Spanish expression of the day: ‘Quien fue a Sevilla, perdió su silla’

To welcome the return of The Local’s Spanish word or expression of the day, we bring you one of the most quintessentially Spanish sayings out there. What’s all this about going to Seville and losing your chair?

quien fue a sevilla perdió su silla
What do Spaniards mean when they say this expression about losing your seat and going to Seville? Photo: Jose Manuel Viloria Martin/Unsplash

Literally translated as “He/she who goes to Seville, loses their chair”, this rhyming expression in Spanish is used in a similar way to the lesser-known English saying ‘move your feet, lose your seat’.

It can be used when indeed you get up from your seat and go somewhere for a moment (not necessarily Seville) only to find it’s been taken when you get back. 

The line Quien fue a Sevilla, perdió su silla or El/La que fue a Sevilla, perdió su silla will most likely be uttered by the person who has taken the seat, almost as if it were a form of justification.

There’s also a broader use of this Spanish expression to refer to a situation where someone’s absence can have negative consequences, similar to ‘you snooze, you lose’ or ‘finders, keepers’ in English.


¡Oye, ese es mi sitio! Sólo me he levantado para ir al baño

Hey, that’s my seat! I only got up to go to the toilet

¡Ah, se siente! El que fue a Sevilla, perdió su silla. 

Tough! Move your feet, lose your seat.


Me voy de vacaciones dos semanas y le dan el ascenso a Juan.

I go on holiday for two weeks and they give the promotion to Juan.

¡Así es la vida! Quien fue a Sevilla, perdió su silla.

That’s life! You snooze, you lose.

So how did Spaniards come up with such a colourful geographical expression?

According to Spain’s Cervantes language institute, during the reign of King Enrique IV of Castile (1454-1474), the role of archbishop of Santiago de Compostela was granted to a nephew of the Archbishop of Seville, both called Alonso de Fonseca. 

But as the Galician city was going through tumultuous times, the younger Fonseca asked his uncle to swap roles with him, so that he could return to peaceful Seville and take over as the main religious head in the Andalusian capital while the problems up north were solved. 

Fonseca senior agreed to this, but once it was time to return, his nephew refused to head back to Santiago or give up his role as Seville’s archbishop, leading to some of the usual medieval bloodshed. 

And that is the origin of the expression “He/she who goes to Seville, loses their chair”, although in fact it should be the person who goes to Santiago, not Seville. Then again, that doesn’t rhyme in Spanish. 

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Spanish Word of the Day: Chungo

This adjective is essential slang talk in Spain, a word with lots of meanings, all of them fairly negative.

Spanish Word of the Day: Chungo

Chungo is a colloquial way of saying that something is difficult, dodgy or bad. 

It can be used to describe a variety of scenarios and it’s a great way of talking like a native Spanish speaker. 

You can talk about the weather being chungo if there are ominous black clouds up ahead.

If you’re stepping into a dodgy neighbourhood, then watch out because it’s un barrio chungo

If you bought a hairdryer at the rastro (flea market) and it doesn’t work properly, then it’s clearly chungo, and the seller is just as chungo.

Maybe you’ve just sat an exam with complicated questions, you’d call it un examen chungo.

Or if you don’t feel very well, then you’re the one that is chungo

There’s even an expression to say that things aren’t looking good – la cosa está chunga.

All in all, chungo is a very versatile adjective that you can incorporate into most daily speech even though it’s colloquial. 

Here are some examples to help you get used to using chungo.


Está el tiempo un poco chungo, mejor no vamos a la playa.

The weather isn’t very good today, it’s best if we don’t go to the beach. 


¡Ojo! Es un tío bastante chungo así que no te fíes de él.

Be careful! He’s a pretty dodgy guy so don’t trust him. 


Le has comprado un perfume muy chungo a mamá por el Día de la Madre.

You’ve bought Mum a really crappy perfume for Mother’s Day.


El barrio de El Príncipe en Ceuta es muy chungo, ¡ten cuidado!

El Príncipe neighbourhood in Ceuta is very dodgy, be careful!



Me encuentro un poco chungo, con mareos y nauseas. 

I’m feeling a bit bad, I’m dizzy and nauseous. 


¿Dama de honor cuando el novio es tu ex? ¡Qué situación más chunga!

Maid of honour when the groom is your ex? ¡That’s an uncomfortable situation!


¡La cosa está chunga! El Barça tiene que marcar cinco goles para clasificarse.

Things aren’t looking good. Barça have to score five goals to qualify.