You shouldn’t greet a king the same way you’d text your Honduran lover.
Nor should you end a letter to your accountant as you might sign off an email to a friend.
It’s fabulous that you know hola (hello) and adiós (goodbye) but those are really only going to get you so far.
Like any language, Spanish has different salutations and valedictions depending on the situation.
Here I’ll cover 40 of the most important and useful greetings and goodbyes in Spanish, so that you can make the smoothest possible arrivals and departures in any situation.
40 Varied Greetings and Goodbyes in Spanish for Virtually Any Situation
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Nonverbal Spanish Greetings and Goodbyes
Let’s get those lovely cheek kisses straight first. In Latin America, you do one kiss on one cheek for personal greetings. In Spain, one does two kisses, one on each cheek.
To answer a popular Anglophone question: generally the cheeks just rub together and you kiss the air, but if the cheek in question is extra pinchable, or if there’s a lot of enthusiasm or affection involved, lips may actually brush cheeks. Usually people go first left then right.
If you’re being introduced, say your name and mucho gusto (literally “a lot of pleasure,” actually “nice to meet you”) as you kiss. You usually kiss your friends both when you meet up with them and when you say goodbye.
Generally two men don’t cheek-kiss each other hello or goodbye, except in some gay, highly civilized and/or artsy circles. However, men are likely to kiss when congratulations are in order between close friends or relatives; for example the bride and groom usually get dos besos (two kisses) from all of the guests.
In some Latin American countries, kisses are also sometimes used as greetings in business situations between men and women or two women.
2. Handshakes and occasional hugs
Handshakes are used in business situations and among male friends both in Spain and Latin America. One-armed hugs with a bit of back-slapping can be employed to show enthusiasm.
3. Bow or curtsy
Spain still keeps up the symbols of a flagrantly undemocratic past by officially clinging to (and financially supporting) its royalty. They’re not particularly popular (thanks to shooting elephants, among other things), but if you run into royals, you may want to know that you’re expected to show respect by bowing or curtsying.
There’s no strict rule or law on it, so really it’s up to you to decide if you want to humor them.
The Spanish royal family claims that even their own children greet Their Majesties with a bow or curtsy. You might also like to know that as of 2008(!), it’s finally legal to shout “¡Viva la República!” (“Long live the Republic!”) in Spain.
Formal Written Greetings and Goodbyes
At the beginning of a formal letter, one can use the following phrases followed by a colon ( : ), not a comma, as in English.
4. A quien corresponda — To whom it may concern
5. Estimado señor/Estimada señora/Estimados señores/Estimadas señoras — Literally, esteemed sir/madam/sirs/madams
The above two greetings are particularly useful for starting a letter when you don’t know the name of the person you’re addressing, like when writing to a company. If you do know the name, just add it, i.e., Estimado Señor Almodóvar.
6. Muy señor mío/Muy señora mía/Muy señores míos/Muy señoras mías — Very much my dear sir/madam/sirs/madams
There are a few standard ways to end a formal communiqué in Spanish. Keep in mind that your name will go below each of these.
7. Gracias y saludos — Thank you and salutations/greetings.
8. Le saludo atentamente — Literally, this means “I sincerely salute/greet you.” If you’re writing to more than one person, use les saludo atentamente.
9. Atentamente/Muy atentamente — Sincerely/Very sincerely
10. Reciba mi más cordial saludo — Receive my warmest greetings; for more than one person, it’s reciban mi más cordial saludo.
11. Saludos cordiales — Best regards
12. Dándole las gracias por anticipado — Thanking you in advance; for more than one person write dándoles las gracias por anticipado.
13. Esperando su contestación, le saluda — In waiting for your reply, you are greeted by (name, one line below)
14. A la espera de recibir sus noticias, le saluda — In waiting to receive your news, you are greeted by (name, one line below)
15. Quedo a la espera de su respuesta — I’m looking forward to your answer
Informal Written Greetings and Goodbyes
In letters (that long-dead art, I know) to friends, lovers and family, one writes the following to start things off:
16. Querido/Querida/Queridos/Queridas — This is the past participle of querer, which means to want/love/wish. Here it just means the same as “dear.” It varies according to gender and number as with the greetings we saw earlier.
And to sign off, these first two are friendly but not too friendly:
17. Un cordial saludo — Best regards; literally, “a cordial greeting.”
18. Cordialmente — Sincerely
If you have a closer relationship, or hope to, you might write:
19. Un fuerte abrazo — A strong hug
20. Un cariñoso saludo — A caring greeting
21. Besos — Kisses; as we saw earlier, these aren’t necessarily as romantic as Anglophones tend to take them.
22. Te amo — I love you; this one is obviously more romantic.
23. Besos y abrazos — kisses and hugs
As with other languages, most friendly written communication in Spanish is now limited to what you can poke out on your mobile device screen (incidentally, WhatsApp is the most popular service for this in Spain and much of Latin America, thanks to SMS charges). Often, vowels are omitted. (Also check out our excellent full guide to text-message talk in Spanish.)
24. Hla — Hello (from hola)
25. Q tl? — How are you? (from ¿Qué tal?) I have to admit, a lot of my own Spanish friends do spell this out a bit more as q tal?, but many of them are also over 30.
26. Bs — Kisses (from besos)
27. a10 — Wait, before you read further, can you figure this out on your own? Think about how it’s pronounced… If you guessed adiós (goodbye), congrats!
Formal Oral Greetings
We discussed the royalty and Spain’s (quite proper) attitude towards them earlier.
Here’s how one would orally great them in theory, as well as how someone should definitely greet (with sarcasm) a friend who’s being a bit pompous:
28. Vuestra Majestad — Your majesty (the archaic version)
29. Su Majestad — Your majesty (the more modern version)
30. Señor Rey — Your majesty the king
31. Señora Reina — Your majesty the queen
32. Majestades/Vuestras Majestades — Your majesties
As for princes or princesses, one humors them with the following:
33. Alteza — Highness
34. Su Alteza — Your Highness
For your average high-falutin’ folks, you can use:
35. Señor — Mister
36. Señora — Missus
If you’re having proper adventures in Spain or Latin America, you may eventually need to know how to address a judge:
37. Honorable — Honorable; this can be followed by the judge’s last name, or not.
Informal Oral Greetings
We have previously published an excellent and complete post on greeting your people in more informal ways. Here are the top three to know.
38. ¡Hola! — “Hello!” If you know one word of Spanish, this should be it.
39. ¿Qué onda, microonda? — “What wave, microwave?” This is an incredibly stupid (or funny, depending on your mindset) way to greet people in Chile, where the more standard ¿Qué onda? (“What’s up?) rules the day.
40. ¿Qué pasa, huevón? — “What’s up, dude?” This is also rather Southern-cone South American.
There is of course a teensy bit more to Spanish than saying hello, but you have to admit, you now have quite a few ways to get your foot in the door—and to shirk off, once you’ve made a mess of things.
Mose Hayward blogs about romantic-linguistic adventures in Galicia, and other Spanish-speaking lands.
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