Words and phrases for speaking and understanding real Mexican Spanish
Last year I spent about two months in Quintana Roo, Mexico. I really enjoyed the cities, like Tulum and Cancun, I adored the jungle and the nature, and I loved the culture, like the impressive Mayan temples. But besides all that, I was also charmed by the people, and most of all by the language they speak. I must say my Spanish is very basic, but I soon figured out that the Mexican language has its own vocabulary, different from the Spanish that I’ve heard before in Europe. Because I was so fascinated by the differences, I started writing down all this typical Mexican slang, words that you hear only there. Want to find out about some Mexican slang for your next trip to Mexico? These typical words and phrases will have you speaking like the locals in no time!
It’s best translated as “dude”. It’s probably the most used word: you will hear it everywhere on the street and in local bars. Something like, hows it going, wey? What are you doing tonight, wey? It’s only used among friends.
“Qué estás haciendo güey?”, or “What’s going on bro?”.
Literally it means “what wave?”, but it is commonly used for saying “what’s up?”.
You can also use “qué tal?” or “qué paso?”, but mostly you will hear “qué onda?”. It’s pretty familiar, so it’s used between friends.
Meaning as much as “Nice to meet you”, or “Pleased to meet you”. In some countries, such as Costa Rica, “mucho gusto” is also used to say “You’re welcome”.
The literal translation would be “don’t stain!”. What it actually means is “unbelievable!”, or “no way!”. If someone tells you something really incredible or really bad has happened, you will say “no manches!”.
“Orale” has many meanings, but the most common are “Lets do it now”, or “Hurry up”. You can also use it for “amazing!”, or for “oh my God!”. It all depends how you pronounce the word: if you say it with force it means “hurry up”. If you say it more soft and casual, or stretch it out, it will mean “amazing”. “Ooooraleeee, amazing”.
The literal translation is again a bit weird: “I am a tap”. What it means in the street is “I am high”, or “I am stoned”.
If you hear someone yell out “aguas!”, they’re telling you something is about to hit you. It means you should get out of the way, or be careful. Literally it means “waters”.
“I’m raw” would be the literal translation, but it is used for saying you are hungover.
You will use it if you have been partying in Mexico and feeling a bit bad the day after. “Estoy crudo. Tomé desmasiado anoche” I’m hungover. I drank too much last night.
Qué padre! or Qué Chido!
Meaning “that’s awesome!”. If someone brings you good news, or tells you about something really good, you say, “qué padre”. You could also say “que chido”, but only with good friends.
Another way to say something is awesome or really good. “Es chingon”, meaning “it’s awesome!”. Used only between close friends. Chingon is not just informal but it’s considered very rude in formal environments, since it comes from the verb “to chingar”, or “to fuck”. However, it’s pretty common between friends.
Literal translation: “to egg”. What it actually means: “Hell yeah!”
Hell yeah!! / Sure! It is used to show excitement or agreement.
We all know it literally means “strawberry”, but it is used to talk about someone who is a bit upper-class, or a bit snobbish. For example a girl that wears fancy clothes, eats at fancy restaurants, and criticizes people. “Ella es muy fresa”.
Te crees muy muy?
The literal translation: “You think you’re very, very.” What it actually means is “You think you’re a badass?”.
Hurry up! “Andale!” You have probably heard it in the Speedy Gonzales cartoons from Warner Bros.
You can also use it to confirm or agree on something, or to say you have understood something.
“The bar is just around the corner.” “Ahhh si, andele”.
Translated: “a beer”, the Mexican edition of “una cervesa”.
“Quieres una chela?”, meaning “Do you want a beer?”.
Translated it would be “Repeat that”. You use it when you didn’t hear what someone said to you, and you want him or her to repeat it. “Mande” is literally the imperative of “mandar”, even though most people use it without considering the literal meaning of it. But it’d be like “You give me an order”.
Literal translation: “It’s cannon.” What it actually means: “It’s rough.”
Most literal translations are really odd, “Tienes feria” would mean “Do you have a carnival?”. On the street in Mexico it means however “Do you have change?”. Though “tienes feria?” means “do you have change?”, something like “ese wey tiene un chingo de feria” would mean “that dude has a lot of money”. Some would even say “está bien feriudo.”
Eso que ni qué.
It means “There’s no doubt about it”. The more literal translation is “That that not what.”
It is used to make a strong confirmation on what another person just said.
Used to describe someone that doesn’t like spending money.Best translated as “greedy”. It literally means “elbow”.
“No seas codo”, or “Don’t be so greedy.” “El es tan codo!”, meaning “he is so greedy!”
Note: you can just tap your elbow a few times and that will mean codo as well.
Best translated as “that’s just the way it goes”, or “well yeah”. Used when there is really nothing much you can change about it.
“Pues si, pero ni modo” or “Well yeah, but what can we do huh”.
It is used to express surprisement. Things like “No kidding”, or “That’s unbelievable”.
It’s a word that is used for someone who is really lazy. Careful, only use this with good friends…
When something is a complete disaster or a complete mess. It has both positive and negative meanings.
“La fiesta fue un desmadre”, or “The party was wild”.
“Fue un desmadre conseguir la visa”, or “It was a complete disaster to get the visa”.
“Tu cuarto es un desmadre”, or “Your room is a real mess”.
To describe someone who is bad mannered or poorly educated, or has bad taste. But it has a very racist meaning, which sadly is accepted in general society. So be careful with this word.
Qué rollo con el hoyo!
Literal translation: “What’s rolling with that hole?” What it actually means is “What’s going on?”
No tiene dos dedos de frente.
Literally translated it means: “He doesn’t have two fingers of forehead.” What it means in Mexican slang is “He’s not really the smartest one.”
No hay bronca
Meaning something like “No problem”, or “Don’t worry about it”. Literally it means “there’s no fuss”.
Street language to describe Marijuana.
Esas son mamadas.
Literaly translated meaning “That’s blowjobs.”, but Mexicans use it for “That’s crazy.”
To agree or to confirm. Pronounced sa-le. In Spanish often “Vale”.
Muy buena onda!
Meaning “good vibe!”
Un Chavorruco (Chavo Ruco)
Or in feminine: chavorruca. A middle-aged person engaging in behavior typical of younger people; an adultescent.
Vulgar or Swear words.
These Mexican slang words aren’t always the most friendly or polite ones. Some may get people a bit offended if used wrong. But, knowing all the bad words in another language is always fun, and for some reason they’re always easier to remember. Here are some really common ones:
A la verga.
The literal translation: “to the penis.” But it is often used as “Ahh shit.” Verga is more or less the most vulgar word you can use, therefor it should only be used in very familiar situations. It does however not stop the Mexicans from using it. And that’s exactly why I like that Mexican attitude so much!
Literally translated: “You’re worth penis.”, but what it actually means is something similar to “You’re worthless”.
It means exactly the same as “No manches”, but it’s a lot stronger and more vulgar. It actually means: “No fucking way!”, or “Bullshit dude”. Literally it means: “Don’t suck!”. Only to be used with friends you know very, very well.
“Pinche perros”, or “Those damn dogs”
It can also be used more aggressively, meaning “Those f*cking dogs”.
Has two common meanings. Usually it means “asshole”, but it can also be used when you are really good at something or when you have done something really well.
“Ese pinche cabrón me robó mi celular”, or “That damn bastard stole my phone”.
“El cabròn se escape”, or “The bastard escaped”.
And positive: “Estoy bien cabrón. Logré mochas ventas este mes”, meaning “I’m the man. I made so many sales this month.”
Literal translation: “Come on big goat!”. What it actually means is “Come on you bastard!”.
Es un pendejo!
To describe someone as an idiot or an asshole.
The literal translation of a “pedo” is “a fart”. But “qué pedo” means as much as “what’s up”.
“pedo” is used in many different situations, and it is a very informal word and only to be used with people you know very well.
No hay pedo
Literal translation: “There’s no fart.” What it actually means: “There’s no problem.”
“Estoy muy pedo wey”, meaning “I’m very drunk”.
Ando bien pedo.
Literal translation: “I am very fart.” What it actually means: “I am very drunk.”
Dónde es la peda?
Literal translation: “Where’s the fart?” What it actually means: “Where’s the party?”
Has both positive and negative meanings.
“Esta de puta madre”, or “That is super awesome”.
It can also be a cursing word if you have a car accident or drop a cup of coffee or something like that.
“Puta madre!”, or “Fuck that”.
Me vale madres!
Literal translation: “I don’t care mothers!” What it actually means: “I don’t give a fuck!”
It’s the worst way to say ‘I don’t care’ or ‘I don’t give a shit’.
It is difficult to explain this word, but what’s for sure is that it is the king verb of Mexican slang, and there are hundreds of variations and examples. The simplest way to translate it is probably by “FUCK” or “SHIT”. Below are 5 examples of using “chingar” in a different context:
Trabajar un chingo
“To work too much”.
Se chingó mi dinero
“He stole my money”.
Vete a la chingada!
“Go to hell”.
Esta de la chingada!
“My situation is fucked up”.
Hijo de la chingada!
“Son of a bitch”.
Since I only spent a brief period in Mexico, I hope I captured the most common slang in this article. And above all, I hope I translated all of them more or less correctly… If you have any comments, or any remarks, please let me know below, and I’ll make sure to take it into account!
Special thanks to Andrea Caro Abad, Melissa Fidder, Alejandro Castañeda and Danae Shalala for their valuable contributions!