Advertisement

Spanish Expression of the Day: Bajar los humos

Alex Dunham
Alex Dunham - [email protected]
Spanish Expression of the Day: Bajar los humos
In Spanish you can also say that someone tiene muchos humos (‘has lots of smoke’) to describe them as egotistical. Photo: Pascal Meier/Unsplash

What does ‘bring down the smoke’ mean in Spanish? If you know someone who is arrogant, you should learn this expression.

Advertisement

Languages around the world are full of brilliant metaphorical expressions, and Spanish is no exception. 

On this occasion we’re looking at the expression bajar los humos, or bajarle los humos a alguien

Advertisement

In its literal sense it means ‘to bring down the smoke’ or ‘to bring down someone’s smoke’, but it’s really used in situations where you make an arrogant person see that they’re not as superior as they thought. 

It’s not quite the same as to take the wind out of someone’s sails, as that doesn’t necessarily mean that the person who is caused to lose confidence is arrogant in the first place. 

Bajar los humos is definitely more applicable to those who are full of themselves without reason rather than justifiably self-assured.

A more appropriate translation of bajar los humos is therefore to take somebody down a peg (or two), as the Cambridge Dictionary defines this as “to show someone that they are not as important as they thought”.

Just as applicable in English is the expression to cut someone down to size.

Therefore, if you meet someone who is chulo (a show-off) or arrogante (arrogant), you may be interested in bajarle los humos.

In case you were wondering what ‘descending smoke’ has to do with dealing with arrogance, the origins of this expression date back to Roman times, as it was said that if someone ‘had much smoke’ they were conceited or pompous. 

Romans would depict their ancestors on frescoes in their homes and over time the oldest ones deteriorated due to sun exposure, other meteorological conditions and, you guessed it, smoke. Such damage caused by smoke and other elements was the way Romans had of knowing who was at the top of the family tree and was therefore most prestigious and important. 

In Spanish you can still say that someone tiene muchos humos (‘has lots of smoke’) to describe them as egotistical, which in turn explains the expression of getting them to ‘bring down their smoke’ themselves or with a little help from yourself or a situation. 

Examples:

¡Baja los humos un poco! ¡No seas tan flipado!

Take it down a peg or two! Don’t be so overconfident!

 

Hay que bajarle los humos un poco al nuevo, se cree Dios.

We need to cut the new guy down to size, he thinks he’s God.

More

Comments

Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also