It’s fun to learn Spanish slang words. Using slang in just the right context can help other native speakers relate to you. Think about this for English. If someone spoke using perfect grammar without any slang words, you’d probably think they’re a robot.
Keep in mind that Spanish slang is regional. What might be ‘just right’ in one country or region will sound funny or get you a blank stare. That’s why we recommend you start by experimenting with the people you know first before you try the words out on total strangers.
You can also talk to your Spanish teacher on Rype to clarify which words and expressions would be useful in with the Spanish-speaking audiences that you’ll be having contact with.
Why learn Spanish slang words?
Before we share our list, let’s talk about the benefits of learning slang words?
As we mentioned above, the key benefit is the connection you’ll develop with fellow locals. This is especially true if you can learn the regional slang words and know when to use them.
Knowing your slang words also allows you to know when others are using it. Instead of interrupting the flow of the conversation to ask what something means, you’ll be able to be in flow.
More importantly, your overall Spanish knowledge will improve. As you continue to expand your understanding, you’ll be better at knowing when and how to use slang words in your everyday conversations.
25 Spanish Slang Words From Mexico, Spain, Argentina
To help you get to what you came here for, we’ve divided our sections into the main countries.
Also known as Porteño Spanish.
1. ¿Que onda?
Definition: What’s up?
Also used in: Chile, Guatemala, Mexico
This is a simple slang expression because you can use it start a conversation. Be careful about the context though. Since this is a more casual expression, it makes sense to keep it more to casual settings. It wouldn’t make much sense to say ¿Que onda? in business meetings or formal settings because you would make the wrong impression and appear unprofessional.
Also used in: Argentina, Uruguay
It literally mean barbarian, but locals use the word to say not only cool, but also great. ¿Como fue la comida? ¡Barbaro! Translation: How was the food? Delicious/great!
Definition: Be careful!
Bit strange we know, because ojo is eye in Spanish. But in English we do express a lot of visual verbs when we tell someone to be careful. Think about ‘watch out!’ or ‘keep an eye out on this’, etc.
4. Che, boludo!
Definition: Che (hey), boludo (stupid)
This is one of the most common slang words you’ll hear in Argentina. Che comes from Che Guevara and is a very casual way of saying ‘hey’ or ‘yo’ to a friend. Boludo is a negative word but in Argentina, it’s so common that no one will be offended if you call them this. You will still need to make sure you have a relationship with the perrson you call boludo of course.
5. ¿Cómo andás?
Definition: What’s up? (or hows it going?)
Another classic from the Argrentinians, who prefer this over the traditional ¿qué tal? in other countries. Notice that the verb andar is conjugated in vos, which is used instead of tú (andas) and usted (anda).
Mexicano Slang Words
The Mexicans sure know how to have a good time. The country that brought us Mezcal, Tequila, and Margaritas also have some hilarious sayings that you’ll want to know.
Just like the English love to place the ‘F-word’ to emphasize a point they’re trying to make, the Mexicans love their ‘P-word’. This could be used to refer to a situation or a person, such as ‘pinche John!’
7. ¡No mames!
Definition: No way (or what the hell/f*ck!)
The literal translation for this is ‘don’t suck it’, and you’ll hear it everywhere the moment you arrive to Mexico. Gringos may initially think that someone is saying ‘No mommy’ in Spanish, so don’t mistaken this.
8. ¡A huevo!
Definition: Hell yeah!
You may think someone is saying ‘eggs!’ really loud in Spanish. While that is the literal translation, you’ll hear a very excited Mexican yelling this out as it means ‘hell yes!’ Also not to confuse this phrase with hueva, which means laziness.
Definition: Not cool
It could also be a way to describe a bad or not ideal situation.
10. Estar pedo
Definition: to be drunk.
Compare this to Argentina where estar al pedo means to be useless.
Colombian Spanish is supposedly one of the most neutral Spanish accents that new learners can understand. It’s known to be a good balance between Argentinian Spanish, which is vastly different than Spanish from Spain.
Definition: Very cool
This word even sounds cool as it is. You can use this when a Colombian friend of yours tells you some good news about their life or tells you about an upcoming event you’ll go together.
Definition: Group of friends meeting up (literal definition: patch)
We chose this word because there is no way to know this, as the dictionary will tell you something quite different. Parche is a way of describing friends getting together to do an activity. The opposite of someone who’s social is desparchado.
Spanish Slang Words in Spain
Now let’s head over to Spain, the origins of Spanish, for a few slang words as well.
This is a less formal or slang way of say soprendidio. It’s sometimes used in a negative way, as in you are negatively surprised that the airplane was overbooked or that the train was late. Literally it means hallucinated. You can use it when something amazes you or impresses you as well. Another way to use it is to express a surprised sort of excitement and enthusiasm.
An old slang word for años. So you could ask somebody ¿Cuántos brejes tienes? Translation: How old are you?
15. A cascoporro
Definition: Abundant or excessive
This term isn’t used much in the big cities. It’s more of a rural form of slang in mainland Spain. For example, Para preparar para la tormenta, compraron provisiones a cascoporro (to prepare for the storm, they bought lots of provisions). It can also mean an unnecessary amount of something. Spanish have lots of slang for saying in excess. Other expressions include: a saco, a manta, a porillo, and a bellón.
16. Estar a dos velas (or no tener dinero)
Definition: Out of money
Just the opposite of abundance is scarcity and to be out of money. You don’t want to find yourself a dos velas. Another way of saying this is estar sin blanca, which we mentioned in our post about Spanish idioms. Some say that dos velas, which literally means ‘two candles’ refers to illegal card games that people might have played at the bank in the days before electricity. If the banker lost, he would be left with only the two candles and no money.
17. El chabolo (or la chabola)
Definition: Shanty or makeshift house
Also used in: Mexico
This term is also a slang term used in Mexico. The term comes from the Basque language txa(b)ola or choza and may be related to the dialectical French jaole, for jail. There is also an archaeological site in Spain which is a megalithic tomb known as El Dolmen la Chabola de la Hechicera.
Looking for an alternative way to say malo, consider saying ful. Just the opposite of that would be guay, which means bueno. You’ll hear this a lot in Spain as it’s quite a common way to express satisfaction with something. For example you can say, ¡que guay! to say that something is great.
Definition: Buddy, friend, pal
In Spain it is also quite common to use the words for uncle and aunt, tio/tia to refer to a friend. This is casual talk. If those in your company start using it will you greeting you with ¿que pasa contigo tio/tia? You know you’ve made some local friends and you can start to use this slang expression with them as well.
20. Comiendo moscas
Definition: Daydreaming (literal: eating flies)
When people fall asleep in meetings and lectures and public areas with their mouths open, or when they daydream, seem to space out or drift off, they are ‘eating flies’ or comiendo moscas.
Slang words in Guatemala
Now let’s move over to Central America.
Despite its negative literal translation, Guatemalans use ‘cerote’ as a form of endearment. Similar to how we jokingly say ‘oh you loser’ to close friends or how the Argentinians call their friends ‘boludos’. ‘Cero’ is zero in Spanish and ‘te’ is you.
Definition: Public transport (literal definition: Female donkey)
This is a key one to remember if you plan to visit Guatemala. If you’ve known burra to be a negative reference throughout your Spanish learning journey, you can forget this when you visit.
Cuban Spanish Slang
Last but not least, we’re going to end our list by giving you some Cuban slang.
Definition: To work
Again, quite a similar sounding word to ‘pinche’ which can sound very bad in Mexican Spanish. It also has nothing to do with the most similar sounding English word ‘to pinch.’ Pinchar means to work, such as ‘estoy pinchando.’ (I’m working).
24. Asere (acere)
As a way of showing someone you’re close to them, you can refer to them as ‘asere’.
While the majority of Latin Americans refer to Americans as ‘gringos’, the Cubans will call you something different. Perhaps it’s because of the lack of access to Americans given its recent border access.