Green dogs and trapped cats: Ten animal idioms to help you sound more Spanish

The Local takes you on a tour of some of Spain's wackiest sayings involving animals.

animal idioms spanish
Are you as weird as a green dog? Photo: Ramón Peco/Flickr

Has a Spanish friend ever compared you to a goat?

Has anyone ever asked you if you’re the one who cuts the cod at your place?

Don’t be surprised, the Spanish use all manner of expressions involving our furry and feathered friends.

Take a walk on the wild side with our list of the weirdest animal sayings used by the Spanish.



To be like a goat is used to describe somebody who’s nuts. “¡Está como una cabra!”- He’s bonkers.


Photo by Vincent van Zalinge on Unsplash

To lift the hare is like letting the cat out of the bag. “No se quien levantó la liebre pero ahora todo el mundo sabe que suspendí el examen.” – I don’t know who let the cat out of the bag but everybody knows I failed my exam.


Greg S/flickr

To kill the worm is to take the edge off your hunger. “A ver si con esta tapa matas el gusanillo.” – Let’s see if you take the edge off your hunger with this tapa.


Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

To be a rat is to be tight-fisted. “No seas rata, déjame €5.” – Don’t be so tight-fisted, lend me €5.



To pay the duck is to carry the can for something. “Ahora me toca pagar el pato por lo que he hecho.” – Now I have to take responsibility for what I’ve done.


Photo by Anna Auza on Unsplash

To cut the cod is to call the shots. “Desde que se fue mi padre, yo soy el que corta el bacalao en esta casa.” – Since my father left, I’m the one who calls the shots in this house.


Photo by Susanna Marsiglia on Unsplash

There’s a trapped cat here means there’s something fishy going on. “Aquí hay gato encerrado.”

Dogs and sausages

Photo: GGVogman/Flickr

In English you say the streets aren’t paved with gold, but in Spain you say the dogs aren’t tied up with sausages. “No te vayas a Alemania, ahi los perros no están atados con longanizas.” – Don’t go to Germany, the streets aren’t paved with gold over there.


Photo by Eric Daoust on Unsplash

When the Spanish get a sweat up, they do it chicken-style. “¡Que calor! Estoy sudando como un pollo!” – It’s so hot! I’m sweating like a chicken.

Green dog

Photo: Istolethetv/flickr

In Spanish, to say someone is weirder than a green dog means they are very odd. “Es más raro que un perro verde, se pone la ropa de su abuela.” – He’s so weird, he wears his grandma’s clothes.

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Five things to know about the Galician language

You may have visited Galicia, but what do you know about the Spanish region's unique language? Here are five things to know about Galician or Galego.

Five things to know about the Galician language

It’s a language, not a dialect

Many may assume that Galician or Galego is just a dialect of Spanish, but in fact, like Catalan and Basque, Galician is in fact a separate language. In 1978 the language was officially recognised as one of the five official regional languages of Spain.

According to Galician’s Council of Culture, before it was officially recongised, Castilian Spanish was the dominant language, socially and culturally, while Galician was marginalised. However, today it is taught in schools, there are media outlets written in Galician and it is more integrated into the society.  

It’s more closely associated with Portuguese than it is with Spanish

Both Galician and Portuguese are said to have derived from the same Romance language spoken around the 9th century called Galician-Portuguese, however around the 14th century these languages began to diverge slightly as borders were established. 

“Despite a divergent historical evolution since the Middle Ages, today Galician and Portuguese are mutually understandable almost effortlessly,” says the Galician Council of Culture. Today, Galician and Portuguese still have similar grammar and vocabulary, however there are differences in the way they sound and in the spelling of the words. 

READ ALSO: Ten unique Basque words you need to learn right now

It’s spoken by around 2.8 million people

According to the Galician government, Galego is spoken by 2.8 million people. It is spoken mostly in Galicia, but there are also Galician speakers in Asturias, León and Zamora, as well as three small places in Extremadura. 

Galician’s Council of Culture also says that it is spoken by immigrant communities in South America, particularly in Argentina and Uruguay; in Europe mostly in Germany, Switzerland and France. It also states that the majority of the inhabitants of Galicia speak Galician as their first language and use it on a daily basis. 

Galician has its own public holiday

Galician even has its own public holiday, known as Galician Literature Day or El Día de las Letras Galegas. It has been celebrated every May 17th since 1963 by the Royal Galician Academy as a tribute to writers of Galician literature.

Each year, the festival is dedicated to a different Galician literary figure, in 2021 it was the poet Xela Arias and this year, it will be dedicated to the poet Florencio Delgado Gurriarán, who was exiled to Mexico. 

READ ALSO: Five reasons why Galicia is Spain’s version of Ireland

Galician has over 70 words to describe rain

It is said that Arabic has many different words for ‘camel’ and according to language experts Galician has around 70 words to describe rain. It’s no wonder, as Galicia is known as the wettest region in Spain. 

The language has different words depending on whether the rain is light, heavy, if there are lots of clouds or if it’s sunny and raining at the same time. For example, ‘Battuere‘ is used when the rain is intense and ‘Torbón‘ describes rain accompanied by thunder and lightning. While ‘Sarabiada‘ means the rain that falls on ice and snow. 

Useful words and phrases in Galician: 

Next time you’re in Galicia, why not try speaking some Galician for yourself? Here are a few useful words and phrases to get you started. 

Bos días – Good morning 

¿Como te chamas? – What’s your name?

¿Falas galego? – Do you speak Galician?

Saúde! – Cheers 

Bo proveito! – Bon appetit or Enjoy your meal