Guay! 44 Popular Spanish Slang Phrases You Should Know
Want to step up your Spanish game and sound more like a native? Then you better get to know your Spanish slang!
Most traditional Spanish courses won’t teach you much slang, but we have compiled 44 of the most common Spanish slang terms to help you fit in!
Global 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!
Literal meaning: Uncle (Aunt)
Slang meaning: Friend, guy, girl
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! Tío and tía can really be used as a term of endearment for anyone older than you.
Example: You’re sitting on a bench in Retiro park watching the world go by and your friend says:
¡Eh, tía! ¿Qué tal? (Hey girl! How are you?)
Literal meaning: Neat
Slang meaning: Cool or attractive
Explanation: 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.”
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.
In Latin America chulo takes on a slightly different meaning as it is usually refers to an attractive man.
Example: If you give your Spanish friend a gift and they say “¡qué chulo!” (how cool!), you’ve probably done a good job on the gift.
If you are in Mexico, you might hear a girl call her boyfriend “papí chulo” (hot stuff).
Literal meaning: “It’s worth it” or a ticket or coupon
Slang meaning: Okay or yes
Explanation: 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!)
Literal meaning: None
Slang meaning: Dude
Explanation: Wey is used to call someone dude and is used widely in the Spanish-speaking world.
Example: ¿Wey, quieres ir al cine? (Dude, want to go to the movies?)
6. Cuatro gatos
Literal meaning: Four cats
Slang meaning: Small gathering
Explanation: This one is easy to remember and can boost conversational skills a ton because it’s so versatile.
Use it when trying to say there was a small number of people present.
Example: ¿La fiesta? Eran cuatro gatos. (The party? There were just a few of us.)
7. Papa frita
Literal meaning: French fry
Slang meaning: Dumb person
Explanation: This term is 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. (Dummy, you’re going the wrong way.)
Literal meaning: Fly
Slang meaning: An annoying person
Explanation: We’ve all dealt with annoying flies that just won’t leave you alone. This is why people often use the same word to describe a person that’s annoying!
Example: No le hagas caso. ¡Es una mosca! (Don’t listen to him. He’s annoying!)
9. Pasar el mono a pelo
Literal meaning: Pass the monkey bareback
Slang meaning: Go cold turkey
Explanation: This refers to 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.)
Literal meaning: Short for hermano
Slang meaning: Homie, bro
Explanation: Since this is the abbreviated version of the Spanish word for brother, it makes sense that this is like saying “bro.”
Example: Vamos al partido de baloncesto esta noche, mano. (We’ll go to the basketball game tonight, homie.)
Literal meaning: Slug
Slang meaning: Dimwit, dumb blonde
Explanation: A babosa is a dimwit or someone who’s gullible. This ends up being used a lot in reference to a dumb blonde.
Example: Le dije que los perros tienen cinco patas, ella es una babosa. (I told her that dogs have five legs, she’s so gullible.)
12. Un depre
Literal meaning: Depression
Slang meaning: A downer
Explanation: You probably know a person who always has something negative to say no matter what, right? Well, that person is a depre.
Example: No me gusta estar con Miguel, es un depre. (I don’t like being with Miguel, he is a downer.)
Literal meaning: Abbreviated “por favor”
Slang meaning: Please
Explanation: This is a way to say please in a quicker manner. Since it’s just the shortened version of “por favor,” the literal and slang meanings are the same.
Example: Me gustaría un café, porfa. (I’d like a coffee, please.)
Slang from Spain
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: You might hear an old person say, “los chavales hoy no tienen buenos modales.” (The young people today don’t have good manners.)
15. Me cae gordo
Literal meaning: I fall fat
Slang meaning: They bother me
Explanation: This Spanish phrase isn’t for calling someone fat! Me cae gordo means that you don’t like someone or they rub you the wrong way.
You usually use this phrase when it’s a first impression or a gut feeling.
Example: Mi nuevo jefe me cae gordo. (My new boss bothers me.)
16. Me importa un pimiento
Literal meaning: It’s as important as a pepper
Slang meaning: It doesn’t matter
Explanation: While we don’t have a phrase exactly like this in English, you can probably gather its meaning: that you don’t really care, or it isn’t worth your time or effort.
Use this phrase when you’re talking about an event or a specific item.
Example: La boda me importa un pimiento. (I could care less about the wedding.)
17. Ser la leche
Literal meaning: To be the milk
Slang meaning: That’s sick
Explanation: Ser la leche can mean both being really amazing or being awful.
It may seem bizarre that the exact same phrase can mean exactly two opposite things, but we do the same in English.
Think of the slang word “sick,” which can either mean disgusting (negative) or really cool (positive).
Examples: “¡Vamos al concierto de Bad Bunny!” (We’re going to the Bad Bunny concert!) “¡Es la leche!” (That’s sick!)
18. Mala pata
Literal meaning: Bad paw
Slang meaning: Bad luck
Explanation: Sometimes people carry around a rabbit’s foot for good luck. If you have a bad paw, you’re carrying around bad luck instead of good luck like a rabbit’s foot.
Example: Son las cinco y acaba de entrar un cliente, qué mala pata. (It’s five o’clock and a customer just walked in, what bad luck.)
19. Ir a tapear
Literal meaning: To go for tapas
Slang meaning: To go for tapas
Explanation: Tapas are a type of appetizer that’s specific to Spain. When someone wants to ir a tapear it means that they want to go out and get tapas.
Tapear isn’t really even a verb anywhere but in Spain.
Example: ¿Vamos a tapear esta noche? (Are we going to eat tapas tonight?)
20. Ser majo(a)
Literal meaning: 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).
Example: 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.)
21. Los Viejos
Literal meaning: The elderly
Slang meaning: Parents
Explanation: 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 few might also use it to directly address their parents.
In these cases, it’s more like saying “my old man” in an affectionate and playful way.
Example: “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.)
22. Estar como una cabra
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).
This word will always be feminine, no matter who it’s used for.
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.)
Literal meaning: None
Slang meaning: Cool/great
Explanation: 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!)
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).
Examples: If you want to say that you fancy something (or someone), you’d say, for instance: “Maria me mola.” (I like Maria.)
25. Comerse el coco
Literal meaning: Eat your coconut
Slang meaning: Overthink
Explanation: When you have something on your mind and you think constantly about it, this is the term that’ll apply to that situation.
Example: Se está comiendo el coco y se está volviendo loco. (He’s overthinking and driving himself crazy.)
26. ¡Qué pasada!
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.
Example: ¿Compraste zapatos nuevos a la venta? ¡Qué pasada! (You bought new shoes on sale? Very good!)
Literal meaning: Gossip
Slang meaning: A busybody or person who gossips
Explanation: This refers to someone who is gossiping or 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.)
28. Ir a su bola
Literal meaning: Go to their ball
Slang meaning: Do their own thing
Explanation: If someone decides to ir a su bola it means that they’re going to do their own thing.
There’s a slight negative connotation associated with this phrase, as if the person is going against logic or not being considerate of others in their decision to do their own thing.
Example: Ella no viene a nuestras fiestas, ella va a su bola. (She doesn’t come to our parties, she does her own thing.)
29. Qué fuerte
Literal meaning: How strong!
Slang meaning: Wow!
Explanation: Fuerte in English is “strong.” In this case, fuerte is a way of showing surprise, awe or shock. Basically the phrase means, “Wow!” and can be either positive or negative.
Example: You might see this a lot in gossip: “¿Sabes que Raúl dejó a su mujer por su secretaria?” (Did you know that Raul left his wife for his secretary?) “¡Qué fuerte!” (Wow!)
Slang from Latin America
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 but you might use it with people you’re familiar with.
Example: When someone says something ridiculous, they might hear ¡Mula! (Stupid!).
31. ¡Que chilero!
Literal meaning: None
Slang meaning: Cool or very good
Explanation: This sweet little Guatemalan phrase 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!”).
Literal meaning: How cool!
Slang meaning: Very good
Explanation: In Mexico, use this to say something is very good.
Example: ¿Le gusta la comida? ¡Qué chido! (He likes the food? Very good!)
Literal meaning: That
Slang meaning: Homie
Explanation: There’s not much explanation for this one, but you will certainly hear it a lot in Mexico!
Example: Ese, nos vemos en el club. (Homie, I’ll see you at the club.)
Literal meaning: Hello
Slang meaning: Okay, hurry up, nice
Explanation: This one can be used for quite a few situations. It can be used when you’re in a hurry to say “let’s go.” It can be used to agree with something or it can be used to express your surprise.
Example: “Necesito ir a la playa por favor.” (I need to go to the beach please.) “¡Orale!” (Let’s go!)
Literal meaning: Rooster
Slang meaning: Girl
Explanation: Gallo (rooster) has been turned into a feminine form to refer to a girl in Chile. If you use this word you might just sound like a local in Chile!
Example: Ella es una linda galla. (She’s a cute girl.)
Literal meaning: Cool
Slang meaning: Cool
Explanation: This is what you’ll hear for “cool” in Columbia, Peru, Ecuador and Chile.
Example: “Ha ganado tres medallas.” (He has won three medals.) “¡Bácan!” (Cool!)
37. ¿Qué hubo?
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!
Literal meaning: Great!
Slang meaning: Cool!
Explanation: Yet another way to say “cool.” This one is most common in Venezuela and Columbia!
Example: Podemos reunirnos en el restaurante. (We can meet at the restaurant.) ¡Chevere! (Cool!)
Literal meaning: Baby
Slang meaning: Girl
Explanation: Puerto Rican slang is vivid and often descriptive, but one of its simplest words is nena (girl). This 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.
Example: ¡Te ves hermosa hoy, nena! (You look beautiful today, girl!)
40. Pura vida
Literal meaning: Pure life
Slang meaning: Good vibes, simple life
Explanation: This Costa Rican phrase sums up the way of life in this beautiful country perfectly.
Costa Ricans value kindness and simplicity and use this phrase as a greeting or a way to wish you a happy life.
Example: Say you walk into a shop, you may be greeted with “¡Pura vida!”
Literal meaning: Good wave
Slang meaning: Good vibe
Explanation: This is a way for you to say “good vibes” or “cool” in Argentina and Uruguay.
Example: Tiene la buena onda. (You have a good vibe.)
Literal meaning: Scabbard
Slang meaning: Thing, stuff
Explanation: This word is very popular in the Dominican Republic. It is used to say “thing” or “stuff.”
It can be used in several context but keep in mind that it is usually not a positive term, although it doesn’t always have to be negative either.
Example: ¿Qué es esa vaina? (What is that thing?)
43. ¿Qué bolá?
Literal meaning: What’s ball?
Slang meaning: What’s up?
Explanation: This is a very common greeting in Cuba. You would often use this phrase instead of como estás when asking how someone is.
Example: ¿Buenos días, qué bolá? (Good morning, what’s up?)
Literal meaning: None
Slang meaning: Okay, sure
Explanation: This is a way just to say okay and is most often used in Panama.
Example: ¿Quieres ir a tomar un café? (Do you want to go for coffee?) Offi. (Sure.)
How to Practice Spanish Slang
The best way to pick up slang is through listening to native speakers and how they use slang themselves.
Slang is pretty easy to find in authentic Spanish media, especially in movies, TV shows and web videos, which are all widely accessible online.
There’s also the authentic video library on the language learning program FluentU, in which you can search for words and find clips that contain them. Each video has interactive captions that explain words in context, including slang and colloquialisms.
You can access FluentU online or through the Android and Apple apps.
With these phrases, you’ll be sounding like a local, so get practicing!