The last time I was in Spain, I traveled with a friend and let’s just say that although we learned Spanish at school, we forgot 99% of it. So, of course, this sometimes led to awkward situations where we didn’t both agree on the translation. That’s why I’ve decided to compile this list to help people “lost in translation” like us.

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Useful and popular slang words/expressions

Since Spanish is such a widespread language in the world, it’s often difficult for a novice like me to distinguish which words to use. Fortunately for me, Spanish and French have many similarities. Living in this country, even for a short time, reminded me of the days when I could hold a conversation. So, Sígueme (follow me) on this Spanish crash course!

1. Echar una mano

If you find yourself in a difficult situation or need help, this is what you should say to a local, as it translates as “help/lend a hand”.
¿Me echas una mano con las cajas? = Can you give me a hand with the boxes?

2. Ir a tapear

You can’t visit Spain and miss out on the famous tapas, can you? Tapear isn’t a verb per se, but it’s often used in the country when friends invite you to “eat tapas”! So the next time you find yourself in a similar situation, you won’t be wondering what your friends want to do with you!

3. ¿Qué hay?

Usually translated as “what’s up?” when asked after greetings: Hola! ¿Qué hay?

4. Guay

Easy, because if you remove just one letter, you’ll see that the word turns into “gay” and for once, no need to try and remember my old lessons as this word is used when you want to refer to something or someone “nice/cool”.

5. Venga

One of the words you’ll probably hear a lot as it can mean different things, the most common being “Come on” or “Okay, alright” when used at the end of a sentence.

6. Vale

This word is a bit like Venga in that you’ll see it used quite often and in lots of different situations. It can be translated as: “alright”, “fine”, “okay”, “sure”.

7. Flipar

It sounds like “flip out”, doesn’t it? Maybe because it comes from it, but then again, it would be too easy if that’s all it meant, wouldn’t it?
Depending on the context, here are its different meanings: “crazy good” (talking about food, for example), “to be surprised/dazzled by something or someone”, “to love but in a strong way”, but also “to get high”. Pay attention to the context and you’ll be fine!

8. Tío/Tía

To my great surprise, this doesn’t just refer to an aunt or uncle in Spanish, but also to someone you’re quite close to, as in “pal”, “friend”, “buddy”.

9. Guapo/a

Said of someone who is “handsome” or “attractive”. It’s one of the words I instinctively remembered, perhaps because Spanish men often seem rather friendly and charming!

10. Majo

Often said of someone who’s “pleasant” but also “friendly” and “cute”.

11. Botellón

Literally translated as “big bottle”, but also the activity where young adults get together to binge drink.

12. Qué mono

If you know that “mono” means “monkey”, you may be quite surprised to hear it at first, but don’t worry, it’s not said as a mockery here, but rather to express “how cute you are”. That’s better, isn’t it?

13. Liarse

In fact, it has two main uses, but if you hear it in colloquial conversation, it will probably mean: “to get involved with another person”, rather romantically.

14. Churri

A cute, affectionate way of referring to your beloved: “sweetheart”.

15. Chela

Another word for “cerveza”, the popular and usually bitter drink ordered in a bar: “beer”.

16. Duro

“Money”, the thing you unfortunately always need in life!

17. Ponerse como un tomate

I’ve never heard of such an appropriate expression, especially for me, who tends to “be like a tomato” or “blush” in any situation. Whether it’s when I’m laughing, embarrassed or when it’s very cold outside!

18. Me importa un pimiento

This expression literally translates as “I don’t care a pepper” but as you’ve probably gathered, it’s used to say that “you couldn’t care less” about something or as much as a pepper, which is, in fact, nothing.

Swear words

19. Bobo/a

If someone calls you a bobo/a, it’s not as cute as you thought when you said it, because it refers to someone who’s “stupid”, “dumb”.

20. Joder

I’ll just say that it’s like “putain” in French: used whenever someone is angry, frustrated or disappointed, then you’ll most likely get a “Joder” in the sentence, meaning: “damn it!”.

So much for the Spanish version of our slang series! If you’d like to learn Portuguese, you can read it here!

And what about you? Have you heard any other words or expressions on your travels?
Or do you know some weird but funny slang from your own country? If so, don’t hesitate to post them in the comments section!

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12 Comments

  1. Considering I’ve been learning Spanish for over two years (through Duolingo) it’s good to know some of these. I’d actually only knew of 2 words before! Thanks for the list!

  2. I’ve been living with Dominicans for the last three years and I picked up some Spanish but not a lot. These are great phrases to know.

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