Watch Out! What Does 'Ojo' Mean in Spanish? (2023)

Watch Out! What Does 'Ojo' Mean in Spanish? (1)

February 25, 2021 by Nicole Canún Spanish Vocabulary 0 comments

What does ojo mean? And why is it used in a thousand different ways in Spanish?

Well, while ojo in the simplest context means “eye,” it means so much more to people of Hispanic heritage.

Common expressions in Spanish use ojo as a way of saying “watch out,” but this word also plays a lot of different roles in figures of speech.

Keep reading to learn all its colloquial meanings, and—let me warn you—there is more to this word than meets the eye!

Are you ready? ¡Empecemos!

Various Meanings: What Does Ojo Mean?

While the essential meaning of el ojo is “eye,” it also references things that are shaped like an eye or a hole. Some examples include keyholes and roof skylights, and more:

Gemstones: el ojo de tigre, ojo de halcón, ojo de gato

Tiger’s eye, hawk’s eye, and cat’s eye are iridescent gemstones in different colors that are reminiscent of these animal’s eyes.

Keyhole: el ojo de la cerradura

The literal meaning of this phrase is “the eye of the door lock.” A keyhole is called un ojo de la cerradura because you can see through it.

Top/Bottom of a Spiral Staircase: el ojo de la escalera

The “eye of the staircase” or ojo de la escalera is a visual perspective of the top or bottom ends of a large spiral staircase. If you were to stand on the bottom floor of a building with a long, spiraling staircase above you, the tip would look like an eye.

Porthole: el ojo de buey

This phrase literally means “ox eye” and refers to a porthole, or a circular window typically seen in ships, spacecrafts, or planes. You’ll also see this type of window in automobiles and houses, but it’s not as common. These types of portholes have different purposes such as decreasing vibration tensions, preventing heat cracks, or bringing in proper lightning and ventilation.

Spring / Water Source: el ojo de agua

The literal meaning of this phrase seems clear: “water eye.” It’s a carved out hole where water springs are or where water accumulates in a dormant volcano.

Mexican Sweet Bread: el ojo de pancha

One of the things that define Hispanic culture is its food. Its place in our culture is sacred and its variety is awe-inspiring. Especially when it comes to sweet bread. Ojo de pancha is a kind of bread made in Mexico that resembles an eye. The name Pancha was adopted due to the popularity of that name back in the day.

Watch Out / Be Careful: ¡Ojo!

Most people who google the phrase “what does ojo mean?” are looking for this definition. This particular usage of ojo translates to “keep an eye on,” “pay attention to” or “be careful with.”

This expression is also non-verbal, which you can gesture by pointing to your eye with your index finger.

Watch Out! What Does 'Ojo' Mean in Spanish? (2)

Ojo con el escalón.
Mind the step.

(Video) I think moto moto likes you (original)

Ojo con tu papá.
Look after your dad.

Ojo con tu dinero.
Take care of your money.

Ojo con el bebé.
Protect the baby.

Ojo con el cuchillo.
Watch out for the knife.

Ojo con el carro.
Careful with the car.

Mucho ojo.
Keep an eye out.

Cultural Phrases Using ‘Ojo’

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “A nation’s culture resides in the heart and soul of its people.”

I’d argue that the heart and soul of Hispanic culture resides in its collection of colloquial phrases, some of which have lasted for centuries. This is the glue that makes us identifiable as a whole while still divided into 33 countries.

Want to know more about what’s unique to Latin America? Read Polychronic Culture in Latin America: Thoughts and Facts on Time.

We use the word ojo in literal and figurative phrases in our everyday life, which has led to a widespread variance in meaning. Let’s take a look at a list of metaphors, idioms, and proverbs that have appeared within Latin American culture using the word ojo.

Spanish Metaphors

Metaphors are figures of speech that don’t make sense literally but have an abstract connotation. Here are some examples with further explanations to answer the question “what does ojo mean?”

Él está en el ojo del huracán.
He is in the eye of the hurricane.

While a hurricane’s eye is the center of a tropical cyclone, being in the ojo del huracán means to be in the middle of a very problematic situation, or in the most chaotic part of the process. It also signifies you are involved in a scandal and everyone is talking about you.

Donde pone el ojo, pone la bala.
Where (he) she puts the eye, (he) she puts the bullet.

This phrase describes someone who is assertive, determined, and tenacious. They will get whatever they put their mind to because they fight for it. It depicts an accomplished person who always achieves their goals.

Echo chispas por los ojos
I am shooting sparks from the eyes.

This is a way of saying “I am furious” after something that happened.

¡Qué bonita bebé! Tiene ojos de plato.
What a cute baby! She has plate eyes.

Having “plate eyes” is a compliment meaning to have big eyes.

Spanish Idioms

This section will put you to the test!

You didn’t realize that after asking “what does ojo mean?” you’d get such mind-bending answers, but you asked for it!

These idioms will equip you with the speaking ability to blend in with native Spanish speakers during regular, informal conversations.


Échate un taco de ojo.
Get (eat) an eye taco.

Échate has more than 50 different meanings, but in this informal command means “get” or “eat.” And while eye tacos do exist, echarte un taco de ojo in Mexico means “glance at someone you like.”

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Mi mamá tiene ojos detrás de la nuca.
My mom has eyes in the back of her neck.

Moms across the globe seem to have this quality, and it’s certainly true for Latin moms. Similar to the English expression, it means that even if mom’s not looking at you, she knows exactly what you’re up to.

Dichosos los ojos que te ven.
Blissed eyes, those that see you.

This is a polite, endearing way of telling someone you have missed them or that you are happy to see them.

Mucho ojo.
Literal translation: A lot of eye.
What it means: Watch out, be careful.

This phrase became extremely popular in Mexico when kidnap prevention commercials on TV told little kids to beware of strangers.

A ojo de buen cubero.
To the eye of a good cubero.

Closest phrase in English: Rule of thumb.

A cuba, was an artisanal recipient with no standard capacity. A good cuba fabricant or cubero could measure it by relying on his perception.

Échale un ojo a mi bebé mientras voy al baño.
Literal translation: Throw an eye to my baby while I go to the restroom.
What it means: Keep an eye on my baby while I go to the restroom.

“To throw an eye” means to keep an eye on someone or something.

Te va a costar un ojo de la cara.
It’s gonna cost you an eye from your face.

It refers to something that is so expensive you will probably have to pay with an eye.

Te echaron el ojo.
Literal translation: They threw you an eye. / They have an eye on you.

This is a common saying in Mexico and Guatemala. It means someone really liked you or was impressed by you. It can be in a professional or romantic way.

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Sayings and Proverbs

The refranes or dichos and proverbios are the reflection of popular wisdom that was enriched through time. These are common even today due to their significance in meaning and their essence as a “living teaching” or enseñanza viva.

These sayings remind us of our abuelas (grandmothers) and how they were always right. Now that you’ve got a good list of possible answers to “what does ojo mean?” you’re ready to explore these refranes.

Ojo por ojo, diente por diente.
An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

(Video) Las Hermanas de Serendipia | Sisters of Serendipity in Spanish | Spanish Fairy Tales

This phrase calls for revenge in an even way. Mahatma Gandhi responded very wisely: “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.”

Ojos que no ven, corazón que no siente.
Literal translation: Eyes that don’t see, heart that doesn’t feel.
What it means: Out of sight, out of mind.

It means the same as the similar English saying, but it’s loaded with emotion thanks to the mentioning of heart.

A letra de médico, ojo de boticario.
Literal translation: To a doctor’s handwriting, give an apothecary sight.
What it means: To be or to have what is needed.

Los ojos son la ventana del alma.
The eyes are the window of the soul.

Un ojo al gato y otra al garabato.
Literal translation: One eye to the cat and another to the doodle.
What it means: to have one’s mind on two things at once.

This is a funny one. Although garabato means “doodle” or “scribble,” it’s also a piece of wood that once traditionally hung from Mexican kitchen ceilings like a swing. Most likely the origin of this phrase came from the fact that people used to put all kinds of meats and sausages up there so it was out of reach from hungry house pets. In other words, you better have your sight set on the cat and el garabato at all times or the cat will eat your food!

Figurative Speech Using ‘Ojo’

Here are some common ways we use ojo in figurative Spanish expressions.

Poner los ojos en blanco
To roll your eyes

Abrir los ojos
To open your eyes (to a situation)

Ver con buenos ojos
To favor, to welcome, or to accept

En un abrir y cerrar de ojos
In a blink of an eye


Dilo mirándome a los ojos.
Say it looking at me in the eye.

Le guiñé el ojo.
I winked at him.

Tomé la decisión a ojos cerrados.
I took the decision with my eyes closed.

No pegué el ojo en toda la noche.
Literal translation: I couldn’t “glue” my eye all night.
What it means: I was up all night.

Pregúntale a tu papá que tiene ojo clínico.
Ask your dad who has a clinical eye.

Someone with a clinical eye is able to grasp situations quickly and can provide fast answers thanks to their experience and expertise.

What Does ‘Ojo’ Mean in ‘Mal de Ojo’?

While the literal translation of this phrase is “eye disease,” in Hispanic culture, it really means “the evil eye.”

This popular belief not only exists in Latin American culture but also societies around the globe, including Arabic, European, and Asian as well as Jewish and Islamic tradition.

In fact, around 40% of the world’s population believe in mal de ojo and have different rituals to prevent or deal with it.

Strictly speaking, “evil eye” happens when someone wants to damage you in any way and looks at you (literally or figuratively) with contempt. But ultimately, the “evil” that comes from someone else’s eye is often envy or bad energies, which can supposedly cause you misfortune or injuries.

(Video) FOCUS on the red eye.🔴👁#illusion#trippy#trythis#magic

Hand-picked for you: A Brief Introduction to Latin American Culture, Traditions, and Beliefs

Have a Conversation in Spanish with a Native Speaker

So, what would you say now if someone asks you, “what does ojo mean in Spanish?”

You’ve got plenty of fun and interesting answers! You’re also one step closer to understanding the richness and diversity of Hispanic culture.

If you’re ready to practice your new understanding of the word ojo with native Spanish-speaking professionals from Guatemala, join 24,000 actively enrolled students who desire to learn fluent Spanish and understand Hispanic culture. Sign up for a free trial class today so you practice your refranes and eye metaphors!

With Homeschool Spanish Academy you will be proficient at Spanish en un abrir y cerrar de ojos. So, ¡abre los ojos! and practice with one of our certified native Spanish teachers who tiene ojo clínico for teaching you Spanish!

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Nicole Canún

Freelance Writer at Homeschool Spanish Academy

Blogger, content creator, and marketer. Proudly Mexican. Been to 30 countries. I love learning from different cultures and trying their cuisines. Obsessed with Asia. Fluent in Spanish and English, not so much in French.

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What does ojo mean in Spanish slang? ›

Well, while ojo in the simplest context means “eye,” it means so much more to people of Hispanic heritage. Common expressions in Spanish use ojo as a way of saying “watch out,” but this word also plays a lot of different roles in figures of speech.

What is mal de ojo in Mexico? ›

“Mal de Ojo” (occasionally “ojo malo”) is a Spanish phrase that's most often translated as “evil eye”. It could also be translated in other ways, such as “bad eye” or “sickness from the eye”. Basically, Mal de Ojo refers to a supernatural belief that a jealous or envious glance can cause harm, especially to children.

What are the symptoms of ojo? ›

Symptoms of mal de ojo often consist of fatigue, headache, weight loss, exhaustion, and malaise. Gastrointestinal symptoms may also include desiccation and dehydration, as well as crying and irritability. Wrapping children's wrists with red laces and ribbons are considered as affective talismans against mal de ojo.

What does taco de ojo mean? ›

taco de ojo m (plural tacos de ojo) (colloquial, idiomatic, Mexico) a good or pleasant sight; a sight for sore eyes. Pues acá echándome un taco de ojo So, here I am enjoying the sight (literally, “So, here [I am] throwing myself an eye taco”)

What is Mexican slang for girl? ›

Instead of using muchacho or muchacha or niño or niña, try out the Mexican slang term for “boy” or “girl,” which is chango or changa.

What does the mal de ojo protect you from? ›

As a result, many believers of mal de ojo wear mal de ojo jewelry to ward off negative energy from haters or people who truly admire them. They also protect the energy in their homes with evil eye home decor.

What does the red bracelet with an eye mean in Mexico? ›

The evil eye, or “el mal del ojo,” is a charm that protects against all the bad vibes others might send your way. In Mexico, these “Turkish Eyes” are common in jewelry to ward off bad luck. Each beaded bracelet is handmade and adjustable to fit any adult wrist.

How do you cure mal de ojo? ›

The cure for Mal de Ojo varies according to the region but usually involves the use of an egg. By passing a raw egg over the inflicted victim the negative power is absorbed.

Where did the Ojo come from? ›

The history of Ojo de Dios varies somewhat as many have adopted the craft and converted the meaning to their respective cultures. However, most sources agree that the craft originated in western Mexico with the Huichol Tepehuan Indians.

What is the origin of Ojo? ›

Ojo is a Nigerian surname of Yoruba origin. Notable people with the name include: Funso Ojo (born 1991), Belgian football player.

What does ojo mean for babies? ›

According to tradition, a baby who is the victim of the evil eye, or mal de ojo, can run a fever, cry nonstop, or show other symptoms. To protect babies from the evil eye, they're given a red or pink bracelet to wear, or a seed (such as ojo de venado or azabache) to wear around the wrist or neck.

How do you call a pretty girl in Mexico? ›

Bello/a – Beautiful

Bello/a means “beautiful” or “lovely.” It's a bit formal, especially in Spain Spanish (Castellano). A closely related noun is la belleza, which means “beauty.” This is a romantic and common word to call a person “beautiful” in Spanish. ¡Te ves muy bella! You look very pretty!

What is Spanish for sweet girl? ›

"sweet girl" in Spanish

volume_up. sweet girl. ES. volume_up. chica dulce.

What do you call a beautiful woman in Spanish? ›

Say “hermosa mujer.” This means “beautiful woman” in Spanish. To say “beautiful girl,” you would say "niña hermosa."

How do I block ojo? ›

Please read our privacy policy to understand what we do with your data. If you don't want your data used that way, stop using our services immediately and unsubscribe from the OJO mobile services and web app by texting “STOP” to us.

Why do Hispanics put red bracelets on babies? ›

Mal de Ojo, The Evil Eye

In Latin American culture, "mal de ojo" is caused when one looks at another with envy and it is believed to inflict injury or bad luck. Mothers are especially wary of evil eye and protect their infants by having them wear bracelets, like this red-beaded one from El Salvador.

Can you buy your own mal de ojo bracelet? ›

Of course you can! Although, traditionally speaking, evil eye jewelry is understood as a gift to be given to those people who need protection, such as babies and pregnant mothers, you can actually buy one for yourself, with the same result.

Why do Hispanic babies wear gold bracelets? ›

As I mentioned before, it is a tradition to give those baby huayruro (why-ee-ru-ro) bracelets away when a baby is born to protect them from the evil eye and to bring the baby good fortune, prosperity and happiness.

What does it mean to give someone the evil eye? ›

to look at someone in an unpleasant way, especially because you are angry with them.

What evil eye means? ›

The evil eye is a “look” or “stare” that is believed to bring bad luck for the person at whom it is directed for reasons of envy or dislike. The perception of the nature of the phenomenon, its causes, and possible protective measures, varies between tribes and cultures.

Is God's eyes Mexican? ›

Ojos de Dios (oh-ho-day-DEE-ohs), “god's eyes,” are ritual objects made by the Huichol (wet-chol) indigenous people of Mexico. The Huichol symbolism of the god's eyes is primarily associated with the prayers for their children – prayers for a good long life, protection and to insure abundant crops.

How many eyes does God have? ›

Three times Blake lists the Seven Eyes of God, once in each of his longer "prophetic books." In Jerusalem 55.31-32 they are listed only by name, while the accounts in The Four Zoas and Milton, nearly identical, provide a characteristic or two for each Eye.

What does God's eye view mean? ›

God's eye view, one of the most well-known filmmaking shots, captures an overhead angle by placing the camera directly above the subject.

What is Ojo known for? ›

Ojo is known for the Olojo festival during which the Olojo wears the crown. Oro festivals are held at the death of the Olojo or a Baale.

Who is called Ojo? ›

West African (Nigeria): from the Yoruba personal name Òjó a circumstance name traditionally given to a male child born with the umbilical cord round the neck.

What is ojo on a baby? ›

The evil eye or as I know it, Ojo. Ojo occurs when someone has starred at your baby a little too hard sometimes with jealousy and it causes your baby to cry and become so fussy that nothing will calm them down for no apparent reason. Sometimes it can be so bad that your baby gets a fever.

What do Mexicans say when they mad? ›

Estoy enfadado / enfadada (or) Estoy enojado/ enojada

These are the most known Spanish expressions of anger you can use for any intensity. Feeling enfadado / enojado means feeling angry.

How do you say B * * * * In Mexican? ›

How do you say "bitch" in Spanish? - It could be "perra", "cabrona", or "zorra."¿Cómo se dice "bitch" en español? - Podría ser "perra", "cabrona" o "zorra".

What is a popular Mexican saying? ›

Agua que no has de beber, déjala correr – Anonymous

Literal translation: Water that you must not drink, let it run. This Mexican proverb warns us not to get involved in something that we won't be able to face later. People normally say this to you so that you don't dar alas (give wings) to anyone.

Why do Hispanic babies wear red bracelets? ›

Mal de Ojo, The Evil Eye

In Latin American culture, "mal de ojo" is caused when one looks at another with envy and it is believed to inflict injury or bad luck. Mothers are especially wary of evil eye and protect their infants by having them wear bracelets, like this red-beaded one from El Salvador.


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