In English, we say, “horsing around” to mean behaving foolishly. Then there’s the old stand-by “a horse of a different color,” which means “something entirely different.” Interestingly, Spanish has only a few similar sayings (called modismos) that refer directly to the horse, el caballo. Considering that the Spanish took over all of Mexico, Central and South America on the back of the noble steed, one would think that there would be lots and lots of “horse sayings.”
6 Spanish Slang Phrases Using the Word HORSE
1. Meterse entre las patas de los caballos.
Meaning “to stick oneself in between the horses’ feet,” this is another way of referring to “getting out of one’s depth.”
2. Entrada de caballo y salida de burro.
“Entering on horseback and leaving on a burro,” refers to the possible consequences of starting something one cannot finish, as in strutting and bragging, only to be defeated by circumstances.
3. El caballo malo hay que venderlo lejos.
This is good advice. Literally, it means, “The bad (poor-quality) horse ought to be sold far away.” That way the seller can avoid the consequences of the bad sale. (This could also mean something like, “If you need to misbehave, do it away from home.)
4. Dar un gallo para recibir un caballo.
Means “to give a rooster to get a horse.” The idea of this would be along the lines of investing something small to receive a better return. In a literal sense, in fishing it could mean baiting a hook with a small worm to catch a marlin. It may also apply to being nice to someone may bring better consequences later.
5. Como un caballo en una cacharrería.
Literally, this means, “like a horse in a china shop.” Our English saying, of course, is “like a bull in a china shop.” It means “to behave in a clumsy and overbearing manner when finesse is required.” The odd difference here is that the Spanish use the word “horse” instead of “bull,” since they also introduced that lumbering animal to the new world.
6. A caballo regalado, no mires el diente.
One of the rare directly translatable modismos, most English speakers know this one: “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” In other words, if you get something free, don’t quibble about its value or condition.
Check out these other Spanish Slang Expressions articles.