Spanish Expressions: Echar Ojo (to throw eye)

Spanish mini-lesson of expressions and Mexican cultural insights by Scott Thompson of Livit Immersion Center

Echar – to toss/throw… an object somewhere or into something; …out the trash; …a person out; …to fire someone; …to pour liquid on something; …some clothing on oneself; and many more meanings, especially in expressions like, «echar aguas» (to be on the lookout).

We’ve already seen the expression, “Echar la sal”, meaning to bring bad luck or jinx.

In this mini-lesson I want to talk about “Echar Ojo” (tossing/throwing the eye).

In Latin American culture, you can throw the eye in SO many ways. It’s fascinating! Here are a few highlights:


Echar Ojo (a): When you throw your eye on someone else’s belongings, it sounds like you would be staking them out, but in fact it means you’re watching over them for protection.

Perhaps you have young children at home and you need to head out to complete a sudden and crucial errand for a bit. You would rather leave the kids at home to go quicker and you may call on a neighbor to “echar ojo a los niños un ratito” (watch over the kids for a little while).

Or in Mexico, when I park on a “public” street I look for a professional parking attendant. As I walk away from the car, I give him a head nod and ask him to, “echar ojo al carro”. This “professional”, will watch over the car and when I return to find my car and all its parts intact, I will, “echarle una propina” (throw him a tip – anywhere from $2-20 pesos depending on the venue and duration).

pulsera mal de ojo

Echar (Mal de) Ojo: To throw a bad eye at someone. You may know this as, “Giving someone the ole’ stink eye”, intended to cause some future harm. Many times, you will not know that you’ve been stink eyed until you have symptoms, which include loss of appetite, fever, diarrhea, nightmares, rashes, among others. Moctezuma may not have taken his revenge on you, but rather someone else.

So how can you protect yourself so that others cannot “echar mal de ojo”on you? For young babies and children, you can buy a red hand-braided bracelet with eye beads and other protective things, such as the medallion of San Benito that will overcome temptations, cast away evil spirits and even work small miracles. Prevention in adults includes purification rituals consisting of extracting the evil out of one’s body by rubbing it with a chicken egg, placing a glass of pure water under the bed where he/she sleeps and otherwise strengthening one’s positive energy fields.

Echar Taco de Ojo (to throw an eye taco): This is a great expression used to express hungry eyes that are attracted to someone they’re checking out. Devouring eye tacos is a specialty of men, but women admit to doing it too. The Chippendales come through Puebla every once in a while and women go a little locas while they echan unos tacos de ojo. At a crowded beach in summer, there is sure to be plenty of occassion to, “echar taco de ojo”. In Puebla, we consume many types of real food tacos, in addition to some taco de ojo.

If you like this post, please forward it or share it on social media, muchas gracias.

I also invite you now to try writing your own examples. You can send them to me and I’ll check them over for accuracy and send you back comments and corrections.


If you missed the previous mini-lessons, you can catch up here:

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