‘Camarón que se duerme se lo lleva la corriente.’
Translation: The sleeping shrimp is carried by the water current.
Meaning: You snooze, you lose. If you’re not quick on the mark, someone else will seize the opportunity, or it will be lost forever.
‘A lo hecho, pecho.’
Translation: To what is done, present your chest.
Meaning: What’s done is done. There’s no going back, so you might as well put on a brave face and face what’s coming to you.
‘En boca cerrada no entran moscas.’
Translation: In the closed mouth, flies do not enter.
Meaning: Sometimes you’re just better off keeping your mouth shut. If you don’t, be prepared to face the consequences.
‘Cría cuervos y te sacarán los ojos.’
Translation: Raise crows, and they will pick your eyes out.
Meaning: Be careful to not waste your kindness on ungrateful people who will simply abuse your generosity.
‘A mal tiempo, buena cara.’
Translation: In bad times, a good face.
Meaning: Hold your head high even when the going gets tough.
‘El que quiera pescado que se moje el culo.’
Translation: He who wants to catch fish must get his arse wet.
Meaning: You have to be ready to work hard at something if you want it; things won’t just fall into your lap.
‘Más vale ser cabeza de ratón que cola de león.’
Translation: Better to be a mouse’s head than a lion’s tail.
Meaning: It’s better to be a big fish in a small pond than a little fish in a big ocean. Better to be the best at something less ambitious than average at something more impressive.
‘Moro viejo nunca será buen cristiano.’
Translation: The old Moor will never be a good Christian.
Meaning: Old habits die hard; you can’t change someone from who they really are.
‘Quien fue a Sevilla perdió su silla.’
Translation: He who went to Seville, lost his seat.
Meaning: If you leave your spot, you’ll lose it. Move your feet, lose your seat.
‘A falta de pan, buenas son tortas.’
Translation: If there’s no bread, cakes will do.
Meaning: You’ve got to learn to make do with what you’ve got; beggars can’t be choosers.
‘El que no llora, no mama.’
Translation: He who doesn’t cry, doesn’t suckle.
Meaning: Things go to those who need them; only the squeaky wheel gets greased.
‘Zapatero a tus zapatos.’
Translation: Shoemaker, to your shoes!
Meaning: Keep to what you know, and mind your own business. Don’t go meddling where you’re not needed.
‘Gato con guantes no caza ratones.’
Translation: A cat with gloves does not catch mice.
Meaning: Be prepared to get your hands dirty if you want to get the job done.
‘Las cuentas claras y el chocolate espeso.’
Translation: Keep your accounts clear and your chocolate thick.
Meaning: In business, it’s best to be transparent about arrangements and keep good records.
‘A pan de quince días, hambre de tres semanas.’
Translation: To 15-day old bread, a three-week hunger.
Meaning: Beggars can’t be choosers; if you’re hungry, you’ll eat what you’re given.