Spanish Word of The Day: 'Pata'

Alex Dunham
Alex Dunham - [email protected]
Spanish Word of The Day: 'Pata'
The standard meaning of 'pata' is animal leg, but there are lots more uses. Photo: Filip Saternus/Unsplash

"Pata" may be a short word but it has plenty of uses in everyday Spanish, from talking about animals, bad luck or putting your foot in it.


Why do I need to know this word?

Well, aside from being the word in Spanish for animal leg or paw as well as the noun for a female duck, pata is used in quite a few common Spanish expressions.

There’s meter la pata, which you may have guessed means to put one’s foot in it.

There’s also a pata which is a colloquial word of saying on foot, so ir a pata is to go somewhere on foot, or if you say salir/irse por patas it means you to scram or run off quickly.


Another handy expression with pata is estirar la pata, which in the most literal sense means to stretch one’s leg but actually means to die, similar to saying to kick the bucket or to bite the dust in English.

If you’ve got mala pata, it means you have bad or rotten luck.

If something is patas arriba it’s a mess.

And last but not least, there’s de pata negra in reference to the delicious Iberian jamón, which is used to refer to something which is of excellent quality or traditionally Spanish.

When should I use pata and all these expressions?

Pata is a very colloquial way to refer to a human leg, so don’t use it if you visit your podiatrist.

The same goes for all the expressions mentioned above with pata - they’re fairly colloquial so will sound best when used with friends and people you can let your guard down with.

Then again, there are expressions like saltar a la pata coja (to jump on one foot), patas de gallo (crow’s feet) or la pata de un mueble (the leg of a piece of furniture) in which pata is the correct word to use.

Can you give me some examples?

Mi perro se ha hecho daño en una pata.

My dog has hurt one of its paws.

Acaba de meter la pata, ha insultado a la mujer de mi jefe.

He just put his foot in it, he insulted my boss’s wife.

Tuvimos que volver a casa a pata porque ya no había autobuses.

We had to return on foot as there weren’t any more buses.

El ladrón salió por patas cuando vió al policía.

The thief scrammed when he saw the police officer.

¡Qué mala pata! Ya no quedan entradas.

What rotten luck! There aren’t any more tickets left.

Está toda la familia esperando que el viejo estire la pata para hacerse con la herencia.

The whole family is waiting for the old man to kick the bucket so they can get their hands on the inheritance.

Tienes la habitación patas arriba. ¡Recógela!

Your room is an absolute mess, clear it up!

El fisioterapeuta me hizo saltar a la pata coja.

The physiotherapist made me jump on one foot.


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