Saturday, November 14, 2009

Top 20 Spanish Expressions

Like any language, Spanish is rich with expressions and sayings, which if you can use correctly during conversations, immediately boosts your standing in the eyes of the natives. Here are my top twenty.

1. cutre [koo-trey]- this word covers everything from seedy to uncool and I've yet to find an exact match in English. Examples of being cutre include small, authentic Spanish bars with an ever present smell of tobacco and frying oil, carrying your towels and sunscreeen in a plastic bag to the beach, a sweater with holes, a Spanish electrical switch box, etc.

2. un fantasma - The direct translation means " a ghost" but this word is used to describe someone who is not what they appear to be. Usually a person who talks a big game and tends to exaggerate.

3. Como Dios manda - Literally translated, "As God sends," you drop this phrase to demonstrate that you will do something well. For example, cooking dinner tonight? como dios manda, meaning yes and well.

4. mala leche - Bad milk is what a grumpy or surly person has. see: funcionario

5. Más vale malo conocido que bueno por conocer - A Spanish expression that sums up their attitude to risk.  Roughly translated it means: "A known bad is worth more than something good to be known."  I guess it means - stick with something even if it's bad rather than know something better. But it's open to interpretation.

6. tio/tia, macho - similar to dude or mate. ¿Qué pasa, tia? "What's up, girl?"  Mancho. Vamos a hacerlo. "Dude - Let's do it."

7. un cortado - a shot of strong Spanish coffee, closer to espresso, topped with warm milk. Normally drunk after lunch.

8. cul i merda - a Catalan expression that translates as "ass and shit." It's what you say when things or people perfectly compliment each other.

9. montar un pollo - "to mount the chicken," which is what someone does when they cause a scene in public.

10. pajas mentales - "mental wanks" is what you say someone has who you think is delusional or tends to create something out of nothing.It can also be used to describe someone who thinks they are greater than they are.

11. bicho malo nunca muere - A bad bug never dies.

12. tener el mono - you have the monkey when you're craving something.

13. Estar empanado - "To be breaded" is the expression to use when describing someone who's a little on the slow side.

14. el vermut - Not to be confused with the liquor added to gin or vodka  in the states, thus making a martini.  It's twelve o´clock on a Sunday when you drink something and eat berberechos - usually snack food served from a tin like olives, nuts or chips to tide you over until lunch two hours later.

15. culo veo, culo quiero - "Ass I see, ass I want" an expression to use when someone wants something you have.  For example - You hungry? No. Five minutes later you're eating. I want some. Culo veo, culo quiero

16. plantar un pino - "to plant a pine" is another way of saying to do a number two.

17. Por si las moscas - translated literally as "For if the flies," it means just in case.

18. chulo [choo-low]- it means cool, but can also be a person who's too cool for school if you know what I mean.

19. un puente - Literally "a bridge" - it's the day before or after a public holiday depending on if it falls on a Tuesday or Thursday that turns it into a long weekend.

20. bable  - The language people from Asturias in northern Spain speak.

Got any to add?


  1. Very funny, but just a few comments ...

    "Paja mental" is normally said of an artistic or scientific creation which is only meaninful os useful for te author itself and nobody else. In ohter words, something that the author did for his own entertainment.

    and "el vermut" is actually the drink. It is just that it is normally acompained with tapas. I don't know how those guys there use the word but in 90% of spain "vermut" is what they do on sunday morning. They go out for a vermut or beer and they eat some tapas.

  2. Haha. Thanks for the correction on vermut. i'll change it on the post. consulted the missus and her sister, both agreed with delusional for pajas mentales likening ti to montarse una peli. they said not to trust someone who speaks bable like Fernando Alonso!

  3. Jajajaja Imprescindible guía de supervivencia lingüística en castellano. Sin duda los estudiantes de español te lo agradecerán!

  4. Look on the internet for the uses of that expression. Trust me, what I said is the original intented meaning. But people tend to missuse it because it sounds funny. I might speak bable but at least I pronounce my "s"'s :D

  5. Hola Alex!! Cómo ehtáh? Noh echah de menoh?? :D
    A ver si nos vemos pronto, cuando vengas a Barcelona o cuando nosotros vayamos para allá :)

  6. Creo que va a ser más fácil que vengais dado el régimen de vacaciones que me dan. A ver si nos vemos, sí. Da recuerdos a todos