Sounding like a fluent Spanish speaker requires a mastery of Spanish verbs, a wide Spanish vocabulary and, believe it or not, a little bit of slang!
Although they don’t always teach you the full range of colloquial terms in Spanish classes and schools, slang words and phrases are a staple of social interactions and are used abundantly in conversations between friends.
You might therefore be feeling a bit like an outsider among native speakers if you’re just getting used to Spanish slang, but ¡no te preocupes!
With this list of commonly used Spanish slang words and phrases you’ll soon be able to catch some of the quirkier expressions, slang phrases and colloquialisms that are used by the natives.
Why is Spanish slang important and when should it be used?
Spanish slang is important for various reasons.
Not only does using certain phrases help you sound like a native Spanish speaker, you will be able to fully immerse yourself in informal dialogues and understand the more subtle, nuanced meanings of conversations between friends.
Because, just like Spanish greetings, context is key and dictates how you should speak with others, you should always be aware of who you are speaking to and who else might be present when using Spanish slang.
After all, you wouldn’t address your boss or in-laws with the word ‘mate’, would you? 😊
A good friend might use a range of slang terms when they speak to you because they are familiar with you. You’re their tío/tía (in this context, good friend/dude), and the context is informal. They know that you’ll completely understand their intended meaning because they’ve known you for a very long time.
Native speakers reserve their Spanish slang for the right conversations and the right people, and that’s exactly what you should do as well.
Now you know why Spanish slang is important, here is our list of Spanish slang words, phrases and colloquial expressions that you’ll frequently hear from native Spanish speakers.
Take a look — which ones have you heard recently?
Spanish slang phrases that have negative connotations (and insults)
Sometimes you’ll need a slang word that conveys a negative meaning, or to express how annoyed something has made you feel. These are some of the common colloquial Spanish words and phrases that have a negative connotation behind them.
They might help you vent your frustration, but always consider the context in which you use them!
Ser un pijo/ser una pija (to be a brat/spoiled)
This slang phrase is used by Spaniards when referring to a ‘posh’, ‘snobby’ person who might have inherited a lot of money and gained their wealth without working very hard. When using this slang term, be careful!
In some Spanish speaking countries un pijo can mean ‘penis’. 🤣
Que no seas una pija. No te comprare nada mas.
Ser cutre (to be stingy)
The Spanish slang term cutre refers to someone who supposedly never has any money.
They are ‘stingy’ when it comes to covering the tab, so you can bet that a person who is cutre will never offer to pay for a round of drinks.
Nunca me ha regalado nada en toda mi vida. Es que, es tan cutre.
Joder (shit, f**k)
This slang term is also a palabrota or swear word, which has a range of meanings. Commonly exclaimed when someone wants to express their annoyance or disapproval, joder is a word that you’ll frequently hear in Spanish movies.
If your friend says it, you’ll know they’re irritated, upset or angry.
¡Joder! El Barca ha perdido el partido. ¿Pero, como es posible?
Es una cotilla (he’s/she’s a busybody, a snooper)
This Spanish slang phrase is an epithet used to describe someone who gossips a lot or knows too much about other people’s lives.
Chances are, if you’re in Spain, you’ll probably have a vecino (neighbour), who is a typical cotilla.
Mi vecina es una cotilla. Está siempre escuchando los escándalos de la gente.
We use the Spanish slang term caray, which is short for caramba, when we’re shocked, annoyed or appalled by something unjust that might have happened.
If someone is constantly nagging or nitpicking, and you feel frustrated by it, you might use this term to express how annoyed you are.
¡Cállate mujer, caray! Que no seas una cotilla. Siempre hablas demasiado.
Estar en la luna (absent-minded)
Though this Spanish slang term literally means ‘to be at the moon’, we use it to describe someone who is figuratively a million miles away or ‘absent-minded’.
If you’re en la luna, it means you are not focused or concentrating at that moment.
Pero, estáis en la luna hoy. No me estáis escuchando.
Tirar la toalla (concede/surrender)
This Spanish slang phrase might bring to mind the English expression ‘throw in the towel’, as the Spanish noun toalla translates as ‘towel’.
As with the English phrase, it means that you plan to abandon a difficult task or to admit you’ve been beaten by an impossible challenge.
Es la hora de tirar la toalla. No me puedes vencer ahora.
Me cae mal/me cae gordo (he/she annoys me)
We use this Spanish phrase to describe someone who has given you a bad impression of themselves — or to refer to someone who annoys you.
The phrase me cae gordo similarly conveys this meaning, and can also refer to the bad gut feeling or intuition a person gave you.
Este tío me cae mal. Es muy presumido y arrogante. No sabe cuando callarse.
Spanish slang phrases that have positive connotations
There are so many occasions where you’ll need to express your respect for someone, to address your group of friends with a positive or inclusive phrase, or use a term that shows how much you admire them.
Check out these Spanish slang terms that connote positivity or admiration.
Ser mono/ser mona/eres tan mono (to be adorable, cute)
Don’t get confused by this Spanish slang phrase — while mono translates as ‘monkey’, when used with the verb ser its meaning changes.
We use the colloquial adjective ser mono/mona to refer to someone who is cute or adorable.
Mira, ¡eres tan mono y precioso que no tengo palabras!
Molar/cómo mola (cool)
This common Spanish word is heard everywhere in Spain! Used in a similar way to the phrase que guay, something described with the word molar is ‘awesome’ or ‘cool’.
Este coche es muy grande. Tiene mucho espacio. ¡Cómo mola!
Guay is another Spanish slang term for ‘cool’. With young people using it frequently, you’ll hear it everywhere in Spain.
Like the word mola, it’s a common word that can be used to compliment a situation or express admiration for someone on account of how amazing they are.
Que guay, tío. Me alegro que estéis mas felices que antes.
Tío/tía (dude, chico, chica)
In Spain, you’ll hear young people referring to their friends as tío/tía all the time.
A direct translation would give you the word ‘uncle’ or ‘aunty’, but among friends it means ‘dude’ or ‘mate’.
¡Has comprado una casa! Pues, que guay, ¡tío!
There are many meanings to this Spanish slang term. The phrase ser un chaval refers to someone who is young in terms of their attitude.
It has connotations of being inexperienced or naïve, but it’s also a colloquial term used between friends meaning ‘dude’ or ‘guys’.
¿Que pasa chavales? ¿Ya estáis cenando? Llegare dentro de cinco minutos.
Qué chulo/chula (how cool, how stylish)
If something is described as chulo/chula, we mean that object is cool, stylish or amazing.
It’s a compliment, so you can use this slang phrase to express how much you like your friend’s new iPhone or their new car.
¡Tienes botas muy chulas! ¡Que envidia!
Hincar los codos/voy a hincar los codos (to study a lot)
Have you pulled an all-nighter before an all-important exam? The Spanish slang phrase you’ll need to convey just that is hincar los codos.
It means ‘study hard’ and might bring to mind the English expressions ‘put some elbow grease into it’ or ‘roll your sleeves up’ because your codos are your elbows in English.
Quiere aprobar el examen de ciencias. Tiene que hincar los codos.
Es la leche (it’s awesome/amazing)
It’s easy to get confused by the many Spanish terms that feature the word leche or milk. A person might be in a bad mood, in which case you might say está de mala leche. But in this context, the slang term es la leche refers to how amazing something is.
That really cool book you finished reading last week — if it was fantastic and resonated with you, you might describe it as la leche.
Hombre, esta peli es la leche. A mi me gustó un montón.
Spanish slang terms for amazement, shock or disgust
If something has stunned you silent and you just don’t know how to express your feelings, these Spanish slang words might describe the situation perfectly.
Take a look at these colloquial expressions that are frequently used by native Spanish speakers when there simply are no ideal words.
Hostia/la hostia (wow, no way!)
Though the word hostia is literally the Spanish term for the wafer given to you during communion, it also means ‘my God!’ and is commonly used to express shock or complete surprise caused by something or someone.
¡Hostia! Que barbaridad, los politcos siempre son corruptos.
Ostras (wow, oh my!)
If you’re looking for a way to express your shock and surprise in a ‘non-blasphemous’ way, the Spanish slang term ostras is one option.
It is the same as exclaiming hostia, and conveys the same meaning, but is an expression typically used to avoid saying ‘oh my God’.
¡Ostras! Tienes mucho dinero. ¿Que vas a hacer con eso?
Flipar/te vas a flipar (freak out, go nuts)
Flipar is a Spanish slang expression that conveys shock or astonishment. It means ‘go crazy’ and can be used in a range of contexts. You might have discovered that someone is having an affair.
Or perhaps someone you know has suddenly inherited a fortune…
The phrase you’re going to need if you’re going to tell someone about that shocking news is te vas a flipar.
You’re going to freak out… I’m going to marry her!
Estar como una cabra (he’s/she’s nuts)
Though this slang term literally translates to English as ‘to be like a goat’, in Spain we use this phrase to refer to or describe someone who is totally crazy or behaving in a peculiar, silly way!
¿Pero, está borracho? ¡Está como una cabra!
Other frequently used Spanish slang terms
The world of Spanish slang is vast and varied. There are so many colloquial terms that Spaniards use on a daily basis.
We’ve only scratched the surface! Here are a few more that might be of interest to you.
Me piro/pirarse (I’m leaving)
The full phrase sometimes used by Spanish speakers is me piro vampiro. It’s a funny slang term similar to ‘see you later alligator’.
The verb pirarse means ‘to leave’, so if you want to decline an invitation from your friends to go for more drinks later in the evening you can say lo siento, me piro.
No tengo ganas de ir a la fiesta. Lo siento, me piro.
Tomarse el pelo (pulling someone’s leg/having you on)
The literal translation of tomarse el pelo would be ‘pulling my hair’, but this slang term is used when someone is teasing you or making fun of you.
Sin duda, hombre, esa mujer te estaba tomando el pelo. No puede ser que ella tenga 59 años.
Es un lío/liar (it’s a mess/screwed up)
We use the slang term es un lío when we’ve made a mistake or done something wrong.
One example of this could be if someone has an affair, which we would describe by using the verb liarse. If something is un lío we mean it’s a mess.
Es todo un lio. Esta vez, no creo que entienda.
Duro/no tengo un duro (penniless, broke)
Duro is a Spanish slang term that means ‘money’. If you don’t have any, you can say no tengo un duro.
Lo siento, no te puedo comprar la bici. No tengo un duro.
How can you sound like a native when using Spanish slang?
The key to sounding like a native — and to avoid using the wrong Spanish slang term — is not only to consult lists and examples, but to listen to native speakers and actually hear the colloquial terms used in context.
When in doubt, consider how the person speaking to you addresses you and analyse the way they speak.
By listening and taking note of the phrases they use, you’ll soon be able to use them yourself.
Every person is unique, though. You might not use the exact same Spanish slang terms as your friends on every occasion. But having a good knowledge of these common terms is important as it will enhance your understanding.
Did I miss any Spanish slang terms?