I realized it has been a while since I wrote about idioms, and you know how much I love them so I thought it was about time. I thought Spanish idioms with animals was a good choice, why?


I thought I would mix two of most people’s favourite things: animals and idioms! Because? Exactly this! Who doesn’t like idioms?? Or animals??


Also, animals in any language is a vocabulary we all learn at the earliest stages of our development, at least the most common ones, so that is where this article, ‘Spanish Idioms with Animals’ comes from! It gives you no excuses not to learn them. So grab your Spanish notebook and pen and...let’s get started!


1. Ser más lento que una Tortuga


As slow as a snail/molasses- I think that explains it all.


Imagine you are looking after your little nephews because your sister is on holidays and you need them to drop them at school before going to work. If they are taking too long and you are getting impatient, you could hurry them up by saying:


  • !Vamos, que tenemos prisa chicos, sois más lentos que una Tortuga!

  • Come on guys, hurry up! You are slow as a snail!

2. Llevarse como el perro y el gato


To fight like cat and dog.


This too can be used when you do not get along with someone and you fight with them quite often. In the case above, if your little nephews often fight and someone asks you how you are getting on being their ‘nanny’, you could complain saying:


  • !Menuda semana! Se llevan como el perro y el gato!

  • Such a week! They fight like  cat and dog!


This does not necessarily only  apply to kids, it can also be used for adults where even though they do not literally ‘fight’, they can’t stand each other.


If there is a party at your friends apartment and two of your friends are not that close anymore, you could ask the host:


  • ¿y qué vas a hacer con Pablo y Juan? Ya sabes que se llevan como el perro y el gato

  • And what are you going to do about Pablo and Juan? You know they can’t stand each other!

3. Ser un pez gordo


To be a bigwig.


We use this one when we talk about someone that is important, and has a good job and is well paid.


If your friend is going out with a man who has a good job and lots of money but you still haven’t met him but you are gossiping about it with another friend, you could say:


  • He oído que Marisa está saliendo con un chico nuevo, todavía no lo conozco, pero debe de ser un pez gordo.

  • I heard that Marisa is going out with a new guy, I haven’t met him yet, but he must be a bigwig.

4. Ser/haber cuatro gatos


Hardly a soul.


I am sure you have been to a pub to see a concert you wanted to see, and were so excited about it, but when someone who would have liked to have gone with you but couldn’t asks how it went, you could say:


  • !No te perdiste nada!No había muy buen ambiente, eramos cuatro gato.

  • You didn’t miss anything, the atmosphere wasn’t great, there was hardly a soul there.

5. Ser un ratón de biblioteca


To be a bookworm.


When someone likes to study or just spend their time reading, they get this nickname. It is also common if someone knows a lot about a particular subject. I used to be called this idiom when I was younger as I loved reading.

6. Estar como una cabra


To be off your head.


I am not a really brave  person, so if one of my friend told me they wanted to go bungee jumping, I would probably say:


  • ¿En serio quieres hacer puenting? !Estás como una cabra!

  • Are you for real about doing bungee jumping? You are off your head!


We can use this idiom for one off actions like bungee jumping or if you have a friend who is loco amigo- who is always doing crazy stuff.

7. Dormir como un lirón


To sleep like a log.


We can use this in two ways, in a particular way and in a general one.


In the particular case, it is when something one-off happens. Imagine someone asks you if you had a good sleep last night and you did, you could answer:


  • !Bueno no, buenísimo! Dormí como un lirón

  • Good? No!...Very good! I slept like a log! (Meaning ‘I had a great sleep’)


In general, I am sure you know someone you feel jealous of, or maybe it is yourself that always sleeps deeply, then we can say:


  • Ella duerme como un lirón.

  • She sleeps like a log.

8. Ser la oveja negra


To be the black sheep (of your/their family).


Quite a typical situation. All your family has studied hard, let’s say they are all doctors, but you decide not to study and start a ‘normal job’, you may be (unfairly) referred to as:


  • La oveja negra de tu familia.

  • The black sheep of the family.



9. Pagar el pato


To ‘take the rap’ or to ‘carry the can’.


This is a really common idiom, especially among infants. If when you were a kid, you used to fight with your brothers, because ‘os llevabáis como el perro y el gato’ probably more than once, you were punished unfairly, like when someone painted the walls, you didn’t take part but your parents punished all of you for doing it because they did not know who did it, that would have been a good situation to complain:


  • Yo no lo hice, ¿por qué tengo que pagar el pato?

  • I didn’t do it! Why do I have to  take the rap?


It can also be used in adult life. Imagine you have a deadline for a team project at work and just one person hasn’t completed their task, but all the team needs to stay until late that day, and ‘pagar el pato’ even when you did the right thing. This is life!

10. Más vale pájaro en mano que ciento volando


A bird in hand is worth two in the bush.


This is good if you know someone who is greedy, or when you are acting greedily too.


So, you have a job offer today where you would earn $1,000 a month but you have to sign the contract now, you might also have another job offer pending where you could earn $1,500 a month but you still need to pass another interview with two more people. Even if you took the risk and waited, you might not get it. So if you go for the secure option, the offer which is actually on the table, you may say:


  • Nunca se sabe, pero más vale pájaro en mano que ciento volando.
  • You never know, but a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.


And that is all so far. I know you have all probably heard a few more, as Spanish idioms are quite popular, especially those with animals, this is just a little taste. Also as you have seen, they are all quite short and straight forward, so again, there is no excuse not to learn and practise these Spanish idioms with animals as much as you can.


Today’s homework is a bit more tricky, as it is an actionable one, as usual, but I can be your accountability partner, why? How? When? In the comments! I want to help you in  your Spanish learning and I am committed to it, but for that I need something from your side too, and it is action! Practice makes perfect as I always say ... So...


I am going to leave with you a few sentences and you need to pick one, just one, and let me know which one of the above idioms you would use in that specific case. Deal? Let’s do it! Don’t forget you got this!









Now it is your turn. Of course feel free to share any other Spanish idioms with animals you know, or if you have a particular one you like in your language leave a comment and I will try my best to give you its Spanish equivalent. Also I would love to know:


  • Do you like idioms?

  • Have you heard/used any of the idioms from the blog before?

  • Do you know any other idioms with animals?

  • Do you have any idioms with animals in your country? Let me know! I would love to know!


As usual, I hope you enjoyed this article and you learned something new.

See you soon!



Hero image by Anete Lūsiņa on Unsplash