Learning Spanish,  Mexico

Mexican Slang 101: The Essentials

Mexico is home to the largest population of Spanish speakers in a single country, so naturally the assumption is you can get around speaking Spanish no problem, right?

Haha, if only it was that easy. What I’ve discovered is that lots* of Mexicans speak Spanish, quite a few speak English but everyone speaks slang. This country is filled with colloquialisms that will definitely confuse you and will have you questioning your own language abilities (haha, me!)

But fear not, I have created a guide to the essential Mexican slang phrases that will have you a lot less confused in conversations and have you speaking like a native in no time.

wey

Okay so “wey” is by far, without a shadow of a doubt pretty much the most important slang term to know. Why? Because you’ll hear it every day. In almost every sentence. “Wey” means dude or bro. It’s essentially a way of addressing a friend.

You can also say compa – short for compadre. Or talking about one of your closest mates they’re your carnal.

sea turtle dude GIF

¿qué onda?

Lots of Spanish people say ¿qué tal? but most Mexicans say ¿qué onda? which means what’s up? what’s going on?

¿Qué onda wey? – what’s up dude? is a typical way to greet a person.

Interestingly enough, when I was looking for an apartment online I saw so many people saying they wanted a roommate of ‘buena onda’ which is a cool person.

!no hay bronca!

There’s no problem. We’re all good here. We cool. A bronca is a serious problem. But here, there’s none of all. We’re good. No hay bronca.

This can alternatively be said as no hay pedo – but I think this is the more vulgar way to say it.

¿mande?

This a lot more polite than saying ¿qué? all of the time. Essentially means ‘pardon?’ or ‘can you say that again?’

Interestingly this comes from the verb mandar which means to order or to send.

¡aguas!

In dangerous situations or ones that might bring you harm, people will shout ‘aguas’ or ‘waters’ at you. Telling you to be careful.

This originates from the time before working drainage pipes in Mexico where they used to throw water out of windows to dispose of it. They would shout ‘aguas’ to warn any passerbyers that they were about to drench them in the faeces of the people who lived in that house. And the saying has stayed ever since.

People sometimes say ojo aguas, trying to get you to look at the danger you’re getting yourself into before you get yourself into it.

¡esta cañón!

When something is cañón, it’s rough and it sucks. It’s used to describe a difficult situation that someone may be facing at a period of time

¡qué padre!

This is definitely one of my favourites because it was the first slang phrase I learned that 100% confused me. Okay so in Spanish ‘padre’ means dad. So when literally translated this means ‘what dad!’ but it is the opposite of está cañón and means how cool!  now I don’t want to start any parent rivalries here but maybe this is insinuating that dad’s are the cooler parent? I’ll let you decide.

Another way of saying this is ¡qué chido! where you get the same meaning, but less family drama.

¡no manches!

The number one expression of exclamation in Mexico. It basically means no way! But when hearing it used in sentences it holds such a great sense of shock and exclamation that you think more has happened than what has actually happened.

e.j. no manches wey, no dormí ayer porque tenía un chingón de cosas para hacer.

e.g. no way dude, I didn’t sleep yesterday because I had sooo many things to do.

¡neta!

This is largely – but not always – said after no manches because it means really? It could also be said as en serio – seriously? But this is more slangy. So I’m sure you can imagine a scenario where your mate is filling you in on all the hot gos (see chismosa below) and your reply as a student in Mexican slang will now be:

¡No manches, neta!

chisme

Gossip. All the hot info you need to be filled in on. I learned the word watching various tv shows. Who said tv isn’t educational? 😉 Now if you’re a person who gets involved with a lot of chisme, you are a chismosa, a gossiper – which to some extent we’re all guilty of being.

fresa

Yes, you’re right. Fresa does mean strawberry in Spanish. But in Mexican slang, fresa is used to describe a person who is snooty, snobby or really posh. Why did Mexicans decide to use my favourite fruit to describe such a person? I don’t know but I kinda like it. Learning this phrase did lead to a conversation about a possible hierarchical system within the fruit world.

What do you think? Could everyone’s favourite berry be in fact snooty or snobby?

e.j. ¿Has visto Hecho en México en Netflix wey? Es completemente lleno con fresas.

e.g. Have you seen Made in Mexico dude? It is completely filled with snooty people.

te crees muy muy

Literally translated means ‘you think very very’. But actually means ‘you think you’re all that’.

Las fresas se creen muy muy

codo

This is me in a nutshell and most of the student population. Okay so teeechnically, codo in Spanish means elbow. Yes, I told you these were confusing. But when describing someone as codo you’re calling them stingey or a cheapskate. A person who doesn’t want to spend extra money when it can be avoided.

e.j. mira wey, soy súper codo. No quiero pagar por los asientos VIP si podemos ir a los normales.

e.g. look dude, I’m super stingey. I don’t want to pay for VIP seats if we can get normal ones.

La verganza de Moctezuma

Related image

This is something I’m proud to say I didn’t experience but has been experienced by many other extranjeros when they come to Mexico.

When translated this means Moctezuma’s revenge. It the name given for the sickness foreign people experience (usually vomitting and / or diarrhoea) when eating food for the first time in Mexico. It is always experienced when drinking tap water because tap water isn’t safe or drinkable in Mexico (except in Monterrey). Go to Oxxo and get yourself BOTTLED water. Thank me later.

But to fully understand this, let me explain the background. Moctezuma was the Emperor to the Aztec Empire before the conquistadores led by Hernan Cortes came to Mexico, killed Emperor Moctezuma and overthrew the Aztec Empire. Following his death Moctezuma set a maldicón or a curse on foreigners who come to Mexico. It is now in the form of stomach bugs and trips to the doctor.

Can it get worse than a centuries old curse???

ahorita

The answer is yes, yes it can. Ladies and gentlemen I present to you the bane of my existence, the phrase that is ahorita.

I genuinely don’t think words can describe how much I hate and love this word at the same time.

The words ahorita comes from the word ahora, which ironically enough means now. But ahorita has many different meanings. It could be today, in two hours, tomorrow, in three weeks, next year or even never. Who knows? But it’s a response used when you ask someone do something or ask someone when we’re going somewhere or the answer you give your mum when she wants you to do the dishes. When? Ahorita.

luego luego

To battle the confusions of ahorita, use luego luego which means right now. Ironically, you’re saying later later to mean right now. Is it backwards? Yes. Does it work? Yes. And that’s the most important part.

cheve

An important one in the Mexican drinking culture. Cheve means cerveza which means beer. Fun fact, Mexico is the 4th cheapest country to buy beer in the whole world and whilst I still strongly dislike beer, I’m sure this one fact will inspire someone somewhere to come to Mexico. Don’t be confused if someone asks you if you want a chela, that means beer too!

Mexico Beer Sticker by Cerveza Indio

¿estás pedo wey?

When drinking, don’t be surprised if some asks you if you are pedo. Whilst the word pedo actually means fart, in this context it means drunk. It kinda make sense seeing how the noun version ‘peda’ vamos a la peda, means like a drink up or a booze fest, it kinda makes sense that fuiste a la peda and now estás súper pedo.

mala copa

Carrying on the theme of Mexico’s drinking culture, when in a bar you are likely to find someone who is a malacopa. This is a person who can’t hold their drink really well, got really pedo before you even got to the club and possibly gets aggressive when drunk. This person is a lightweight.

Funnily enough, in drinking games MALA COPA, MALA COPA is shouted whilst people down their drinks.

crudo

After all the drinking and partying has been done you wake up the next morning and you are crudo. Hungover.

Despues de ayer, todos estamos crudos. After yesterday, we’re all hungover.

Interestingly though, crudo translated means raw, like uncooked meat. Is that what people feel like after drinking?

refresco

This is arguably a slang term but is needed in restaurants or if you’re not feeling like drinking too much. A refresco is what we Brits call a fizzy drink and what the Americans call a soda. Anything from Sprite to Coca Cola or Fanta is a refresco. Another fun fact for you, Mexico is the country that consumes the largest amount of Coca Cola in the world.

Also – don’t shorten it to coke like I also do. Stick to coca to avoid confused (and sometimes frightened) looks from shop owners.

¿tienes feria?

Do you have change? Although the word feria actually means a fair and the most appropriate word would be cambio. This works too.

chavo/a

Words to guy or lady. Usually a person who’s not a child but not a fully grown adult either. Words like morra (feminine) or vato (masculine) can be used too – they all mean the same thing.

In the words of Mexican singer Dulce Maria

foráneo

Mainly used in Monterrey to describe a person who is from Mexico but is not from Monterrey or any other city in the state of Nuevo León. Funnily enough, when pronounced it sounds like foreigner (like me) but that word is an extranjero.

Does this phrase create a sense of exclusion within Mexicans here in Monterrey? Según yo, sí. But that’s just an observers point of view.

chicano

I learned this word last week from an uber driver who told me his cousin was a chicano – you can learn everywhere!

A chicano is simply a person who is Mexican but who is living in the United States. This could be someone who born in the US but is from a Mexican family or someone who lived their whole life in Mexico but then moved to Texas one day.

malinchista

Technically an offensive term. Someone who is a malinchista is a Mexican person who prefers things that aren’t Mexican but usually someone who prefers Western things. This could be anything from someone who prefers speaking English to Spanish, someone who prefers celebration Halloween to Dia de los Muertos or someone who prefers the English version of their Spanish name.

gringo

Probably, the most famous Mexican slang phrase known outside of Mexico by us extranjeros. This word is the name for people from the United States. Funnily enough the word has a lot of history to it. (Shout out to Nacho for teaching it to us!) and it comes from the Mexican and US War 1846-1848 (where the US won over half of Mexico’s territory including modern day California, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona).

The US army wore green in combat and the Mexican army were shouting ¡vete! telling them to go away. So this led to them shouting ‘green go!’. Which has evolved to the modern day version of ‘gringo’.

Who said history isn’t entertaining?

chilango

A heavily disputed term I ask if the 20 million+ population of Mexico City not to come after me for this haha but this is what people from Mexico City are called. HOWEVER some people say that actually chilangos are people who were born in a different state but now live in Mexico City, I’ve learnt is as everyone from Mexico City.

It’s also the name of a really good Tex-Mex restaurant in England, I highly recommend their burritos!!

D.F.

Distrito Federal or Mexico City or CDMX. Yes, it is all the same place but with a variety of names. Before it was called la Ciudad de México, it was Distrito Federal shortened to D.F. (letters pronounced using the Spanish alphabet). But is still called D.F. by Mexicans. So when meeting someone who says they’re from D.F. they’re from Mexico City and they’re a Chilango.

Warning – if you’ve booked a flight to D.F. and in the airport it just says Mexico on it, don’t panic, you are going to CDMX. It’s worth know that Mexico City is the capital city of the state of Mexico in Mexico. Yes, confusing. But I was very confused when I was in the airport in Monterrey (I was already IN Mexico – the country) when the board told me my flight was going to Mexico…although I was already IN Mexico.

taco de ojo

Oooo girl, you know he is fiiiine. That’s right ladies he is some taco de ojo or some eye candy. Such an incredible way to describe someone, taco of the eye. Maybe because tacos be looking and tasting so damn good!!

sailor moon awww GIF

So there you have it, 30 words and sayings that I have learned in my time in Mexico. I hope they made you laugh, made you confused and helped you realise that Spanish in Mexico is a whole different ball game.

Leave a comment, tell me which one was your favourite and which one has got you scratching your head!

Oh you thought we were finished? We’re just getting started. Stay tuned for more Mexican slang, you haven’t seen anything yet.

Until next time!

Abrazos y besos,

One Comment

  • Diana Ochoa Tamez Gambony

    Hello Vimbai, I’m glad you are having fun and enjoying our beautiful Mexico. Your post it’s very acurate I knew you were talking about our local Regiomontano slangs as soon as I started to read, I’m from Monterrey living in Texas. As any part in the world, each different area in Mexico has their own slang.
    Just some coments. “Foraneo” came from “Afuera=outside” anybody that came to the City from outside will be a Foraneo. “Pocho” is any Mexican that is forgetting how to speak spanish because is using more english. “D.F.” is the area were the Federal Goberment was stablished, the President lives there. Mexico has 31 States and 1 Federal District.

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