Bienvenidos and welcome to your ultimate Spanish slang guide!
Today we will break down some of the most useful, common, and interesting slang words and phrases from Spain, Mexico, and other Latin American countries.
First, we'll look at how to learn Spanish slang and why this is such an important aspect of language learning.
Then, we'll list Spanish and Mexican slang words that you should definitely add to your vocabulary.
Finally, we'll address some frequently asked questions about learning Spanish slang. By the end of this guide, you will be well-equipped to speak Spanish like a native!
See also: What is the Best Way to Learn Spanish?
Let's dive in.
Learning Spanish Slang Words
There are a lot of avenues to go down when you are learning formal Spanish, such as language classes, textbooks, language-learning apps like Duolingo, and online Spanish courses. However, most of these resources do not include many Spanish slang phrases.
So, if you want to develop this area of your knowledge and vocabulary, you'll need to branch out in your learning. A great way to pick up slang is by speaking to native people. You can visit Spain if you have the resources, or else do a language exchange online.
Talking to a native speaker is the best way to expose yourself to the language as it is used naturally in context. Depending on where your exchange partner is from, you will learn different local slang.
It's also an excellent idea to watch Spanish TV and movies and listen to Spanish music, radio stations, and podcasts. Visit Lingopie, the online streaming platform for Spanish-language content, if you'd like to learn Spanish slang while watching fun shows and movies.
This is one of the best ways to pick up slang in context and learn how to use it in an appropriate setting. Any exposure to native Spanish speakers using slang is important and very useful.
Why Learning Slang is So Important
Now that you know how to learn Spanish slang, let's talk about why you should.
For starters, getting to know the local slang is a great way for a Spanish learner to learn more about a country's culture, customs, values, and people. You can gain a lot of knowledge about a community based on its native language and develop a vocabulary that reflects local Spanish culture and attitudes.
Moreover, it's always the ultimate goal of a language learner to sound like a native. By incorporating colloquialisms and common Spanish slang into your speech, you will be able to use the language more naturally.
Understanding common Spanish slang terms is essential for following conversations better and keeping up in social situations. Moreover, you'll get more out of music, radio, podcasts, TV, and movies.
If you often find that you miss context and jokes go over your head, learning slang can help to bridge this gap in your comprehension.
So, without further ado, let's jump into our favorite slang words to use with your Spanish-speaking friends.
Spanish Slang Words and Phrases: A Rundown
Whether you're looking for useful and interesting Spanish slang phrases from Spain, Mexico, or other Spanish-speaking countries, we've got you.
European Spanish Slang
Tío/tía ¿qué pasa?
Tío and tía are Spanish slang for "dude" and "girl", while ¿qué pasa? is an informal way to ask "what's up?", so the phrase is "dude, what's up? Use this greeting with friends in a casual setting.
Note that tío and tía actually mean "uncle" and "aunt" in Spanish, but in Spain, they are more often used as a colloquial way to say "guy", "dude", "girl", "chick" and so on.
¿Cómo te va?
This is another way to ask "what's up?" or "how's it going?" colloquially.
Estar como una cabra
This Spanish slang expression literally means "to be like a goat", but it is used colloquially to mean "to be crazy". It is similar to the English expression "to be nuts".
This slang word is used to describe people as snobby, stuck up, or spoiled.
See una fresa in "Mexican Slang Words" for the equivalent Mexican slang term.
Ir a su bola
When someone is minding their own business or doing their own thing, you can say él va a su bola, or "he's doing his thing".
Es una mierda
You cannot learn Spanish slang without learning at least one curse word! Mierda means sh*t, and this saying can be translated as "it's a piece of sh*t", "it's crap" or "it sucks".
A native Spanish speaker might use es una mierda to refer to a situation that is rubbish or an item or food that is of low quality. La comida es una mierda is "food is bad quality/ crap".
¡Qué mala pata!
If something unfortunate happens, you can say "what a bad paw", meaning "what bad luck". This comes from the Spanish superstition that carrying a rabbit's leg, or pata, brings good luck.
Ser la leche
If something es la leche, it is "cool" or "great". This phrase can also be used to say él piensa que es la leche, "he thinks he's all that", which in this context would be a negative attribute.
Me cago en la leche
Unlike ser la leche, when native speakers say "I sh*t in the milk", this is definitely not a good thing! This unusual phrase means "f*cking sh*t", "bloody hell" or "motherf*cker". It is used to express extreme disappointment or shock at a negative situation.
La mala leche
This phrase literally translates as "to have bad milk", but figuratively, it is used in Spain and different Latin American countries to mean various things, depending on where you are and how you use it.
In Spain, if you say tener mala leche, it means that someone acts in bad faith, while if you say estar de mala leche, this means that a person is in a bad mood.
See la mala leche in "Other Latin American Slang" for different definitions.
Mexican Slang Words
Mexico is the largest Spanish-speaking country in the world, so it is only fair to dedicate a section to slang specific to this culture-rich country.
Mexican Spanish has distinct accents, dialects, and commonly used phrases. Let's have a look at some of the most useful Mexican Spanish sayings.
This Mexican Spanish slang greeting means "hey dude". Güey, meaning "buddy", "mate" etc., is often used as a filler word in conversations in Mexico.
¡No manches!/ ¡No mames!
To express shock or disbelief, you can use either of these colloquial expressions the same way. They can both be positive or negative depending on the context and tone of voice.
The literal translation of no manches is "do not stain", however, it is used as "no way" or "holy cow" in colloquial Mexican.
No mames is a little cruder, as it literally means "do not suck". You will hear güey, no mames in Mexico when someone wants to say "dude, don't mess with me".
This is an interjection used in Mexico to express surprise and disappointment. It is rather like the English sayings "give me a break!" or "you're kidding!"
If you watch a lot of Mexican TV, you might have heard someone be referred to as a pendejo. This is a useful Mexican slang term that literally means "pubic hair" but is used commonly in Mexico to mean "dickhead".
Referring to someone as "a strawberry" in Mexico implies that they are snobby, pretentious, and privileged. Nonetheless, this kind of person is looked up to by poorer Mexican young people.
This slang word means "truth". Saying la neta is like asking "really?" or emphasizing something. La neta te amo is "the truth is I love you".
There are a few ways to express delight about a situation switch your Mexican friends, and this is one of them. This Mexican Spanish slang phrase means "how cool!", "that's great!" or "nice!" Its literal translation is "what father", but obviously this is not how it is used.
This phrase means "what a wave" when translated literally, but in Mexico, it is a very common way to greet someone and it is used as "what's up?" This phrase might have a Mexican origin, but you can also use ¡qué onda! in Argentina and Chile.
Buena onda/ Mala onda
In Mexican slang, onda, which means "wave" is also used to describe someone's personality. If someone is buena onda, they are cool or nice, and on the flip side, if ella es mala onda, "she is not cool".
Spanish speakers from other Spanish-speaking countries will understand if you use onda in this way, but it is not common outside of Mexico.
¡Qué buena onda!/ ¡Qué mala onda!: Mexicans also use "what a good wave/ what a bad wave" to express their feelings about a situation. While qué buena onda is used to express "how cool!" or "so cool!", qué mala onda means "too bad", "how bad" or "uncool".
Other Latin American Slang
Across other Latin American countries, there is a range of extremely helpful slang. We will briefly touch on some notable examples.
Mae, pura vida
This is slang from Costa Rica that means "mate, how's it going?". You can reply with pura vida to mean "it's going good".
Pura vida is a super general term that can also be used to express thanks, good vibes, and any other positive greeting or farewell. This saying is very specific to Costa Rica and it can be used all over the country.
In Peru, you can express your anger by saying you are "roasted". No me hables, estoy asado means "don't talk to me, I'm angry." In other dialects across Latin America, you can say estoy enojado/a, while in Spain, you would say estoy enfadado/a.
Prendido is a super useful slang word. This phrase means "to be lit" or "to be buzzed". Used in Colombia, Panamá, the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela, you can say estoy prendido/a if you are drunk, but in a positive way. It implies you are full of energy and good vibes.
La mala leche
We have seen that in Spain, this saying is used to describe someone with a bad temper or attitude. However, in Venezuela and Panamá, it is used to express mala suerte, or bad luck.
In Chile and Argentina, if someone has la mala leche, they have acted maliciously toward another person.
FAQs: Learning Spanish Slang
Which Spanish slang words are the most useful to learn?
If you are planning a trip to Spain and want to learn some quick and useful slang, start with two commonly used words for cool: guay and chulo. Moreover, me flipa can be used like me gusta/ me encanta but it is a more colloquial way to say "I'm crazy about..." These simple words will have you sounding like an enthusiastic local!
Do I need to learn slang to visit a Spanish-Speaking country?
No, you do not absolutely need to learn Spanish slang to visit a country that uses Spanish, however, it is recommended. This will help you to understand social situations. It will also impress the locals when you use their own slang as it indicates that you appreciate their culture and language.
What does the slang word joder mean in Spain?
Joder is a swear word in Spain that can be translated as "sh*t" or "f*ck" depending on the context. It is commonly used in Spanish TV shows like La Casa de Papel and Elite. You can use joder in a light-hearted way with friends, or in anger in a serious situation.
Whether or not you intend to use Spanish curse words in day-to-day life, you will hear them if you visit Spain or Latin America, or watch Spanish TV and movies, so it is a good idea to understand the words and when to use them.
Summing Up: Spanish Slang and How to Learn It
Hopefully, this ultimate guide to Spanish slang words has inspired you to develop your informal Spanish vocabulary. The more you know about a country's slang, the better you know the culture and people.
We have provided a list of useful Spanish and Mexican slang, as well as some highlights from other countries in Latin America. Now, it's over to you to continue learning.
Remember, if you want to expose yourself to more European Spanish or Mexican slang words, you can visit Lingopie to stream Spanish-language content. This is a great way to develop your colloquial vocab and learn to speak like a native.
¡Qué buena onda!