Understanding the Spanish Idiom: "por las nubes" - Meaning, Origins, and Usage

Idiom language: Spanish
Etymology: Literally, “in/around the clouds”.

The Spanish language is known for its colorful idioms that add a unique flavor to everyday conversations. One such idiom is por las nubes, which literally translates to “through the clouds.” However, this phrase has a figurative meaning that goes beyond its literal translation.

Origins and Historical Context of the Spanish Idiom “por las nubes”

The Spanish language is rich in idiomatic expressions, which are phrases that have a figurative meaning different from their literal interpretation. One such expression is por las nubes, which translates to “through the clouds” or “up in the sky.” This idiom is commonly used to describe something that is very expensive or overpriced.

To understand the origins and historical context of this idiom, it’s important to look at the history of Spain and its economy. Throughout much of its history, Spain has been a major player in global trade, particularly during the colonial era when it controlled vast territories in Latin America. The country’s wealth was built on exports of precious metals like gold and silver, as well as agricultural products like wine and olive oil.

During this time, prices for these goods were often high due to their scarcity and demand from other countries. As a result, anything that was considered valuable or desirable was said to be por las nubes because it was as if it had risen up into the sky where only those who could afford it could reach.

Over time, this expression became more widely used beyond just describing expensive goods. It came to encompass anything that was seen as being out of reach or unattainable due to its high cost or rarity. Today, you might hear someone say that rent prices are por las nubes in a particular city or that concert tickets for a popular artist are also “por las nubes.”

Usage and Variations of the Spanish Idiom “por las nubes”

The idiom por las nubes is a commonly used expression in the Spanish language. It refers to something that is very expensive or has a high price tag. The phrase can also be used to describe something that is out of reach or unattainable.


While por las nubes is the most common form of this idiom, there are variations that are used in different regions of Spain and Latin America. For example, in some areas, people say “por los cielos” instead of “por las nubes.” Both phrases have the same meaning.

Another variation includes adding words like de caro or “de precio” after the phrase to emphasize its meaning. For instance, one could say: “El precio de ese coche está por las nubes de caro.”


This idiom can be used in various situations where someone wants to express how expensive something is. It can refer to anything from food prices at a restaurant to real estate prices in a particular area.

In addition, it’s important to note that this expression can also be used figuratively when referring to things other than money. For example, someone might use this phrase when talking about their stress levels being through the roof or their workload being overwhelming.

Synonyms, Antonyms, and Cultural Insights for the Spanish Idiom “por las nubes”


There are several synonyms for por las nubes that convey similar meanings. One such phrase is “a precios desorbitados,” which translates to “at exorbitant prices.” Another synonym is “carísimo,” which means “very expensive.” Both of these phrases emphasize the high cost of something.


On the other hand, there are also antonyms for por las nubes that express the opposite sentiment. For example, “a precios razonables” means “at reasonable prices.” Similarly, you could say something is “económico” or “barato,” meaning it’s inexpensive or cheap.

Cultural Insights:

The use of idioms like por las nubes reflects cultural values and attitudes towards money and spending habits. In Spain and many Latin American countries, haggling over prices at markets and street vendors is common practice. However, when it comes to more formal settings like stores or restaurants, negotiating on prices isn’t typically accepted. Therefore, using an idiom like this one can convey frustration with high prices while still adhering to social norms.

Practical Exercises for the Spanish Idiom “por las nubes”

1. Practice using por las nubes in context: Write out a few sentences or short paragraphs that include the idiom “por las nubes”. This could be describing something as expensive, or exaggerating how high something is. For example: “El precio del coche que quiero comprar está por las nubes”, meaning “The price of the car I want to buy is through the roof”.

2. Play a game with friends: Get together with some Spanish-speaking friends and play a game where you have to use the idiom por las nubes in conversation. The first person who can’t think of an appropriate way to use it loses!

3. Watch TV shows or movies in Spanish: Pay attention for instances where characters use the phrase por las nubes. Try repeating these phrases out loud and incorporating them into your own vocabulary.

4. Create flashcards: Make flashcards with different scenarios on one side (e.g., buying a house, going on vacation) and prompts on the other side that require you to use por las nubes in context.

By practicing these exercises regularly, you’ll soon find yourself more comfortable using this popular Spanish idiom in everyday conversation!

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using the Spanish Idiom “por las nubes”

When using idioms in any language, it is important to understand their meanings and usage. The Spanish idiom por las nubes is no exception. This phrase is often used to describe something that is very expensive or has skyrocketed in price. However, there are some common mistakes that people make when using this idiom.

One mistake is assuming that por las nubes can only be used to describe prices. While this is a common usage, the idiom can also be used more broadly to describe anything that has risen dramatically or exceeded expectations.

Another mistake is overusing the idiom without considering its appropriateness in context. Just because something has increased in price does not necessarily mean it should be described as por las nubes. It’s important to consider whether the situation warrants such an extreme description.

Finally, it’s important to remember that idioms do not always translate directly between languages. While por las nubes may have a clear meaning in Spanish, its English equivalent (“through the roof”) may not always be appropriate or convey the same nuance.

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