common-spanish-slang

Dinero, Chavos, Plata! Common Spanish Slang from 10 Countries (With Context and Comparisons)

Dying to fit in with the locals?

Can’t wait for that moment when someone thinks you’re a native Spanish speaker?

Learning common Spanish slang is the fastest way to get there.

And the fastest way to learn common Spanish slang is with this guide.

We’ve collected the most widely used slang terms from across the Spanish-speaking world and organized them into easy-to-remember categories. We’ll also give you some essential slang words from Mexican Spanish, one of the most common types of Spanish, for an added boost.

Keep this list close by and you’ll fit in no matter what Spanish-speaking country you visit.
 


 

Learn Common Spanish Slang in 5 Minutes! The Pocket Glossary for Any Occassion and Country

There are 21 official Spanish-speaking countries in the world, and each one has its own unique slang terms and language rules. However, slang words from different places often revolve around the same topics, like money talk or flirting. So in this post, as noted above, we’ll show you how to express several ideas with the slang of many different Spanish-speaking countries.

Learn these terms and you’ll fit in with Spanish speakers no matter where you go!

Then, we’ll give you a quick primer on essential Mexican Spanish slang. That’s because Mexican is one of the most common Spanish dialects, if not the most—Mexico has more Spanish speakers than any other country, closely followed by the U.S., where there are many additional Mexican Spanish speakers.

common-spanish-slang

Looking for an even faster way to learn common Spanish slang from all over the world? FluentU teaches you Spanish the way native speakers actually use it, through fun and memorable authentic Spanish videos. These include everything from movie trailers to music videos to inspiring speeches, and with clickable captions you never have to worry about missing a word.

For instance, you can hear how the slang term ¿Qué onda? (more on this below) is used in a movie review by a Mexican critic, versus in a funny comedy sketch from Chile. Sign up for a FluentU trial to get all the learning features while you watch, plus access to more than 2,500 other videos in the FluentU Spanish library.

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¿Qué onda? Common Spanish Slang for “What’s Up?”

There are different ways to say “what’s up” in Spanish, depending on what country you’re visiting. Here’s how that breaks down.

  • Mexican Spanish: ¿Qué onda?, ¿Qué huele? or ¿Qué pedo?

Qué pedo is an especially informal term. When pedo is translated, it literally means “fart.” It’s also commonly used in other Mexican slang expressions, like in the phrase No hay pedo (No problem — Literally, “There is no fart”). Qué pedo should only be used with friends—it wouldn’t be appreciated in more formal dialogue.

If you were to translate ¿Qué huele? in Spain, it would mean “What smells?” and you’d probably get some funny looks.

  • European Spanish: ¿Qué pasa?
  • Peruvian Spanish: ¿Qué cuentas?
  • Colombian/Chilean Spanish: ¿Qué mas? (Literally, “What else?”) or ¿Qué hubo? (Literally, “What happened?”)
  • Argentinean Spanish: ¿Qué onda? and ¿Cómo va? (Literally, “How’s it going?”)

Chavos: Common Spanish Money Slang

Everybody loves money, but it seems like no one can agree on just one way to talk about it. Here are the different ways you can refer to money with slang in Spanish-speaking countries.

  • European Spanish: Dinero
  • Mexican Spanish: Lana (Literally, “wool”)
  • Cuban Spanish: Chavos (Literally, “kids”)
  • Argentinean Spanish: Chirola (referring to coins or something cheap), cobre (literally, “copper”) or gamba (literally, “prawn”)
  • Chilean Spanish: Biyuyo, a word close to the Filipino term biyaya, which means “blessing.”

It’s not certain where this slang term came from, because even though the Philippines were colonized by Spain for more than 300 years, the Spanish term for blessing is bendición.

  • Colombian Spanish: Plata (Literally, “gold”) or barras (“bars,” perhaps referring to gold bars)
  • Dominican Republic Spanish: Cuartos (Literally, “rooms”)

Chica! Common Spanish Slang Words for “Girl”

You could use the standard chica to refer to a girl, but the following common Spanish slang terms can help you get a bit more specific in your meaning.

  • Mexican Spanish: Chava, which can also mean “girlfriend” in Mexico. The masculine form is chavo.
  • Dominican Republic: Bicha, which is a term of endearment for a little girl, but literally translates to “queer.”
  • Costa Rican Spanish: Cabra (Literally, “goat”)
  • Venezuelan and Nicaraguan Spanish: Chama (for a little girl, but means “flame”) or chamita (literally, “shrimp”)

Güey! Common Spanish Slang Among Friends

In English, you’re my “homie,” but in Spanish, you’re…

  • European Spanish: Amigo/a
  • Mexican Spanish: Güey, read as “wey.” A variant is buey, which means “ox.”
  • Chilean Spanish: Gancho (Literally, “hook”)

The great unifier is cabron, which literally means “dumbass,” and is used in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua.

Guay: Common Spanish Slang Words and Phrases for “Cool”

“Cool” is the quintessential slang word, and here’s how that translates for various Spanish-speaking countries.

  • European Spanish: Guay
  • Mexican Spanish: Chido/a
  • Argentinean Spanish: Bárbaro (Literally, “barbarian”), canchero, copado and joya (literally, “jewel”)
  • Chilean Spanish: A todo cachete (Literally, “to every slap”)

You may also hear buena tela, which literally means “good cloth,” but in Chile this means “good vibes.”

  • Colombian Spanish: Chusco (Literally, “gossip”), culo (“ass,” but means “cool” or “nice” in Colombia)

Essential Mexican Spanish Slang Words

If you’re hungry for more useful, super common Spanish slang, it’s smart to focus on a few Mexican Spanish terms that you may hear in conversation (especially if you’re located in North America) or in pop culture.

  • Aguas: Literally Spanish for “water,” but Mexican slang for “Watch out!”

This common Spanish slang is far from its Spanish meaning if you attempt to translate it literally. This slang phrase likely comes from before the time when Mexico had a modern sewage system. People would collect dirty water and throw it out the window, and before doing so would shout “Aguas!” to warn the others passing that water was about to be thrown.

  • Mande: This word literally means “send,” but is slang for “What did you say?/Pardon me/Can you repeat that?” in Mexico.

In Europe, people might instead say ¿Cómo? (formal), or ¿Qué? (informal) to clarify something they didn’t understand.

  • Hasta la madre: Literally Spanish for “up to the mother,” but Mexican slang for “I’ve had enough!”

In Mexico, the word padre is associated with all things positive, while madre is associated with all things negative. This expression may have gotten its origins from the historical resentment towards the woman who’s supposedly the mother of modern Mexico: La Malinche.

La Malinche was a Nahuatl woman who helped Hernán Cortés in the colonization of Mexico, translating for him and offering insider information. She later had a son with him, Martín Cortés. Her son became one of Mexico’s first mestizos, or people who are of European and indigenous descent. Some argue that La Malinche is really no different than Pocahontas, but La Malinche was hated whereas Pocahontas was loved.

Another possible genesis story of this common Spanish slang term refers to the more generic figure of a “long-suffering mother,” seen as a passive recipient of pain and burden.

  • Fresa: You may recognize this as the word for “strawberry,” but it’s also Mexican slang for a rich/snobby/posh person (or all of the above). The word as slang is supposed to conjure up an image of a stereotypical group of youngsters that belong to rich and educated families—the Mexican equivalent of America’s preps.

Those who are associated with fresa have been considered a subculture in Mexico, with the fresas having a different accent and the ability to speak a second language (usually English).

Using the word fresa is pejorative outside the fresa circle, and the opposite of the word is naco, which is a common Spanish slang term for poorly educated people with bad taste.

  • Codo: Literally Spanish for “elbow,” but Mexican slang for “cheapskate.”

Codo is another word whose literal Spanish translation is far off from the Mexican slang word, referring to someone who’s super thrifty and doesn’t want to share with others.

One background story is that during the 19th century, when Mexican farmers returned from the U.S., they had a bag of money from the livestock they sold. They held those bags at the level of their ribs so that thieves wouldn’t steal the money, pressing the bags with their elbows so that the coins wouldn’t make any noise.

 

After learning Spanish vocabulary 101, turn your attention to the study of common Spanish slang. Focusing on this unique application of the language you’re learning will help you to become more fluent, especially when attempting to understand the stories behind the slang.

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