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

Idiom language: Spanish
  • IPA: (Spain) /de naˈɾiθes/ [d̪e naˈɾi.θes]
  • IPA: (Latin America) /de naˈɾises/ [d̪e naˈɾi.ses]
  • Syllabification: de na‧ri‧ces

The literal translation of de narices is “of noses”, but this doesn’t give any indication as to what the phrase actually means. The origins of the idiom are unclear, but some theories suggest that it may have originated from bullfighting. In this context, “narices” refers to the horns on a bull’s head, which are used during fights.

Another theory suggests that the phrase may have come from an old expression that meant something was done with great effort or difficulty. Over time, this evolved into de narices, which still carries a similar connotation today.

Usage and Meaning

So what does de narices actually mean? Essentially, it’s used to describe something that is done exceptionally well or impressively. It can also be used sarcastically to describe something that went wrong or didn’t turn out as expected.

For example:

– Juan acaba de ganar el primer premio en el concurso de poesía ¡eso es de narices! (Juan just won first prize in the poetry contest – that’s impressive!)

– Ayer intenté cocinar una cena especial para mi pareja, pero quemé todo. ¡Fue un desastre de narices! (Yesterday I tried to cook a special dinner for my partner, but I burned everything. It was a disaster!)

In both of these examples, de narices is used to emphasize the impressiveness or failure of the situation.


Understanding idioms like de narices is an important part of learning Spanish. By knowing the origins and meanings behind these phrases, you can better communicate with native speakers and understand the nuances of their language. So next time you hear someone use this idiom in conversation, you’ll know exactly what they mean!

Origins and Historical Context of the Spanish Idiom “de narices”

The Spanish language is known for its colorful idioms that add flavor to everyday conversations. One such idiom is de narices, which is used to describe something that is excellent or outstanding. However, where did this expression come from? What historical context gave rise to this unique phrase?

To understand the origins of de narices, we must look back at Spain’s rich cultural history. The nose has long been a symbol of power and authority in many cultures, including ancient Greece and Rome. In medieval Europe, rulers would often issue proclamations by holding a scepter with a large nose-shaped tip, known as a nasus.

In Spain, the importance of the nose was further emphasized during the Inquisition when heretics were identified by their physical features, including their noses. Those who had prominent or hooked noses were often accused of being Jewish or Muslim converts.

Over time, the meaning behind de narices evolved from its literal translation of “of noses” to signify excellence or superiority. It became an expression used to describe something so exceptional that it could only be compared to someone with an impressive nose.

Usage and Variations of the Spanish Idiom “de narices”

One common usage of de narices is to describe something that has gone wrong or turned out badly. For example, if you were planning a picnic and it started raining heavily, you could say that your plans went “de narices”. This variation of the idiom implies disappointment or frustration with an outcome.

Another way in which de narices can be used is to describe something that is impressive or outstanding. In this case, it would have a positive connotation. For instance, if someone performed exceptionally well on an exam or at a job interview, you could say that they did it “de narices”.

There are also regional variations of this idiom throughout Spain and Latin America. In some areas, people use similar phrases such as estar de pelos or “estar de lujo”, both of which mean something along the lines of being excellent or fantastic.

Variation Meaning “Estar de pelos” Excellent/Fantastic “Estar de lujo” Excellent/Fantastic

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

One synonym for de narices is “fantastic”, which can be used to describe something that is extremely good. Another synonym is “terrible”, which can be used to describe something that is extremely bad. On the other hand, an antonym for “de narices” could be “mediocre”, which describes something that is average or ordinary.

Culturally speaking, the use of this idiom reflects a certain level of exaggeration in Spanish language and culture. Spaniards tend to use vivid language and expressive gestures when communicating with one another, often using idioms like this one to convey their emotions more effectively.

Practical Exercises for the Spanish Idiom “de narices”

In order to fully grasp the meaning and usage of the Spanish idiom de narices, it is important to practice using it in various contexts. Here are some practical exercises that can help you become more comfortable with this expression.

Exercise 1: Write a short story or dialogue using de narices to describe a situation where something unexpectedly goes wrong, but turns out well in the end.

Example: María was nervous about her job interview, but she prepared extensively and felt confident. However, when she arrived at the office building, she realized that her dress had a huge stain on it. De narices! She quickly ran to a nearby store and found a beautiful blouse that matched perfectly with her skirt. The interviewer loved her outfit and offered her the job on the spot.

Exercise 2: Create a list of five situations where you could use de narices to express surprise or amazement.


– When your team wins against all odds

– When you find an amazing deal on something you’ve been wanting

– When someone surprises you with an unexpected gift

– When you discover a hidden gem while traveling

– When your favorite band plays an incredible concert

Exercise 3: Practice saying de narices out loud in different tones and inflections to convey different emotions such as excitement, disappointment, disbelief, etc.

Remember that idioms like de narices are best learned through practice and repetition. By incorporating these exercises into your language learning routine, you’ll be able to confidently use this expression in everyday conversation.

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

When using idioms in a foreign language, it’s easy to make mistakes that can lead to confusion or even offense. The Spanish idiom de narices is no exception. Here are some common mistakes to avoid when using this expression.

Mistake #1: Taking the idiom too literally

The literal translation of de narices is “of noses”, but this doesn’t give an accurate understanding of its meaning. The idiom actually means something is done exceptionally well or with great success. So, don’t take it too literally and try to understand its figurative meaning.

Mistake #2: Overusing the idiom

While it’s tempting to use an impressive-sounding phrase like de narices as often as possible, overusing it can make you sound insincere or even pretentious. Use the expression sparingly and only when appropriate.

  • Avoid saying things like “Todo lo que hago es de narices”. It may come across as bragging and diminishes the impact of the expression.
  • Use it in situations where something has been accomplished with exceptional skill or effort, such as a successful business deal or a difficult exam passed with flying colors.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you’ll be able to use the Spanish idiom de narices correctly and effectively in your conversations!

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