Tag Archives: spanish proverbs

Spanish Proverbs

The informant’s mother is from northern Mexico, specifically Sonora. She came to America during the Mexican revolution when she was very young (~1910).  She lived in the territory of Arisona before it became a state. The informant was raised in Arizona, but brought up bilingual. Her mother would speak spanish to her and her siblings because she did not want to kids to lose it.

The informant told me 3 Spanish proverbs that her mother used to say to the kids growing up.

1. “No hay mal que por bien no venga”

Translates roughly to “something good comes out of everything”

Context via informant: Let’s say something went wrong… you didn’t get something you wanted. Mom would say that meaning that something good will still come out of it.

Interpretation: This proverb exhibits a mindset focused on always looking at bright side.  It warns people against getting upset over things not always going their way, but instead believing that something better is on the way.

2. “Entre menos guros mas elotes”

Translates roughly to “The fewer the people who want something, the bigger your share is going to be.”

Context via informant: Mom used this proverb whenever somebody doesn’t want something (typically food).

Interpretation: The English equivalent for this proverb would be saying “more for me” after someone declines food or some object. It emphasizes that nothing will go to waste, and at times can make one feel guilty for not wanting what is so graciously given to him.  Someone else will make use of what you do not want. The food/thing in front of you is not worthless even if you do not want it.

3. “El diablo sabe mas por viejo que por diable”

Translates roughly to “The devil knows more because he is not rather than because he is the devil”

Context via informant: “Mom said this ALL the time. The idea is that experience mattered more than anything. If you’re the daughter and she’s the mom, you’ll never know more because she’s older. You can never catch up.  It was very discouraging.”

Interpretation: It makes sense that a parent would frequently say this proverb because parents will always be older than their children, meaning they will always be wiser. Older people know more, and they always will, because they will always be older than you.  It is emphasizes respect and reverence of elders. You should never stop respecting or listening to people older than you because they will always be wiser.

Los Ociosos Trabajan Doble

This is a Spanish proverb my informant’s Puerto Rican mother would say to him. Translated it means “the lazy work twice as hard” meaning that lazy people, to avoid having to exert themselves, will end up putting more effort into finding a shortcut than it would have taken to just do the work in the first place.

The example my informant gave was that he would be in bed and want to turn off the light. Instead of getting up and taking a few seconds to walk across the room, he would throw his shoes and whatever else was at hand at the light switch in an effort to flip it. Before long, it became apparent that the far simpler solution would have been to gather the resolve to momentarily get out of bed. Situations like this would prompt my informant’s mother to recite the proverb.

A clever and simply stated way to chide lazy people that actually offers a practical reason to stop procrastinating and do a task (for the purpose of exerting less effort in the long run). Normally I’d expect a moral impetus behind a proverb like this, but that doesn’t seem to be the thought process.

Spanish Proverb

estomago lleno, corazón contento

In English, this translates into “Full stomach, happy heart”.

The source learned this saying from his host family when he studied abroad in Spain. His host family was Cuban, so he’s not sure if this saying comes from Spain or Cuba.

This proverb reflects the Spanish culture’s deep appreciation for good food, and the importance of family. The fact the the host family taught this to him, to me means that they wanted to make him feel at home, and feel happy.