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13 handy 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 handy Spanish expressions to do with hair
Spanish expressions to do with hair. Photo: Ryan McGuire / Pixabay

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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For members


Ten Spanish mistakes even Spaniards make

Frustrated with your Spanish? Don't sweat it: Even native speakers sometimes make mistakes. Here we list some of the most common ones - all in the name of making you feel better about yourself of course.

Ten Spanish mistakes even Spaniards make

It turns out English speakers don’t have a monopoly on mangling their language. Spanish speakers pepper their speech and writing with errors too.

A book published by Spain’s Cervantes Institute – Las 500 dudas más frecuentes del español – tackles the 500 thorniest issues faced by native speakers of Spanish.

From spellings, kiosco or quiosco? (you’ll see both) – to accents – porque or porqué? (the second is a noun meaning ‘reason’ or ‘motive’) – this article will help you clear up your doubts about the language.

But basta (or should that be vasta?) with all the small talk. Let’s get on with it.

¿Te escucho mal o te oigo mal?

I’m listening to you badly (‘te escucho mal‘) may sound horribly wrong in English but in Spanish, it’s become so widely used most Spaniards won’t even pick up on this bizarre mistake. The right answer is ‘te oigo mal‘ (I can’t hear you).

Te oigo mal. Photo: Robin Higgins / Pixabay

¿Ahí, hay o ay? 

Ouch! Wasn’t Spanish meant to be an easy language phonetically speaking? These three words are almost pronounced the same but may cause some Spaniards a headache when putting pen to paper. Hay (there is/are), ‘ahí‘ (over there) and ‘ay‘ is what flamenco ‘cantaores‘ (singers) scream or what you shout out if you’re in pain.

Ay, I’m being bitten by ants. Photo: Hans / Pixabay

Andé o anduve? 

The past simple form of the verb ‘to walk’ (andar) in Spanish trips up many native speakers who assume it to be regular. Right answer is anduve, anduviste, anduvo, anduvimos, anduvisteis, anduvieron.

What is the past simple form of the verb ‘to walk’ (andar)? Photo: 👀 Mabel Amber, who will one day / Pixabay

¿He freído o he frito? 

Brain frazzled yet? Well, not to worry because Spaniards often mix up the past participle of to fry (‘freído’) with the adjective fried (‘frito’). Food for thought.

Freído or Frito? Photo: Andrew Ridley / Unsplash

Subir para arriba, entrar para adentro, salir para afuera

In English, this would equate with ‘go up up’, ‘to go inside inside’ and ‘to go out’. It seems redundant, it’s grammatically wrong but the vast majority of Spaniards have used these forms more than once.

Subir para arriba? Photo: Bruno Nascimento / Unsplash

El agua, el arma, el hambre

Sometimes the gender (‘el’ or ‘la’) of nouns in Spanish is a bitch, pardon our French. It’s hard enough already for English speakers to label everything as either masculine or feminine, so when you get nouns that end with an ‘a’ but have a masculine pronoun it all gets very confusing. Still, many Spanish mistakenly say ‘este agua‘ or ‘este arma‘ when they should use ‘esta‘. 

El agua instead of La agua. Photo: rony michaud / Pixabay

¿Sólo o solo?

If you haven’t got your head around Spanish accents, rest assured many Spaniards aren’t clear on the rules either. Even the Royal Spanish Academy (the world’s chief body on the Spanish language) can’t make its mind up on whether to include an accent on ‘sólo‘ (only) or just leave it like solo (alone). Feel like you need a ‘café solo‘ (black coffee) now?

Do you need an accent with your café solo? Photo: David Schwarzenberg / Pixabay

Adding an unnecessary ‘s’ to second person past simple forms (‘fuistes’, ‘hicistes’, ‘llamastes’ and so on)

The letter ‘s’ at the end of words may be a relatively unheard sound in southern Spain, but in the rest of the Iberian peninsula, they’re rather fond of it. So much so that many Spaniards add it to verbs where it doesn’t even exist. By the way, it should be ‘fuiste’, ‘hiciste’ and ‘llamaste’.

Some Spanish people an extra ‘s’ onto words. Photo: Muhammad Haseeb Muhammad Suleman / Pixabay

¿Conducí o conduje? ¿Traducí o Traduje? 

Common verbs like ‘to drive’ and ‘to translate’ manage to catch out many Spaniards because of their unexpected irregular form in the past simple. The correct form for both verbs ends in -je, -jiste, -jo, -jimos, -jisteis and -jeron

Do you know how to say ‘I drove’ in Spanish? Photo: Pexels / Pixabay

Han solo

“What on earth is that choice of picture about?” you may ask. Well, this slide is only about one word- Han, solo. Terrible jokes aside, ‘there have been’ is not ‘han habido‘ in Spanish. The correct form is always ‘ha habido‘ but many Spaniards join the dark side. 

Han Solo. Photo: JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP