Spanish Proverbs and Quotes

These Will Challenge Your Interpretive Skills

three matches
Donde hay humo, hay calor. Emilio Küffer/Creative Commons.

Like their English counterparts, Spanish proverbs often capture the wisdom of the ages with timeless advice about life. If you enjoyed our first collection of proverbs, you'll appreciate these as well.

Here are enough proverbs to last for a month. To test your vocabulary or stretch your interpretation skills, try translating them and coming up with an English equivalent, although be warned that there isn't always a direct English counterpart.

Very loose translations or English equivalent proverbs are in parentheses below.

31 Spanish Proverbs, Quotes, and Sayings

1. El hábito no hace al monje. The habit doesn't make the monk. (Clothes do not make the man.)

2. A beber y a tragar, que el mundo se va a acabar. Here's to drinking and swallowing, for the world is going to be finished. (Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.)

3. Algo es algo; menos es nada. Something is something; less is nothing. (It's better than nothing. Half a loaf is better than none.)

4. No hay que ahogarse en un vaso de agua. It isn't necessary to drown oneself in a glass of water. (Don't make a mountain out of a molehill.)

5. Borra con el codo lo que escribe con la mano. He/she erases with the elbow what his/her hand is doing. (His right hand doesn't know what his left hand is doing.)

6. Dame pan y dime tonto. Give me bread and call me a fool. (Think of me what you will.

As long as I get what I want, it doesn't matter what you think.)

7. La cabra siempre tira al monte. The goat always heads toward the mountain. (The leopard doesn't change its spots. You can't teach an old dog new tricks.)

8. El amor todo lo puede. Love can do it all. (Love will find a way.)

9. A los tontos no les dura el dinero. Money does not last for fools.

(A fool and his money are soon parted.)

10. De músico, poeta y loco, todos tenemos un poco. We all have a little bit of musician, poet and crazy person in ourselves.

11. Al mejor escribano se le va un borrón. To the best scribe comes a smudge. (Even the best of us make mistakes. Nobody's perfect.)

12. Camarón que se duerme se lo lleva la corriente. The shrimp that falls asleep is carried by the current. (Don't let the world pass you by. Stay alert and be proactive.)

13. A lo hecho, pecho. To what is done, the chest. (Face up to what is. What is done is done.)

14. Nunca es tarde para aprender. It never is late for learning. (It is never too late to learn.)

15. A otro perro con ese hueso. To another dog with that bone. (Tell that to someone who will believe you.)

16. Desgracia compartida, menos sentida. Shared misfortune, less sorrow. (Misery loves company.)

17. Donde hay humo, hay calor. Where there's smoke, there's heat. (Where there's smoke there's fire.)

18. No hay peor sordo que el que no quiere oír. There is not a worse deaf person than the one who doesn't want to hear. (There is none so blind as he who will not see.)

19. No vendas la piel del oso antes de cazarlo. Don't sell the bear's hide before you hunt it.

(Don't count your chickens before they hatch.)

20. Qué bonito es ver la lluvia y no mojarse. How nice it is to see the rain and not get wet. (Don't criticize others for the way they do something unless you've done it yourself.)

21. Nadie da palos de balde. Nobody gives sticks for free. (You can't get something for nothing. There's no such thing as a free lunch.)

22. Los árboles no están dejando ver el bosque. The trees aren't allowing one to see the forest. (You can't see the forest for the trees.)

23. El mundo es un pañuelo. The world is a handkerchief. (It's a small world.)

24. A cada cerdo le llega su San Martín. Every pig gets its San Martín. (What goes around comes around. You deserve what you get. San Martín refers to a traditional celebration in which a pig is sacrificed.)

25. Consejo no pedido, consejo mal oído. Advice not asked for, advice poorly heard.

(Someone who doesn't ask for advice doesn't want to hear it. Don't give advice unless you're asked.)

26. Obras son amores y no buenas razones. Acts are love and good reasons aren't. (Actions speak louder than words.)

27. Gobernar es prever. To govern is to foresee. (It is better to prevent problems than to fix them. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.)

28. No dejes camino viejo por sendero nuevo. Don't leave the old road for a new trail. (It's better to stick with what works. A short cut isn't always quicker.)

29. No dejes para mañana lo que puedas hacer hoy. Don't leave for tomorrow that which you can do today.

30. Donde no hay harina, todo es mohina. Where there's no flour, everything is an annoyance. (Poverty breeds discontent. If your needs aren't met, you won't be happy.)

31. Todos los caminos llevan a Roma. All roads go to Rome. (There's more than one way to reach a goal.)