Spanish sayings and proverbs

refranes en inglés
Nagore Valera
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Reading time 4 min.

Knowing Spanish proverbs and sayings can be very useful if you are applying for official certification or simply want to improve your fluency when speaking with Spanish people.

Things to consider when translating spanish sayings and proverbs

When translating proverbs and sayings into Spanish, we may find that there is no exact translation in our language. Or we may find an expression with a similar meaning.

Depending on the language, the connotations of words can vary, giving them a different concept and meaning. Proverbs and sayings are popular expressions that convey lessons of cultural wisdom.

Here is a selection of Spanish proverbs and sayings with their English equivalents.

Spanish sayings and proverbs

Más vale pájaro en mano (que ciento volando)

It emphasises the value one already has in something, as opposed to the uncertainty of obtaining something greater, at the risk of losing everything.

English translation: “A bird in the hand (is worth two in the bush)“.

Example: “En lugar de tomar el riesgo de buscar nuevas oportunidades, decidió mantenerse en su trabajo estable, creyendo que más vale pájaro en mano que ciento volando.”


No te la juegues todo a una carta

This expression is used to warn someone about the risk of gambling or relying entirely on a single option or possibility. This expression can be applied in different situations, such as making important decisions, investing money, planning projects or relying on a single person or resource. The expression “Cubrirse las espaldas” can also be used.

English translation: “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”.

Example: “Juan estuvo considerando empezar su propio negocio, pero sus amigos le advirtieron, no te la juegues todo a una carta.”

spanish sayings

No cantes victoria

It is smarter not to count the chicks until they have hatched, you may be in for a bad surprise.

English translation: “Don’t count your chickens (until they are hatched)”.

Example: “No cantes victoria solo por aprobar el primer examen. Aún quedan más por venir, mantente enfocado y sigue estudiando.”


Como quien oye llover

The duck’s feathers are impervious to water, so it slips. Some people are indifferent to criticism or to what others think. The expression “Entrar por un oído y salir por el otro.” can be used too.

English translation: “It’s like water off a duck`s back.”

Example: “El comentario negativo de Sara sobre su trabajo no le molesto en absoluto. Ha desarrollado tal seguridad en si mismo que escucha las críticas como quien oye llover.”


Cuando el río suena agua lleva

This saying indicates that when you hear rumours or hearsay about something, there is usually some truth behind it. It has its roots in ancient Rome and is a translation of the Latin expression “Nulla fumus sine igne”. It has been used for centuries in different cultures and languages.

English translation: “There is no smoke without fire” .

Example: “Quizás no sea culpa tuya, pero cuando el río suena agua lleva, ¿verdad?”


Las apariencias engañan

It is used to refer to people who, under their quiet and reserved appearance, hide passions. This proverb has its roots in Ancient Greece and was first used by the Roman poet Ovid in his work “Heroides”.

English translation: “Still waters run deep” or “You can’t judge a book by its cover”.

Example: “Ana parece silenciosa y reservada, pero las apariencias engañan. Si la conoces un poco te sorprenderá.

No tires piedras sobre tu propio tejado

To criticise others for one’s shortcomings is to place oneself in a vulnerable position. This saying has its roots in the Bible, in the Gospel of John, where Jesus warns a crowd that those without sin should be the first to throw stones.

English translation: “People who live in glasshouses shouldn’t throw stones.”

Example: “Luisa, criticó a sus compañeros. Su director le recordó que no tirase piedras sobre su propio tejado, cuestionando sus acciones.”

There are many proverbs and sayings in spanish that can be useful in your daily life. If you want to know more, we invite you to use the translation app Talkao Translate where you will find a large selection of proverbs, riddles and famous phrases in spanish and many other languages thanks to its smart books. Download it in GooglePlay or Appstore.

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Nagore Valera

Nagore Valera is SEO Manager at Offiwiz S.L as well as Community Manager at Talkao S.L. She has a graduate in education as well as nutrition and health, currently specializing in social education and digital marketing.She has been generating content in different formats, platforms, companies and markets for more than seven years. Born in Spain, she has worked for companies in countries such as France, England, Spain and Colombia.

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