If you’ve just arrived in Mexico and you cannot understand half of what the locals are saying, don’t start hyperventilating. You didn’t get on the wrong plane. The explanation is probably very simple: despite your efforts as a Spanish learner, you may be a bit lacking in the Mexican slang department.
Knowing Mexican slang words and phrases ahead of your trip will help you communicate with locals, have more successful and genuine social interactions, and get by in day-to-day situations. But don’t panic. While Mexican slang is quite different from standard Spanish, most words and phrases are easy to understand once you get the hang of them.
Here are 20 Mexican slang words and phrases that you need to know before your next trip.
Mexican Slang Greetings
“¿Cómo está usted?” is perfectly correct from a grammatical perspective. But on a day-to-day basis, people are rarely that formal. Here are 5 Mexican slang greetings that you’re not likely to find in traditional textbooks.
- ¿Qué onda?
This phrase is used to ask someone how they are doing, what’s new, or what’s up. It can be translated to “what’s the vibe?” or “what’s the deal?” in English.
- ¿Qué pasión?
Similar to ¿Qué onda?, this phrase is used to ask someone how they are. It’s a pun that combines the phrase “¿Qué pasó?” (What’s new?) with the word “pasión” (passion).
- ¿Qué Honduras?
Another witty pun, this Mexican slang phrase combines the expression “¿Qué onda?” with “Honduras”, the Central American country.
- Aquí se rompió una taza.
This phrase can be translated as “someone’s broken a teacup”. It’s used to suggest that the party is over and it’s time to go home. You can use this phrase as a synonym for “Goodbye” as you leave an informal gathering.
- Este muñeco cambia de aparador.
If you want to leave with style, there is no better Mexican slang phrase than this one. Literally meaning “This doll is going to visit another dresser”, it’s another humorous way to say that your participation in a social event has come to an end.
If you’re a Spanish learner, you may know a few neutral, standard (shall we say boring?) Spanish phrases to express your mood or engage in casual conversations. But, while there’s nothing wrong with “Genial” (Great) and “¡Arriba!” (Come on!), Mexican slang is full of more colorful options:
This word has many meanings, but it’s mainly used as an expression of excitement or approval. You can use it to show your support for someone or to encourage them to keep up the good work.
Both “chido” and “padrísimo” are often used to describe something that is really cool. For example, this list is very chida. (Well, we are doing our best.)
This phrase is used to express surprise, or to emphasize the truthfulness of a statement. It can be translated to “Really?” in English.
- ¿Qué pedo?
This is one of the most common Mexican slang phrases, and it has multiple uses. It can be used as an expression of anger, to ask someone what’s wrong, or simply to ask what’s going on. (Note: “pedo” is also the literal translation of “fart”, so be careful).
- No manches
This phrase is used to express disbelief, and it can be translated to “no way!” or “you’ve got to be kidding me!” in English.
Mexican Slang Words to Name People
Do you want to catch people’s attention? Drop insipid expressions that nobody really uses (“My friend!” comes to mind), and learn to sound like you were born in Cuernavaca. By using these Mexican slang words, people will see that you are really making an effort to mingle and they will be more likely to engage in conversations with you.
- Chavo (or chava)
These words are used to refer to a young boy or girl. Its male version is also the name of Mexico’s legendary TV show “El chavo”.
This is probably the most common Mexican slang word, and it can have a few different meanings. It is often used to refer to someone without using their name (e.g., “Hey, güey!”), but it can also be used as an expression of surprise or bewilderment.
This Mexican slang word can be used to refer to a man, especially one who is considered to be tough or cool.
These words are used to describe someone with light skin, blonde hair, or blue eyes.
This word is used to describe a girlfriend or wife, and it can be translated to “chick” or “babe” in English.
Mexican Slang Swearwords
Of course, no list of Mexican slang words would be complete without mentioning a few choice expletives. While we don’t recommend using them liberally, they can add color to your conversation if used sparingly.
This word can be used as an adjective to describe something that is unpleasant or as a noun to refer to someone who is annoying. It could be described as the equivalent for the F word in English, so use it with caution.
This word has multiple meanings, but it is often used to describe someone who is considered to be a traitor or a cowardly person. It can also be used to describe someone who gets easily angry or upset.
If we were talking about food, I would tell you that “fresa” is the Spanish word for strawberry, which it is. But in Mexican slang, this word is also used to describe a person who is considered to be snobbish or pretentious. It is often used to refer to someone who only hangs out with people from the same social class.
This word is used to describe someone who is nosy or always trying to insert themselves into other people’s business.
The Mexican slang word “gacho” is used to describe something that is considered to be bad or of low quality. It can also be used to describe someone who is regarded as ignorant or uneducated.
So, there you go. 20 Mexican slang words for all occasions that you can use to mingle with the crowd, connect with locals, and show Mexican people that you’ve done a huge effort to understand their culture.
Do you feel more prepared to travel to Mexico now? I hope so! Remember, the best way to learn a new language is by immersion, so don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Just relax, have fun, and enjoy your trip!
If you believe getting a bit of practice before your trip will make you feel more confident about your command of Mexican slang, do not hesitate to send us a quick message so we can pair you up with a native Mexican Spanish teacher for a few tailored lessons!