19 Weird Spanish Expressions and Unusual Idioms That Native Speakers Say
Are you curious about weird expressions in Spanish that don’t seem to make sense?
Some of these are extremely strange, others are humorous, or old, but I assure you that these funny Spanish phrases will get you closer to speaking like a native.
You can find this kind of saying in every language, it is not exclusive to Spanish. Just think of “until the fat lady sings” or “speak of the devil.” It is impossible to understand expressions like this without any context or explanation, but many people know what they mean and use it constantly in their daily life.
This curated list of 19 of the weirdest idioms will also offer you a sneak peek into Hispanic culture and lifestyles.
Read ahead to figure out what native Spanish speakers sound like on a daily basis and understand what they mean!
¡Aprendamos sobre expresiones extrañas en español!
Let’s learn about weird expressions in Spanish!
Weird Spanish Expressions
As you keep reading you will notice that a lot of weird expressions in Spanish have to do with food or animals. This can help you remember them and make it easier to relate with its English counterpart.
Remember that while these may seem unusual idioms for you, they are very comunes y corrientes, or common Spanish expressions.
It is highly likely you will hear them when you travel to Hispanic countries.
Try practicing these quotes one at the time so you don’t mix them.
1. Párale a tu tren – Hold Your Horses
¡Párale a tu tren! (literally “stop your train”) is a Mexican expression that can translate to “hold your horses”—although in Spanish it feels a little more imperative.
People say this when they are mad with someone that is complaining too much or asking for too many things. We are helping the other person to anticipate a possible derailment.
2. Métetelo en la cabeza – Wrap Your Head Around It
“Put it inside your head” (métetelo en la cabeza) is very easy to remember as it is similar to “wrap your head around it.”
This saying is perfect for a scolding and you can say it in Latin America or Spain, almost everyone will understand you.
If you liked this one, check out these 14 Spanish Sayings That Every Mexican Mom Says to Her Kids.
3. ¿Te comió la lengua el ratón? – Cat Got Your Tongue?
Funny enough, in Latin America and Europe we choose mice over cats to get our tongues.
Mice ate your tongue? is the literal translation of this phrase. This phrase comes from medieval Europe, during the black plague.
4. Mejor pájaro en mano que cien volando – A Bird in Your Hand Is Worth Two in the Bush
This is a Latin proverb that entails that it is better to have a few things that are your own than nothing.
It is interesting how strange expressions like this one traveled the world and remain hardly modified even after being translated into other languages. You can hear this in any Hispanic country but more specifically in Venezuela, Spain, and Mexico.
5. Ya se te fue el tren – You Missed the Boat
Se te fue el tren (You missed the train) is very similar to “you missed the boat.”
In Mexico we use this idiom to say someone missed the timing for getting married or having kids but also when a person did not meet a deadline.
Perfect for you: 20 Classic Mexican Quotes and Proverbs in Spanish.
6. Dar gato por liebre – You Were Taken for a Ride
This is one of the fun Spanish phrases you’ll want to catch up with. It comes from medieval Spain.
Giving a cat for a hare means you wanted a hare, paid for it, but someone tricked you and gave you a cat.
There are many weird expressions that have the same meaning, another example is te vieron la cara (they saw your face) that can be translated to “they saw your fool’s face.”
7. Por un pelito de rana calva – By the Skin of Their Teeth
Just as I am taken aback by this English phrase, you would consider this Mexican Spanish expression an extremely weird one.
Por un pelito de rana calva means “by the short hair of a bald frog.” It means that someone was really close to getting something good or bad.
The shorter version of this quote is por un pelito.
You can use it when someone was saved by a miracle as happens with the phrase “saved by the bell” or “lucky strike.”
8. Hablando del rey de Roma – Speaking of the Devil
“Speaking of the king of Rome” originated in Italy in the 1300s. The Pope, back then, had a terrible reputation and was compared to a wolf or the devil.
This weird expression was different and longer at the beginning as it used to be a rhyme: “Speaking of the villainous of Rome, through the door he peeks” (Hablando del ruin the Roma, por la puerta se asoma).
See also: Time expressions in Spanish
9. Una probadita de su propio chocolate – Get a Taste of Their Own Medicine
According to oral tradition, Catholic masses were insanely long in Chiapas, Mexico. So the ladies brought hot chocolate to the event. In the middle of the ceremony you could hear women talking and sipping it.
The priest got mad and denied them entry to the church for service. The women decided to poison him as an act on strike and they did it through a cup of chocolate, creating the phrase “getting a taste of their own chocolate.”
This is a weird expression because unless you grow up listening to it and contextualizing it, it makes no sense.
10. Voltear la tortilla – Turning Tables
This is a very common Mexican Spanish expression between couples during a fight.
When the one in fault tries to turn tables on the offended, the latter may shout ¡No me voltees la tortilla! (Do not flip the tortilla!)
11. De tal palo tal astilla – Like Father, Like Son
De tal palo, tal astilla means “Like stick, like chip.”
A regional variation of this weird expression is the one by Argentines: Y ojalá pueda esa astilla hacerse palo con el tiempo—but it entails a different thing, that the son has still to become mature to become his dad.
Check this out: Expressions Using Por
12. Esto no se acaba hasta que se acaba – Until the Fat Lady Sings
“This is not over until it’s over” means that you have to try until the last second and give your best.
You will listen to this Latin American phrase during contests or in school during finals.
13. No tiene pies ni cabeza – Without Rhyme or Reason
What a weird expression! You can hear it in any Hispanic country.
“It has no feet nor head” implies that something has no beginning or end, that it isn’t complete, clear, or even worthy.
You can say this when speaking about a book or movie you found confusing.
14. Al que madruga, Dios lo ayuda – The Early Bird Gets the Worm
“God helps those who rise early.” This is another Latin American mom phrase.
It is perfect for those moments when the kids don’t want to get up to go to school.
This weird expression is very interesting and worth remembering, not only because of how common it is, but also because it has the verb madrugar in it.
Madrugada means wee hours, and the verb form expresses getting up in the middle of the night.
15. Me tiene hasta el gorro – That Is the Last Straw
“It has me up to my hat.” This one is a really weird expression, but don’t worry you will learn it soon enough.
“That is the last straw” is perfect to avoid the Spanish phrase from getting lost in translation. Another one can be “I’ve had it up to here.” Listen to this in almost all Hipanic countries.
16. No hay mal que por bien no venga – A Blessing in Disguise
The literal translation is “There is no wrong that doesn’t come from something good.”
In English the common phrases to say the same thing are “A blessing in disguise” and “Every cloud has a silver lining.” Its origin traces back to Spain but everyone in Latin America uses it.
If you are more into sayings exclusively from Spain: 10 Spanish Expressions Everyone Should Know.
17. Al toro por los cuernos – Bite the Bullet
This is one of my favorite weird expressions in Spanish. It first appeared in the ancient Greek world when Heracles said it.
Al toro por los cuernos (The bull, by the horns) or “bite the bullet” says you should get it over with already because something is going to happen anyway.
Although the Spanish version has a load of empowerment, encouragement, and bravery, the English version can sound like a bit of resignation.
18. Pan comido – Piece of Cake
“Eaten bread” is a lot like a “piece of cake.”
This weird expression comes from Spain where bread is the backbone of food and family gathering, much as it happens in Latin America. It is so easy to find and eat that it becomes an example of how easy a task is when using this saying.
19. Tu media naranja – Your Better Half
“Your half orange” is the same as “your better half”—it refers to your significant other. You can say it pretty much anywhere, Hispanic Europe and America, and people will understand you.
Listen to Fey’s song Media Naranja and sing along to this pop 90s hit.
If learning songs in Spanish is helping you with your language skills, this article is for you: 28 Spanish Love Songs for Every Day of February.
20. No es nada del otro mundo – It’s Not Rocket Science
“It is nothing from another world” or “It’s not rocket science” is a weird Mexican expression you use with someone complaining about getting a complicated task that isn’t so.
It can be perceived as condescending, so watch your tone! You can use it before explaining how to do the activity and the phrase will become reassuring instead of patronizing.
¡Me hablas en chino! – You Speak Chinese to Me!
Do not feel like someone is speaking Chinese with you while saying weird expressions in Spanish. Lighten up your learning process and leave it in expert hands!
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