Looking to have a huge head start when you travel to Mexico?
Want to impress the locals with your Spanish?
Whether you want to better understand what’s going on around you or show off your language skills, one thing is true:
You’ve gotta learn the slang.
But let me take a wild guess: Your Spanish teacher never taught you words like chida or chelas in class, right?
Even if you speak Spanish at an intermediate level or above, if you’ve never spent any time in Mexico then you’ve probably never seen those words before.
But that’s why we’re going to give you a brief introduction to the country’s unique version of Spanish—and by the time we’re done, you’ll be able to understand a full conversation between two Mexicans.
Before we jump right into the slang, let’s take a look at some of the general characteristics of Mexican Spanish.
Some Basic Information on Mexican Spanish
Here’s the good news—if you began learning Spanish in school somewhere in the United States, Mexican Spanish is most likely the style you’re already familiar with. But if you’re from another part of the world or have just been studying independently, here’s what you need to know:
- In Mexican Spanish, the pronoun tú is used for the second-person familiar form. This means that Mexicans use tú as the singular “you” in informal settings, such as with friends or family. This is opposed to the pronoun vos that’s used in parts of Central and South America.
- As in the rest of Latin America, the pronoun vosotros in not used in Mexican Spanish. If you’ve been learning the variety of Spanish spoken in Spain, you’ve come to know vosotros as the familiar way to say “you” when referring to a group of people. In Mexican Spanish, this form is never used. Mexicans use ustedes even in informal settings.
- Mexican Spanish seems to feature more loanwords from English than other national dialects. In Mexico, what you do in your spare time isn’t a pasatiempo but rather a hobby (pronounced with the English “h” sound!). A reality television show is simply a reality. If you’re trying out a new style, you might be asked about your nuevo look… and the list goes on. This phenomenon is due in large part to Mexico’s proximity to the United States and the historic movement of citizens between the two countries.
Resources for Learning Mexican Slang
The “Quick Guide to Mexican Slang” is a compact volume that’s an ideal take-along resource. It’s filled with definitions, example sentences, online links for further study and lots of relevant information about Mexican Spanish.
There are more than 500 words and phrases included in this book. Many slangy words, both old and new, are covered! It’s a great way to brush up on the essentials!
“Mexislang” is the end result of a blog that was intended to teach readers about Mexican slang. It offers insight on the history of slang expressions. Additionally, there are tips for how to use each slangy word or phrase.
This is a useful guide for anyone who plans to spend some time in Mexico, perhaps on an extended visit. It’s also just interesting reading for language lovers!
Serious students of Mexican Spanish will find exactly what they’re looking for with this Mexican language school, which offers immersive programs in both Maya and Spanish. The option to stay with Mexican families to immerse in the language is a super way to learn about culture—including slang!
Also, they have a fantastic blog that’s both informative and entertaining. History, culture, Mexican Spanish, news of the day and much more is extensively portrayed!
Got it? Now that we’ve got the basics out of the way, it’s time to get to the heart of the matter. Let’s take a look at a few prominent themes running throughout Mexican Spanish slang.
25 Mexican Spanish Slang Terms and Expressions to Sound Like a True Mexican
Mexican Spanish Slang About… My Parents?
Padre (father) and madre (mother) are two popular words used in a variety of Mexican Spanish slang phrases. In what seems to be a direct connection to the sexism that has historically pervaded Mexican culture, we can generally understand padre to be a positive word and madre to be a negative one.
Confused? Let’s look at some examples:
1. ¡Qué padre!
This phrase’s literal translation, “How father!”, doesn’t make much sense at all—which will, of course, become a running theme in an article on slang! That said, it can be understood to mean “Cool!” or “Awesome!” and is without a doubt one of the most commonly used phrases punctuating day-to-day Mexican Spanish.
2. Me vale madre
Translated literally as, “It’s worth a mother to me,” this phrase is used to say “I don’t care” or “It doesn’t matter to me at all.” It’s not quite a curse, but it can be considered offensive in more formal situations.
3. Poca madre
Literally translated as “little mother,” this is sort of an inversion on the “mother” theme. Because it’s only a little bit mother, this phrase is used to describe something really cool. Once again, this phrase can be considered offensive and is mostly used among groups of young men.
Though every Mexican has a different take on things, the gender-loaded nature of these slang phrases is beginning to come under a bit of scrutiny in modern Mexico.
The use of padre is generally fine, but many women (and some men) do take offense at the negative use of the word madre. It’s good to understand how the word is used, but it’s probably best to avoid using it yourself.
Some Mexican Slang for Food and Drink
Mexican Spanish slang uses several words normally related to food and drink to mean other things entirely.
Literally a “strawberry,” a fresa is not something you want to be. Somewhat similar to the word “preppy” in the United States but even more negative in its connotations, a fresa is a young person from a wealthy family who’s self-centered, superficial and materialistic.
This phrase is used throughout Mexico to mean “Be careful!” or “Look out!” Literally meaning “waters,” it’s possible that this usage evolved from housewives throwing buckets of water to clean the sidewalks in front of their homes.
6. ¡A huevo!
Huevos (eggs), it must be said, make up an entire family of Mexican Spanish slang. They’re often used to denote a specific part of the male anatomy—you can probably guess which—and they’re also used in a wide variety of slang phrases. ¡A huevo! is perhaps the most popular one, and it’s basically a vulgar way to show excitement or approval. Think “F* yeah!” without the self-censorship.
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FluentU takes real-world videos—including cooking shows, street interviews, movie trailers and music videos—and turns them into language lessons you can use in everyday life. Just take a look at this small sample:
Since these videos are made for modern native Spanish speakers, the language used is exactly what you’d hear in the streets of Mexico City.
Since you’re just acclimating your ear to Mexican Spanish, FluentU is there to help you out with downloadable transcripts, active learning tools and interactive captions in English and Spanish.
Multimedia flashcards and vocabulary lists will be made from the new vocabulary and grammar you encounter while watching your chosen videos, so you can really study and reinforce everything you’ve been learning.
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s Learn Mode. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and it recommends examples and videos to you based on the words you’ve already learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning the same video.
Mexican Slang About People
This slang term means something, usually a person, who comes from Mexico City. Calling someone a Chilango is saying that they are representative of the culture of the city.
There’s ambiguity surrounding this expression. Many slang terms aren’t clear-cut, and this is an example of that issue. While some say it applies to those born in Mexico City, others insist it’s a term for those who move to the city. The “Mexico Daily News” explains it from every side—and still there’s a bit of mystery about the term.
However one arrives in the city seems inconsequential. The fact remains that the slangy term refers to those who call the beautiful capital their home.
8. Te crees muy muy
This literally means “You think you’re very very” but the slang meaning is more of “You think you’re something special.”
Often, this is used to power down someone who’s boastful or thinks they are better than anyone else. It’s a take-down that isn’t insulting.
Or, if someone thinks they are doing something incredibly well—and they make it clear that no one else can come close to their perfection—a person might hear “Te crees muy muy.”
Metiche is a slang word for someone who loves to get the scoop on everyone’s everything. This person wants to know it all—and has no issue poking a nose into other people’s lives.
The metiche isn’t usually a blabbermouth—just a person with an urgent need to know. Some people would refer to this sort of person as a busybody!
10. Pocho / Pocha
This Mexican slang term refers to a Mexican who’s left Mexico or someone who’s perhaps forgotten their Mexican roots or heritage.
This is one of those two-sided slang words. In some instances, it can be used as just an observatory expression. In that instance, it may mean that a generation isn’t as culturally observant as a previous generation. I’ve heard grandchildren use this term when trying to explain to a grandmother why buying tortillas is simpler than making them the old-school way.
But this can also be a derogatory slang word if it’s used to point out that someone is at fault for not remembering their heritage.
So it’s best to consider context when contemplating using this slang term. Or if you hear it in conversation, remember that it has more than one meaning.
Mexican Slang for Casual Conversations
“Truth?” or “Really?” is what someone’s saying when they use this little word. It’s so commonplace that I’ve heard toddlers use it!
This is a popular conversational interjection. It’s used to fill a lull in the chatter or to give someone the opportunity to come clean on an exaggeration. Oftentimes, though, it’s just said to express agreement with the last comment in a conversation.
Also, it can be a way to clarify something. If confirmation of a point is needed, ¿Neta? is the expression to use!
12. Eso que ni que
There’s no real literal translation of this expression that makes any sense in English. But as Mexican slang, this convenient little phrase means that you’re in agreement with whatever’s being discussed. It’s another conversational gem that can be useful as a filler expression.
So if someone expresses an opinion that’s similar to your own or proposes an arrangement or activity as a worthwhile endeavor, you can say “Eso que ni que” to show that you agree!
This translates as “little now” but the small word means right now, or at this very moment.
If someone asks if you’re ready to go out, ahorita is a super reply.
When do you want your dinner? “Ahorita.”
Also, it’s possible to say ahorita even when you’re not quite meaning right this very minute. For example, if you’re just a few minutes from being ready to walk out the door but the person who’s waiting for you is a tad impatient, sweetly calling “¡Ahorita!” from the other room might gain you a few extra minutes!
Mexican Slang About Money
14. Coda / Codo
Codo literally means “elbow” in English but Mexican slang has turned it into a term used to describe someone who’s cheap. It can be applied to either sex, so pay attention to the -a or -o ending of this descriptive noun.
If you’re spotted in public being tight-fisted or exceptionally frugal in the market, you might hear this word!
15. Tener feria
Feria means “fair” so the literal translation of this expression is “to have or be fair.” However, feria also refers to coins when it’s used in Mexico. So, the phrase basically means “to have money” or “to have pocket change.”
If you’re able to go have fun with your friends without having to take a loan or plead poverty, you can answer in the affirmative if you’re asked, “¿Tienes feria?” (“Do you have money?”).
The amount of money is small but the intention to have fun is large when this little phrase is passed around!
Mexican Feel-good Slang
16. Buena onda
Buena onda literally translates to “good wave” but it’s used as a slangy expression to indicate that there are good vibes or a good energy present.
I have to admit, this is my favorite Mexican slang expression. I use it all the time and it elicits more smiles and good vibes than almost any other word in my vocabulary! Try it—you’ll see what I mean!
17. ¿Qué onda?
This slangy Mexican expression translates to “What wave?” but is a cool way to ask “What’s up?”
It’s similar to buena onda in that the wave is mentioned again! Also, it’s another feel-good, casual conversational expression that really adds a lot of good feelings to any chat.
18. ¡Viva México!
Cultural love is evident across the globe and Mexicans have no shortage of pride in their beautiful country!
¡Viva México! literally means “Long live Mexico!” It’s the unifying slang term that applies to everything Mexican. It’s a way of saying that the country should grow, prosper and see happy times for its citizens and visitors. It’s often shortened to “¡Viva!” which means the same as the full phrase.
Visitors and citizens alike can use this sweet bit of slang—it’s welcome everywhere in Mexico and will certainly bring favorable reactions!
Other Classic Mexican Spanish Slang Phrases
These are the slang phrases that don’t really fall into any specific “category,” but are used popularly nonetheless.
19. ¡No manches! / ¡No mames!
These two phrases are essentially one in the same, hence why they’re grouped together. Literally meaning “Don’t stain!” and “Don’t suck!”, respectively, they’re used typically in conversation to express a sentiment of “No way!” or in less friendly situations, “Don’t mess with me!”
No manches is totally benign, but no mames is considered vulgar and can potentially be offensive.
This word is simply a fun way to say “cool” in Mexican Spanish. Despite its status as slang, it’s not vulgar or offensive in the least—so have fun with it! It can be used as both a standalone exclamation (¡Qué chido! — Cool!) or as an adjective (un carro chido — a cool car).
We’ve also seen this one written as wey and even buey in older sources, but it’s generally accepted that güey is the way to go. No matter how you write it, it’s basically pronounced like the English word “way” and it’s one of the most quintessential Mexican slang words.
Originally used to mean “a stupid person,” the word eventually morphed into a term of endearment similar to the English “dude.” It’s also one of those strange words that can be used to insult a friend in an endearing manner if you’ve seen them do something silly or stupid.
22. ¿A poco?
There’s no way to translate this one literally, it just comes back as nonsense. Mexicans, however, use it to say “Really?” when they’re feeling incredulous.
An exclamation basically meaning “Right on!” or in some situations a message of approval like “Let’s do it,” órale is another Mexican slang word that’s considered unoffensive, and is appropriate for almost any social situation. It can be said quickly and excitedly or offered up with a long, drawn-out “o” sound.
Simple enough, chela is a Mexican Spanish slang word for “beer.” There’s not much more to be said about this one…
Perhaps not slang technically, this word is uttered daily all across Mexico and we couldn’t leave it off the list! It’s literally the formal imperative form of the verb mandar (to command), perhaps ironically commanding someone to command you.
However, it’s used in Mexico in place of ¿Qué? or ¿Cómo? to respond when someone says your name. I’ve heard it explained that this response is a legacy of the especially brutal Spanish colonial era in Mexico, when people were forced to act with extreme deference to their superiors.
Sample Slangy Mexican Spanish Conversation
So, what do you know… that’s the end of the list! Remember how I said you’d be able to understand a full conversation after reading this post? Let’s take a look at one:
Oye, ¡José! (Hey José!)
¿Quieres ir a ver esa nueva película esta noche? Me dijeron que es bien chida. (Do you want to go see that new movie tonight? I heard it’s really cool.)
¿A poco, güey? No manches… Escuché que es muy mala. (Really, dude? No way… I heard it’s terrible.)
Bueno pues… ¿vamos pa’ unas chelas? (Alright then… How about we go out for some beers?)
¡Órale! Mejor eso. Nos vemos entonces. (Right on! That’s more like it. See you then.)
It makes a lot more sense now than it would have at the start, doesn’t it?
Now that you’re getting pretty well acquainted with Mexican Spanish, we also recommend you try out Gritty Spanish for realistic and fun audio learning. This is a program that’s not afraid to be bold, using vulgarity, curses and slang in their educational dialogues. And they often include the voices of native Spanish speakers from Mexico, who use their Mexican accents and slang to the max.
Assuming you’re all grown up and not opposed to offensive language, take it for a spin—they have free materials on their site which you can sample.
Then get out there and start speaking some real Mexican Spanish!
Mexican slang is colorful, descriptive and wonderfully useful. These fun words and phrases are perfect for instantly turning “program” Spanish into street Spanish. More importantly, they offer insight into some cultural nuances that language learners don’t always get to see.
Use slangy terms to power up conversations and go from basic to vivid in a heartbeat!
Jim Dobrowolski is a freelance writer, a passionate language learner and the proud husband of a dentist from Mexico. When he’s not working or blogging at Spanish Learner Central, he might be found strumming a guitar, climbing a small mountain or exploring his newly adopted hometown of Buffalo, New York.
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