From Chido to Guay: Spanish Slang Across Different Countries
Slang is an integral part of any colloquial language. Therefore, learning at least a few expressions to sound more natural when communicating with locals is essential. Today, we will explore Spanish slang with all its widespread collocations and specific phrases inherent to particular countries. So, without further ado, let’s jump right into it!
Slang in Spanish: Popular Expressions and Terms
You can hear numerous unique phrases on the streets of Madrid, Bogotá, or Lima. Some of them are popular among most Spanish-speaking people, while others are only used in specific regions. To get started, take a look at these examples of slang in Spanish.
- Qué fuerte – [ke ˈfwer.te] – How crazy.
This phrase is used to express astonishment or disbelief about a situation. For example:
¡Qué fuerte que ganamos el partido en el último minuto! (How crazy that we won the game in the last minute!)
No puedo creer lo que pasó, ¡qué fuerte! (I can’t believe what happened, how crazy!)
Oíste lo que hizo Marco, ¡qué fuerte! (Did you hear what Marco did, how crazy!)
- Es la leche – [es la ˈle.ʧe] – Very good or very bad.
This slang term describes something as excellent or terrible, depending on context. It is similar to the English word “sick,” which can also have several meanings. For example:
Esta película es la leche, deberías verla. (This movie is very good; you should watch it.)
Mi día fue la leche, todo salió mal. (My day was terrible; everything went wrong.)
El restaurante nuevo es la leche, la comida es deliciosa. (The new restaurant is excellent; the food is delicious.)
- Mala pata – [ˈma.la ˈpa.ta] – Bad luck.
This expression refers to having a stroke of bad luck or unfortunate circumstances. For example:
Tener mala pata es olvidar las llaves en casa. (Having bad luck is forgetting the keys at home.)
Siempre me pasa cuando más lo necesito, ¡qué mala pata! (It always happens to me when I need it the least, what bad luck!)
El día de la boda, hubo mala pata con el clima y llovió. (On the wedding day, there was bad luck with the weather, and it rained.)
- Cae gordo – [ˈkae ˈɡor.do] – To dislike something or someone.
You can use this phrase to express a strong dislike or aversion towards a person or thing. For example:
A Johnny le cae gordo su jefe, no pueden trabajar juntos. (Johnny dislikes his boss; they can’t work together.)
El sabor de ese plato me cae gordo, no puedo comerlo. (I dislike the taste of that dish; I can’t eat it.)
Me cae gordo esa película, no entiendo por qué a todos les gusta. (I don’t like that movie; I don’t understand why everyone likes it.)
- Majo/a – [ˈma.xo], [ˈma.xa] – Cute/nice.
This phrase is used to describe someone or something as pleasant, kind, or charming. For example:
Tom es un tipo muy majo. (Tom is a very nice guy.)
Me cae muy bien, es muy maja. (I really like her; she’s very nice.)
¡Qué majo que te haya invitado a su casa! (How nice that he invited you to his house!)
- Guay – [ɡwai] – Awesome.
This is one of the most popular slang phrases in Spanish, used to express excitement or enthusiasm about something. For example:
¡Qué guay es este lugar! (This place is spectacular!)
La película fue guay, la disfruté mucho. (The movie was wonderful; I enjoyed it a lot.)
Me parece guay que quieras aprender español. (I think it’s wonderful that you want to learn Spanish.)
- Joder – [xoˈðer] – To bother, to annoy.
It is one of the most widespread and versatile slang Spanish words that can mean different things depending on context, from expressing frustration to casually saying “wow.” In some cases, it can be used as a cuss word (similar to the f-word in English). For example:
No me jodas con eso. (Don’t bother me about that.)
¡Joder, qué sorpresa verte aquí! (Wow, what a surprise to see you here!)
Este trabajo me está jodiendo la vida. (This job is ruining my life.)
- Mola – [ˈmo.la] – It’s cool, it’s awesome.
This phrase is similar to the previously mentioned “guay” and is also used to express that something is cool or great. It is also a perfect way to say that you like something in Spanish. For example:
La película nueva mola mucho. (The new movie is really cool.)
¡Este lugar mola un montón! (This place is awesome!)
Me parece que tu idea mola. (I think your idea is cool.)
- Pasta – [ˈpas.ta] – Money.
It is a common slang term for money, similar to “cash” or “dough” in English. For example:
No tengo suficiente pasta para comprar eso. (I don’t have enough money to buy that.)
Gané una buena pasta en el casino anoche. (I won a lot of money at the casino last night.)
¿Puedes prestarme algo de pasta? (Can you lend me some money?)
- Tío/a – [ˈti.o], [ˈti.a] – Dude (for both genders).
This term refers to someone in a friendly or informal way, similar to calling someone a dude or buddy. For example:
Oye, tío, ¿qué estás haciendo esta noche? (Hey, dude, what are you doing tonight?)
Gracias, tía, por ayudarme con esto. (Thanks, buddy, for helping me with this.)
Este tío es mi mejor amigo. (This guy is my best friend.)
- Ligar – [liˈɣar] – To flirt, to hit on.
This slang verb is used to describe the act of flirting or trying to establish a romantic or sexual connection with someone. For example:
Siempre intenta ligar con chicas en la discoteca. (He always tries to flirt with girls at the club.)
No sé cómo ligar con él; me pongo nerviosa. (I don’t know how to flirt with him; I get nervous.)
Juan está ligando con María desde hace un tiempo. (Juan has been hitting on María for a while.)
- Peli – [ˈpe.li] – Movie.
This word is a slang abbreviation for “película,” which means movie. It’s commonly used in casual conversations. For example:
Vamos a ver una peli esta noche en casa. (We’re going to watch a movie at home tonight.)
¿Qué peli viste en el cine la semana pasada? (What movie did you see at the cinema last week?)
Mi género de pelis favorito es la comedia. (My favorite movie genre is comedy.)
- Lana – [ˈla.na] – Cash, money.
It is another colloquial term for money, similar to “bucks” or “dough” in English. For example:
No tengo suficiente lana para comprar un coche nuevo. (I don’t have enough cash to buy a new car.)
¿Cuánta lana te costó ese reloj? (How much money did that watch set you back?)
Vamos a necesitar más lana para financiar este proyecto. (We’re going to need more money to fund this project.)
Regional Variations of Spanish Slang Words
Understanding common slang terms is essential for effective communication. And now that you know enough of them, we want to provide more specific information. There are 21 Spanish-speaking countries in the world. And while general usage of the language is quite similar, numerous variations and unique expressions are inherent to particular regions. Therefore, we want to invite you to join us on a journey through various countries and their unique slang terms.
Colombian Slang Words
Let’s start in Colombia, a beautiful Latin American country. It is known for its amazing coffee, unique art, talented artists, diverse flora and fauna, and other incredible things. Its other exciting characteristic is the majority of slang terms and expressions used in colloquial language. Take a look at some of the most common examples.
- Bacano/a – [ba.ˈka.no], [ba.ˈka.na] – Cool.
¡Qué bacano que viniste a visitarme! (It’s awesome that you came to visit me!)
La película estuvo bacana, la recomiendo. (The movie was cool; I recommend it.)
Tuvimos un día bacano en el parque de diversiones. (We had a remarkable day at the amusement park.)
- Pola – [ˈpo.la] – Beer.
Vamos a tomar unas polas en el bar. (Let’s have some beers at the bar.)
La pola bien fría es perfecta para el calor. (An ice-cold beer is perfect for the heat.)
No hay nada como una pola con amigos. (There’s nothing like a beer with friends.)
- Berraquera – [ber.raˈke.ra] – Very good.
El concierto estuvo una berraquera, nunca había visto algo así. (The concert was amazing; I had never seen anything like it.)
¡Eres una cocinera de berraquera, esta comida está deliciosa! (You’re an excellent cook; this food is delicious!)
La película que vimos anoche fue una berraquera, todos la disfrutaron. (The movie we watched last night was fantastic; everyone enjoyed it.)
- Caco – [ˈka.ko] – Thief.
Los cacos entraron a la casa y robaron todo. (The thieves broke into the house and stole everything.)
El caco fue arrestado después del robo en el banco. (The thief was arrested after the bank robbery.)
Ten cuidado con ese tipo, parece un caco. (Be careful with that guy; he looks like a thief.)
- Guayabo – [ɡwaˈʝa.bo] – Hangover.
Tengo un guayabo terrible después de la fiesta de anoche. (I have a terrible hangover after last night’s party.)
Bebí demasiado, y ahora tengo un guayabo insoportable. (I drank too much, and now I have an unbearable hangover.)
Para evitar el guayabo, bebe agua entre tragos de alcohol. (To avoid a hangover, drink water between alcoholic drinks.)
Mexican Slang Phrases
When you think about Spanish slang, most words that come to your mind probably originated in Mexico. This is the biggest Spanish-speaking country in the world, with over 50 million native speakers. Hence, there is no wonder why Mexican slang words vocabulary is so extensive. Here are some of the most common words you can hear in this country:
- Chido – [ˈtʃi.do] – Cool.
¡Esa película estuvo muy chida! (That movie was very cool!)
¡Qué chido que te hayan dado el trabajo! (How cool that you got the job!)
La música de esta banda es súper chida. (The music of this band is really cool.)
- Chingón – [ /ʧin.ˈɡon] – Awesome, badass (in some contexts, might be considered an insult).
¡Eres un chingón en la cocina! (You’re a badass in the kitchen!)
La fiesta de anoche estuvo chingona. (Last night’s party was awesome.)
Esa película es tan chingona que la he visto tres veces. (That movie is so awesome; I’ve seen it three times.)
- Cuate – [ˈkwate] – Buddy, friend.
Voy a salir con mis cuates esta noche. (I’m going out with my buddies tonight.)
Mi cuate Fred me ayudó con la mudanza. (My friend Fred helped me with the move.)
Los cuates siempre están ahí cuando los necesitas. (Buddies are always there when you need them.)
- Bronca – [ˈbɾon.ka] – Trouble, conflict.
Hubo una bronca en el bar anoche. (There was trouble at the bar last night.)
Evita la bronca y mantén la calma. (Avoid trouble and stay calm.)
Tuvimos una pequeña bronca en la reunión familiar. (We had a little conflict at the family gathering.)
- Mordida – [morˈdi.da] – Bribe.
El oficial de tránsito pidió una mordida para no dar una multa. (The traffic officer asked for a bribe to avoid giving a ticket.)
En algunos lugares, dar una mordida es común para agilizar trámites. (In some places, giving a bribe is common to expedite paperwork.)
No estoy dispuesto a dar una mordida para conseguir un favor. (I’m not willing to give a bribe to get a favor.)
Cuban Slang Phrases
The Republic of Cuba is another impressive Spanish-speaking country located in North America. It is an island nation in the Caribbean Sea, known for its vibrant culture and heavenly beaches. Cuba is also called a “sugar bowl of the world” because it used to have the largest industry. To learn more about this country, take a look at this list of Cuban words and slang expressions:
- Chavito – [ʧaˈbi.to] – Child, kid.
Los chavitos están jugando en el parque. (The kids are playing in the park.)
Mi sobrino es un chavito muy simpático. (My nephew is a very friendly kid.)
Los chavitas de la escuela son muy traviesos. (The school children are very mischievous.)
- Jama – [ˈxa.ma] – Food, meal.
¿Vamos a buscar una buena jama esta noche? (Are we going to find some good food tonight?)
La jama en ese restaurante es deliciosa. (The food at that restaurant is delicious.)
Comí una jama casera increíble en casa de mi abuela. (I had an amazing homemade meal at my grandma’s house.)
- Yuma – [ˈʝu.ma] – Foreigner.
Aparecieron unos yumas en la playa. (Some foreigners showed up at the beach.)
Los yumas suelen encontrar Cuba muy interesante. (Foreigners often find Cuba very interesting.)
Los yumas a veces tienen dificultades con el idioma. (Foreigners from the U.S. sometimes have trouble with the language.)
- Guagua – [ˈɡwa.ɡwa] – Bus.
Esperemos la guagua en la parada del autobús. (Let’s wait for the bus at the bus stop.)
La guagua de la línea 3 siempre llega tarde. (The bus from line 3 is always late.)
El conductor de la guagua es muy amable con los pasajeros. (The bus driver is very friendly with the passengers.)
- Está volado – [ˈes.ta βoˈla.ðo] – Mind-blowing.
La película que vimos anoche estaba está volada, nunca había visto efectos especiales así. (The movie we watched last night was mind-blowing; I had never seen special effects like that.)
La tecnología moderna está volada, no puedo creer lo que podemos hacer ahora. (Modern technology is mind-blowing; I can't believe what we can do now.)
El paisaje en la montaña es está volado, las vistas son increíbles. (The landscape in the mountains is mind-blowing; the views are incredible.)
Argentinian Slang Phrases
After learning popular Cuban and Mexican slang phrases, it is time to return to South America. Now, we are visiting Argentina – the homeland of passionate tango and amazing wine. In this country was born the legend of football – Diego Maradona. And we believe that he also used some of these unique Argentinian slang expressions.
- Guita – [ˈɡwi.ta] – Money.
No tengo suficiente guita para ir de vacaciones. (I don’t have enough money to go on vacation.)
Gané un montón de guita en el torneo de póker. (I won a lot of money in the poker tournament.)
¿Me prestás un poco de guita para el taxi? (Can you lend me some money for the taxi?)
- Chamuyar – [ʃaˈmu.jar] – To chat, to flirt.
Estuvo toda la noche chamuyando con esa chica. (He spent the whole night chatting with that girl.)
Me gusta chamuyar con desconocidos en las fiestas. (I like to flirt with strangers at parties.)
Chamuyarse a alguien es el primer paso para conseguir una cita. (Flirting with someone is the first step to getting a date.)
- Boludo – [boˈlu.do] – Buddy, pal, jerk (context-dependent).
Oye, boludo, ¿qué hacemos este fin de semana? (Hey, buddy, what are we doing this weekend?)
No seas boludo y ayúdame con esto. (Don’t be a jerk, help me with this.)
Eduardo es un boludo, siempre está metido en problemas. (Edward is a jerk; he’s always getting into trouble.)
- Pibe/Piba – /ˈpi.be/, /ˈpi.ba/ – Guy/Girl.
Los pibes de la escuela van a la fiesta esta noche. (The guys from school are going to the party tonight.)
Esa piba es muy simpática, me cae bien. (That girl is very friendly; I like her.)
Los pibes del barrio juegan al fútbol todos los fines de semana. (The guys from the neighborhood play soccer every weekend.)
- Volá – /ˈbo.la/ – Leave, buzz off.
No quiero hablar contigo, vete a la volá. (I don’t want to talk to you, buzz off.)
Si no te gusta lo que digo, puedes irte a la volá. (If you don’t like what I’m saying, you can leave.)
Estás molestando, mejor vete a la volá y déjame en paz. (You’re bothering me; just go away and leave me alone.)
Master Slang Words in Spanish with Promova
Learning Spanish slang can be an exciting and fun, especially for those aiming to become fluent in this language. However, it might also be quite tricky, with the number of different expressions and terms, several definitions of the same word, difficult pronunciation, and other challenges. For those seeking a helping hand, we want to introduce Promova – your one-stop solution for language learning.
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To sum up, we can say that learning slang terms in Spanish is an exciting practice for both fluent speakers and those just starting their language-learning journey. It helps to immerse into the nuances of colloquial language and sound more natural when communicating with other people. We hope that this article was useful for you. And we will see you in the next one!
Do I need to learn Spanish slang if I only plan to communicate formally?
Well, it all depends on you. We all know formal settings require more official language, and using slang might be considered inappropriate. However, if you’re planning to work in a Spanish-speaking country, it might be useful to memorize some casual expressions to communicate with colleagues during lunch, neighbors, and other people in more informal circumstances.
Are there any specific slang words or expressions considered inappropriate and offensive, and is it essential to avoid them?
Spanish, like any other language, contains many derogatory and offensive terms. If you want to learn Spanish slang, you need to pay attention to such inappropriate phrases and words and avoid using them in your conversations. There are many slang dictionaries where you can find examples of such terms or check whether they are appropriate or not.
How do I know when and where it’s appropriate to use slang in conversations?
It depends on several factors, including the context, the people you are speaking to, and the level of formality required. Pay attention to these details, and you will learn when it is time to use some slang words. However, if you feel hesitant, it is better to avoid colloquial terms and stick with more formal and polite phrases.
I’m planning to travel to multiple Spanish-speaking countries. Do I need to learn different slang for each region?
It’s a good idea to have a foundation of commonly understood slang words and expressions that are used across different Spanish-speaking countries. These are often referred to as “neutral” or “universal” slang terms. Yet, if you’re spending an extended period of time in a particular region or want to immerse yourself in the local culture, learning some specific slang from that area can enhance your experience.