12 December 2019

15 Spanish idiomatic expressions with animals: these will make you a “fat fish”!

Getting to know the expressions of the Spanish language opens the door for more fun! When it comes to expressions with animals, Spanish has just as many, if not more, as English does. It’s also a great way to get an understanding of what animals are important or appear in daily life. Read on to find out what it means to be like a goat or a fat fish.

Goat in a field

1. Estar como una cabra

For some reason, the Spanish consider goats to be crazy. When you call someone a goat or say they’re like a goat, you’re calling them loco.

Estás como una cabra, ¡deja de beber tanto! You’re completely mad, stop drinking so much!

2. Como un elefante en una cacharrería

To be like an elephant in a pottery shop is the Spanish version of a bull in a china shop. A large, ungraceful animal around a lot of delicate things means the potential for a big mess! This means that someone is careless about how they behave.

No seas como un elefante en una cacharrería. La situación requiere mucha sensibilidad.
Don’t be like a bull in a china shop. The situation requires a lot of sensitivity.

3. Coger al toro por los cuernos

Isn’t it exciting when expressions are the same in both Spanish and English? To grab the bull by the horns means to face something difficult head-on.

¡Coge al toro por los cuernos ya y dile a Fernanda como te sientes!
Grab the bull by the horns already and tell Fernanda how you feel!

A bull in black and white

4. Ser/haber cuatro gatos

When someone says there were 4 cats somewhere, it means there was hardly a soul, or that something was unimportant.

Va a nevar mucho esta noche. Al final vamos a ser cuatro gatos en la fiesta.
It’s going to snow a lot tonight. In the end, there will hardly be a soul at the party.

5. Cuando las ranas críen pelo

When “frogs grow hair” is the Spanish equivalent to “when pigs fly”, meaning never.

¿Cuándo vas a comprarte una casa? ¡Cuando las rana críen pelo!
When are you going to buy yourself a house? When pigs fly!

6. Llevarse como el perro y el gato

This expression means the same as in English, too! Dogs and cats don’t usually get along, so to get on like cats and dogs means to fight a lot.

Mariana y Elena están todo el día peleándose, se llevan como el perro y el gato.
Mariana and Elena are always fighting, they get on like cats and dogs.

7. Dar gato por liebre

If you’re trying to pass off a cat for a hare, you’re trying to fool or trick someone.

Mario es muy inocente y siempre le dan gato por liebre.
Mario is very naïve and they always try to pull the wool over his eyes (trick him).

8. Ser la oveja negra

To be a “black sheep” means just what it does in English: to be a misfit.

Mi prima Magda es la oveja negra de la familia.
My cousin Magda is the black sheep of the family.

Black sheep in a field

9. Como pez en el agua

To be like a “fish in water” means you are in your element, comfortable. In English, we usually use this expression in the opposite way: “to be a fish out of water”.

A Laura encanta conocer a gente nueva. Es como pez en el agua en las fiestas.
Laura loves meeting new people. She’s like a fish in water at parties.

Fish with a white and orange pattern

10. Pez gordo

To be a fat fish means to be a big shot or bigwig, basically someone important.

Martín es el pez gordo de su empresa.
Martin is the bigwig of his company.

11. Tener memoria de pez

If you think of one of our favourite Disney fish, Dory, you’ll understand what it means to have the memory of a fish.

Hace un día que he visto la nueva peli de Iñárritu y no recuerdo nada. Tengo memoria de pez.
It’s been a day since I saw the new Iñárritu flick and I don’t remember anything. I have a fish’s memory.

12. Vender la piel del oso antes de cazarla

To sell the bear’s hide before hunting it means to celebrate a victory before it’s certain. Jumping the gun, being too hasty.

Juliana está vendiendo la piel del oso antes de cazarla. Va diciendo que ha conseguido el trabajo, pero la empresa todavía está entrevistando a otros candidatos.
Juliana is jumping the gun. She’s going around saying that she already got the job, but the company is still interviewing other candidates.

13. Lágrimas de cocodrilo

To cry crocodile tears in Spanish means to cry fake tears.

La duquesa apareció muy triste en la tele, pero no creo en sus lágrimas de cocodrilo.
The duchess looked very sad on TV, but I don’t believe her fake tears/act.

Crocodile looking up from the water

14. Ser una rata

In Spanish, to be a rat means to be very cheap or stingy.

Miguel es una rata. Aún si tiene mucho dinero, nunca deja propina a los camareros.
Miguel is a cheapskate. Even if he has a lot of money, he never leaves a tip for the waiters.

15. Pagar el pato

To pay for the duck means to take the blame for something you may or may not have done.

Siendo el mayor de mis hermanos, era siempre yo pagando el pato.
Being the oldest of my brothers, I always had to take the blame.

Bonus for fun

A otra cosa, mariposa

When someone wants to change the subject or move onto something else, they can casually say “a otra cosa, mariposa” which literally means “to another thing, butterfly”.

¿Ya acabaste de limpiar el baño? ¡Pues a otra cosa, mariposa!
You finished cleaning the bathroom? Well, onto the next thing!