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41 Informal Spanish Phrases Used by the Locals in Spain [With Audio]

Informal Spanish phrases will help you sound like a native speaker—or at least a culturally aware, advanced-level speaker.

In this post, you’ll learn 41 informal phrases and expressions commonly used in Spain.

You can use them in casual settings for greetings, small talk, reactions to dramatic stories and more. 

For more general Spanish used in various countries, check out our post on Spanish slang, common Spanish phrases or cool Spanish phrases.

Contents


1. Tío / Tía (Dude)

Tío and tía mean “uncle” and “aunt,” but in Spain they’re commonly used to address a person in a friendly or casual way, similar to how you might use “dude” or “guys” in English.

¡Hola, tío! ¿Qué tal todo? (Hi, dude! How’s everything going?)

2. Vale (Okay)

You just can’t have a list of the things they say in Spain without this word. Vale is used all the time in Spain and can have different meanings depending on the context.

It’s often used as an affirmation or agreement, similar to saying “okay,” “fine,” or “got it” in English. It can also be used to express understanding or acknowledgment.

Vamos al cine esta noche. (Let’s go to the movies tonight.)

Vale, suena bien. (Okay, sounds good.)

3. Adeu  (Goodbye)

Even those who don’t speak Catalan (the language of Barcelona and surrounding areas) always use a couple of Catalan words in their Spanish in the Catalonia region of Spain.

The absolute most common is adeu, which, since it sounds like adiós, you may have guessed means goodbye.

¡Nos vemos mañana en la fiesta! (See you tomorrow at the party!)

Vale. ¡Adeu! (Okay. Bye!)

4. ¡Oní! (Wow!)

¡Oní! is a Spanish exclamation used in the Andalusia region of Spain. It’s an interjection expressing surprise, amazement or astonishment, similar to saying “Wow!” or “Oh my!” in English. 

¡Oní! ¡Qué truco tan asombroso! (Wow! What an amazing trick!)

5. ¡Mola!  (That’s awesome!)

Molar is a nice, regular -ar verb, and an informal way of complimenting or expressing enthusiasm about something.

Esta camisa mola, for example, means “This shirt is fantastic.” You can also say Mola un montón which means “It’s really cool” or “I like it a lot.”

¡Conseguí el trabajo que quería! (I got the job I wanted!)

¡Mola! (That’s awesome!)

6. Flipar (To love/be in awe/get carried away)

Flipar is a popular verb that can express various feelings and reactions depending on the context. It can express love or admiration for something as in the first example below.

It can also be used to express awe, shock or disbelief, in both positive and negative ways. And it can be used to tell someone not to get ahead of themselves. 

Me flipa la música rap. (I’m crazy about rap music.)

!No te flipes! Solo han salido una vez. (Don’t get carried away! They’ve only gone out once.)

7. Un lío (A mess/an affair)

Lío is a very common word whose meaning changes depending on the context. It can refer to a messy or difficult situation. Tener un lío means to have an affair.

La mudanza fue un lío total. (The move was a complete mess.) 

8. Botellón  (Alcohol-infused street party)

A lot of municipalities have been cracking down on these, but you certainly can’t say they’ve disappeared from Spanish culture.

Young people often don’t have the money to drink in bars and so they tend to congregate in certain known or pre-arranged plazas with cans or liter bottles of beer. Kind of like drunken, very social flash mobs.

Estoy a dos velas. Vamos al botellón en lugar de los bares esta noche. (I’m broke. Let’s go to the street party instead of the bars tonight.)

9. ¡Qué chulo!  (Cool!)

Chulo is a common way to say “cool” in Spain, and you can use this phrase to react in many situations. Just be careful, as using it for a person means they’re arrogant.

If you’re a thirteen-year-old, super-preppy Spanish girl at the mall or want to get some giggles from your friends, you might say chuli  instead. 

¿Tomaste estas fotos? ¡Qué chulo! (Did you take these photos? How cool!)

10. ¡Qué subidón!  (What a rush!)

On a high? Things are really rolling? In Spain, you can say something es un subidón  (is a rush), subidón being the magnified version of subida  (increase, rise, incline).

Voy a salir con la chica de mis sueños este finde. ¡Qué subidón! (I’m going out with the girl of my dreams this Friday. What a rush!)

11. Ser un chaval (To be gullible/naive) 

Chaval is a Spanish word for “kid,” so this phrase literally means “to be a kid.” While chaval can be used to casually address someone who’s younger than you, calling an older person a chaval means they’re naive, gullible or inexperienced.

¿Le diste el dinero? ¡Eres un chaval! (You gave him the money? You’re so naive!)

12. Ser un rollo (To be boring/tedious)

The word rollo (roll, reel) is extremely popular in the above phrase in Spain, but rollo can mean many different things depending on the context.

For example: tener un rollo (have a romance), buen rollo (good vibes) and es otro rollo  (that’s a different matter).

No me gusta la clase de matemáticas. Es un rollo. (I don’t like math class. It’s boring.)

13. Ser la hostia (To be great/amazing/incredible)

Una hostia is a communion wafer, but the word is used everywhere in Spain outside of the context of the church. You’ll find it in a variety of Spanish slang phrases and expressions

You can also shorten it to ¡Hosti!  (kind of like “Damn!”) and use it to express surprise, anger, shock or amazement.

¡Carla es la hostia! Sabe de todo. (Carla is amazing! She knows about everything.)

14. Ser mono (To be cute)

Mono actually means “monkey,” but ser mono is a phrase used informally in Spain to describe something or someone as “cute” or “adorable.” It’s commonly used when referring to cute animals, babies or even something aesthetically pleasing.

¡Mira ese gatito, es tan mono! (Look at that kitten, it’s so cute!)

15. Ser un tiquismiquis  (To be picky)

This phrase is used to refer to both people who are picky about food and those who are excessively concerned with small details (“nitpicky”) or fussy about minor issues.

Enrique es un tiquismiquis. Siempre mantiene la casa inmaculada. (Enrique is fussy. He always keeps his house spotless.)

16. Estar en la luna (To be absent-minded/spaced out)

Estar en la luna is an idiomatic expression that literally translates to “to be on the moon” in English. It’s used to describe someone who’s absent-minded, daydreaming or not paying attention to what’s happening around them.

Hoy en clase, María estaba en la luna y no escuchó nada de lo que dijo el profesor. (Today in class, María was daydreaming and didn’t hear anything the teacher said.)

17. Estar a dos velas (To be broke)

When you’re out of money and haven’t got two pennies to rub together, you can use this expression, which literally means “To be at two candles” (i.e., You only have two candles left).

No puedo ir al cine. Estoy a dos velas. (I can’t go to the movie theater. I’m broke.)

18. Estar chungo (To feel sick/to be in bad shape)

This is a very common informal expression. The inanimate can also be chungo, so, for example, when el televisor está chungo  (“the TV is on the fritz”) it needs to be repaired or replaced.

Hoy no puedo ir al trabajo, estoy chungo. (I can’t go to work today, I’m not feeling well.)

19. Estar de mala leche (To be in a bad mood)

Estar de mala leche is an informal phrase commonly used in Spain. It literally translates to “to be of bad milk” but figuratively means “to be in a bad mood” or “to be angry.” It’s used to describe someone who’s irritable, upset or easily provoked.

Hoy está de mala leche, mejor no le hables. (He’s in a bad mood today, better not talk to him).

20. Estar de paro (To be unemployed)

This colloquial phrase is used to describe someone who’s currently unemployed or out of work. 

Juan está de paro desde hace tres meses. (Juan has been unemployed for three months.)

21. Estar hecho un Cristo (To be in a sorry state)

While it literally translates to “to be made a Christ,” this phrase is used to say that someone or something is a complete mess or in a sorry state. 

La habitación de mi hijo está hecha un Cristo. (My son’s bedroom is a complete disaster.)

22. Estar en la edad del pavo (To be at an awkward age)

Literally “to be in the age of the turkey,” this expression refers to those awkward preteen or teen years we all remember (or try our hardest not to).

Mi hija está en la edad del pavo y no hay quien la aguante. (My daughter’s at that awkward age and completely unbearable.)

23. Tirarse un pedo (To fart)

It’s unclear why this verb is reflexive, as it makes it literally mean that one is throwing un pedo (a fart) on themselves…but it sure makes for an unforgettable expression!

Se tiró un pedo en la clase y le echó la culpa a su amigo. (He farted in class and blamed it on his friend.)

24. Estar pedo / ir pedo / llevar un buen pedo  (To be drunk/wasted)

Unlike the previous one, these phrases do not refer to flatulence. They’re all variations of an expression meaning that someone is more than a little bit tipsy.

Sergio estaba pedo anoche. Ni siquiera pudo ir al trabajo esta mañana. (Sergio was wasted last night. He couldn’t even go to work this morning.) 

25. Estar ciego  (To be blind drunk)

Ciego means blind, so the expression is very similar to ours in English.

Lo echaron del club porque estaba ciego. (They kicked him out of the club because he was blind drunk.)

26. Poner los cuernos (To cheat/be unfaithful)

This phrase literally means “to put the horns” on someone. It refers to when someone cheats on someone else in a relationship. 

Ella terminó con su ex-novio porque le puso los cuernos. (She broke up with her ex-boyfriend because he cheated on her.)

27. Hacer la cobra (To pull or lean away) 

“To do the cobra” usually refers to the neck acrobatics one does when trying to avoid a kiss.

Anoche en la discoteca ella le hizo la cobra a Jaime cuando intentó besarla. (Last night in the club she dodged the kiss that Jaime tried to give her.)

28. Tener morro (To have nerve)

Morro means “snout,” but this phrase refers to someone having audacity, cheek or nerve. It’s used when a person has the boldness to do something, often implying they have crossed a line or acted inappropriately.

You can also use ¡Qué morro!” (What nerve!) as a reaction.  

Ella tiene mucho morro. Llega tarde al trabajo todos los días y ahora quiere más vacaciones. (She’s got a lot of nerve. She arrives late to work every day and now she wants more vacation time.)

29. Dar la lata (To be a nuisance)

Dar la lata (literally: “to give the can”) is an expression that means “to be a nuisance” or “to bother someone.” You can use it when someone’s being persistent, nagging you or demanding attention.

Mi hermanito siempre me da la lata cuando quiere jugar. (My little brother always bothers me when he wants to play.)

30. Montar un pollo  (To make a scene)

This phrase literally means “to ride a chicken,” but is used to refer to someone making a scene. Montar pollo without the un carries a slightly different and more positive connotation. It means to liven up or animate a crowd. 

This expression comes with a warning: Be very, very careful about the gender of pollo! The feminine version of the word turns this phrase into something rather crass.

No tengo miedo de montar un pollo cuando la gente se interpone frente a mí en la fila. (I’m not afraid to make a scene when people cut in front of me in line.)

Ayer en el partido de fútbol José montaba pollo en las gradas. (Yesterday at the soccer game José was animating the crowd in the stands.)

31. Disfrutar como un enano (To have a blast)

Literally “to enjoy like a dwarf,” this means to have a really good time. One possible origin of this expression is that back in the day, dwarves had to entertain royalty in the courts and constantly feign merriness.

Another possible origin is that enano can be an affectionate way to refer to a youngster and—as we all know—kids just tend to have more fun.

La fiesta de anoche estuvo genial. Disfrutamos como enanos. (Last night’s party was awesome. We had a great time.)

32. Tener una flor en el culo (To be very lucky)

This funny phrase literally means “to have a flower in the butt.” It refers to someone who’s s very lucky or has a lot of good fortune. 

Siempre gana en la lotería. Debe de tener una flor en el culo. (He always wins the lottery. He must be really lucky.)

33. Ahogarse en un vaso de agua (To drown in a glass of water)

This phrase is much more visually stimulating than the English equivalent: “To make a mountain out of a molehill.” It’s used to describe someone who’s making a big deal out of a minor problem or overreacting to a situation.

Me parece que te estás ahogando en un vaso de agua. La situación no es tan complicada. (I think you’re making a big deal out of nothing. The situation isn’t that complicated.)

34. El abrazo de koala (An awkward hug)

This is a fairly modern expression (literally meaning “the koala hug”) that’s used to refer to the awkward and sympathetic pat on the back sort of hug that one gives to someone that they’ve sentenced to the “friend zone.” 

¡Pobrecilla! Él siempre le da el abrazo de koala cuando ella intenta ligar. (Poor thing! He always puts her in the friend zone with his hugs when she tries to flirt.)

35. Ni fu ni fa (It makes no difference)

Ni fu ni fa is a common informal Spanish phrase used to express indifference or a lack of strong feelings about a particular situation or topic. It’s similar to saying “neither here nor there” or “it doesn’t matter to me.”

¿Quieres almorzar pizza o hamburguesas? (Do you want to have pizza or hamburgers for lunch?)

Ni fu ni fa, lo que tú prefieras está bien. (It doesn’t matter to me, whatever you prefer is fine.)

36. Se le fue la olla (He/she lost it)

This phrase is used when someone gets distracted, forgets something, says something ridiculous or acts crazy. 

Olla means pan and se me ha ido literally means “it went away on/escaped from me,” so it basically means you’ve lost the pan.

Instead of la olla, Spaniards also say la pinza  (the clothespin), la perola (the saucepan) or la castaña (chestnut). The last one sometimes expresses a bit more insanity and/or anger.

¡Se me fue la pinza y perdí el bus! (I got distracted and missed the bus!)

A Juan se le ha ido la castaña desde que empezó su nuevo trabajo. (Juan’s gone crazy since he started his new job.)

37. ¡Que se te escapa el pajarito! (Your zipper is down)

This phrase literally means “Your bird is escaping!” It’s a funny way to inform someone that their zipper is down, like our “XYZ” (examine your zipper) in English. 

If such a colloquial phrase doesn’t feel appropriate, you can always use the basic “tienes la cremallera abierta”  (your zipper is open).

38. ¡La madre que me parió! (The mother who gave birth to me!)

This expression is used to express surprise, shock, annoyance or frustration. Perhaps a more accurate translation would be something like “holy sweet mother of God!”—or something a bit more vulgar depending on the situation.

You may also hear it said with lo or te instead of me. When used with te, it’s generally more of an insult. 

¡La madre que me parió, acabo de pedir todo mi ensayo! (Sh*t, I just lost my whole essay!)

39. Con dinero baila el perro (Money talks)

Literally meaning “with money the dog will dance,” this phrase is used in Spain the same way we use “money talks” or “money makes the world go ’round” in English. It highlights the power and influence of money in various aspects of life.

Con dinero baila el perro; si quieres un favor, a veces solo necesitas ofrecer una recompensa. (Money makes the world go ’round; if you want a favor, sometimes all you need to do is offer a reward.)

40. No está el horno para bollos (It’s not the right moment) 

Literally meaning “the oven is not ready for buns,” this is a colloquial way of saying that it’s just not the right time for something due to the circumstances.

It can also be used to indicate that someone’s in a bad mood or not receptive to something. For instance, if someone is acting irritable, you might say:

Hoy no le hables, no está el horno para bollos. (Don’t talk to him today, he’s in a bad mood.)

41. ¿A papá le vas a decir como hacer hijos? (Are you going to tell Dad how to make babies?)

This question is used humorously or sarcastically to imply that someone is giving unsolicited advice or trying to teach you something you already know very well.

¿A papá le vas a decir como hacer hijos? Soy el que tiene un título en ingeniería. (Are you going to tell Dad how to make babies? I’m the one with a degree in engineering.)

How to Continue to Learn Informal Spanish

This post can serve as a good starting point as you continue to develop your knowledge of Spanish as it’s actually spoken in Spain.

Another way you can develop your knowledge of informal Spanish is through message boards. A popular one in Spain is Menéame, which functions a bit like Reddit.

You can also learn casual speech with immersive Spanish programs. For example, since FluentU teaches Spanish through authentic videos, it’ll allow you to hear natural, informal speaking. 

Podcasts made for native speakers are another great way to listen to informal Spanish. Here’s a list of podcasts you can use to find more of these words and phrases. 

 

With these informal Spanish phrases, you can enjoy feeling like a true blue Spaniard the next time you go out for tapas with your new friends!

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