Spanish Lessons


Animal Words

For all the animal lovers out there, here is a collection of Spanish expressions related to pets and their owners.

The word for pet in Spanish is mascota, yes, similar to the English word "mascot." The only difference is that mascota can be used to talk about an animal kept as a companion (a pet), or to refer to a special person, animal or thing used to symbolize a sports team, company, organization or other group (a mascot). Of course, the word mascota meaning "pet" can also be applied to a person, as in the following example:



...todos eran mucho más viejos que yo.

...they were all much older than me.

Eh... y, como que, yo era como la mascota.

Uh... and, so like, I was like the pet.

Captions 64-65, Carli Muñoz - Niñez

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Now, in English the word "pet" is also a verb that means to stroke an animal affectionately. But in Spanish there is only one verb you can use instead of "to pet," or "to stroke," or even "to pat." That verb is acariciar (to caress). The following example is not about animals, but it's about el alma (the soul), a word that shares with the word animal a common etymological root: the Latin anima.


Acaricia mi alma, vuélvete la luna

Caress my soul, become the moon

Caption 14, Shaila Durcal - Vuélvete Luna

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Let's talk about the distinction between animales domésticos (domestic animals) and animales salvajes (wild animals). When you tame an animal it becomes domesticated or tamed, right? Spanish uses the verbs domesticar (to domesticate), domar (to tame), which come from the Latin domus (house). Sometimes, Spanish also uses the verb dominar (to dominate), which comes from the Latin dominus (the latin word for master or owner, "the lord of the house"). Ah, but if you want to talk about taming a horse, there's a specific word for that: desbravar (to break in, literally "to take out the braveness").

Another very common word is amansar (to make docile, meek). So it's common to hear people saying about a pet that es manso(a) or mansito(a) to indicate that it's gentle, friendly.Un perro que no muerde (a dog that doesn't bite) es mansito


Uy, buena, Pepino.

Oh, good one, Pepino.

-Es mansito. -Tan bonito el gatito.

-He's tame. -Such a pretty kitty.

Captions 57-58, Kikirikí - Animales

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Talking about bites and dogs, there is a famous saying in Spanish, perro que ladra no muerde,which means, literally, "a barking dog never bites." 


Pero perro que ladra no muerde, querida.

But, his bark is worse than his bite, dear [literally, "...the dog that barks doesn't bite"].

Caption 65, Muñeca Brava - 3 Nueva Casa

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It may be a little disrespectful, but some people may use the verb amansar to refer to the action of calming down a person, or even appeasing the gods:


Y tener poderes místicos para amansar las "tulucus".

And having mystical powers to tame the "tulucus".

Caption 26, NPS No puede ser - 1 - El concurso

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What if an animal is not mansito? That means it's fiero (fierce), feroz (ferocious), salvaje (wild), or maybe even feral (feral). A famous one is el lobo feroz, (the Big Bad Wolf) yes, the one that tried to eat Caperucita roja (Little Red Riding Hood) and los tres cerditos (the three little pigs). Can you blame him? Have you ever had un hambre feroz?


Si pones la mesa que no sea para dos,

If you set the table, it shouldn't be for two,

Porque somos como catorce con un hambre feroz

Because we are like fourteen people with a ferocious hunger

Captions 3-4, Mexican Institute of Sound - Alocatel

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One last expression before saying goodbye. It's important to walk your dog everyday, right? Agreed, but never ever ever say something like caminar a tu perro. That makes no sense in Spanish. The correct expression is sacar a pasear a tu perro (to take the dog out for a walk).  The Argentinian band Los Pericos (the Parrots) have a song entitled Fácil de engañar (Easy to Be Fooled) in which a former lover is compared to a pet owner:



Me tenías en la jaula, me sacabas a pasear

You had me in a cage, you took me out for walks

Caption 8, Los Pericos - Fácil de Engañar

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By the way, if you are not easily fooled, you probably like the saying that goes:


A otro perro con ese hueso.

Don't try that one on me [literally, "To another dog with that bone"].

Caption 31, Muñeca Brava - 8 Trampas

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That was two last expressions. The thing is, there are so many interesting words about pets and owners! We should revisit the subject again in the future.


Spice up your Spanish with Some Mexican Sayings


Pura palabra... pura palabra... nos divertimos a puras cosas de puro hablar.

Merely words... merely words... we have fun with the simple act of talking.

Caption 27, La Banda Chilanguense - El habla de México - Part 2

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Have you checked out the construction workers from Mexico City that we are calling La Banda Chilanguese? These guys really do have a lot of fun just chewing the fat!

One of the ways they and other Mexicans spice up their conversation is through the use of refranes. A refrán is a popular saying or expression.

We see an example when aluminum worker Antonio says:

Voy a ir a darle porque es Mole de olla.

I'm going to get down to it because it is "Mole de olla".

Caption 32, La Banda Chilanguense - El habla de México - Part 1

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This is from the refrán “A darle que es mole de olla  which means “Get down to it [the task] because it’s hard and arduous.” Why this analogy to mole de olla? Because preparing mole de olla (literally “mole in a pot,” a type of beef stew) is hard work and time-consuming. (For those of you far from the gastronomic border, we are talking about “mo-lay,” a genre of Mexican sauces—not the funny-looking mammal known in Spanish as topo).

The Mexican Institute of Sound also makes use of a popular saying:

Si te queda el saco, póntelo pa' bailar

If the jacket fits, wear it to dance

Caption 5, Mexican Institute of Sound - Alocatel

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This is a play on another popular refrán, Si te queda el saco, póntelo which literally means “if the jacket suits you, wear it.” In English we have a similar expression which expresses the same thing, “If the shoe fits, wear it.” It means, “if you are worried that we are talking about you, it is because you think it applies to you, so accept it and don’t complain.” 

Here are two more refranes that you might hear when visiting Mexico:

Entre menos burros, más olotes

The fewer the donkeys, the more cobs of corn 

When would you say this? When some members of a party have to leave... the consolation is that there is more food and drink left for those who stay. 

But what if more guests arrive than expected, and rations run low?

A falta de pan, tortillas

When there’s no bread, tortillas will do



This expression is used to express that we must make do with what we have.

Aside: It’s interesting to note that the well-known English expression “the more, the merrier,” as it was first recorded in 1520, contained a corollary that echoes the same sentiment as “entre menos burros...” The complete expression was this: "The more, the merrier; the fewer, the better fare" (meaning "with fewer there would be more to eat").


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