MORE Spanish expressions that are nonsensical when translated literally

Professional translators need to pay attention to every single detail of the source text… especially if such text includes regional or national expressions.
If you translate this kind of expression literally, it usually loses all meaning.
Some time ago, we did an article about common Spanish expressions that completely lose sense if translated literally. We have decided to make another with all the suggestions we got in the comment section!
Hope you enjoy them! ­čśë

1. No dar papaya

Translated literally: Not to give papaya

Meaning: DonÔÇÖt put yourself in a dangerous position (where you are vulnerable or you can be taken advantage of)

2. Pagafantas

Translated literally: He who pays the Fantas

Meaning: To be in love with someone and do things for her/him, but she/he only sees you as a friend. To be in the friend zone

3. A buenas horas mangas verdes

Translated literally: In good hours green sleeves

Meaning: Said to someone that is late
Check the etymology here

4. Hierba mala nunca muere

Translated literally: Bad grass does not die

Meaning: Mean, toxic people are always around

5. Estar en el ajo

Translated literally: To be in the garlic

Meaning: To be involved in something suspicious

6. Aguantavelas

Translated literally: Candle-holder

Meaning: Third wheel

7. Hacer una vaca

Translated literally: To do a cow

Meaning: Make a common pot with your buddies

8. Costar un ri├▒├│n

Translated literally: To cost a kidney

Meaning: Something very expensive

9. Llevar los pantalones

Translated literally: To wear the pants

Meaning: To have the power in a relationship

10. No tener pelos en la lengua

Translated literally: Not to have hair in your tongue

Meaning: Not being afraid of saying something, even if someone could judge you

11. Más raro que un perro verde

Translated literally: Weirder than a green dog

Meaning: Very weird

12. Ser de la cáscara amarga

Translated literally: To be of the bitter shell

Meaning: Having forward-thinking ideas

13. Estar hecho polvo

Translated literally: To be dust

Meaning: To be very tired

14. Estar chupado/Pan comido

Translated literally: To be licked/Eaten bread

Meaning: Something very easy. Piece of cake.

15. De Pascuas a Ramos

Translated literally: From Easter to Palm Sunday

Meaning: Almost never. Rarely.

Bonus-En casa del herrero, cuchillo de palo

Translated literally: At the blacksmith’s house, wooden knife

Meaning: It is said of those who neglect in their own homes the things they have at work.
Exemple:┬áA baker who doesn’t bring bread home


Don’t you think that these expressions should be translated by a professional? At Eazylang, we find the best translator for your project.

If you come up with some other expressions, let us know in the comment section!┬á­čśë

2 Responses to “MORE Spanish expressions that are nonsensical when translated literally

  • I have a favourite! Perroflauta. Spaniards, please correct me if I am wrong, but when I lived in Spain in 2006, it meant a marijuana-smoking, dirty hippie dude with dreadlocks, a dog and a tin whistle (and the only song they can play is “The house of the rising sun”. True story.) who sleeps on beaches and freely invites him/herself to every leftist/anarchist/musical reunion around.

  • Hello, I like your expressions. I have spent 6 months in southern Spain collecting colloquial expressions and have finally put them into a searchable database. You can find them all at or subscribe to an expression of the day on fb. It’s still a work in progress, but I hope you consider contributing.

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