Every Spanish Slang Word You Should Know
A total of 21 countries have Spanish as their official language. That means the Spanish language varies widely from country to country. This diversity is particularly true for slang words.
Given their unofficial, ever-changing nature, each country has developed its own unique slang words. Even native Spanish speakers don’t always understand the slang from other countries. Or a slang word may have one meaning in a country and a wildly different meaning in another. This can sometimes lead to hilarious misunderstandings.
Whether you’re learning Spanish, want to prepare for an upcoming trip or simply love languages, these are the Spanish slang words you should know.
'Wey' Means 'Dude' in Mexico
If you live in the United States or Latin America, you're probably already familiar with this very famous Mexican slang word. "Wey" or "güey" is the Mexican equivalent of "dude" or "bro" and if you have Mexican friends, they've probably called you this at some point.
"Wey" is also the equivalent of "tío" in Spain (which officially means "uncle"), "parce" in Colombia and "che" in Argentina.
'Mono' Means 'Cute' in Cuba
If a Cuban or a Spanish person call you "mono," take this as praise, since the word means "cute" or "pretty."
If a Colombian calls you this, they're probably just remarking on the color of your hair, as the word means "blond" in the country.
However, the actual meaning of "mono" is "monkey." Yeah, this is one tricky word.
'Hostia' Expresses Surprise in Spain
Spaniards use "hostia" as a way to express strong emotions like surprise or frustration, as in "bloody hell."
What's funny about this slang word is that "hostia" is a religious word that literally means "host," referring to the body of Christ, or communion wafers used in the Christian ritual of the Eucharist.
How it became a slang word is anyone's guess.
'Arrecho' Means 'Angry' in Venezuela
The word "arrecho" is responsible for many awkward misunderstandings between Latin American countries.
In places like Venezuela, the meaning changes drastically based on whether you're talking about someone or something. If you're talking about someone, "arrecho" means angry. However, if you say something is "arrecho," it means that it's cool.
But be careful who you use this word around. In Colombia, Peru and Panama, this word means horny, so you definitely don't want to use it to say you're angry.
'Pololo/a' Means 'Boy/Girlfriend' in Chile
It's incredibly cute that Chileans have a slang word for "boyfriend/girlfriend." But what we love the most is that they have turned it into a verb, "pololear."
So if you're in a relationship, you can say you're currently "pololeando."
'Manya' Means 'Wow' or 'To Know' in Peru
"Manya" is a multifaceted words that Peruvians use in almost every conversation.
The word is often a way to express surprise, but when used as a verb (manyar), it means to know something. For instance, to say that you know someone, you can say that you "manya" them.
'Boludo' Means 'Idiot' in Argentina
"Ballsy" may be used to describe someone who is willing to take risks in English, but in Argentinean Spanish, it's used to call someone useless or an idiot.
But before you get insulted remembering the time an Argentinean called you "boludo," we should clarify that it can also be used to greet a friend.
"Che boludo" is a common way to say hello to people you're close with.
'Ño' Expresses Disbelief in Cuba
"Ño" is the shortened version of a coarse word for a specific part of the female body.
For some reason, Cubans have decided to cut out half of the word and use it to express disbelief, surprise or frustration.
The term is so ubiquitous in Cuba, that a famous Cuban chain store in Miami called itself, "Ño! ¡Qué Barato!" or "Woooow! How Cheap!"
'Flipar' Is to 'Freak Out' in Spain
"Flipar" is pretty easy to remember, since it basically means "to flip out."
In fact, the word may be an Anglicism and is used by Spaniards in pretty much the same way.
'Vaina' Means 'Thing' in Colombia
If you ever talk to a Colombian, chances are that you'll hear them say "vaina" at some point. This word is a catch-all phrase that works similarly to "thing" and is used to describe anything.
It can also be used to express frustration when something goes wrong: "¡Qué vaina!"
'Wiro/a' Means 'Kid' in Guatemala
Guatemalans use "wiro/a" to refer to kids. Similarly to how Mexicans say "chamaco" and Spaniards use "chaval."
The word can have a negative connotation when used to call someone immature or bratty.
'Fresa' Means 'Stuck Up' in Mexico
Almost every Spanish-speaking country has a derogative slang word for wealthy, stuck-up people.
Colombians say "gomelo," Venezuelans say "sifrino" and Spaniards say "pijo."
But the best slang for this has to be the Mexican word, "fresa," whose literal meaning is "strawberry."
'Jatear' Means 'To Sleep' in Peru
It seems like Peruvians have a slang word for everything, including eating, walking and sleeping. "Jatear" is usually used for naps, but it can also just mean "to sleep."
In Costa Rica, the word is used for stubbornly pursuing something.
'Chévere' Means 'Cool' in Venezuela
When Colombians or Venezuelans think something is cool or awesome, they say it's "chévere."
They also use the word to express agreement. "OK, cool" in English is the same as "OK, chévere."
'Quilombo' Means 'Mess' in Uruguay
Uruguayans and Argentineans use "quilombo" for something that is messy. This includes problems or scandals that bring unnecessary messes with them.
While in Argentina, try not to start any quilombos.
'Aguas' Means 'Watch Out' in Mexico
Although "agua" means "water," Mexicans use the plural of the word to warn others about impending problems or disasters.
"Aguas" can be used for physical threats, like an incoming car or for more abstract problems, like that person all your friends keep telling you is just bad news.
'Camello' Means 'Work' in Colombia
In Colombia, you don't say you have a lot of work. You say you have a camel. The word is also used for your "job."
Similarly, Costa Ricans would say "brete," Peruvians would say "chamba," and Chileans would say "pega."
'Guiri' Means 'Tourist' in Spain
If you're ever called a "guiri" while in Spain, you probably acted like an entitled or clueless tourist.
Spain is one of the most visited countries in the world, so it's no surprise their attitudes toward tourists are sometimes unkind.
And to be fair, some tourists really are horrible.
'Pura Vida' Captures the Spirit of Costa Rica
"Pura vida" has become the slogan of Costa Rica. The word literally means "pure life" and is meant to denote a feeling that it's all good, that everything is OK.
You'll hear "pura vida" used for basically everything. People will use it when they say hello, goodbye and when you ask how they're doing.
'Bolo/a' Means 'Drunk' in Central America
You'll hear "bolo/a" used in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua to say someone is drunk.
It's a good word to know if you're planning on going out to party in any of these countries.
'Viejos' Means 'Parents' in Argentina
Argentineans and Spaniards call their parents "viejos."
We don't really encourage you to use this word outside of these two countries, since it means "old people" and can be insulting everywhere else.
'Macaneado' Means 'Difficult' in Honduras
Sometimes, Spanish can be "macaneado," as anyone learning the language will tell you.
For instance, no one outside of Honduras will know what this word means.
'Parchar' Means 'To Hang Out' in Colombia
This very Colombian word is what everyone under 35 uses when they're going to hang out with their friends.
"Parchar" comes from another Colombian slang, "parche," which is a group of friends. When used as an adjective ("parchado"), it means that person or thing is chill or cool.
'Fome' Means 'Boring' in Chile
On a trip to Chile, you probably don't ever want to hear the word "fome."
Otherwise, it may mean things are a little less exciting than you probably want them to be.
'El Chivo' Means 'Bicycle' in Cuba
While in Cuba, pay attention to context when you hear someone talking about "el chivo." They could either be talking about a goat or a bicycle.
The rest of Spanish speakers scratch their heads when they hear Cubans say they're going to get their chivos to go somewhere. This is why learning slang can save you from awkward social situations.
'Apapachar' Means 'To Snuggle' in Several Countries
This cozy word is used throughout Central and South America.
Mexico, Peru, Colombia, Chile and Honduras use it to describe snuggling, cuddling or coddling someone.
Next time you feel like being cuddled, ask someone to apapacharte.
'Farra' Means 'Party' in Ecuador
A farra is definitely something you won't want to miss when visiting Ecuador or Colombia. But the word isn't used for any kind of party.
You wouldn't, for example, associate it with a kid's party or a get-together with friend. "Farra" is a full-blown, stay-up-all-night, dance-until-your-body-hurts kind of party.
Other slang words for this include "rumba" or "parranda" in Venezuela and Colombia, "tono" in Peru, "carrete" in Chile, and "arranque" in Panama.
'Dendihoy' Means 'Some Time Ago' in El Salvador
Ask a Salvadorian when they did something, and they're likely to reply with "dendioy." This country-specific slang means "some time ago" or "a little while ago."
It denotes a somewhat ambiguous time frame, though, since you'll have to derive from context whether "some time" means a couple of hours, a week or even a few months.
'¿Cachai?' Means 'Get It?' in Chile
You'll likely hear "cachai" at the end of 99 percent of sentences in Chile. The word literally means "do you get it?" But it is used in a similar way as "you know?"
This means that Chileans aren't necessarily asking you if you understand what they're saying, but more often seeking agreement or simply using a filler word.
"Cachai" is an Anglicism from the word "catch." As in, "catch my drift?"
'Ratón' Means 'Hangover' in Venezuela
The day after a "parranda" in Venezuela, you may have a "ratón." Thankfully, we don't mean this literally, since the word means "mouse."
There are several fun slang words for "hangover" in Spanish, like "guayabo" in Colombia, "chuchaqui" in Ecuador, "cruda" in Mexico, and "goma" in most of Central America.
We love the Venezuelan word the most though, simply because we would've never conflated hangovers with mice. The creativity gets a 10 out of 10 from us.
Related: Hilariously Bad Translations of Foreign Words