Something with a little more of the poetic flavor of "turn of phrase" than, say, "forma de hablar" (manner of speaking / figure of speech) or "expresión", that is.

To clarify, I'm thinking of this sense of the expression, which refers to an interesting or compelling phrasing, rather than the person behind it:

turn of phrase (plural turns of phrase)

(idiomatic) An expression which is worded in a distinctive way, especially one which is particularly memorable or artful.

Some examples:

The title is, as the author quickly admits, “a turn of phrase, not the literal truth


JAVIER SOLANA, the European Union's top foreign-policy honcho, recently offered a neat turn of phrase to explain the importance that Europeans attach to the past. Ponder the phrase “that's history”, and what it implies on either side of the Atlantic, he suggested. When Americans say something is “history”, they mean it is no longer relevant. When Europeans say the same thing, “they usually mean the opposite”.


President Barack Obama said that “cap and trade” was “just one way of skinning the cat.” It is a common expression, used to imply that there are plenty of ways of doing something. But a closer look at its origins reveals it is a somewhat unsavoury turn of phrase.


  • El bien comunicado?
    – dockeryZ
    Mar 31, 2014 at 14:41
  • Could you give more context or a full sentence? For example, I would translate the example in wordreference "'Significant other', meaning 'partner', now that's an interesting turn of phrase!" as "'Media naranja' para decir 'pareja', ¡eso sí que es una expresión interesante!". For other cases the word "palabra" may be enough.
    – Nico
    Mar 31, 2014 at 17:17
  • I think, at least in 2 of the 3 examples, you could use the expression "juego de palabras" (wordplay). But let's wait and see what others come up with for your 3 examples!
    – Nico
    Mar 31, 2014 at 21:19

2 Answers 2


Expresión or frase is correct for these 3 examples, there is not an idiom or phrasal verb in Spanish.

Looking on internet I have seen many examples but with an adjective before:

a vivid turn of phrase >> una frase deslumbrante

a homely turn of phrase >> una frase coloquial / una expresión coloquial


she has a picturesque turn of phrase >> tiene una manera pintoresca de expresarse / usa expresiones pintorescas


So your 3 examples would be:

  • a turn of phrase >> una expresión

  • a neat turn of phrase >> una expresión coherente

  • it is a somewhat unsavoury turn of phrase >> este comentario es un poco desafortunado / es un comentario feo / es una expresión un poco desafortunada / no es una expresión muy afortunada.

If the turn of phrase is refering to a memorable idiom, it can be translated as frases hechas / refranes / dicho or modismo

a Spanish turn of phrases >> una frase hecha en español / un refrán español / un dicho español / un modismo español (it depends of the phrase, all translations are not used for the same)

For the second meaning of turn of phrase thefreedictionary

the ability to express yourself well

Depending if it is used on the favour of the speaker or not here are some options:

  • Labia

    f. Elocuencia y gracia para hablar y convencer a los demás: este político tiene mucha labia.


  • Embaucar / Embaucador

    tr. Engañar a alguien, aprovechándose de su inexperiencia o ingenuidad: con semejante labia es capaz de embaucar al más avispado.


  • Savia

    Persona o elemento que comunica energía y vitalidad: su alegría es la savia de la casa.


  • Deslumbrar

    Asombrar, encantar, fascinar: me deslumbra con sus ocurrencias.


Sometimes you would have to use other words in Spanish to say the same.

Her vocabulary and her turn of phrase >> su vocabulario y su fraseología.

(About a book)

With these elements, and a very precise, rich and playful turn of phrase, very typical of young people >> Con estos elementos, y con un lenguaje preciso, rico y juguetón, muy propio de la gente joven.


  • Thanks! I wasn't actually aware of that sense of the expression—I had the first definition in mind, but that's good to know. I'll update accordingly.
    – jmromer
    Mar 31, 2014 at 18:31

Here a pair of suggestions:

  • Somebody has a nice turn of frase means alguien sabe expresarse (bien o bonito); when the turn of phrase bears a positive connotation, it could also be also elocuencia, ser elocuente.

Perhaps it might be helpful

  • vena poética (poetic vein).

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