Resources for translating English idioms to Spanish
Thread poster: Sara Senft

Sara Senft  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:03
Spanish to English
+ ...
Feb 1, 2009

What are some good resources (such as dictionaries) for translating popular English idioms in to Spanish? I work with American English and neutral or Latin American Spanish.

[Edited at 2009-02-01 23:57 GMT]


Alexandra Goldburt
Local time: 18:03
English to Russian
+ ...
simply a good English - Spanish dictionary Feb 2, 2009

I found that in many cases it's sufficient. A good dictionary will give you many examples of how a particular word is used, including its idiomatic uses with their translations.

I use Harper-Collins and Oxford dictionaries. Both have many idiomatic expressions. Of course, there are many others.

You can also search "old" questions in KudoZ. It happened many times that I was about to ask a question - only to find out that it is has already been asked and answered. Make sure that you look at all answers given, not just the one selected by the asker.

Good luck, Sara!


Derrio  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:03
Spanish to English
+ ...
2001 Spanish and English Idioms Feb 2, 2009

2001 Spanish and English Idioms (SAVAIANO Eugene and WINGET Lynn, Barron's Educational Series, New York) is pretty good and American based.
ISBN 0-8120-9028-4
Hope this helps


Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:03
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
A monolingual approach Feb 2, 2009

Honestly I think the approach here is to use an English-only dictionary of idioms (I have a compact but powerful one from Collins-Cobuild) and understand what an idiom means. Then you can find the corresponding idiom in Spanish. An English-Spanish idiom dictionary might lead you to use an incorrect idiom if you don't understand what the source idiom is implying.


Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:03
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Diccionario Conciso de Modismos Feb 2, 2009

by Francisco Sánchez Benedito
I used this mainly in the other direction, but I thought it was very good.
Not sure if it's in print though (my edition is 1986).
ISBN 84-205-1387-3


Ma.Elena Carrión de Medina  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:03
English to Spanish
+ ...
Guide to Idioms Feb 2, 2009

Hello Sara,

A resource that is also helpful is:

NTC´s Dictionary of American English Phrases
Richard A. Spears, Ph.D.
NTC Publishing Group

Hope it helps,


Alan R King
Local time: 03:03
Basque to English
+ ...
Another source Feb 2, 2009

I picked up this interesting reference work that might be of use:

Manuel Seco, Olimpia Andrés & Gabino Ramos,
Diccionario fraseológico documentado del español actual: locuciones y modismos españoles.
Aguilar (Madrid), 2004

The title tells you roughly what this is. The inside title page indicates that it is "basado en el Diccionario del Español Actual" by the authors listed.

It is of course monolingual, but if you follow Tomás' suggestion this could form part of that "route". If your native language is English it is particularly useful to have such in-depth information about Spanish idiomatic usage. The book is over a thousand pages long and I think it cost me about 40 euros. It contains a LOT of material, both in items and examples. Main entries are headwords (dictionary words), under which the idioms are listed, glossed by a paraphrase, sometimes a further note on use, and several referenced corpus examples.

I'll give you one example to illustrate. Under "modestia" two expressions are listed: "en su modestia" and "modestia aparte". The use note for "en su modestia" says "Usado como fórmula de cortesía". Three examples are given for this expression. "Modestia aparte" also comes with a paraphrase, a note on use, and two examples.

I haven't used it much myself, but that is probably because I don't do all that much Spanish translation (in either direction).


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Resources for translating English idioms to Spanish

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