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13 essential Spanish expressions to do with hair

Has someone ever told you that they're taking your hair or that you don't have one hair of a fool? Here are 13 useful idioms related to hair which are used in daily conversation in Spain.

13 essential Spanish expressions to do with hair
13 essential Spanish expressions to do with hair. Photo by Yoann Boyer on Unsplash

Por los pelos: ‘By the hair’ in its literal sense is used to say that someone has managed to get out of a complicated situation at the last moment and with great difficulty. It’s similar to the English sayings ‘by a whisker’, ‘a close shave’ or ‘in the nick of time’. 

Example: Llegamos por los pelos, un minuto más tarde y no hubiésemos cogido el tren. – We arrived in the nick of time, one minute later and we wouldn’t have caught the train.

Tirarse de los pelos: ‘Pull your hair out’ is used in a similar way to the English expression to show when someone is stressed out or exasperated. 

Example: Se está tirando de los pelos porque no compró boletos de lotería y a sus vecinos les tocó El Gordo. – He’s pulling his hair out because he didn’t buy lottery tickets and his neighbours won the Christmas lottery. 

Tirarse de los pelos is used when someone is pulling their hair out. Photo: Klaus Hausmann / Pixabay

De medio pelo: ‘Of half hair’ indicates that something or someone is not as good as it’s/they are made out to be, they’re mediocre, small-time or second-rate.

Example: Es un empresario de medio pelo por mucho que presuma, todos sus negocios han fracasado. – As much as he shows off, he’s a second-rate businessman, all his ventures have failed. 

Tomar el pelo: ‘Taking the hair’ is a very common expression in Spanish which is similar to ‘pulling someone’s leg’ in English, meaning that you’re joking with them. 

Example: ¿Me estás tomando el pelo? No se de qué hablas. – Are you pulling my leg? I don’t know what you’re talking about.

No tener pelos en la lengua: ‘To not have hairs on your tongue’ refers to being outspoken, direct and saying what’s on your mind.

Example: Marta no tiene pelos en la lengua. Si algo no le gusta, lo dice. – Marta doesn’t mince her words. If she doesn’t like something, she says it.  

Sin pelos en la lengua means you are very outspoken. Photo: Ale Hidalgo / Pixabay

No fiarse ni un pelo: ‘To not even trust a hair’ is used when someone wants to say that you should not trust anything about a specific person or situation. 

Example: No te fies ni un pelo de él, es un estafador. – Don’t trust him one bit, he’s a scammer.

Ni un pelo de tonto: ‘Not one hair of fool’ is a way of flattering someone’s intelligence by saying that they are alert and intelligent enough not to be fooled in any way. 

Example: Marcos no tiene ni un pelo de tonto, sabe lo que hace. – Marcos is no fool, he knows what he’s doing. 

Ponerse los pelos de punta: ‘Put your hair standing on end’ is used in a similar way to the English expression to say that someone is so terrified or freaked out, that their hair stands on end.

Example: Se me ponen los pelos cuando veo películas de terror. – My hairs stand on end whenever I watch horror films.

Con los pelos de punta. Photo: Brigitte Werner / Pixabay

No cortarse un pelo: ‘To not cut one hair’ is used when someone has no shame or embarrassment in doing or saying something and they jump right in or dive in head-first.

Example: Yo no me corto un pelo. Si hay que quejarse, yo soy el primero. – I don’t hold back. If we have to complain, I’ll be the first to do so. 

To not cut one hair really means to not hold back in Spanish. Photo: Engin Akyurt / Pixabay

A pelo: This expression is used in several ways. It could be bareback as in riding a horse without a saddle, but it could also mean uncovered or unprotected, such as skinny dipping or unprotected sex. Another way to use it is when you want to say that someone ‘is left to their own devices’. 

Example: Ni se te ocurra hacerlo a pelo. Aquí tienes un condón. – Don’t even think having unprotected sex. Here’s a condom. 

Se te va a caer el pelo: ‘Your hair will fall out’ is used as a warning to somebody who’s done something wrong or mischievous that they going to receive a punishment for.

Example: Se te va a caer el pelo cuando se lo diga a mi amigo el policia. – You’re going to get it when I tell my friend the police officer.

Soltarse el pelo: ‘Let your hair down’ is used in Spanish as it is in English, meaning to let go or liberate yourself. 

Example: Suéltate el pelo y sal a bailar con la chica. – Let your hair down and go dance with the girl.

De pelo en pecho: ‘Of hair on chest’ is a way to refer to someone who’s very masculine or manly in Spanish. 
Example: Ya no eres un niño, estás hecho un hombre de pelo en pecho. – You’re not a boy anymore, you’re a proper man. 

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Spanish Expression of the Day: Pintar la mona

That’s right, there’s a saying in Spanish which literally translates as ‘paint the monkey’, and it’s got nothing to do with simian art or the Mona Lisa. 

Spanish Expression of the Day: Pintar la mona

Pintar la mona is a Spanish expression which basically means to be doing nothing, to be bored or to be of no use in a certain situation. 

It’s a bit like saying that you’re twiddling your thumbs, to be neither use nor ornament or sitting idle. 

It’s usually used in the present continuous – pintando la mona – and it’s worth remembering that it’s a colloquial expression, but not offensive. 

Other ways of saying it in Spanish can be the more standard no hacer nada (to do nothing), sobrar (to not be needed) or the more vulgar tocarse los huevos (touch one’s balls). 

So what are the origins of this bizarre expression? Does it have anything to do with painting a simian portrait or chucking a bucket of paint over their head? Or perhaps the mona is a reference to Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa?

La Mona is actually a card game in Spain, a game of pairs to be precise where La Mona is the only card which doesn’t have a pair and the losing player ends up with it in their playing hand. 

There’s also the word pintamonas, which either describes a poor quality painter, or a person who is of no great use but pretends the opposite.

Another related expression is to dormir la mona (something along the lines of ‘sending the monkey to sleep’) which actually means to sleep off a hangover. 

So the next time you’re in a situation in Spain where you’re not serving any purpose and might as well go and do something else, remember the expression pintar la mona.


Aquí estamos pintando la mona, así que mejor nos vamos.

We’re of no use here, so we might as well leave.

¡Deja de pintar la mona y vete a hacer los deberes!

Stop sitting around and go do your homework!