Understanding the Spanish Idiom: "de a poquitos" - Meaning, Origins, and Usage

Idiom language: Spanish

In Spanish, one such idiom is de a poquitos. This phrase is used in many parts of Latin America and Spain, but its meaning may not be immediately obvious to non-native speakers.

The Literal Translation

Literally translated, de a poquitos means “little by little” or “bit by bit.” However, as with many idioms, its true meaning goes beyond these simple words.

The Figurative Meaning

In practice, de a poquitos is often used to describe something that happens gradually over time. It might refer to someone learning a new skill or adapting to a new situation slowly but steadily. Alternatively, it could describe the gradual accumulation of knowledge or experience over an extended period.


I’m trying to learn Spanish de a poquitos – I know I won’t become fluent overnight!

Origins and Historical Context of the Spanish Idiom “de a poquitos”

The Spanish language is rich in idiomatic expressions that reflect the culture, history, and traditions of its people. One such expression is de a poquitos, which has been used for centuries to convey the idea of doing something gradually or little by little. The origin of this idiom can be traced back to the early days of Spain when agriculture was the main source of livelihood for most people.

During those times, farmers had to work hard to cultivate their land and harvest crops. They would often break down large tasks into smaller ones and complete them over time. This approach helped them avoid exhaustion and ensure that they could sustain their efforts throughout the season. Over time, this practice became ingrained in Spanish culture and gave rise to expressions like de a poquitos.

As Spain evolved from an agricultural society into an industrial one, this idiom continued to be used in various contexts beyond farming. People began using it in everyday conversations as well as literature, music, and other forms of art. Today, it remains a popular expression among Spaniards who value patience, perseverance, and gradual progress.

Usage and Variations of the Spanish Idiom “de a poquitos”

The Spanish idiom de a poquitos is widely used in everyday conversations among native speakers. It conveys the idea of doing something little by little, step by step, or gradually. This idiomatic expression can be applied to various situations, from learning a new skill to achieving a long-term goal.

Variations of “de a poquitos”

Although the basic meaning of de a poquitos remains consistent across different contexts, there are variations of this idiom that are commonly used in specific regions or countries. For example:

  • “Poco a poco”: This variation is more commonly used in Spain and Latin America and has the same meaning as “de a poquitos.”
  • “De apoco”: This version is mostly used in Argentina and Uruguay.
  • “A pasito lento”: In some parts of Mexico, people use this phrase instead of “de a poquitos.”

Usage Examples

Here are some examples of how you can use de a poquitos in your daily conversations:

Example 1:

Person A: ¿Cómo te está yendo en tus clases de español?

Person B: Bien, pero estoy aprendiendo de a poquitos.

Example 2:

Person A: ¿Has terminado tu tesis doctoral?

Person B: Todavía no, pero voy avanzando de apoco.

Example 3:

Person A: Quiero aprender guitarra.

Person B: ¡Genial! Lo importante es practicar poco a poco y no desanimarse.

As you can see, de a poquitos is a versatile and useful idiom that can help you express the idea of gradual progress in Spanish. Whether you’re learning the language or using it as a native speaker, incorporating this phrase into your vocabulary can enhance your communication skills.

Synonyms, Antonyms, and Cultural Insights for the Spanish Idiom “de a poquitos”


While de a poquitos may be the most common way to express the idea of doing something gradually or in small steps, there are other phrases that convey similar meanings. Some synonyms for this idiom include:

– Poco a poco: This phrase also means little by little and is often used interchangeably with “de a poquitos.”

– Paso a paso: Literally meaning step by step, this phrase is another way to describe doing something gradually.

– Gradualmente: This adverb means gradually and can be used in sentences like “Estoy aprendiendo español gradualmente” (I am learning Spanish gradually).


On the opposite end of the spectrum from doing something slowly or gradually are phrases that express doing things quickly or all at once. Some antonyms for de a poquitos include:

– De golpe: This phrase means all at once or “suddenly.”

– De una vez: Translating to once and for all, this phrase implies completing something quickly rather than taking it slow.

– Rápidamente: The adverb form of rápido (fast), rápidamente means quickly.

Cultural Insights

Understanding idioms requires more than just knowing their definitions; it also involves understanding the cultural context in which they are used. In Spanish-speaking cultures, de a poquitos is often used to encourage patience and persistence. It can be applied to everything from language learning to personal growth to social change. By breaking down big goals into small steps, progress can be made little by little.

Practical Exercises for the Spanish Idiom “de a poquitos”



Exercise Description
1. Write down five goals you have for learning Spanish. For each goal, write out a plan of how you will achieve it “de a poquitos”. For example, if one of your goals is to improve your speaking skills, your plan could include practicing with a native speaker for 30 minutes every day.
2. Pick an article or short story in Spanish that interests you. Read through it once without looking up any words. Then go back and read it again “de a poquitos”, looking up unfamiliar words as needed. Take notes on new vocabulary and try using them in sentences throughout the week.
3. Create flashcards with common phrases that use the idiom “de a poquitos”, such as “Voy aprendiendo de a poquitos” (I’m learning bit by bit). Practice using these phrases in context with friends or language exchange partners.

By incorporating these practical exercises into your Spanish language learning routine, you can improve your understanding and usage of the idiom de a poquitos. Remember, mastering idioms takes time and practice, so don’t be afraid to take it “poco a poco” (little by little).

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using the Spanish Idiom “de a poquitos”

Avoid Overusing the Idiom

One common mistake that learners make when using de a poquitos is overusing it. While it’s an excellent way to express gradual progress or taking things slowly, using it too often can make your speech sound repetitive and unnatural.

Instead of relying solely on this idiom, try incorporating other phrases and expressions into your vocabulary. This will not only help you avoid sounding monotonous but also give you more versatility in expressing yourself.

Don’t Use It in Inappropriate Contexts

Another mistake that learners make is using de a poquitos in inappropriate contexts. For example, if someone asks you how long it took you to learn Spanish, saying “de a poquitos” would not be appropriate because it implies that you learned little by little over time rather than giving an actual timeframe.

To avoid confusion or miscommunication, always consider whether the context calls for this particular idiom before using it.

De a poquitos is undoubtedly an essential phrase in Spanish that adds depth and nuance to the language. However, as with any expression or idiom, there are specific rules and guidelines that learners must follow when incorporating them into their speech effectively.

By avoiding these common mistakes mentioned above and practicing regularly with native speakers, you can master the use of de a poquitos and other idioms in Spanish.

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