10 Weirdest Spanish Idioms

"Ponerse las pilas," meaning to stay alert or get going, is one of those weird, but useful Spanish idioms.

The beauty of learning a language often lies in its idiomatic expressions, phrases made of words that are not to be taken literally. Once you get past some of the grammar and other basics, you will be welcomed into the never-ending, intricate, but fun world of slang and idiomatic expressions. Learning idioms is not only fun, but also gives you access to a wider range of communication with speakers and makes you sound more native. Here are 10 of the weirdest, but widely- (and wildly) used Spanish idioms. Each is followed by an example of its usage. 

1. Por si las moscas:

meaning just in case. Literally: in case of flies. 

Lo invité a la fiesta por si las moscas, pero la verdad es que yo sabía que no iba a venir – I invited him just in case, but the truth is I knew he wouldn’t come.

2. Papando moscas:

Similar to day-dreaming. Literally: to swallow flies. 

Ella anda papando moscas. Tiene que despertarse – She spends her time daydreaming. She’s got to wake up.

3. Ponerse las pilas:

to get ready, be alert, or wake up (figuratively). Literally: to put on the batteries. 

El mundo laboral es bien competitivo. Hay que ponerse las pilas – The workforce is highly competitive. One must get ready for it.

4. Montar cachos/poner los cuernos:

to cheat or be unfaithful. Literally: to put on horns. In fact, a goat is often used to represent or to compare to a man that is undergoing this predicament.

Aunque parezca muy fiel, le ha puesto los cuernos a todos sus exnovios – Even though she might seem faithful, she has cheated on all her former boyfriends.

5. Volverse un ocho:

to complicate or confuse oneself or a situation. Literally: to turn into an eight. 

Esa reunion fue un fiasco. El conferenciante se hizo un ocho – That event was a fiasco. The speaker was a mess.

6. Tirar la casa por la ventana:

to roll out the red carpet. Literally: to throw the house out the window. 

Como ella se casó a los 50, dijo que iba a tirar la casa por la ventana y gastarse hasta el último centavo en su boda – Because she got married at 50, she said she would roll out the red carpet and spend her last penny on the wedding.

7. No tener pelos en la lengua:

to be straightforward, to tell it like it is. Literally: to have no hair on one’s tongue. 

Ya sabes que no omite nada. No tiene pelos en la lengua  – You know he does not omit anything. He is very straightforward.

8. Cría cuervos y te sacarán los ojos:

sometimes those you help the most are the ones to harm you. This saying especially refers to ungrateful children whose parents do everything for them, but Literally: if you breed crows, they will take your eyes out.

Cuidado con esa amiga. Cría cuervos y te sacarán los ojos – Be careful with that friend. Sometimes those you help betray you.

9. La cabra tira al monte:

People never change. Literally: the goat is headed for the forest. 

No intentes cambiarlos. La cabra siempre tira al monte – Don’t try to change them. The goat is always headed for the forest.

10. No tener dos dedos de frente:

to lack intelligence. Literally: to be lacking two fingers in front. 

¿Cómo pudiste encargarlo de ese proyecto? Sabes que no tienes dos dedos de frente – How could you trust him with that project? You know he is not very smart. 

What idiomatic expressions do you know?

Share this article with your network :

Learn a new language with Diáfano

Tell us a little bit about what you're looking for with this quick form. We will be in touch soon.

* indicates required
expert linguist and language teacher irma cedeno
Irma Cedeno



(48 Reviews)

About Instructor

Irma is a trained linguist, native Spanish speaker, and teacher. She is the founder and CEO of Diáfano.


For those with no prior experience with Spanish. 9-week course.

For those who can hold a minimal conversation in Spanish, ask for directions, etc.

For those who are conversational and can express emotions in Spanish

For those who are conversational and can express emotions in Spanish. The course is designed to get you to full fluency.

Upcoming Courses

May 1st - May 30th
Advanced Beginner
May 1st - May 30th
May 1st - May 30th
May 1st - May 30th