'Ojo' Phrases and Idioms

Word for 'Eye' Used in Variety of Situations

closeup of eye
El ojo. (The eye.). Photo by Dan Foy used under terms of Creative Commons license.

Sight is one of the most important senses, the one most of us use most to learn what's happening around us. So it shouldn't be surprising that a number of phrases refer to the organ of sight. This is especially true in Spanish, which has over two dozen phrases using the word ojo. Here are some of the most common ones, along with some examples of their use:

Phrases referring to the eyes:

  • abrir/cerrar los ojos (to open/close one's eyes) — Es un ejercicio que consiste en abrir y cerrar los ojos. (It's an exercise that consists of opening and closing the eyes.)
  • ojo a la funerala, ojo a la virulé, ojo morado (bruised or black eye)
  • ojos saltones (bulging eyes)
  • poner los ojos en blanco (to roll one's eyes) — Cuando no saben de qué hablar, ponen los ojos en blanco. (When they don't know what to say, they roll their eyes.)

Names of things using ojo:

  • ojo de buey (porthole)
  • ojo de la cerradura (keyhole)
  • ojo de la escalera (stairwell)
  • ojo de gallo (corn, a type of growth on a foot)
  • ojo de pez (fish-eye lens)
  • ojo de la tormenta (eye of the storm)

Idioms using ojo:

  • abrir los ojos a alguien, abrirle los ojos a alguien (to open someone's eyes) — El curso me abrió los ojos a cosas que nunca se me habían ocurrido antes. (The course opened my eyes to things that never had occurred to me before.)
  • a ojos vistas (in plain sight, clearly, obviously) — Antonio progresaba a ojos vistas en todos los aspectos. (Antonio clearly progressed in all aspects.)
  • andar con ojo, andar con mucho ojo, andar con cien ojos (to be careful) — Anda con ojo con el coche. (Be careful with the car.)
  • a ojo de buen cubero, a ojo (by rule of thumb, approximately, roughly) — La capacidad de la bandeja de papel, a ojo de buen cubero, no supera las 150 hojas. (The capacity of a tray of paper, as a rule of thumb, doesn't exceed 150 sheets.)
  • comerse con los ojos a alguien (to figuratively drool over someone, to stare at someone) — Andrea se comía con los ojos a mi amigo Luis. (Andrea drooled over my friend Luis.)
  • costar algo un ojo de la cara (to cost an arm and a leg) — Este perro le costó un ojo de la cara. (That dog cost him an arm and a leg.)
  • ¡Dichosos los ojos que te ven! (How great it is to see you!)
  • en un abrir y cerrar de ojos (in the twinkling of an eye) — En un abrir y cerrar de ojos la vida nos cambió. (Life changed us in the twinkling of an eye.)
  • mirar algo con buenos/malos ojos (to look at something favorably/unfavorably, to approve/disapprove of) — Esa religión miraba con malos ojos la comunicación con los antepasados. (That religion looks unfavorably on communication with the dead.)
  • no pegar ojo (to not get any sleep) — Hace dos noches que no pegó ojo Antonio. (Two nights ago Antonio didn't sleep)
  • poner los ojos a/en alguien/algo (to set one's sights on someone/something) — Pinochet puso los ojos en Sudáfrica. (Pinochet set his sights on South Africa.)
  • ser todo ojos (to be all eyes) — Martín era todo ojos y todo oídos para aprender. (Martin was all eyes and ears for learning.)
  • tener ojo clínico para algo (to be a good judge of something, to have a good eye for something) — No tiene ojo clínico para elegir a quienes le acompañan. (He doesn't have good judgment in picking who goes with him.)
  • tener ojos de lince (to have extremely good eyesight) — Si tiene ojos de lince posiblemente pueda ver los pequeños loros verdes. (If you can see really well, you might be able to see the small green parrots.)

Proverbs and sayings:

  • Ojo por ojo, diente por diente. (An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.)
  • Ojos que no ven, corazón que no siente. (What the eye doesn't see, the heart doesn't feel.)
  • Cuatro ojos ven más que dos. (Two heads are better than one. Literally, four eyes are better than two.)

¡Ojo! can also be used by itself as an interjection to mean "Watch out!" or "Be careful!"