Spanish expression of the day: Tomar el pelo

Here’s why you should be concerned if someone ‘takes your hair’ in Spain, and we don’t just mean that in the literal sense!

tomadura de pelo spanish expression
Now you know - ¡Qué no te tomen el pelo! (Don’t get played for a fool!)Photo: Teemu Paananen/Unsplash

Tomar el pelo literally means ‘to take or grasp the hair’ in Spanish, but it’s generally an expression that’s used by everyone, not just hairdressers. 

Tomarle el pelo a alguien actually means to play someone for a fool, to deceive or mock them, to pull someone’s leg, to pull a fast one.


¿Me estás tomando el pelo? 

Are you pulling my leg?

No te estoy tomando el pelo.

I’m not taking you for a ride.

El camarero me ha tomado el pelo y me ha cobrado el doble.

The waiter pulled a fast one on me and charged me double.

What does holding someone’s hair have to do with mockery, you may ask? According to the Royal Spanish Academy’s FundéuRAE group, the expression may have its origins in the fact that centuries ago touching one’s beard was a sign of defiance towards opponents. 

Another theory suggests that it may have been coined as soldiers and convicts once had to have their hair cut short when they first joined the barracks or prisons in Spain, which was done to poke fun at them. 

And there’s another expression you can use which is related to tomar el pelo. You can refer to a situation that’s a mockery or a joke, a farce or a parody – especially one that’s shameless or cunning – as una tomadura de pelo.


¡Menuda tomadura de pelo! ¡Nos están robando y ustedes cruzados de brazos!

What an absolute joke! They’re robbing us and you’re just standing there with your arms crossed!

Here are some examples of tomadura de pelo in the Spanish press:

examples tomadura de pelo spanish

Politicians and journalists in Spain often refer to their opponents’ decisions as “una tomadura de pelo” (a piss-take).

So now you know. ¡Qué no te tomen el pelo! (Don’t get played for a fool!)

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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.