Spanish Body Parts: Vocabulary, Idioms, and Culture
Your body is so much more than just parts.
Did you know that you communicate 90% of your thoughts and feelings nonverbally, through your body language? That’s quite a lot to say without saying anything! If you plan on taking a trip to a Spanish-speaking country, you don’t want to get caught saying something silently that you really don’t mean.
In this blog post, we’ve got you covered—we’ll explore everything related to the body in Spanish, including:
- body parts vocabulary
- idiomatic expressions with body parts
- cultural tips on nonverbal communication
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Spanish Body Parts: The Vocabulary
The Spanish-speaking world—known in linguistics as the hispanosphere—is bursting at its seam with a variety of slang. Of course, these nuggets of informal speech differ in each country, so we will focus only on the general words used and understood in every hispanophone (Spanish-speaking) culture.
With an excellent basic foundation in understanding, you will be able to learn the relevant words much quicker and improve comprehension more efficiently by asking questions.
Let’s look at some Spanish body parts!
Want some free study materials? Download these Exclusive Homeschool Spanish Academy Human Body Vocabulary flashcards to keep on hand!
The Human Body (el cuerpo humano)
|human body||el cuerpo humano|
|abdomen / stomach||el abdomen|
The Extremities (las extremidades)
|toe||el dedo de pie|
The Head and Face (la cabeza y la cara)
|cheek||la mejilla / el cachete|
|ear (internal part)||el oido|
|ear (external part)||la oreja|
|chin||la barbilla / el mentón|
The Skeleton (el esqueleto)
|collar bone||la clavícula|
|shoulder blade||el omoplato|
|tailbone||el cóccix / el coxis|
Spanish Idioms Using Body Parts
Learning idioms is essential if you wish to express yourself clearly in a similar manner to the natives of a foreign country.
What is an idiom? The dictionary defines it as “a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words.” In other words, if you’re unfamiliar with the foreign phrase, you won’t be able to figure it out by translating it word for word.
An example in English is how we say “Hold your horses!” when we want to express the idea that the other person needs to wait. Clearly, we are not asking them to hold back their actual horses! This is informal, figurative (non-literal) language.
To truly understand the conversation and the culture of a hispanophone country, we must be aware that these figurative phrases exist. Also, don’t be afraid to ask about them when you hear a strange phrase pop up!
List of Spanish Idioms
Idiom: Estar metido hasta la cabeza en algo
Literal Translation: To be inside up to the head in something
Meaning: To be completely involved
Estamos metidos hasta la cabeza en el proyecto para la nueva empresa.
We are completely involved in the project for the new company.
Idiom: Poner al mal tiempo buena cara
Literal Translation: To put to bad weather a good face
Meaning: To put on a happy face
Poner al mal tiempo buena cara te puede hacer sentir mejor en momentos tristes.
Putting on a happy face can make you feel better during sad times.
Idiom: No pegar ojo
Literal Translation: Not to paste an eyeMeaning: Not to sleep a wink
Anoche no llegué a pegar ojo por el ruido de las bombas.
Last night I wasn’t able to sleep a wink because of the noise from the fireworks.
Idiom: Hacerse agua la boca
Meaning: To make the mouth water
¡Esa foto de pollo frito me hace agua la boca!
That picture of fried chicken makes my mouth water!
Idiom: No tener pelos en la lengua
Literal Translation: Not to have hairs on the tongue
Meaning: To be very blunt, direct
Mi jefe no tiene pelos en la lengua. Siempre dice lo que piensa.
My boss is very blunt (doesn’t mince words). He always says what he thinks.
Idiom: Tomarle el pelo a alguien
Literal Translation: To pull someone’s hair
Meaning: To pull someone’s leg
¿Me estás tomando el pelo?
Are you pulling my leg?
Idiom: Hablar por los codos
Literal Translation: To talk from the elbows
Meaning: To talk a lot
No me gusta trabajar con él porque habla por los codos.
I don’t like to work with him because he talks a lot.
Idiom: Echar una mano a alguien
Literal Translation: To throw a hand at someone
Meaning: To lend a hand to someone
¿Le puedes echar una mano a tu papá?
Can you lend your father a hand?
Idiom: Nacer con un pan bajo el brazo
Literal Translation: To be born with a piece of bread under the arm
Meaning: To be born with a silver spoon
Ella nació con un pan bajo el brazo. Su familia es la más rica en todo el país.
She was born with a silver spoon. Her family is the richest in all the country.
Body Gestures: Latin America and Spain
Watch out! (¡Ojo! / ¡Cuidado!) – put your index finger to your eye and hold or tap just below
I promise you. (Te lo juro.) – make a fist, bring the thumb to the mouth, kiss it and then flick it outwards quickly with thumb up to show that you really mean it
Slow down! (¡Más lento!) – hand open with the palm facing outward, moving in a patting motion
It’s delicious. (Está delicioso.) – fingers come together at the mouth then moved forward and opened
Come here. (Ven aca.) – hand out with fingers down, palm face down, move fingers simultaneously together, making a motion from the person toward your body
Thief! (¡Ladrón!) – palm down, while each finger touches the palm one at a time. You can do this if you’re on a bus or in a smaller space, and you notice a pickpocket nearby. This would be a great way to warn other people.
Body Gestures to Avoid
In Spain, people consider yawning or stretching in public vulgar. So, no matter how tired you are, avoid making this mistake! It is also a common cultural mix-up to use the standard American gesture of “come here” with your hand out, palm up, and index finger wiggling. This actually portrays a romantic interest in Latin culture, and people only use it in very specific situations. Remember to turn your hand over and use all your fingers in a sweeping motion toward your body to signal someone to come to you. On the other hand, if you’re in Latin America, avoid gesturing with your hand turned sideways with your fingers spread. This motion is a strong insult against the other person.
Let Your Brain Learn and Your Body Talk
During your Spanish-learning journey, you begin to expand your horizons by learning more about Hispanic culture. Idioms and body language are, of course, a big part of that experience! Every time you learn a new theme, such as food or travel, challenge yourself to look up idioms and gestures that are used to communicate relevant information. You will soon see that you’ve built an empire of knowledge. This will help you improve your speaking skills, comprehension ability, and capacity to integrate into Spanish culture. Or, start now with a free class at Homeschool Spanish Academy to ask questions to our certified, native Spanish-speaking teachers from Guatemala!
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