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Popular Spanish Quotes: Little Nuggets of Spanish Wisdom

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How many proverbs and quotes do you think you encounter on a given day? These words of wit and wisdom can appear almost anywhere, whether you’re scrolling through your Instagram and Pinterest feeds, watching a movie, or talking with friends and family.

In Spanish, we use refranes (“sayings”), which are ready-made phrases that come from our mothers and grandmothers, passed down from one generation to another. These sayings have become very popular over the years, and Spaniards frequently use them in their daily lives. Learning these Spanish quotes and sayings will help you connect with the Spanish language on a deep level and immerse you in the culture.

In this article, we’re going to review the most popular refranes that Spanish students will surely hear when having a conversation with a Spanish speaker. Many of these unique Spanish quotes, when translated literally, don’t make much sense in English. Because we want you to become familiar with each one, we’ll provide both the literal translation and an English approximate. 

In addition to these sayings, we’ve included some other phrases from writers, philosophers, and movies, and have included links to relevant vocabulary lists on SpanishPod101.com

Are you ready? Let’s go!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Spanish Table of Contents
  1. Quotes About Wisdom
  2. Quotes About Success
  3. Quotes About Life
  4. Quotes About Time
  5. Quotes About Love
  6. Quotes About Family
  7. Quotes About Friendship
  8. Quotes About Food
  9. Quotes About Health
  10. Quotes About Language Learning
  11. Conclusion

1. Quotes About Wisdom

If you’re looking for some Spanish quotes to live by, you may find something valuable in these quotes about wisdom.

#1

SpanishA buen entendedor pocas palabras bastan.
Literally“A good listener, few words are enough.”
Equivalent“A word to the wise is sufficient.”
This saying comes from popular Spanish wisdom. It means that when you’re speaking to someone who is wise or has a good understanding of a subject, you won’t need to use many words to explain something to them. 

We may use this expression to draw the attention of a person who hasn’t followed our orders or directions. It’s also an ironic way of saying that there’s no need to repeat.

#2

SpanishQuien a buen árbol se arrima, buena sombra le cobija.
Literally“Whoever approaches a good tree, shelters a good shadow.”
Equivalent“It’s not what you know, but who you know.”
This famous proverb means that if you surround yourself with good people, you’ll be a good person and do well in life.

Imagine a leafy tree with a lot of shade on a very hot summer day. Of course you’d want to settle down underneath it for protection and refreshment! Just as you would be on the right track in doing so, so would a person who surrounded themself with good people.

#3

SpanishMás vale pájaro en mano que ciento volando.
Literally“A bird in hand is worth two in the bush.”
Equivalent“A bird in the hands is better than two in the bush.”
This is another famous proverb, and it means that you shouldn’t risk losing something you already have for something that’s better but uncertain.

We might use this saying when, for example, we’re thinking about leaving our current job for a better one, and then decide not to because our current job is a safer bet. 


Book

#4

SpanishA palabras necias, oídos sordos.
Literally“To foolish words, deaf ears.”
Equivalent“Don’t listen to the words of fools.”
This quote means that you shouldn’t listen to people who speak without knowledge or with bad intentions. Literally, it says that you should make yourself deaf and not listen.

It’s typically used when a person makes a comment about us, or about a matter related to us, that we don’t agree with.

#5

SpanishDad crédito a las obras y no a las palabras.
Literally“Give credit to works and not to words.”
Equivalent“Actions speak louder than words.”
Source and background infoThis is a quote from the Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, from his famous book Don Quijote de la Mancha.
This phrase from the Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra means that what we do has more power than what we say. 

It’s typically used when we see that someone speaks more than he does or can do. 

2. Quotes About Success

Do you have big plans for the future? Or maybe just an upcoming project you’re worried about? Check out these Spanish quotes on success to stay motivated and on the right path!


#6

SpanishEl arte de vencer se aprende en las derrotas.
Literally“The art of winning is learned in defeat.”
Equivalent“The art of victory is learned in defeat.”
Source and background infoThis is a quote from Simón Bolívar, a Venezuelan political soldier and one of the most prominent public figures in Latin America. He fought during the Hispano-American Revolution in the nineteenth century.
This phrase from Simón Bolívar means that difficulties are part of life, and that we can become stronger and more victorious through them.

Some Spanish speakers, especially from the political sector, have used this quote as a motivational phrase in times of crisis in their countries.

Cheerful Young Man

“El arte de vencer se aprende en las derrotas.” (Simón Bolívar)

#7

SpanishTodo lo que puede ser imaginado es real.
Literally“Everything that can be imagined is real.”
Equivalent“Everything you can imagine is real.”
Source and background infoThis is a quote from the famous Spanish painter Pablo Picasso, one of the most important artists of the twentieth century. With these words, he makes a parallel between his perception of the world and his experience with art.
This phrase is completely inspirational and is quite common in motivational courses in companies. It provides a mental framework in which people can achieve anything.

#8

SpanishLo difícil lo hago de inmediato, lo imposible tardo un poquito más.
Literally“I do the difficult immediately, the impossible takes a little longer.”
Equivalent“Difficult is done at once, the impossible takes a little longer.”
Source and background infoThis is a phrase by Mario Fortino Alfonso Moreno Reyes, known worldwide as Cantinflas.

This is one of the most popular quotes in Spanish, especially among Mexicans, as Cantinflas gained fame through her performances in the cinema.

This actor and humorist is one of the characters that most reflects Mexico’s national identity.
This phrase means that you can face any situation without limitations and achieve everything you set your mind to.

#9

SpanishLo importante es marcarse metas en la vida y poner toda tu alma en cumplirlas.
Literally“The important thing is to set goals in life and put your whole soul into achieving them.”
Equivalent“Set your goals high, and don’t stop til you get there.”
Source and background infoAmancio Ortega said this in one of his interviews. 

The most prominent businessman in Spain and creator of the fashion brand ZARA, he is one of the most influential characters in the country thanks to his successful business model and his worldwide fame in fashion.
This quote means that you can achieve anything if you’re clear about your goals and follow them with discipline.

It could be used, for example, as a reference in an entrepreneurship conference.

3. Quotes About Life 

Who knows what life really is? If you enjoy pondering the big picture and admiring the minutest details, read through these Spanish quotes about life and gain some insight!

#10

SpanishAunque la mona se vista de seda, mona se queda.
Literally“Even if the monkey dresses in silk, it remains a monkey.”
Equivalent“You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”
This is one of the most popular Spanish sayings. It’s used in both Spain and Latin America to indicate that you can’t change your essence or your natural appearance for something superficial.

You can use this Spanish quote about life in any context, particularly with the people closest to you, such as friends and family.

#11

SpanishA enemigo que huye, puente de plata.
Literally“A fleeing enemy, silver bridge.”
Equivalent“Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.”
Source and background infoThis phrase is of Spanish origin, said by Gonzalo Fernández Córdoba, known as The Great Captain of the sixteenth century. He pronounced it in front of his troops in the military fields as a mandate to facilitate the flight of the defeated enemy.
The Spanish use this phrase when a person wants to harm them. This person would be considered the enemy, and thus should be forgiven or made to flee.

People tend to use this phrase on a daily basis.

#12

SpanishEl que no arriesga un huevo no saca un pollo.
Literally“He who does not risk an egg does not take out a chicken.”
Equivalent“The person who risks nothing does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing…” (Paul Tillich)
This popular phrase means that those who don’t take risks don’t obtain benefits. It’s widely used in Latin America (especially in Colombia), and it’s sometimes used in Spain as well.

A person can use this phrase in situations where they need to risk something in order to experience positive change. Examples include getting another job, starting a business, or changing partners.

This quote can also be applied in contexts involving teamwork and goal achievement. The Spanish Pep Guardiola once stated a similar phrase in reference to his job as a soccer coach: No hay nada más peligroso que no arriesgarse. (“There’s nothing more dangerous than not taking any chances.”)

#13

SpanishA veces te tienes que lanzar de cabeza y la gente te ayuda por el camino.
Literally“Sometimes you have to jump head first and people help you along the way.”
Equivalent“Many hands make light work.”
Source and background infoThis quote was taken from the Spanish movie El olivo, a 2016 film that critiques abuse of power and tells an exciting story about a grandfather and his granddaughter.
This phrase indicates that you sometimes have to get out of your comfort zone and find people to help you fulfill your mission. It depicts an ideal life in which you can reflect on the things you want to do and bring them to fruition.

Someone may use this quote when, for example, their close friend is talking about the dreams or goals they’re too afraid to go after.

Young People Making Hearts with Their Hands

4. Quotes About Time

You’ve seen the most popular Spanish sayings on life, so let’s now dwell a little on time: the most valuable asset a person has and the only thing a person can never recover.

Here, we’ve compiled several inspirational Spanish quotes to encourage you to live life and take advantage of your time! Some of these quotes are from Hispanic figures who have become famous through film and politics. 

#14

SpanishSer libre es…gastar la mayor cantidad de tiempo de nuestra vida en aquello que nos gusta hacer.
Literally“Being free is…spending the most time in our lives on what we like to do.”
Equivalent“Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.”
Source and background infoThis quote is from Pepe Mujica, former President of Uruguay. He has stood out over the years for his wise phrases in television interviews and his altruistic nature.
This quote invites people to prioritize the most important things, because time is limited. It’s best to invest our time in what we like, and to be happy in doing so.

It’s an inspiring phrase for many of the politician’s followers, as well as for ordinary people who identify with his way of thinking. This quote can be used in everyday life, in business talks, and in conferences.

#15

SpanishMejor tarde que nunca.
Literally“Better late than never.”
This is a very popular saying, meaning that it’s better to do things even if they’re late than to not do them at all.

People can use this phrase in reference to any task, especially those they don’t necessarily want to do: exercising, getting to an appointment early, etc.

#16

SpanishA quien madruga, Dios le ayuda.
Literally“Whoever gets up early, God helps him.”
Equivalent“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”
This is a typical phrase in Spanish-speaking cultures, widely used in work-related contexts. It means that we must be responsible and efficient concerning our tasks on a daily basis.

#17

SpanishNo siempre serás joven, te lo digo por experiencia.
Literally“You will not always be young, I tell you from experience.”
Equivalent“Youth comes but once in a lifetime.”
Source and background infoThis quote is taken from the 1982 Spanish film Laberinto de pasiones from director Pedro Almodóvar. Although it was not very successful, many people consider it a cult film.
This quote is from an argument that a nymphomaniac girl has with someone in the film. She’s had to fight her illness since childhood, reflecting the bitterness of lost time.

People use this quote to refer to the importance of taking advantage of one’s youth, because many things are lost with old age.

Life is shorter than we like to think. If you’re feeling a bit melancholy, see our vocabulary lists of Hobbies and Life Events for some ideas on how to make the most of your time!

Watch

Mejor tarde que nunca.”

5. Quotes About Love

Are you in love? Or maybe you’re a hopeless romantic? Either way, we think you’ll enjoy these Spanish quotes about love and romance! 


#18

SpanishEs tan corto el amor y tan largo el olvido.
Literally“Love is so short and oblivion so long.”
Equivalent“Love is so short, forgetting is so long.”
Source and background infoThis is a quote from the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, taken from his work entitled “20 poemas de amor y una canción desesperada.”
This is a famous phrase from the poet who won the Nobel Prize in Literature and has dedicated his poems to love and heartbreak. He has been one of the most representative figures in Latin American culture.

This quote means that while the good things in life don’t last, the things that hurt us the most last forever.

#19

SpanishEscoge una persona que te mire como si quizás fueras magia.
Literally“Choose a person who looks at you as if you were perhaps magic.”
Equivalent“Romantic love reaches out in little ways, showing attention and admiration.”
Source and background infoThis famous phrase is from the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, one of the most important figures in Latin America.
This phrase encourages us to find a partner that we’re passionate about and to whom we are important.

During her life, Frida Kahlo stood out for her famous inspirational phrases about life and love. She became the benchmark for many women and men, who in this day and age, fill their Instagram posts with messages from the artist.

#20

SpanishEl amor es eterno mientras dura.
Literally“Love is eternal while it lasts.”
Source and background infoNobel Prize winner Gabriel García Márquez penned this quote in his story I Only Came to Use the Phone, which is part of the book Twelve Pilgrim Tales.
This is one of the most famous quotes from the Colombian writer, who reflects on the immortality of love and its ability to transcend time. Love has many qualities: it’s real but intangible, both long-lasting and short-lived. But as long as we feel it, it will be eternal.

#21

SpanishOjos que no ven, corazón que no siente.
Literally“Out of sight, out of mind.”
This popular expression is used in both Spanish and English, and it’s generally used to mean that it’s better for us not to know if our romantic partner is doing something to hurt us. It’s widely used among couples and friends to comment on infidelity.

Heart

« El amor es eterno mientras dura ». (Gabriel García Márquez)

#22

SpanishNadie sabe lo que vale el agua hasta que le falta.
Literally“No one knows what water is worth until it is lacking.”
Equivalent“You never know what you’ve got til it’s gone.”
This popular saying demonstrates the importance of valuing what we have, whether it’s a person, a good of some kind, or a life situation.

It’s a very popular phrase in Spanish-speaking cultures, often used in conversations with close friends and family.

6. Quotes About Family

Family consists of the people you love the most, and sometimes get along with the least. Learn more about family in Spanish-speaking cultures through the following quotes and sayings.


#23

SpanishParece que no tienes abuela.
Literally“It seems that you don’t have a grandmother.”
This saying is very popular in Spain, said to people who have a high opinion of themselves or are self-centered.

Why is it related to grandmothers? Because grandmothers are usually the ones who praise their grandchildren the most; if someone is self-centered, that person doesn’t need his grandmother in order to feel superior.

#24

SpanishSalirse de madre.
Literally“Get out of mother.”
Equivalent“To lose one’s self-control.”
This is another famous Spanish expression, used when there’s an excess of something. For example, if a party has more guests than normal or expected. Its origin dates back to when it rained so much that the rivers overflowed.

#25

SpanishEs en la familia donde aprendemos a abrirnos a los demás, a crecer en libertad y en paz.
Equivalent“It is in the family where we learn to open ourselves to others, to grow in freedom and in peace.”
Source and background infoThis quote is from Pope Francis, taken from the book Catechesis on the Family.
This quote became famous around the world, especially among Catholic believers, as it adds value to the family. Pope Francis is a world icon, but has great relevance in Latin American culture due to his Argentine origin. 

7. Quotes About Friendship

There are many great Spanish quotes on friendship, but we’ll only be sharing the most popular with you here!


 #26

SpanishLos amigos son la familia que uno escoge.
Equivalent“Friends are the family one chooses.”
This is a popular phrase among friends, used as a sign of affection. Friends are the people with whom you share the most, even more than you share with your family sometimes.

#27

SpanishEs mejor tener amigos que dinero.
Literally“It’s better to have friends than money.”
Equivalent“Friendship is more important than money.”
The meaning of this expression is very valuable. It refers to those true friends who are always ready to help us in the most difficult moments.

#28

SpanishEl amigo es aquel que entra cuando todo el mundo ha salido.
Literally“The friend is the one who enters when everyone has left.”
Equivalent“A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.”
Source and background infoThis phrase is taken from the 2012 Spanish movie Tengo ganas de ti, starring the famous Spanish actor Mario Casas.
The plot of the film is based on the love of two friends who meet again after a long time, and who want to start a new life and leave their past behind.

This quote from the story refers to those unconditional friends who are with you when others turn their backs on you. It closely resembles reality, making it a quote that ranks high in terms of practical value.

#29

SpanishEl amigo ha de ser como la sangre que acude luego a la herida sin esperar que lo llamen.
Literally“The friend must be like the blood that comes to the wound without waiting for him to be called.”
Source and background infoThis quote is from the Golden Age Spanish writer Francisco de Quevedo.
This is one of the most famous phrases, found in the most outstanding books of poems in Spanish—and in many Spanish social media posts!

Through this quote, the author reflects on how ideal friends should be: unconditional, supportive, and overall good.

Friends

« El amigo ha de ser como la sangre que acude luego a la herida sin esperar que lo llamen ». (Francisco de Quevedo)

8. Quotes About Food

Food: What better motivation or joy does the world have to offer? Learn what Spanish-speaking cultures have to say about food with these popular quotes, and walk away from this section with a full belly and a happy heart.

    → While you’re at it, why not learn the names of the most popular Mexican Foods?

#30

SpanishPanza llena, corazón contento.
Equivalent“A full belly and a happy heart.”
This quote is of Spanish origin, and refers to the satisfaction and contentment we feel after a good meal. It also indicates that when we cover our most basic needs (eating, sleeping, etc.), we have a better disposition that allows us to do other things.

It’s popularly used in all Spanish-speaking countries.

#31

SpanishLo que no mata, engorda.
Equivalent“What doesn’t kill you, makes you fat.”
This is a popular saying in Latin America and Spain, mainly used when eating something unhealthy or of dubious quality.

#32

SpanishEl hambre desata la locura.
Equivalent“Hunger unleashes madness.”
Source and background infoThis phrase is taken from the 2020 Netflix movie El Hoyo. It has become one of the most successful films in Latin American history.
This quote is a manifestation of what the poorest social classes live with when they’re faced with hunger and misery. These situations can lead to despair and even acts of barbarism.

The film’s plot is an exposition of the current reality in which the economic levels are strongly marked in our society. It also sends the suggestive message that the distribution of wealth should be more equitable.

#33

SpanishPoner toda la carne en el asador
Literally“Put all the meat on the grill”
Equivalent“Give it everything you got”
This phrase is especially popular in Mexico. It’s used when a person puts great effort into something or takes big risks to achieve a goal.

You can apply this to your Spanish learning! Put all the meat on the grill until you master the language. Feel motivated?

9. Quotes About Health

We all want to take care of our health, but we may not always do a great job of that. Here are some Spanish quotes to give you insight into how Spanish-speaking cultures perceive health. 


#34

SpanishMejor prevenir que curar.
Equivalent“Prevention is better than cure.”
This common phrase in Spain and Latin America is used to say that it’s better to avoid a bad situation than to face the consequences after it happens.

It’s widely used by mothers and grandmothers as advice for their children, especially when they have to make decisions about an unsafe situation.

#35

SpanishQuién salud no tiene, de todo bien carece.
Literally“Who’s health does not have everything well lacks.”
Equivalent“Life is not merely being alive, but being well.”
What is the use of living if you’re not healthy? Well, this popular Spanish saying means that the greatest wealth is having health, regardless of your social condition. It also encourages people to reflect on and be grateful for their health, especially when they hear of others who are sick.

#36

SpanishPeor es el remedio que la enfermedad.
Literally“The remedy is worse than the disease.”
Equivalent“The cure is worse than the disease.”
This saying states that some solutions generate more inconvenience than the problem they’re designed to fix. For example, imagine taking someone to a party with you so that no one will bother you, but the person you brought behaves badly at the party.

In countries like Colombia, this phrase is very popular, but it changes a little: Salió más cara la cura que la enfermedad. (“The cure was more expensive than the disease.”)


Woman Eating Healthy

«Quien salud no tiene de todo bien carece »

10. Quotes About Language Learning

To end our article, let’s look at a popular Spanish quote on learning! 

#37

SpanishLoro viejo no aprende a hablar.
Literally“Old parrot does not learn to talk.”
Equivalent“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”
This popular saying, generally used by older people, means that it’s more difficult for an older person to learn new things than it is for a younger person.

You can also apply this quote to your language learning! If you’re young, take advantage of that and learn as much as you can; if you’re not so young, just remember: Mejor tarde que nunca.

Conclusion

In this guide, you learned many popular Spanish sayings and phrases. You were motivated by love, family, and friends; you reflected on life and time; you got excited about food… And most of all, you familiarized yourself with certain aspects of Spanish-speaking cultures!

Which quote was your favorite, and why? We look forward to hearing from you in the comments! 

The Spanish language is diverse and may appear complex at times. But keep practicing! The more lessons you learn, the faster you’ll master Spanish. 

If you need more motivation, we have vocabulary lists of Reasons for Learning a Language and Spanish Quotes About Language Learning.

We hope to see you around!

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