35 Common Spanish Sayings for Authentic Communication

December 13, 2023
8 min read

Here’s our list of popular Spanish sayings. 

Language is more than just words and grammar; it's a gateway to understanding culture, history, and the essence of a people. And when it comes to the Spanish language, sayings are a treasure trove of wisdom, humor, and profound insights harvested by Spanish-speaking cultures. 

Whether you're a seasoned Spanish speaker looking to deepen your cultural understanding or a budding learner eager to unlock the secrets of authentic communication, these 35 common Spanish sayings will enrich your language journey. 

Common Spanish Sayings

To start off, here are some common Spanish sayings you can use to assist your communication!

Sign that says "Hola"

1. Más Vale Pájaro En Mano, Que Cien Volado

The Spanish saying translates to "a bird in the hand is worth more than a hundred flying" in English. This saying suggests it's often wiser to hold on to what you have rather than chase uncertain or risky alternatives. 

It emphasizes the value of something that is certain, tangible, and already in your possession (represented by the bird in your hand) compared to the potential, uncertain, and often elusive possibilities (represented by the hundred birds flying away). 

2. A Caballo Regalado No Le Mires El Diente

This literally means, "don't look a gift horse in the mouth." This advises that when you receive a gift or something for free, you shouldn't criticize or examine it too closely for flaws or faults. Instead, you should be grateful for the gift or opportunity more than anything. It emphasizes appreciation for what you get without being too critical.

3. El Que La Hace, La Paga

This phrase literally translates to: "He who does it, pays for it," which is the English equivalent of "what goes around, comes around." It reflects the idea that actions have repercussions, and people will be held accountable for their deeds, whether they are good or bad.

4. A Mal Tiempo, Buena Cara

This translates to "in bad weather, put on a good face" or "if life gives you lemons, make lemonade" in English. This expression encourages maintaining a positive attitude, even in challenging or adverse situations, as a positive attitude can help people navigate tough circumstances more effectively.

5. Dime Con Quién Andas, Y Te Diré Quién Eres

Literally meaning "tell me who you hang out with, and I'll tell you who you are." This expression emphasizes the idea that a person's character and values can be judged, to some extent, by the company they keep. It suggests that the people you associate with can have an influence on your own behavior and reputation.

6. Más Vale Estar Solo Que Mal Acompañado

On the topic of company, this saying means "it's better to be alone than in bad company" in English. This saying highlights the importance of choosing your companions wisely and not letting others around you drag you down. Or, you can say this out of consultation when a friend just ended a friendship!

7. El Que La Hace, La Paga

This saying translates to: "he who does it, pays for it" or "you reap what you sow." Spanish culture strongly values the idea that wrongdoings or unethical behavior will lead to negative consequences. A mantra that reminds others that actions have repercussions.

8. Hoy Por Ti, Mañana Por Mí

We’ve all heard of the proverb, “scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” This Spanish saying is essentially that, literally meaning “today for you, tomorrow for me,” conveying the golden rule that acts of kindness tend to be reciprocated in the future, near or far.

9. No Es Oro Todo Lo Que Reluce

This saying translates to “it’s not golden everything that glitters,” or simply “all that glitters is not gold.” This is a great saying to warn the dangers of deceptive appearances, and to look for substance under what first meets the eye. Thus, this saying also delivers a sense of “things aren’t always what they seem.”

10. El Amor Es Ciego

There is a common belief that when you’re in love, you tend to think less rationally. Well, this is a Spanish saying that literally translates to “love is blind,” meaning that once you’re in love, it’s hard to recognize the shortcomings of your significant other. It’s a little sad but quite relatable, isn’t it?

11. Arrieros Somos Y En El Camino Nos Encontraremos

Life is full of twists and turns. This saying has a literal translation of “we are muleteers, and on the road, we shall meet" in English, conveying the idea that life is unpredictable, and you may encounter people or situations unexpectedly as you journey through life. 

12. Más Vale Prevenir Que Lamentar

Translating to "It is better to prevent than to regret" in English, this expression underscores the importance of taking precautions and being proactive to avoid problems or difficulties in the first place. It suggests that taking preventive measures is wiser than dealing with the consequences or regrets of inaction. 

13. Camarón Que Se Duerme, Se Lo Lleva La Corriente

On a similar note about being proactive, this saying translates to "the shrimp that falls asleep gets carried away by the current" in English. This expression emphasizes the importance of staying alert and proactive, especially in situations where inaction or complacency can lead to negative consequences. 

14. El Que Mucho Abarca, Poco Aprieta

"He who grasps at too much, holds little." This expression advises against trying to do too many things at once or taking on too many responsibilities. When someone tries to handle too much, they may end up accomplishing very little or not doing any task well. Don’t spread yourself thin! 

15. En Boca Cerrada No Entran Moscas

Sometimes, speech is silver, silence is gold. This Spanish saying means "flies don't enter a closed mouth" in English, suggesting that sometimes it's best to keep quiet and avoid unnecessary trouble. It emphasizes the value of silence and not saying things that may lead to problems or conflicts. 

Famous Spanish Sayings

Here are 10 famous Spanish sayings to further enhance your ability to communicate like a native!

Spanish writing on mug

1. Más Vale Tarde Que Nunca

This literally translates to "better late than never" in English. It conveys the idea that it's preferable for something to happen or be done later than expected or originally planned rather than not happening at all. It is a great way to encourage taking action even if it's delayed because it's still better than not taking any action at all.

2. No Hay Mal Que Por Bien No Venga

Every cloud has a silver lining. This saying literally means, "there is no bad from which good doesn't come." This saying suggests that even in challenging or adverse situations, there may be hidden benefits or positive outcomes. It is an excellent word of encouragement for someone who is going through a tough time.

3. Dime De Qué Presumes Y Te Diré De Qué Careces

This saying translates to "tell me what you boast about, and I'll tell you what you lack" in English and is a caution against arrogance or excessive bragging. It reminds people to be humble and consider that those who boast the most may not necessarily possess the qualities they claim. 

4. Más Ven Cuatro Ojos Que Dos

Two heads are better than one! Or, four eyes see better than two if you want to be literal. This saying emphasizes the idea that having more people or perspectives involved in a situation can lead to better insights, ideas, or solutions. It suggests that collaboration and teamwork often result in better understanding and solutions.

5. Obras Son Amores, Que No Buenas Razones

This phrase translates to "deeds are love, not good reasons" in English. It is the equivalent of “actions speak louder than words.” But more precisely, it suggests that demonstrating love, commitment, or sincerity through actions is more meaningful and persuasive than providing reasons or excuses.

6. Al Pan, Pan, Y Al Vino, Vino 

This phrase means, "call bread, bread, and wine, wine" in English or, simply, call a spade a spade. Straightforwardness and honesty are valued virtues in communication. It suggests that one should speak plainly and directly, using clear and unambiguous language.

7. Amar Sin Padecer, No Puede Ser

Love is not easy. This saying literally means “to love without suffering, is not possible" in English. Although sounding somewhat grim, it actually implies that it is normal for genuine and deep love to involve moments of pain or challenges, and you should not be deterred by the hardships you face. 

8. Más Vale Maña Que Fuerza

This Spanish saying literally translates to "skill is better than strength" or "cleverness is more valuable than strength" in English. Essentially, brains over brawn. You can apply this to problem-solving, decision-making, and overcoming obstacles where using one's intellect is preferable to using sheer brute force.

9. No Hay Dos Sin Tres

Here is a saying about coincidences. Translating to "there are no two without three" in English implies that patterns or repetitions often continue. After all, if something only happens once, it could be a one-time thing. If it happens a second time, the chances of repetition are much higher. 

10. El Tiempo Lo Cura Todo

This saying translates to "time heals everything" or "time cures all" in English. With the passage of time, emotional wounds, grief, or difficult situations tend to become more manageable and less painful. It implies that time can bring healing and relief to people who are going through tough times.

Funny Spanish Sayings

But wait, we aren’t done yet. As a treat, here are 10 funny Spanish sayings that have some hilarity in their wisdom!

Spanish grammar book

1. Más Se Consigue Lamiendo Que Mordiendo

“You achieve more by licking than by biting.” That is literally what this saying means in English. This saying emphasizes that being diplomatic, cooperative, or using gentle persuasion often yields better results than being confrontational or aggressive. Essentially, you attract more bees with honey than with vinegar. 

2. Mucho Ruido Y Pocas Nueces

This saying, translating to “a lot of noise and little nuts,” means a situation that has a lot of hype but little actual substance. It uses the metaphor of "nueces" (nuts) to emphasize the idea that something appears to have a lot of substance or value (like nuts) but, upon closer inspection, turns out to be lacking in substance or significance. 

You can also use this saying to say, “all bark and no bite.” Essentially, it is another saying that satirizes deceptive appearances. 

3. Te Quiero Como La Trucha Al Trucho

This saying uses a playful metaphor involving fish to convey affection, as the saying literally translates to “I love you like the female trout loves the male trout.” As trout are naturally drawn to each other for mating, you can use this saying to express your affection, fondness, or love for someone.

4. Con Las Manos En La Masa

How do you say “get caught red-handed” in Spanish? Get caught with your hands in the dough. Such is the literal translation of this saying above. It is often used to describe a person who is caught in the act of doing something, usually something they shouldn't be doing. After all, it even sounds like a sticky situation!

5. Cada Loco Con Su Tema

In English, this phrase translates to "each crazy person with their own topic" or "to each their own." This saying suggests that people have their own unique interests or preferences, and what may seem unusual or "crazy" to one person may be entirely normal and meaningful to another. It encourages respecting individual differences and choices.

6. Cuando Hay Hambre, No Hay Mal Pan

This one translates to “when there's hunger, there is no bad bread" in English, suggesting that when people are hungry or in need, they become less selective and more willing to accept whatever is available. It is quite self-explanatory, but you can also use it to say, “beggars can’t be choosers.” 

7. Dios Los Cría, Y Ellos Se Juntan 

This is the equivalent of “birds of a feather flock together,” although the expression is a bit altered, literally meaning “God raises them, and they come together." You can use this phrase to describe a situation where a group of people with similar personalities, interests, or behaviors are drawn to each other. 

8. Donde Hay Confianza, Da Asco

This is a slightly snarky and cynical saying that speaks of the downsides of friendships and acquaintances, literally translates to "where there is trust, it becomes disgusting" or "familiarity breeds contempt" in English. 

When people are very close or familiar with each other, they may become more relaxed and comfortable, but this can sometimes lead to a lack of respect, politeness, or consideration. 

9. A Veces El Remedio Es Peor Que La Enfermedad

Another snarky and cynical saying, this one literally translates to "sometimes the remedy is worse than the disease" in English. Attempting to solve a problem can sometimes lead to unintended consequences that worsen the original problem. Used to express caution or skepticism about a proposed solution.

10. A Cada Cerdo Le Llega Su San Martín 

Every pig has its Saint Martin's Day. This is how you say “what goes around comes around” in Spanish. Saint Martin's Day, known as "Día de San Martín" in Spanish, is a Christian holiday celebrated on November 11th each year. It serves as a reminder of the importance of generosity, kindness, and helping those in need.

These are values that are associated with Saint Martin's own life and deeds. In a similar vein, dishonest or unethical behavior (represented by pigs) will also see their comeuppance this day. It's a figurative way of emphasizing that everyone faces the consequences of their actions, eventually, as November 11th will always come. 


Now that we’ve provided a list of popular Spanish sayings, you probably have a few questions. Take a look at our answers to some frequently asked questions.

1. How Can I Use Spanish Sayings in Conversations?

Choose the right moment. Sayings often carry a specific message or meaning. Select a saying that fits the context or aligns with the topic of your conversation. For example, use a saying about patience when discussing a long-term project or one about love when talking about relationships.

Practice makes perfect. Engage in conversations with Spanish speakers or individuals from Spanish-speaking cultures to learn more about the nuances and appropriate usage of sayings. This can help you become more comfortable incorporating them into your speech and be more culturally sensitive.

Additionally, don’t overdo it. While sayings can be powerful and memorable, using them sparingly is essential. Overusing them can make your speech seem forced or insincere, maybe even obnoxious. Reserve them for situations where they genuinely enhance your message.

2. Are Spanish Sayings Widely Recognized in Spanish-Speaking Countries?

Sayings in Spanish vary in recognition across Spanish-speaking countries. Some sayings are widely recognized and used throughout the Spanish-speaking world, while others may be more region-specific or less commonly known. 

The recognition and usage of sayings depend on various factors, including cultural, linguistic, and historical differences among countries. Different regions and countries have their own unique sayings and proverbs that are culturally significant but not as widely recognized or used outside of their specific cultural context.

It's essential to be aware of regional variations and cultural nuances when using them in different contexts. Additionally, the recognition of specific sayings can change over time as language and culture evolve.

3. How Can I Avoid Misusing or Misinterpreting Spanish Sayings?

Avoiding the misuse or misinterpretation of sayings involves understanding their meanings, contexts, and regional variations. Before using any Spanish saying, make sure you fully understand its meaning and the situations in which it is typically used.

Be aware that the sayings may have regional variations in wording and usage. Some sayings are more common in certain countries or dialects. If you're communicating with people from different regions, be open to variations and adapt your choice of sayings accordingly.

Pay attention to how native speakers use sayings in conversations. This can help you understand when and how to use them correctly. If you're learning Spanish or using sayings in a professional or important context, seek feedback from native speakers or language experts to ensure you are using them appropriately.

4. Can I Use Spanish Sayings in Formal or Academic Writing?

In formal or academic writing in Spanish, the use of sayings should be approached with caution. While some sayings can add depth and eloquence to your writing, they are generally more suited for informal or creative contexts. In general, the use of Spanish sayings in formal or academic writing should be sparing and well-justified.

In formal or academic writing, clarity and precision are paramount, and the use of idiomatic expressions may not always align with the expectations of the genre. If you're uncertain about including a saying, it's advisable to seek guidance from someone familiar with the conventions of academic writing in your field or institution.

5. How Can I Memorize and Recall Spanish Sayings Effectively?

Memorizing and recalling Spanish sayings effectively involves a combination of active learning techniques and consistent practice. Before memorizing a saying, make sure you fully understand its meaning and the situations in which it is commonly used. 

Knowing the context in which a saying applies can make it easier to remember. To further aid you, create associations or mnemonic devices to help remember sayings. You can associate a saying with a specific visual aid, story, or even a similar saying in your native language that conveys a similar message.

Final Thoughts

Familiarizing yourself with Spanish sayings is like discovering hidden treasures when you’re learning the language. They allow you to embark on a journey that not only enriches your vocabulary but also immerses you in the cultural tapestry of Spanish-speaking regions.

As a Spanish learner, incorporating these sayings into your arsenal not only adds color to your conversations but also deepens your understanding of the language's nuances, whether you're navigating the intricacies of daily life, exploring literature, or connecting with native speakers.

Learning a language is not just about words and grammar; it's about embracing the culture, history, humor, wisdom, and soul of the people who speak it. So, as you continue your journey to master Spanish, let these sayings guide you through the labyrinth of language and culture. 

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