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Learning Spanish For Members

La lengua: Eight everyday Spanish expressions with the word tongue

Alex Dunham
Alex Dunham - [email protected]
La lengua: Eight everyday Spanish expressions with the word tongue
Learn these expressions with the word 'tongue' in Spanish, they're not tongue-twisters. Photo: Daniel Sandoval/Unsplash

What on earth does it mean when someone says in Spanish that they ‘don’t have hair on their tongue’? Here are some of the most widely used idioms in Spanish to do with the word 'lengua'.

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The Spanish word lengua can mean both tongue (the part of the mouth) and language (communication system). 

La lengua is arguably one of the most used words in the Spanish language and one that you’ll learn early on. You may also be familiar with trabalenguas (tongue-twister), lengua de signos (sign language) or lengua materna (mother tongue). 

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But there are lots of idioms with lengua that are used all the time but you won’t necessarily pick up that easily unless someone explains them to you. 

Here are some of the best Spanish expressions with the word lengua:

No tener pelos en la lengua: to talk straight and not hesitate to say what’s on one’s mind, even though its literal translation means ‘to not have hair on the tongue’. No morderse la lengua (not bite one’s tongue) is another way of conveying the same meaning.

Example:

Ese político no tiene pelos en la lengua, por eso lo apoya la derecha.

That politician is a straight talker, hence why the right supports him.

Tener la lengua muy larga: When someone says you have ‘a very long tongue’, they most likely mean that you’re no good at keeping secrets, that you’re a blabbermouth.

Example:

Tienes la lengua muy larga, eso te lo he contado en privado.

You’re a blabbermouth, I told you that in private.

Lo dicen las malas lenguas: ‘The bad tongues say it’, meaning ‘it’s rumoured that’ or ‘rumour has it’. 

Example:

Dicen las malas lenguas que se ha ido con otro.

Rumour has it that she’s run off with someone else.

Se ha comido la lengua el gato: Pretty much the same as when someone says in English ‘Has the cat got your tongue?’, as a way of expressing that a person isn’t speaking and should be. 

Example: 

¿Te ha comido la lengua el gato, Jaime? ¿Por qué no hablas?

Has the cat got your tongue, Jaime? Why aren’t you speaking?

Tirar de la lengua: And if you manage to get the person to speak, you say tirar de la lengua

Example:

Voy a tirarle de la lengua, seguro que me dice quien lo ha roto.

I’m going to make her talk, I’m sure she’ll tell me who has broken it. 

Irse de la lengua: A bit like saying ‘to let one’s tongue run off’, in the sense that you’ve spoken too much or let the cat out of the bag or shot your mouth off about something. 

Example:

Te has ido un poco la lengua con lo del viaje, ¿no?

You shot your mouth off about the trip, right? 

Buscar la lengua a alguien: If someone is ‘trying to find your tongue’ in Spanish, they’re trying to pick a fight with you. 

Example:

Este tío te está buscando la lengua, no piques. 

That guy is looking for a fight with you, don’t fall for it. 

Tener algo en la punta de la lengua: Another expression that’s the same as in English, to have something on the tip of your tongue.

Example:

Lo tengo en la punta de la lengua. ¿Como era?

I’ve got it on the tip of my tongue. What was it again?

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