You’re travelling to Spain, trusty phrasebook in hand, but then you start to notice that, despite knowing lots of formal Spanish, you’re struggling to understand the slang. Certain colloquialisms are so common, it’s worth learning them alongside more standard expressions. Read on to discover which ones are the most common in Spain.
Spain loves its religious slang words, and this one literally means ‘the host’. It is used as an exclamation of surprise or dismay and means something like ‘bloody hell’ in English.
This one is used so much it is barely even a slang word, but it is rarely used in South or Central America so is worth learning if you are used to Latin American Spanish. Spaniards use this interjection all the time to mean ‘OK’, ‘fine’ or ‘good’.
This word is slang for ‘cool’, ‘amazing’ or ‘awesome’. You can say ‘¡Qué guay!’ to mean ‘How cool!’.
Another common word that means cool, you’ll hear this used all over Spain. Its more formal meaning, again only in Spain, is cocky or bold, but you’ll be more likely to hear it used to describe something as super cool.
This can mean really amazing or really awful, depending on how you use it – think something like ‘sick’ in English. Spanish is full of phrases that use the word leche, or milk. ‘Me cago en la leche’ literally means ‘I crap in the milk’ and is used to express anger or annoyance. Nice.
‘¡Qué mono!’ is a common phrase in Spanish that means ‘how cute!’ It is used for everything from babies to dogs and is such a common phrase it’s easy to forget its origins. But if you tried it out in South America, you would be met with some funny looks – the real meaning of mono in Spanish is monkey.
One of the most important phrases when it comes to food, it means ‘to do tapas’ and is used when friends suggest going on a tapas bar crawl. ‘Vamos a tapear’ means ‘we’re going to do tapas’ – surely one of the best invitations in Spanish?
As you probably know if you’ve learned some Spanish, tío means uncle and the feminine version, tía, means aunt. The word is also commonly used in Spanish to mean ‘mate’, ‘man’ or ‘dude’.
You might have learned that ‘nice’ in Spanish is ‘simpático’ but many people in Spain use the word majo. The word originates from people from the lower classes in Spanish society in the late 18th and early 19th century who were famous for their elaborate outfits and were known as majos and majas.
Not the famous Italian dish, but Spanish slang for money; something like ‘dough’ or ‘cash’ in English. If you’re lucky enough to come into ‘una pasta’ then you’ve come into ‘a fortune’.
The Spanish version of the Mexican ‘gringo’ usually refers to northern Europeans or Americans but can be used to describe any foreigner.