Spanish Idioms involving God and Food

Arts and Media December 2023 PREMIUM

The concepts of religion and God are timeless, having been ingrained in human existence since its inception.

They persist as influential forces, molding patterns of knowledge and emotions—inherently timeless traits. Likewise, the following Spanish expressions reflect a philosophy of life in the presence of God. 

1. Dios aprieta pero no ahorca/ahoga – Even though life presents big challenges, one can endure them with resilience and hope.

Literal translation: God squeezes but does no strangle/drown.

Similarity to English: Every cloud has its silver lining.

2. Al que madruga, Dios lo ayuda – Time is so precious that every minute counts and we should profit from it.

Literal Translation: Those who get up early are helped by God.

Similarity to English: The early bird catches the worm. 

3. El hombre propone y Dios Dispone – Humans can make plans and set intentions, but unforeseen circumstances can alter the course of events. We need to be humble and acknowledge that we do not have complete control over our lives and outcomes.

Literal translation: Man proposes, and God disposes. 

Similarity to English: Man plans, and God laughs.

4. Dios los cría y ellos se juntan / y el diablo los junta / y el viento los amontona – People with the same characteristics tend to associate with each other.

Literal translation: God raises them, and they gather / and the devil brings them together / and the wind puts them together.

Similarity to English: Birds of a feather flock together.

5. A Dios rogando/rezando y con el mazo dando - This phrase encourages perseverance and hope while maintaining one’s belief or confidence in the face of difficulties and continuing to work to move forward.

Literal translation: Praying to God and wielding the mallet.

Similarity to English: Hold on and keep the faith.

6. A quien se ayuda, Dios le ayuda – It highlights the importance of taking the initiative and putting effort as divine assistance often accompanies individual determination and action.

Literal translation: He who helps himself, God helps him.

Similarity to English: God helps those who help themselves.

7. Dios le da pan al que no tiene dientes – God offers something valuable or precious to someone who cannot or does not appreciate its worth.

Literal translation: God gives bread to those with no teeth.

Similarity to English: Do not throw your pearls before swine.

8. Lo que Dios no quiere, Santo no puede – This implies that certain outcomes are beyond one’s control and are ultimately subject to a higher power or external circumstances.

Literal translation: What God does not want, a saint cannot do.

Similarity to English: God willing and the creek don’t rise.

9. Menos pregunta Dios y perdona – This phrase emphasizes that sometimes it’s better not to delve too deeply into some issues.

Literal translation: God doesn’t ask so much, yet He forgives.

Similarity to English: Ignorance is bliss.

10. Dios dirá – This means that God has the last word regarding man’s doing.

Literal translation: God will decide.

Similarity to English: Lord willing / Let go and let God.

Idioms involving Food

The holiday season provides an ideal opportunity for self-indulgence, allowing us to engage in activities we might not typically pursue, such as savoring unique and delightful foods. It is a perfect occasion to leverage these culinary delights as an excuse for coming together and relishing shared moments. As food becomes central this coming month, we would like to share some expressions involving food in Spanish.

1. Panza/barriga llena, corazón contento – Both phrases are very similar in both languages and convey the idea that having enough to eat makes us happier. 

Literal translation: Full stomach / belly, happy heart

Similarity to English: A full belly makes a happy heart.

2. Como y bebe que la vida es breve - This phrase appeals to live and enjoy the present moment to the fullest as life is short; Carpe diem, used in both languages.

Literal translation: Eat and drink because life is short.

Similarity to English: Eat, drink and be merry (for tomorrow we may die).

3. Ni al estómago eches grasa, ni tengas a la suegra en casa -  This phrase humorously compares the indigestion one can get  from overeating fat to the potential challenges associated with having one’s mother-in-law at home. Being collectivistic, Latin Americans do not mention keeping all in-laws at a distance, just the mother-in-law.

Literal translation: Don’t put fat in your stomach, nor have your mother-in-law at home.

Similarity to English: Steering clear of trouble and family drama.

4. Lo que no mata, engorda – Of course, there is a big gap between dying and gaining weight. With a touch of humor, this expression tries to lighten the weight of making tough decisions, suggesting that one can endure whatever doesn’t lead to a fatal outcome. Interestingly, this expression is also used quite literally in the context of eating unfamiliar food, implying that the worst that can happen in terms of cuisine is a potential weight gain.

Literal translation: What does not kill you makes you heavier.

Similarity to English: Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

5. Hay que comer para vivir, no vivir para comer – This expression, very similar in both languages, conveys the idea of a measured purpose of eating to sustain a healthy life.

Literal translation: One must eat to live, not live to eat.

Similarity to English: Eat to live, not live to eat.

6. Para el hambre no hay pan duro – When someone is hungry or in need, they will accept whatever is available and should be grateful for it. This expression, similar to lo que no mata, engorda, is also used quite literally when there is not enough food for a meal, and one must accept that anything will do.

Literal translation: For hunger, there is no hard bread.

Similarity to English: Beggars can’t be choosers.

7. Para chuparse los dedos – Similar to English, this expression suggests that when the food is so delicious and enjoyable, one feels like licking their fingers.

Literal translation: To lick one’s fingers.

Similarity to English: Finger-licking good.

8. Hueso duro de roer – This idiom describes a person or situation difficult to deal with.

Literal translation: Hard bone to gnaw.

Similarity to English: A tough nut to crack.

9. Del plato a la boca se cae la sopa - Even when planning in detail and with good intentions, things can go wrong.

Literal translation: From the plate to the mouth, the soup falls.

Similarity to English: There’s many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip.

10. Gallina vieja hace buen caldo - This means that experience and old age bring valuable qualities and knowledge, suggesting that older individuals can contribute positively with their advice.

Literal translation: An old hen makes good broth.

Similarity to English: Old birds are not caught with chaff / Old is gold.

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