Spanish Word of The Day: ‘Pata’

Spanish Word of The Day: 'Pata'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Wisegie/Flickr
"Pata" may be a short word but it has plenty of uses in everyday Spanish.

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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