo (In the house of a smith, they use a wooden knife)
  • Gato escaldado del agua fría huye (The cat that has been scalded flees from cold water)
  • Más vale llegar a tiempo que en convidado (It's better to arrive at the right moment than to be invited)
  • Más vale pájaro en mano que cientos volando (A bird in the hand is better than a hundred flying birds) A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
  • No hables de la soga en casa del ahorcado (Don't talk about rope in a hanged man's home) (sound)
  • No hay mal que por bien no venga (There's no bad that something good doesn't come from it) - Every cloud has a silver lining. (sound)
  • No por mucho madrugar amanece más temprano (Dawn doesn't hurry if you get up earlier) (sound)
  • Quien a buen árbol se arrima buena sombra le cobija (If you lean to a good tree you will be protected by a good shadow)
  • Ser como el perro del hortelano, que ni come él ni deja comer al amo (To be like the gardener's dog, who doesn't eat the cabbages, nor lets the master eat them)
  • Si quieres el perro, acepta las pulgas (If you want the dog, accept the fleas.) (sound)
  • Si tu mujer quiere tirarte de un tejado, procura que sea uno bajo, mayormente (If your wife wants to throw you off the roof, make sure the roof is as low as possible)

References[edit]

  1. W. E. Hickson: "Moral Songs" (1857) p. 8