The Spanish language just loves to use food and drink in its phrases but the dexterity with which it changes the meaning of the word leche (milk) is quite impressive.
According to the RAE – the institution that safeguards the use of the Spanish language – there are over 40 idioms using the word milk and it can mean a whole host of things.
Let’s dive in and see some examples of the ways leche is used in Spanish:
Ser la leche (be the milk)
This means to be incredible or exceptional and is usually extremely positive. However, Spanish people are renowned for their sarcasm so if you do hear it, it might mean exactly the opposite. You should be able to tell by the context.
- Me encantan las películas de Al Pacino. Ese tío es la leche.
I love Al Pacino’s movies. That guy’s incredible.
- Gracias por ayudarme con la mudanza. ¡Eres la leche!
Thanks for helping me with the move. You’re the best!
Dar(se) una leche (to give a milk)
To hit someone – this can include a slap, punch, or smack. If you use the reflexive verb then it means to hurt oneself by falling, bumping, or crashing into something. Let’s check out some examples:
- Si vuelves a hacerlo, te daré una leche.
If you do it again, I’ll give you a smack.
- María se dio una buena leche ayer.
Maria fell over and really hurt herself yesterday.
Estar de mala leche (to be of bad milk)
This means to be in a bad mood. The use of estar and not ser here means that it would be considered something temporary. For someone who is more permanently grumpy or ill tempered, you could say tener mala leche.
- Estoy de mala leche porque no dormí nada anoche.
I’m in a bad mood because I didn’t sleep at all last night.
- Gerardo tiene muy mala leche.
Gerardo is really grumpy.
Photo: Davidoff A/Flickr
A toda leche (at full milk)
This expression means to go at full speed, flat out. This could be in terms of speed over distance or working quickly doing something, like a project or homework.
- Fui a toda leche para su casa.
I raced over to their house.
Cagarse en la leche (to shit in the milk)
In Spanish, this phrase is used frequently to express anger,frustration or disappointment, the same way that English speakers would say ‘shit’ or damn it.
- ¡Me cago en la leche! El fontanero no ha arreglado bien el fregadero.
Damn it! The plumber hasn’t fixed the sink properly.
So there you have it. Five great ways to use the word leche in Spanish.
Watch Antonio Banderas explain what two of these terms plus a few other Spanish slang terms mean in English: