If you think pelo (hair) isn’t an interesting Spanish word, then this post might surprise you.


It may not be the case in English, but in Spanish, there is a whole world of possibilities in which you can use this word. If you want to speak Spanish in a natural way, then you will need to learn a few idioms. Some of those idioms will use the word pelo (hair). In this article, you’ll find nine of them!


Nine may sound like a lot, but it will be straight and simple. And, if you read until the end, you can get ready for some practice as this week’s homework is an actionable activity.



1. Soltarse el pelo


This literally means release your hair, but as an idiom, it actually means something closer to let yourself go. This phrase is usually used when someone is stressed about something or needs to break up their routine.


Here’s an example. Imagine that your best friend, who is always very responsible, is swamped with work and getting stressed. If you suggest a night out but she keeps saying no, the conversation could go something like this:


  • El problema es que trabajas todo el tiempo, necesitas desconectar, lo que tienes que hacer es salir el fin de semana , beber un poco, soltarte el pelo, después te sentirás mejor. (The problem is you work all the time. You need to switch off! Let’s go out this weekend and let ourselves go, you will feel better afterwards.)



2. Ponérsele los pelo de punta a alguien


This idiom can have two different meanings depending on when it is used; one is positive, the other is more negative.


If something scares us, we can say ponérsele los pelo de punta a alguien (to make one’s hair stand on end.)


For example, if your friends want to watch a horror movie in the cinema but you would rather not, you could say the following:


  • No vuelvo a ver una película de horror, todavía me acuerdo la última, me puso los pelos de punta. (I am not going to watch a horror movie again. I still remember the last one, it made my hair stand on end.)


However, if something is enjoyable and it gives you a pleasant feeling, you can say ponérsele los pelo de punta a alguien (to give me goosebumps.)


For example, if you’re remembering the last anniversary you had with your partner, you could say:


  • Me acuerdo de nuestro último aniversario, fue una sorpresa increíble, cuando lo pienso todavia se me ponen los pelos de punta. (I still remember our last anniversary, it was an amazing surprise. When I think about it, it still gives me goosebumps.)


*Note here that the usage can also apply to negative feelings in general. For example, if you are scared of spiders, you could say:


  • No soporto las arañas, pensar en ellas me pone los pelos de punta. (I can’t stand spiders, just the thought of them gives me goosebumps.)




3. Lucir el pelo


The literal meaning of this idiom is to show off your hair; it is used to refer to suffering the consequences of a negative action.


Here is an example:


  • Ha sido un desastre, pero claro, no te preparaste la presentación y así te ha lucido el pelo. (It’s been a disaster! But, you did not prepare the presentation and that is what happened.)



4. Tomar el pelo


This literally means to pull someone’s hair. This idiom also exists in English, but uses the word leg rather than hair. We use it when someone is joking.


For example, your friend is telling you something that does not seem right and you think he might be joking. You can say the below:


  • !Es imposible! ¿Me estás tomando el pelo? (It is impossible! Are you pulling my leg?)


Note that you can be the person who pulls someone’s hair too! So, if you are joking about something but your friend is taking it seriously, after a while you can say:


  • !No me hagas caso! Te estoy tomando el pelo! (Do not listen to me, I am pulling your leg!)



5. Caérsele el pelo a alguien


This literally means to lose your hair. It is used when someone does something wrong and there might be a punishment coming for it.


For example, if your brother breaks your mother’s favourite picture, you can say the following:


  • Verás, cuando mama se enteré se te va a caer el pelo…(You will see, when Mum finds out, she is going to be so mad at you…)



6. Ni un pelo


This literally means not even a hair. The idiom means almost the same thing: nothing or very little.


For example, you do not like your friend’s new partner. You could say:


  • !No me gusta ni un pelo. (I do not like him a bit.)


*Watch out: a similar expression no tener ni un pelo de tonto (to not have a hair of a fool) is also very popular, and it means to be no fool.



7. Ser de medio pelo


The literal meaning here is to be from half hair. It is used when the quality of something is not good or second rate. This can refer to something material or moral (the latter is worse).


For example, you have bought a fake bag, then you can say something like this:


  • No me gusta nada, es de medio pelo y tú puedes verlo…no debía haberlo comprador. (I do not like it, it is second rate, and you can tell… I should not have bought it.)



8. No ver el pelo


This literally means to not see someone’s hair. It is used to refer to someone that you have not seen in a very long time.


For example, you finally got to meet a Spanish friend you haven’t seen in ages. You can say the following:


  • !Por fin te veo!¿Qué has estado haciendo? No te he visto el pelo…(Finally I see you! What have you been doing? I haven’t seen a trace of you in ages.)


Note that you can also say no te dejas ver el pelo (you do not allow yourself to be seen) and convey the same meaning.



9. Tirarse de los pelos


This one is also similar to a well-known English idiom. When someone is desperate or stressed out, you can say that they are pulling their hair out.


Here’s an example. If you need to finish something for a deadline but technology is not playing in your favour, you could explain to your friends the following:


  • Estoy desesperada, necesito acabar este proyecto para el lunes y mi internet no funciona…!no sé qué hacer, me estoy tirando de los pelos! (I am desperate, I need to finish this project for Monday and my Internet is not working. I do not know what to do… I am pulling my hair out!)


And those are the nine Spanish idioms involving the word hair! I hope that you enjoyed them.





As I promised, I got something actionable for you: a quiz!


This is so that you can check out if you’ve really understood these idioms and when to use them. You can take the quiz as many times as you want here.


Now it is your turn. Did you enjoy the post? Let us know in the comments. We’d love to hear if you know any other Spanish idioms that use the word pelo, too.


Hero image by Jens Lindner (CC0 1.0)