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10 funny idioms in French and Spanish

Published 08/09/2016


One of the skills of a good translator is being able to render an idiom in the target language by conveying the meaning of the sentence and keeping the tone and style of the text. Not always easy!

Just as well we like a challenge! Here are a couple of our favourites in French and Spanish:


Les doigts dans le nez

Literal translation: fingers in the nose (and you might even hear some French people using the English version, just to confuse non-French speakers even more!!)

Actual meaning: something is really easy


Rire dans sa barbe

Literal translation: to laugh into one’s beard

Actual meaning: to chuckle quietly to oneself


Raconter des salades

Literal translation: to talk salad

Actual meaning: to tell tall stories, fibs


La vache !

Literal translation: the cow!

Actual meaning: Wow!


Revenons à nos moutons

Literal translation: let’s get back to our sheep

Actual meaning: Let’s get back to the matter in hand




Tirar la casa por la ventana

Literal translation: To throw the house out of the window

Actual meaning: to spare no expenses


Ser más lento que el caballo del malo

Literal translation: to be slower than the horse of the bad guy

Actual meaning: to be really slow (the origin of this idiom is related to Western films)


Echar agua al mar

Literal translation: to throw water into the sea

Actual meaning: something is pointless


Hay gato encerrado

Literal translation: there’s a cat locked away

Actual meaning: something’s going on, something is afoot


Disfrutar como un enano

Literal translation: to have fun like a dwarf

Actual meaning: to have a great time



Now that you’ve got the hang of these expressions, you’ll be able to sound like a true polyglot!


See you soon at The Home of Translation, by Peter Hancock and Garry Hutton

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