15 Otherworldly Ways to Say ‘Die’ in Spanish

Just imagine for a moment that you were learning English and you heard expressions such as ‘pushing up daisies’ or ‘they’re at the pearly gates’ for the first time … yeah, you’d probably be pretty confused!

And guess what … Spanish has some equally peculiar ways to describe death!

Think about it: culture and language have everything to do with how we understand, process, and explain the human experience.

Anyway, that’s enough jibber-jabber, let’s have a look at all the different ways to say ‘die’ in Spanish!

1 Morir – To die

‘Morir’ is the most common translation of the English ‘to die’.

To say ‘dead’ in Spanish, just say ‘muerta’ (for women) and ‘muerto’ (for men). Weirdly enough, you use these with ‘estoy, NOT ‘soy’!

Mauricio – ¿Qué estás leyendo?

Arantxa – Un libro de suspenso sobre un magnate que es encontrado muerto en su mansión.

Mauricio – What are you reading?

Arantxa – A thriller about a mogul who’s found dead in his mansion.

2 Fallecer – To pass away

Sometimes the verb ‘to die’ can seem a little cold or harsh, so if you’d rather say ‘to pass away’, just use the verb ‘fallecer’.

The nouns ‘fallecida’ and ‘fallecido’ are the Spanish equivalents of ‘deceased’ and you´re sure to find them used in legal / official documents.

¿Cuándo falleció Don Camilo?

El viernes por la tarde. Su funeral fue el sábado.

When did Don Camilo pass away?

Friday afternoon. His funeral was on Saturday.

3 Finar / Finarse – To pass away

Another way to say ‘pass away’ in Spanish is ‘finar’ or ‘finarse’.

This one’s not that common in everyday speech but you’ll likely find it in literature, especially in traditional tales and local Mexican folklore.

En Día de Muertos

Se dice que hay que colocarle flores a los finados en el altar, de lo contrario, sus almas no encuentran descanso.

On the Day of the Dead

It’s said that flowers must be placed on the altar of the deceased, otherwise their soul won’t rest in peace.

4 Irse al cielo – To go to heaven

In Spanish ‘cielo’ is the word for both ‘sky’ and ‘heaven’.

The expression ‘se fue al cielo’ – or ‘he/she went to heaven’ in English – is often used by people of religious inclination or when explaining death to small children.

Niño – Mami, ¿por qué ya no viene el abuelo?

Madre – Porque ya se fue al cielo, mi cielo*.

Kid – Mommy, why hasn’t Grandpa visited us?

Mother – Because he’s already gone to heaven, my dear.

*Erika’s note – mi cielo is a term of endearment, kinda like ‘my dear’ or ‘my love’ in English … just don’t whatever you do get it confused with ‘se fue al cielo’!

5 Pasar a mejor vida – To go to a better place

The closest expression in Spanish to the phrase ‘they went to a better place’ is ‘pasó a mejor vida’.

The literal translation would be ‘to go to a better life’, so it definitely shares the same sentiment.

Genaro – ¿Sabes cómo sigue el tío de Nacho?

Tatiana – Ay, ¿no te has* enterado? Estaba muy enfermito, pero ya pasó a mejor vida.

Genaro – Do you know how Nacho’s uncle is?

Tatiana – Oh, haven’t you heard? He was very sick, but he’s in a better place now.

*Erika’s note –has’ is the second person singular of the auxiliary verb ‘haber’, not to be confused with the imperative ‘haz’!

I recommend giving our article on has’ vs ‘haz a quick once over if you want to know more!

6 Se nos fue – He/She is gone

This phrase literally means ‘(they) went away from us’ and it’s a very common expression in Spanish, akin to the English ‘he’s gone’ or ‘he’s passed away’.

Pedro – ¿Y el Sr. González?

Ana Lucía – Se nos fue, Pedrito.

Pedro – Where’s Mr. González?

Ana Lucía – He’s gone, Pedrito.

Karina – Eres muy independiente, ¿cómo le haces con todo?

Emma – Mi mamá se me fue cuando era muy chica, así que aprendí a salir adelante por mi cuenta.

Karina – You’re so independent, how do you manage?

Emma – My mom passed away when I was very young, so I learned to get by on my own.

7 Se me adelantó – To cross over before me

In this context, the verb ‘adelantarse’ means something along the lines of ‘to go ahead (of)’, and the Spanish euphemism ‘se me adelantó’ is a rather philosophical and existential one, because it’s based on the recognition of our own mortality by saying the deceased has merely ‘gone ahead of us’ (or crossed over to the great beyond where we’ll all go eventually).

Osvaldo – ¿Cómo ha estado, señora?

Guadalupe – Apachurrada…Se me adelantó mi marido.

Osvaldo – How have you been, ma’am?

Guadalupe – Not great at all … my husband passed away.

8 Estirar la pata – To kick the bucket

‘Estirar la pata’ literally translates as ‘to stiffen the paw/foot’, and it’s a strong visual image indeed!

If you haven’t pictured it yet, the phrase refers to how the legs of animals stiffen when they die.

This one’s obviously informal, so we can liken it to ‘kick the bucket’ in English.

Karime – ¿Qué onda con la casa del vecino? ¡El jardín está lleno de malas hierbas!

Braulio – ¿No supiste? El dueño estiró la pata y ahora los hijos se están peleando la propiedad.

Karime – What’s up with the neighbor’s house? The front yard is full of weeds!

Braulio – Didn’t you hear? The owner kicked the bucket and now the children are fighting over the property.

9 Se lo cargó el payaso – He/She bit the dust

So far we’ve explored words and phrases common to all Spanish-speaking countries, so let’s touch on some Mexican slang …

… step forward ‘se lo cargó el payaso’ (which literally means ‘he/she got carried away by a clown’).

And where (on earth!) does it come from?

Well, during traditional rodeos in the North of Mexico there’s always a clown whose job it is to entertain the audience and to assist cowboys in case they fall off their horse or get rammed by a bull.

Since being carried away by the rodeo clown is never a good thing, the expression became a euphemism for unfortunate circumstances, and later even death itself.

Al ver un accidente automovilístico grave

Transeúnte – ¡Híjole! ¡Ahora sí estuvo feo! Se me hace que ya se los cargó el payaso…

Witnessing a serious car accident

Passerby – Jesus! That was brutal! It looks like they all bit the dust …

10 Chupar faros – To die

Those captured during the Mexican Revolution would often choose to smoke a ‘Faros’ brand cigarette as their last wish before being shot

… and, well, I´ll leave to your imagination exactly how the expression ‘chupó faros’ (literally ‘sucked cigarettes’ in English) was born!

Yalitza – ¿Cómo vas con el videojuego? ¿Ya pasaste al jefe final?

Valentín – Nel. Chupé faros otra vez. Está bien difícil.

Yalitza – How are you getting on with the video game? Have you defeated the final boss yet?

Valentin – Nah. I died again. It’s really hard.

11 Petatearse – To kick the bucket

The ‘petate’ is a traditional palm mat used by various pre-Hispanic cultures for all kinds of purposes: to give birth, sleep, to receive blessings and, of course, to lay down the dead.

The verb ‘petatearse’ (literally ‘to die’ or ‘to kick the bucket’) arose from this custom.

It’s such a popular Mexican colloquialism that it’s even been recognized by the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language.

Salvador – Me siento terrible, como si me fuera a petatear.

Ana – ¡Cállate! No digas esas cosas.

Salvador – I feel terrible, as if I were about to kick the bucket.

Ana – Shut up! Don’t say things like that.

12 Clavar las guampas – To die

In many South America countries, such as Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Chile, the word ‘guampa’ is another way of saying a bull´s horn.

The phrase ‘clavar las guampas’ (literally ‘to nail the bull´s horns’) started to be used to describe a horse / bull that had been dominated by a ‘gaucho’ (or ‘cowboy’), and later on, to refer to someone who retires, gives up, or simply passes away (just like the “broken in” horse or bull!).

Apolo era tan solo un joven cuando clavó las guampas. Tenía no más de 20 años.

Apolo was just a young man when he died. He was no more than 20 years old.

13 Colgar los tenis – To die

‘Colgar los tenis’ literally means ‘to hang the sneakers’ and it refers to an old tradition in Mexican hoods.

Whenever a person passed away, friends and relatives would hang the deceased person’s favorite shoes from a nearby cable to keep their spirit nearby.

Nowadays, people hang shoes from cables for a number of different reasons – from an innocent prank to a sign of criminal activity – but the expression remains a popular one in Mexican cities, nonetheless.

Ramiro – ¿Visitas seguido a tus papás?

Quique – Solo a mi mamá. Mi papá colgó los tenis hace casi una década.

Ramiro – Do you visit your parents often?

Quique – Just my mom. My dad gave up the ghost almost a decade ago.

14 Salir con las patas por delante – To leave feet first

The expression ‘salir con las patas por delante’ is the equivalent of the English ‘to leave feet first’ or ‘to be carried out feet first’, referring to the common practice of moving a body out of a place feet first.

Al parecer, la única manera en la que Leandro se irá de la casa de sus padres es con las patas por delante.

Apparently, the only way Leandro’s leaving his parents’ house is feet first.

15 Pelar gallo – To kick the can

‘To peel a rooster’ is the literal translation of this Mexican expression, and it may not make much sense until you think about how the poor rooster probably ended up!

‘Pelar gallo’ is similar to ‘lo cargó el payaso’ in the sense that they can either mean that something awful happened or that someone kicked the can.

The word ‘gallo’ actually pops up in a whole host of Mexican slang expressions, definitely give our article on all the different meanings of ‘gallo a gander if you’d like to know more!

¡Si sigues con esa vida de vicio, vas a pelar gallo tarde o temprano, wey!

If you don’t stop living the good life, you’re going to kick the can sooner than later, dude!

Final thoughts

So, there you have it, a comprehensive list of ways to say ‘die’ in Spanish.

Hopefully, you won’t be taken off guard by some of the more complex or curious of the above listed phrases, but instead bedazzle your friends with your mad knowledge of the Spanish language!

‘No dejes que te cargue el payaso’ (or ‘don’t let yourself be carried away by the rodeo clown’) and keep practicing.

Oh, and if you fancy leveling up your vocab even more, then I suggest you head on over to our article on all the different ways to say crazy’ in Spanish!

¡Hasta pronto!

Rupert's lived in Mexico for nearly a decade and has been working as a Spanish teacher for even longer (over 10 years now, wow!). He specializes in simple (yet effective) explanations and is a veritable grammar-whizz.

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