spanish slang

Guay! 40 Popular Spanish Slang Phrases That Aren’t Bull

Have you ever imagined visiting picturesque Peru?

How about coastal Colombia?

Do you dream about dining on jamón, tapas and Rioja in sunny Spain?

Or checking out the Alhambra, running with the bulls or dancing the night away in Ibiza?

Are you also nervous about speaking Spanish with locals who have a different lingo than you might be used to?

The truth is that speaking Spanish abroad is challenging.

If you learned Spanish from an educational textbook like I did, you’re probably blissfully unaware of all the slang words that native speakers use every day.

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 40 popular Spanish slang words, you’ll be speaking like a native in no time.

Guay! 40 Popular Spanish Slang Phrases That Aren’t Bull

1. Colega

spanish slang

Literal meaning: Colleague

Slang meaning: Friend, pal

Explanation: 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.

Examples:

Ayer fui a la fiesta con mis colegas. (Yesterday, I went to the party with my friends.)

¡Eh, colega! (Hey, friend!)

2. Tío(a)

spanish slang

Literal meaning: Uncle (Aunt)

Slang meaning: Friend, guy, pal

Explanation: 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.

Examples: If 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.)

3. Chaval(a)

spanish slang

Literal meaning: None

Slang meaning: Kid, youngster

Explanation: I like to think of chaval and chavala as the younger versions 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).

Examples: 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

spanish slang

Literal meaning: The elderly

Slang meaning: Parents

Explanation: 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).

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 a 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)

spanish slang

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

Explanation: 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.

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

spanish slang

Literal meaning: To be like a goat

Slang meaning: To be crazy

Explanation: 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.

Example:

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

spanish slang

Literal meaning: To be “in balls”

Slang meaning: To be naked

Explanation: 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.

Example:

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)!

8. Vale

spanish slang

Literal meaning: “It’s worth it” or a ticket or coupon

Slang meaning: Okay, yes or “let’s do it!”

Explanation: 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.

Example: Imagine 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!)

9. Okay

spanish slang

Literal meaning: Okay

Slang meaning: Okay

Explanation: 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 Spanish. No translation needed. Maybe just try to say it with a little bit of an accent to sound local, okay?

Example:

¿Puedas lavar los platos? (Can you wash the dishes?) Okay. (Okay.)

10. Guay

spanish slang

Literal meaning: None

Slang meaning: Cool/great

Explanation: 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.”

Examples: If you’re showing off your fancy new iPhone, your friends might say:

¡Qué guay! (How cool!)

¿Quedamos a las diez? (Want to meet up at 10?) your colega (friend) asks. ¡Guay! (cool/okay) you say.

11. Molar

spanish slang

Literal meaning: Molar (tooth)

Slang meaning: To like

Explanation: 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).

Examples: 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!)

12. Chulo

spanish slang

Literal meaning: Neat

Slang meaning: Neat, lovely, cool (referring to a thing)

Explanation: 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.

Example: 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.

13. Comerse el coco

spanish slang

Literal meaning: Eat your coconut

Slang meaning: Think too much and drive yourself crazy

Explanation: When you have something on your mind and you think constantly about it, this is the term that’ll apply to that situation. It basically means to overthink something, which is often not necessary—or a good idea!

If you think about how difficult it is to eat a coconut, you can see that this phrase is making the point that there are things that are wise not to attempt. You could drive yourself crazy trying to eat a coconut!

Example:

Se está comiendo el coco y se está volviendo loco. (He’s overthinking and driving himself crazy.)

14. Mucha mierda

spanish slang

Literal meaning: A lot of crap

Slang meaning: Break a leg

Explanation: The origin of this way of wishing someone good luck in an endeavor is a bit of a mystery, but the slang is widely used in Spanish-speaking countries.

Example:

¿Tienes un nuevo trabajo? ¡Mucha mierda! (You have a new job? Break a leg!)

15. En chinga

spanish slang

Literal meaning: In excrement

Slang meaning: To be in a rush to finish something

Explanation: There’s no definitive way to determine exactly how rushing to do something equates to being in excrement, but be aware that this is a pretty popular term, so don’t be offended if you hear that someone is en chinga (hurrying to do something).

Example:

Estoy comiendo en chinga. (I’m eating in a rush.)

16. Wey

spanish slang

Literal meaning: None

Slang meaning: Dude

Explanation: Wey is a slang way to call someone a dude, but beware: It’s also sometimes used to refer to someone as an idiot. So this is one of those times when you’ll have to decide on the meaning based on conversational cues with this common slang term.

Example:

¿Wey, quieres ir al cine? (Dude, want to go to the movies?)

17. Mula

spanish slang

Literal meaning: Mule

Slang meaning: Dumb or stupid

Explanation: This term is used in Guatemala to reference someone’s lack of intelligence. It isn’t a very nice slang word that would be used to make new friends. However, among friends, it’s one of those terms that can be tossed about. So, choose your conversational partners carefully if you’re planning to use this one!

Example: When someone says something ridiculous, they might hear ¡Mula! (Stupid!).

18. ¡Qué chido!

spanish slang

Literal meaning: How cool!

Slang meaning: Very good

Explanation: In Mexico, saying something is very good is simple. ¡Qué chido! (How cool!) works nearly every time! And, it’s an easy phrase to remember, so add this one to your conversational skillset and impress your local friends with this tidbit!

Example:

¿Le gusta la comida? ¡Qué chido! (He likes the food? Very good!)

19. ¡Que chilero!

spanish slang

Literal meaning: None

Slang meaning: Cool or very good

Explanation: Are you planning on spending some time in Guatemala? If you are, you’ll want to grab this sweet little phrase that pretty much covers anything that’s agreeable. Use it to show appreciation for food, shopping, events or whatever else comes your way!

Example: If your friends say, “Vamos a nadar” (“We’re going swimming”), your reply might be“¡Que chilero!” (“Cool!”).

20. ¡Qué pasada!

spanish slang

Literal meaning: That last!

Slang meaning: Cool or very good

Explanation: If you travel to Spain, you may hear this snappy expression a lot. This basically means that something is cool or that it’s very good. So you can see how it applies across the board to so many situations and events. Grab this expression and sound like a local when you pepper your conversations with it!

Example:

¿Compraste zapatos nuevos a la venta? ¡Qué pasada! (You bought new shoes on sale? Very good!)

21. Güera

spanish slang

Literal meaning: White girl

Slang meaning: Light-haired girl

Explanation: If you’re a blonde female traveling in Mexico, you may encounter the term güera. It references the fact that your hair color is light.

Example:

Pregúntale a la güera. (Ask the light-haired girl.)

22. Galla

spanish slang

Literal meaning: Gallo means rooster

Slang meaning: Girl

Explanation: Gallo (rooster) has been turned into a feminine form to refer to a girl. It’s a bit of slang that’s used in Chile. Some take it so far as to say it means “chick,” but that’s not something everyone I’ve asked cites as accurate. It’s, I suppose, open to interpretation! But if you use this word to mean “girl,” you might just sound like a local in Chile!

Example:

Ella es una linda galla. (She’s a cute girl.)

23. Nena

spanish slang

Literal meaning: Baby

Slang meaning: Girl

Explanation: Puerto Rican slang is vivid and often descriptive, but one of its simplest words is nena (girl)—and it’s one of the most frequently used! The interesting thing about this slang word is that it can reference almost any female, from toddler age up into adulthood. However, calling someone who is of advanced years, like someone’s mother or grandmother, this would be disrespectful. So, be mindful of showing respect, but have fun with this one!

Example:

¡Te ves hermosa hoy, nena! (You look beautiful today, girl!)

24. Buey

spanish slang

Literal meaning: Ox

Slang meaning: Male friend, a buddy or pal

Explanation: Mexican slang for buddy or pal, this one is used often, so if you’re spending any time in Mexico you’re sure to hear it! This is one of those terms that allow an onlooker to gauge the closeness of a friendship. Real tight amigos (friends) use this in conversational exchanges a lot!

Example:

Esa fue una excelente comida, buey. (That was some excellent food, friend.)

25. Carnal

spanish slang

Literal meaning: None

Slang meaning: Male friend, dude

Explanation: This term for a male friend is commonly heard in Mexico.

Example:

Estábamos en la playa, carnal. (We were at the beach, dude.)

26. Cuatro gatos

spanish slang

Literal meaning: Four cats

Slang meaning: Small gathering

Explanation: This Spanish slang term almost doesn’t need any explanation, does it? A small gathering is like four cats coming together in one place. This one is easy to remember and can boost conversational skills a ton because it’s so versatile. Use it often—and impress your Spanish-speaking friends with this cute phrase.

Example:

¿La fiesta? Eran cuatro gatos. (The party? It was a small gathering.)

27. Alcornoque

spanish slang

Literal meaning: Cork oak

Slang meaning: A foolish or silly person

Explanation: There are times when one needs a word or phrase to reference a foolish person or even just someone behaving in a foolish manner. This is the Spanish word that takes care of that need!

Example:

No seas un alcornoque. ¡Ve a la fiesta y diviértete! (Don’t be silly! Go to the party and have fun!)

28. Papa frita

spanish slang

Literal meaning: French fry

Slang meaning: Dumb person

Explanation: It’s almost impossible not to smile when you learn this slang expression, isn’t it? I know that I personally use this a lot in a very joking manner among close family and friends. I don’t intentionally degrade someone’s intelligence—I don’t think this phrase does that at all. It’s useful for moments when either you or someone you know makes a silly mistake. It teases, lightens a situation and generally makes people smile.

Example:

Papa frita, vas por el camino equivocado. (French fry, you’re going the wrong way.)

By the way, I heard this just a few days ago—and I’m still smiling. And yes, I was going the wrong way!

29. Mosca

spanish slang

Literal meaning: Fly

Slang meaning: An annoying person

Explanation: We’ve all had the experience of being buzzed by a circling fly. We’ve swatted them away and hoped they’d just leave us alone because they’re definitely annoying.

Mosca likens an annoying person to a fly because both can be bothersome!

Example:

No le hagas caso. ¡Es una mosca! (Don’t listen to him. He’s annoying!)

30. Cotilla

spanish slang

Literal meaning: Gossip

Slang meaning: A busybody or person who gossips

Explanation: If you’re fortunate enough to be in Spain, there’s a good chance you’ll hear the word cotilla—but used to mean more than just the gossip itself. In its slang usage, it actually means the person who’s gossiping. It also references someone who needs to know everyone’s business and is adept at poking into things that aren’t any of their concern.

Example:

Esa mujer es una cotilla. Ella siempre está escuchando secretos. (That woman is a busybody. She’s always listening to secrets.)

31. Ese

spanish slang

Literal meaning: That

Slang meaning: Homie

Explanation: I’m not sure there’s any logical explanation for this one!

Example:

Ese, nos vemos en el club. (Homie, I’ll see you at the club.)

32. Mano

spanish slang

Literal meaning: Hand

Slang meaning: Homie

Explanation: We’re familiar with the phrase “right-hand man” when it’s used to show closeness, a bond or friendship with a person. This Spanish slang brings that into play, referencing the hand to show the relationship between close friends.

Example:

Vamos al partido de baloncesto esta noche, mano. (We’ll go to the basketball game tonight, homie.)

33. ¿Qué hubo?

spanish slang

Literal meaning: What was there?

Slang meaning: What’s up?

Explanation: In Colombia, as in many other parts of the world, it’s common for people to greet each other with the expression “What’s up?” This Colombian slang is just an offbeat twist on the common phrase.

Example: If you’re traveling in Colombia and meet up with someone you know, try saying “¿Qué hubo?” to sound like a local!

34. ¡Tra!

spanish slang

Literal meaning: None

Slang meaning: Bye

Explanation: In some Spanish-speaking countries, this sound is offered as a farewell. It’s an easy-to-remember bit of conversational lingo that could make you feel either awkward or cool, depending on your vibe!

Example:

Me voy. ¡Tra! (I’m leaving. Bye!)

35. Plata

spanish slang

Literal meaning: Silver

Slang meaning: Money

Explanation: This one is pretty straightforward. Use the word for silver to stand in as a term for money. It’s not too big a stretch, is it?

Example:

¿Que necesitas? (What do you need?) Necesito plata. (I need money.)

36. Sope

spanish slang

Literal meaning: None

Slang meaning: Peso

Explanation: If you’re traveling in Mexico, you may hear this slang term for a peso, which is a form of Mexican currency. No one really seems to know how this silly bit of slang began—or if they do, they’re not sharing it! The common belief is that the four letters that make up the word peso just got shifted around and formed this new slang term for the same amount of cash.

Example:

¿Cuánto cuesta el refresco? Diez sopes. (How much is the soda? Ten sopes.)

37. Caramba

spanish slang

Literal meaning: None

Slang meaning: You know

Explanation: Caramba has been one of those all-purpose expressions used by Spanish speakers to express surprise or pain. Now, it’s also used to show that you believe someone already knows the answer to something—so when they ask a question, you might just reply ¡Caramba! (You know!)

Example:

¿A qué hora es la fiesta? (What time is the party?) ¡Caramba! (You know!)

38. Caray

spanish slang

Literal meaning: None

Slang meaning: Damn or jeez

Explanation: This is a small word that can say a lot! It’s shortened from the word caramba and is used to express annoyance, dismay or even disgust over something.

Example: If you’d use the word “damn” in English, you could use the word caray in Spanish. It’s a pretty basic swap that’ll be readily understood in many Spanish-speaking countries! Just be sure to say it with enthusiasm, so you use the exclamation points. “¡Caray!”

39. Pasar el mono a pelo

spanish slang

Literal meaning: Pass the monkey bareback

Slang meaning: Go cold turkey

Explanation: This is a prime example of a slang term that may not have an explanation. It references stopping something suddenly, like a bad habit or even a luxury that may be eating away at a budget.

Example:

Él no está bebiendo cerveza hoy. Él esta tratando de pasar el mono a pelo. (He’s not drinking beer today. He’s trying to go cold turkey.)

40. Vamo

spanish slang

Literal meaning: Let’s go

Slang meaning: Let’s go

Explanation: This is the shortened version of vamos (we go) or vámonos (let’s go). It’s just a quicker way to get the crowd moving!

Example: Want to get the group going without sounding too harsh? Try ¡Vamo! (Let’s go!) as a friendly, slang way to start everyone moving!

 

What’s next? Listen for these new slang words while you watch Spanish TV or your favorite FluentU videos!

Maybe you can crack open a Rioja and eat some tapas while you’re at it (do cheesy poofs count?).

And if you think this post is guay, let us know!

And One More Thing…

If you've made it this far that means you probably enjoy learning Spanish with engaging material and will then love FluentU.

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.

FluentU has a wide variety of videos, as you can see here:

learn-spanish-with-videos

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-spanish-with-interactive-subtitled-videos

Review a complete interactive transcript under the Dialogue tab, and find words and phrases listed under Vocab.

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Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s robust learning engine. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.

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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.

Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app.

You’ll find tons of videos that can teach you Spain’s Spanish, like “Madrid’s Tempting Tapas” or the “Idioms of Spain” series (which has at least 14 installments up on FluentU).

 

If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Spanish with real-world videos.

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