Ponerse las botas

Category: Spain Terms

When you hear the Spanish words “ponerse las botas” (such as “en el restaurante me puse las botas”) you could very well think that person is talking about someone putting on his or her boots. And that could just be it. “Botas” are translated for boots and “ponerse” means to put on. So to put on your boots can be an appropriate translation or interpretation of those words. However, it doesn’t always have that literal meaning. When you hear that “alguien se puso las botas,” you might be hearing about something that has nothing to do with footwear and much to do with overeating.

In various Spanish-speaking countries the idiom is used, but with different meanings. For instance in Peru it means to take action, in Mexico to impose your own way, in Argentina to have great success, and in El Salvador to show firmness of character or authority. The Real Academia de la Lengua Española (RAE)—the official royal institution responsible for overseeing the Spanish language—has several definitions for the idiomatic expression “ponerse las botas.” They are as follows:

1. To become rich or to achieve extraordinary profit.
2. To take advantage of something, often in an inconsiderate way.
3. To gorge on something pleasant.

The last definition of “ponerse las botas” is how most people In Spain use the idiom. They generally use to say that they ate a lot. So you could translate “me puse las botas” for I stuffed myself or I pigged out. Of course it is used in a colloquial way and you would not want to use the idiom in a formal setting.

One could wonder how to put on boots could end up meaning to overeat or stuff yourself. I have found a couple of explanations that make some sense. First explanation claims that boots in ancient times were a distinctive sign of the upper-class gentleman who hoards wealth—as opposed to sandals, the footwear worn by poor and lowly people. So to wear boots would suggest having or getting something in abundance. A second explanation says the formerly seamen went about barefooted to avoid slipping on deck. But once they arrived to a port they would put on their boots so they could go and stuff themselves in town. Either explanation could work for the present day use in Spain of the idiom “ponerse las botas.”