Nicaraguan Spanish: 5 sayings about animals

Foreigners are often surprised to see pigs, chickens, horses and cattle roaming the streets—even in urban areas like Managua!

It is no wonder, then, that our furry friends have found their way into the collection of Nicaraguan Spanish sayings. Here’s a sampler of aphorisms you can add to your portfolio and improve your local Spanish:

1. Al mejor mono se le cae el zapote.

Literal meaning: Even the best monkey sometimes drops the sapodilla.

The sapodilla, locally known as the zapote, is a large, sweet fruit. Monkeys love them. But even an able-handed primate has been known to drop one from time to time. Hence, this is the equivalent of: “Nobody’s perfect.”

Example: “Este desacierto pone en evidencia que ‘al mejor mono se le cae el zapote,’ que somos humanos y nos equivocamos.” Translation: “This miscalculation makes it clear that ‘nobody’s perfect.’ We are humans and we make mistakes.”

So the next time you make a mistake, just smile and let this colorful saying roll off your lips. It might even get you off the hook!

2. El que es perico, en cualquier palo es verde.

Literal meaning: He who is a parakeet is green in any tree.

Parakeets and parrots are abundant in Nicaragua. And their greenness doesn’t change depending on their current geographic location. This means, then, that if you are good at something, you will be good wherever you go. This would be a beautiful saying to put on top of a farewell cake if someone at work moves on to a new position elsewhere. It’s like saying “always a winner,” but much more colorful!

3. llover sapos y culebras

Literal meaning: to rain toads and serpents

Many foreign students of English are taken aback when they first hear our very colorful metaphor, “It’s raining cats and dogs.” You can’t literally say this in Spanish, because it won’t make sense. However, in Nicaragua, you have this reptilian option.

Example: “Tuvimos que correr rápido al bus, porque estaba lloviendo sapos y culebras.” Translation: “We had to run quickly to the bus, because it was raining cats and dogs.”

4. Otro gallo cantará.

Literal meaning: Another rooster will crow.

Have you ever been startled out of bed at 5 a.m. with a hair-raising cock-a-doodle-do? Hearing the rooster’s crow is definitely commonplace. But when someone says “Otro gallo cantará,” they mean: “That’s another story.”

For example, in a story about the U.S. elections, a journalist wrote: “Si los republicanos ganan la elección de noviembre próximo, otro gallo cantará.” Translation: “If the Republicans win the election this coming November, things are going to be different.”

5. A cada chancho le llega su sábado.

Literal meaning: For every pig his Saturday will come.

In years past, it seems that on Saturdays fattened pigs would be taken to the slaughterhouse. For the poor pig, Saturday meant death. So today when someone gets his “just desserts” for misconduct, this saying enters into play.

Commenting on an article that reported the demise of Osama bin Laden, one man wrote: “¡A cada chancho le llega su sábado! Solo es cuestión de tiempo para que todos los psicópatas paguen por lo que han hecho.” Translation: “Each person will eventually have his day of reckoning. It’s only a question of time that all psychopaths will have to pay for what they have done.


Lee Jamison is the author of Nicaraguan Spanish: Speak like a native! and has worked in a voluntary educational work among the Hispanic community for some 30 years. From 1995 to 2012, he lived in cities such as Granada, Diriamba, Juigalpa, Chinandega, and Ticuantepe, and currently resides with his wife Moraima in Mexico City, where he continues to learn country-specific Spanish one conversation at a time. He is working on new editions of his GringoGuide200 series for both Guatemalan and Mexican Spanish.


  • Soraya

    This is a really good article about nicañol. I like it. By the way you have a typo in the 5th saying “A cada chancho le llega su sábado” is missing the á.

    • Tim Rogers

      Thanks, Soraya–good catch. It was the gringocentric title font I used, which drops accented characters. It has been fixed, cheers

  • Ramón Pineda

    Nicaragua will be free, when the green olive be an exclusive dress of her woods.

  • daddy-yo

    I’m not digging Sr. Jamison’s interpretation of (“…like saying “always a winner.”)

    Try instead: “A tiger cannot change his stripes.” “Learn to live in your own skin.” “You are what you are.”

    • daddy-yo

      Oops (using signs hid text)

      I’m not digging Sr. Jamison’s interpretation of “El perico en cualquier palo es verde.” (“…like saying “always a winner.”)

      Try: “A tiger cannot change his stripes.” “Learn to live in your own skin.” “You are what you are.”

  • mike

    I like this enough to buy Jamison’s Nicaragua book. Don’t misunderstand me: The Mexico book sounds promising, too, but there are more Spanishes in Mexico than there are six-toed cats. So Jamison probably won’t live long enough to write the book, and if he does, I won’t live long enough to read it.

  • Indio Jones

    Bought the book. It is informative. Would love to make signs with pictures of the animals in the idiom at my park. That way people can learn the expression and relate it to our wildlife.

  • http://www.MarsellaValleyNatureCenter Vince Ventre

    so colorful and cute are all your comments about the animals, until you’ve been putting up for 15 years with the neighbors cows and horses breaking down concrete fence posts and breaking fence lines,destroying gardens and shiting everywhere on a daily basis ,not only without consequence but it always seem to be my fault, yea there so cute

  • Martin

    Forgotten and often used< "Cada Lora a su Guanacaste"