Have you ever imagined visiting sunny Spain?
Do you dream about dining on jamón, tapas and Rioja?
The truth is that speaking Spanish in Spain is challenging.
In fact, you might even feel like you’re learning a new language!
Fear not, lucky readers.
Because I love you, I’ve put together a list of Spanish slang words I wish I had known before my plane touched down in chula España (lovely Spain). With these 12 popular Spanish slang words, you’ll be speaking like a Spaniard in no time.
Speaking Spaniard: 12 Popular Spanish Slang Words in Spain
Literal meaning: Colleague
Slang meaning: Friend, pal
One of the first Spanish words I ever learned was probably amigo (friend). While you can certainly use amigo in Spain, you’ll find that the younger Spaniards commonly use colega when they’re referring to a friend.
Tip: keep the a at the end regardless of if your friend is male or female.
Ayer fui a la fiesta con mis colegas. (Yesterday I went to the party with my friends.)
¡Eh, colega! (Hey, friend!)
Literal meaning: Uncle (Aunt)
Slang meaning: Friend, guy, pal
One of my young Spanish friends was always talking about this tío (uncle) and that tía (aunt) and I was convinced he had a huge family. WRONG! Here tío and tía can also be used to refer to a friend or even a stranger.
For example, you’re sitting on a bench in Retiro park watching the world go by and your colega (friend) says:
¡Mira a esta tía con el sombrero loco! (Look at this girl with the crazy hat!) Whiplash!
If you see a friend on the street, you might say:
¡Eh, tía! ¿Qué tal? (Hey girl! How are you?)
And don’t forget, you can still use tío to talk about real family:
Siempre vamos a la casa de mis tíos para cenar. (We always go to my aunt and uncle’s house for dinner.)
Slang meaning: Kid, youngster
I like to think of chaval and chavala as the younger version of tío and tía. While you’re in Spain you’ll likely come across gaggles of teens loitering in the street… yep, those are chavales (young people).
For example, an older Spaniard might say:
Los chavales hoy no tienen buenos modales. (The young people today don’t have good manners.)
A teen might greet a friend with:
¡Ey, chaval! (Hey, buddy!)
4. Los Viejos
Literal meaning: The elderly
Slang meaning: Parents
This one comes with a warning. Young people in Spain sometimes refer to their parents as los viejos (the elderly) in the presence of friends and, depending on their relationship with their parents, a daring few might also use it to directly address their parents. Ouch! In these cases, it’s more like saying “my old man” in an affectionate and playful way.
If you want to take the risk, this can be used as a substitution for the Spanish 101 classic padres (parents). Hint: if they’re your parents, you can also use mis (my) instead of los (the).
For example, you want to go out but your parents have other ideas. Tough luck for you! This is something you might comment to your friend:
Quiero salir pero mis viejos me obligan quedarme y cuidar a mi sobrino. (I want to go out but my parents told me I have to stay and look after my nephew.)
5. Ser majo(a)
Literal meaning: The name for a Madrid resident from a popular neighborhood known for its colorful dress and arrogant attitudes (18th and 19th centuries).
Slang meaning: To be nice
If a Spaniard says that you’re majo, they mean that you’re simpático (nice). Smile and graciously accept the compliment, you nice person, you.
For example, when you’re talking about a colega (friend):
María siempre ayuda a sus amigas cuando están tristes. Ella es tan maja. (Maria always helps her friends when they’re sad. She’s so nice.)
6. Estar como una cabra
Literal meaning: To be like a goat
Slang meaning: To be crazy
If you have a batty great aunt who hoards tinfoil, you might refer to her (lovingly, of course!) with estar como una cabra (to be crazy or to be like a goat). Could be worse, I suppose. Hint: keep una and the final a on cabra despite the sex of the crazy person, okay? This word will always be feminine.
Mi abuelo está como una cabra. Piensa que los extraterrestres visitan su casa cada domingo. (My grandpa is crazy. He thinks that aliens visit his house every Sunday.)
7. Estar en pelotas
Literal meaning: To be “in balls”
Slang meaning: To be naked
Hopefully you won’t need this term to describe your Christmas holiday break with family because nobody likes to see their parents (siblings, grandparents, etc.) naked or literally “in balls.” Or maybe you live at a nudist colony, in which case, no biggie. And you’re welcome for this helpful phrase.
Estaba en pelotas cuando mi padre entró a mi habitación para buscar algo. ¡Qué horror! (I was naked when my dad entered my room to look for something. How horrible!)
Truly a moment you will never forget. And now you know how to share it with Spanish friends over cañas (beers)!
Literal meaning: “It’s worth it” or a ticket or coupon
Slang meaning: Okay, yes or “let’s do it!”
This one’s extremely popular. If someone tells you something and you want to confirm that you’ve heard, say vale (okay). You can also use it in place of the word “yes” when someone asks you a question.
For example, you’re cooking at a friend’s house and can’t find the salt. Your friend says while pointing: “La sal está allí.” (The salt is there.) You say: “¡Vale!” (Okay!)
¿Quieres ir al cine a las nueve? (Do you want to go to the movies at nine?) Yes, I’m speaking to you, reader. Of course you do! You know what to say: ¡Vale! (Yes!)
You’ve been working hard on all of this Spanish slang, so I thought I’d throw you a meatball. Believe it or not, it’s common to say okay in Spain. No translation needed. Maybe just try to say it with a little bit of an accent to sound local, okay?
Slang meaning: Cool / Great
You’ll definitely want to incorporate this in your repertoire when you’re in Spain. If you like something because it’s cool, awesome or you get the picture… you can say that it’s guay (cool). You can also use it as a more excited “okay” or “great.”
For example, you show off your fancy new iPhone and your friends say:
¡Qué guay! (How cool!)
¿Quedamos a las diez? (Want to meet up at 10?) your colega (friend) asks. ¡Guay! (cool / okay) you say.
Slang meaning: To like
Something that’s mola is something cool. If you know the verb gustar (to like) then you’re on your way to using molar (to like). Like gustar, this verb is conjugated to reflect the thing you like and doesn’t refer to you (although you might like yourself a lot too…but I digress).
So if you want to say that you fancy something (or someone), you’d say, for instance:
“Maria me mola” (I like Maria).
And if you show your brother a funny YouTube video, he might exclaim:
¡Mola! or ¡Me mola! (I like it!)
Slang meaning: Neat, lovely (referring to a thing)
In beginner Spanish, I learned and often relied on the word bonito (pretty) to describe nice looking things. In Spain, it’s common to use the word chulo (neat, lovely) in the place of bonito (pretty). It can also be used to say that something’s “cool,” as in “¡Qué chulo!” (How cool!)
On the other hand, if you use chulo to refer to a person in Spain, it can have a negative connotation, that the person’s conceited.
So if you give your friend a birthday gift and she exclaims ¡Qué chulo! (How cool/lovely!) then you’ve probably done a good job on the gift.
Maybe you can crack open a Rioja and eat some tapas while you’re at it (do cheezy poofs count?).
And if you think this post is guay, let us know!
And One More Thing…
If you like learning colorful, memorable Spanish lessons like these, then you’ll love FluentU.
FluentU takes real-world videos like music videos, commercials, news, and inspiring talks and turns them into Spanish learning experiences.
Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the Spanish language and culture over time. You’ll learn Spanish as it’s actually spoken by real people.
You’ll find tons of videos that can teach you Spain’s Spanish, like “Spain Loves McDonald’s Coffee,” “Madrid’s Tempting Tapas” or the “Idioms of Spain” series (which has at least 14 installments up on FluentU).
FluentU has a wide variety of videos—topics like soccer, TV shows, business, movies and even magical realism, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts. You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used. If you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.
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 you examples and videos based on the words you’ve already learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning the same video.
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