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23 / 03 / 2009

COLMO IN ENGLISH: meaning and examples

Good morning everyone. I hope you had a nice weekend.

Today we answer a question from one of our Spanish-speaking readers, so today's content is very specific to Spanish. However, I hope everyone finds it useful.

Dear Matthew & Co. First of all I want to thank you for the Daily Vitamin. It is very helpful; I really enjoy it. I have a doubt that may be useful for other students too, I guess. A British friend of mine who is studying Spanish asked me the other day the meaning and the translation of the expression: "Es el colmo" or "seria el colmo." How would you say that expression in English? or maybe it doesn't even exist? What is the translation of the word "colmo" if there is any?
Thanks a lot and best regards, Regina Esparza ;-)

You are correct Regina, there isn't an exact translation for these expressions, but we do have ways of more or less expressing the same thing.

The Spanish word colmo means "full, overflowing or to the limit", but in expressions like the ones you mention, this literal meaning doesn't always help. The final meaning will depend a lot on the exact context. Let's look at a few examples and some possible translations.

¡Esto es el colmo!
This is the last straw! or This is the limit!

Depending on the dialect, the same meaning and feeling of this Spanish sentence could be expressed in English with expressions like This is awesome (very Californian), This is cool, This is wicked or This is bad. (The last two examples are positive even though they use the words wicked and bad.)

El colmo de la ignorancia.
The height of ignorance.

Sería el colmo si ganáramos.
It would be the greatest if we won.

I hope this helps your British friend, Regina. Maybe some of our readers have some other suggestions, which they can post in the Daily Vitamin Plus! forum section on our website (

Have a great day!