Proverbial Spanish

Part 1: A Month's Worth of Sayings

Bird in hand
Más vale pájaro en mano ... (A bird in the hand ...). Photo by Chad King; licensed via Creative Commons.

The Spanish language is rich with refranes, sayings or proverbs that often become a shorthand way of conveying a thought or expressing a judgment. Here you will find a collection of a sayings, one for each day of the month. Of the literally hundreds of sayings that are a part of the language, this list includes some of the most common as well as a few others that were chosen simply because they are interesting.

As a test of your vocabulary and translation abilities — or just for fun — see how many of these proverbs below you can translate or find an English equivalent for. If you're stumped, check out the following page, which has translations for each of them.

Interested in learning more sayings? Subscribe to our email course "," which includes dozens of sayings and proverbs along with a translation that you receive the following day.

 

Refranes españoles

Más vale pájaro en mano que cien volando.

Ojos que no ven, corazón que no siente.

No por mucho madrugar amanece más temprano.

El amor es ciego.

Perro que no camina, no encuentra hueso.

Dime con quién andas y te diré quién eres.

El diablo sabe más por viejo que por diablo.

A la luz de la tea, no hay mujer fea.

Haz el bien, y no mires a quién.

El que nació para tamal, del cielo le caen las hojas.

No hay mal que por bien no venga.

Quien no tiene, perder no puede.

No todo lo que brilla es oro.

Perro que ladra no muerde.

A caballo regalado no se le mira el diente.

A Dios rogando y con el mazo dando.

Eso es harina de otro costal.

De tal palo, tal astilla.

Para el hombre no hay mal pan. (O, para el hambre no hay mal pan.)

Las desgracias nunca vienen solas.

De buen vino, buen vinagre.

El que la sigue, la consigue.

Saliste de Guatemala y te metiste en Guatepeor.

A quien madruga, Dios le ayuda.

Camarón que se duerme, se lo lleva la corriente.

Del dicho al hecho, hay mucho trecho.

Si quieres el perro, acepta las pulgas.

De noche todos los gatos son negros.

Lo que en los libros no está, la vida te enseñará.

La ignorancia es atrevida.

Cada uno lleva su cruz.

Here are translations of the Spanish-language proverbs found in the list of proverbs. Most of the translations are fairly literal. Looser translations, interpretations or similar English-language proverbs are sometimes listed in parentheses following the translation. They aren't the only possible understandings of the proverbs.

Refranes españoles / Spanish Sayings

Más vale pájaro en mano que cien volando. A bird in the hand is worth more than 100 flying.

(A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.)

Ojos que no ven, corazón que no siente. Eyes that do not see, heart that does not feel.

No por mucho madrugar amanece más temprano. Not through much awaking early does the dawn come earlier.

El amor es ciego. Love is blind.

Perro que no camina, no encuentra hueso. The dog that doesn't walk doesn't find a bone. (You can't succeed if you don't try.)

Dime con quién andas y te diré quién eres. Tell me with whom you walk and I will tell you who you are. (A man is known by the company he keeps.)

El diablo sabe más por viejo que por diablo. The devil knows more due to being old than by being the devil.

A la luz de la tea, no hay mujer fea. By the light of the torch there is no ugly woman.

Haz el bien, y no mires a quién. Do the good, and don't look at whom. (Do what is right, not what will gain approval.)

El que nació para tamal, del cielo le caen las hojas. The leaves fall from the sky for him who was born for the tamal (a traditional Mexican food made from corn leaves).

No hay mal que por bien no venga. There is no bad from which good doesn't come.

Quien no tiene, perder no puede. He who doesn't have is unable to lose. (You can't lose what you don't have.)

No todo lo que brilla es oro. Not all that shines is gold. (Not everything that glitters is gold.)

Perro que ladra no muerde. The dog that barks doesn't bite.

A caballo regalado no se le mira el diente. Don't look at the tooth of a horse that was given. (Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.)

A Dios rogando y con el mazo dando. To God praying and with the mallet using. (God helps those who help themselves.)

Eso es harina de otro costal. That is wheat from a different bag. (It's a bird of a different feather.)

De tal palo, tal astilla. From such a stick, such a splinter. (A chip off the old block.)

Para el hombre no hay mal pan. (O, para el hambre no hay mal pan.) There is no bad bread for man. (Or, there is no bad bread for hunger.)

Las desgracias nunca vienen solas. Misfortunes never come alone. (Bad things happen in threes.)

De buen vino, buen vinagre. From good wine, good vinegar.

El que la sigue, la consigue. He who follows it attains it. (You get what you work for.)

Saliste de Guatemala y te metiste en Guatepeor. You left Guate-bad and went to Guate-worse.

A quien madruga, Dios le ayuda. God helps the one who arises early. (God helps those who help themselves. The early bird catches the worm. Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.)

Camarón que se duerme, se lo lleva la corriente. The shrimp that falls asleep gets carried away by the current.

Del dicho al hecho, hay mucho trecho. From the saying to the act, there is much distance. (Saying something and doing it are two different things.)

Si quieres el perro, acepta las pulgas. If you want the dog, accept the fleas. (If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Love me, love my faults.)

De noche todos los gatos son negros. At night all cats are black.

Lo que en los libros no está, la vida te enseñará. That which isn't in books, life will teach you. (Life is the best teacher.)

La ignorancia es atrevida. Ignorance is courageous.

Cada uno lleva su cruz. Everyone carries his cross. (We each have our own cross to bear.)

 

Have comments or questions? See the blog post about proverbs.