10 Common Colombian Idioms for Sounding Like a Native

Idioms are part of every language and culture. Sayings, idioms or slangs are phrases, short sentences that simply enclose the result of experience and popular wisdom. They are usually unknown or anonymous as they have been spread by word of mouth for hundreds of years.

Idioms have a figurative, not a literal, meaning. For example, a couple of English idioms are “It’s raining cats and dogs” and “break a leg”. Idioms are part of learning a language and using them helps you to connect with the culture.

I’d like to teach you 10 common idioms or slangs that you will hear in Colombia:

  1. “No tener pelos en la lengua” (not having hairs on your tongue): In English means to be straightforward. This idiom means that someone is a straight shooter and will always speak their mind. For example: “Mi mamá no tiene pelos en la lengua” (My mother tells it how it is).
  2. “Se cuenta el milagro, pero no el santo” (You can tell the miracle, but not the saint who made it): People who gossip say this too often, and it means they are going to reveal to you something but you can’t know who was behind of it.
  3. “Del dicho al hecho hay mucho trecho” (from the saying to the fact there is much): In English means that sometimes there is a lot of distance between what you say and what you do, so you should not rely on promises that may not be fulfilled.
  4. “Tomar el pelo” (to take the hair): It means to pull someone’s leg. Is used when someone is tricking or making fun of someone else, but in a good way. So if a friend tells you he won the lottery, you might say: “Me estás tomando el pelo.” (You’re pulling my leg.)
  5. “Se me hace agua la boca” (it makes my mouth water): It means to make one’s mouth water or to be mouthwatering. Is a very common Spanish idiom and it means that the food is so delicious it makes the saliva flow in a person’s mouth. For example: “Se me hace agua la boca cuando pienso en un chocolate.” (It makes my mouth water when I think about chocolate).
  6. “Donde hubo fuego, cenizas quedan” (Where there was fire, ashes remain): It refers to the fact that there are always traces of passionate love. It means that when there has been love and this ends, there is always something very strong that can make this love revive again.
  7. “Donde manda capitán, no manda marinero” (Where a captain gives a command, a sailor doesn’t give a command): It refers to the marine environment, where the captain is the highest authority, while the sailor is the person of lower rank. Is a popular saying that refers to situations in which a subordinate intends to pass over the authority of his boss with no success.
  8. “Tome pa’ la gaseosa” (Take it for the soda): It’s a very Colombian way of tipping or giving a tip to somebody, like “here you go, for you to buy a soda”.
  9. “Uy ¿quién pidió pollo?” (Hey, who ordered chicken?): This is a funny one, because it’s used to flirt with a handsome/stunning (man or woman) who approaches to you or passes by. It’s a very colloquial way of flirting.
  10. “Hagamos una vaca” (Let’s make a cow): is commonly used to refer to collecting money between several people for a particular group activity or a common purpose. For example if you’re with a group of friends and need to collect some money to buy something to eat with a low budget, you would say “Hagamos una vaca para comprar pizza” (Let’s make a cow to buy pizza).

Did you have fun reading this apparently nonsense phrases? You will probably laugh more when you start using them. And if you take a Spanish course in Colombia, you will probably get the chance of learning even more. In Centro Catalina Spanish School we can teach you what you want to learn. Our team is young and dynamic, and they’re equipped to give you all the support that you need while you enroll in the unforgettable adventure of learning Spanish in Colombia.

Centro Catalina is located in Cartagena and Medellín, two main cities of Colombia. Each one of them offers you diverse options to visit incredible places and connect with the culture using your conversational skills in Spanish.


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