The Spanish language is full of idiomatic expressions that are used in everyday conversation. When you chat with native-speaking people it can really help you keep up with what they are saying if you can learn some of the most common ones. Here we are going to focus on popular idioms using animals. Some are similar to ones we use in English but others do not exist in English at all:
1) Estar como una cabra – To be completely mad
The literal translation of this is “To be like a goat” however it does not mean this at all. It refers to someone who is a bit crazy or eccentric but in a good or amusing way.
2) Ser un lince – To be intelligent
This translates literally as “to be like a lynx” but it talks about someone who is bright, lively and has their wits about them.
3) Pagar el pato – to take the rap / be the scapegoat
Literally: To pay for the duck.
4) Estar más feliz que una perdiz – To be really happy
Literally: To be happier than a partridge.
5) Coger el toro por los cuernos – To take the bull by the horns
Just as we use in English to confront a situation without worrying about the consequences.
6) Más vale pájaro en mano que ciento volando – Better to go with the safe option
Literally: A bird in the hand is worth more than one hundred flying. This is the same as our expression in English “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” to say it is better to go with the safe option than to try for an unknown option.
7) Tener lengua de serpiente – To talk badly about others
Literally: he has the tongue of a snake.
8) Con el dinero, baila el perro – Anything is possible with the right amount of money
Literally: With money, the dog dances.
9) Tener humor de perros – to be in a foul mood
Literally: To have the mood of dogs.
10) Gato con guantes no caza ratones – You have to get your hands dirty
Literally: Cat with gloves doesn’t catch mice. The meaning is that you have to take off your gloves to get things done.
11) Cuando el gato sale, los ratones bailan – When the boss is out, you can do what you want
Literally: When the cat goes out, the mice dance.
12) Tengo un gato en mis pantalones – to be fidgety / restless
The same as our English expression “To have ants in your pants” to say you are restless and cannot sit still.
13) Tiene más vidas que un gato – To be really lucky
Literally: To have more lives than a cat. Like our expression in English that a cat has nine lives.
14) Eres más astuto que un zorro – To be cleverer than a fox
This means you are very clever and sneaky to get what you want.
15) Tienes una vista de águila – You have really good eyesight.
Literally: You have the sight of an eagle.