‘Ojo’ Phrases and Idioms in Spanish

Word for ‘eye’ used in variety of situations

closeup of eye
El ojo. (The eye.).

Dan Foy / Creative Commons

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. Following are some of the most common ones, along with some examples of their use.

Many of the definitions below include a literal translations. These are word-for-word translations of the phrase rather than how the phrases would be used or understood by a native speaker.

Spanish Phrases Referring to 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; literally )

ojos saltones (bulging eyes; literally eyes that jump)

poner los ojos en blanco (to roll one's eyes; literally to make the eyes white): 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; literally crab's eye or ox's eye)

ojo de la cerradura (keyhole; literally eye of the lock)

ojo de la escalera (stairwell; literally eye of the stairway)

ojo de gallo (corn, a type of growth on a foot; literally rooster's eye)

ojo de pez (fish-eye lens; literally fish's eye)

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; vista comes from the past participle of ver, to see): 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; literally to walk with an eye, to walk with much eye, and to walk with 1,000 eyes): Anda con ojo con el coche. (Be careful with the car.)

a ojo de buen cubero (by rule of thumb, approximately, roughly; literally by the eye of a good barrel maker): 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; literally to cost an eye of the face): 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! Literally, happy the eyes that see you!)

en un abrir y cerrar de ojos (in the twinkling of an eye; literally in the opening and closing of eyes): 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; literally to look at something with good/bad eyes): 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; literally to not seal the eye shut): 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; literally to have a clinical 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, to have eagle eyes; literally to have the eyes of a lynx): 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!"