As is true for the majority of languages, slang (jerga) is an integral part of Spanish and is commonly used in the daily, casual conversations of native speakers.
And since Spain is a culturally rich and diverse country with more than 45 million inhabitants, there is an enormous variety of slang that you can hear spoken there. In fact, slang words often differ depending on the region a person comes from, their educational level, socioeconomic background, as well as many other factors. Therefore, in order to simplify the task of learning them, I have created a list of the twelve most common slang words that can be heard throughout the entire country of Spain, and that are used by a wide range of speakers.
Please note that these words are only applicable in Spain. If you are searching for slang words from Latin America, you won’t find them here. This is because in every Spanish speaking country, the language has evolved differently. Thus, each nation has developed its own slang expressions. However, if you are curious about Latin American expressions, you can contact me by private message and I’ll try to help you.
Now, let’s get started with the twelve most common slang words that you won’t find in your Spanish textbook.
Dictionary definition: A ticket.
Colloquial meaning: Okay, alright.
The word vale is probably one of the most frequently used slang words in Spanish. You can hear it everywhere and in every situation. People will use it to give confirmation, such as when they are asked if they want to do something (like go out for the night). You will hear it often, typically at the end of a sentence or as a response to something.
- ¿Te apetece que vayamos al cine esta noche? (Would you like to go to the cinema tonight?)
- Si, vale (Yes, okay).
- Vale, me has convencido. Voy a comprar este coche (Okay, you’ve convinced me. I’m going to buy this car).
Dictionary definition: A type of tooth (diente molar).
Colloquial meaning: To like something, to think something is cool.
This word is very similar to the verb “to like,” but exudes a cool, youthful style. The verb molar is conjugated in such a way that the thing that you like is actually the subject.
- ¡Me mola tu chaqueta! (I like your jacket!)
- ¡Cómo me mola esta ciudad! (How cool is this city!?)
- Arrogant, defiant (referring to a person).
- Lovely, nice, attractive (referring to an object).
This is a key word that can be used to refer to almost everything. Regardless of their age, people use this term daily.
- No me gusta el carácter de Juan, es un chulo (I don’t like Juan’s personality, he is arrogant).
- ¡Oh, qué casa tan chula! (Oh, what a nice house!)
Dictionary definition: Colleague.
Colloquial meaning: Friend, mate, pal.
Amigo is probably one of the first words that you learned in Spanish. And while you can use this word to talk about a friend, you will soon realize that young Spanish people are more likely use the word colega. It doesn’t matter if your friend is a woman or a man; colega works for all genders.
- La próxima semana iré de vacaciones a Sevilla con mis colegas (Next week I’m going on holidays to Seville with my friends).
- Hey, colega! ¿Qué tal? (Hey my friend! What’s up?)
Colloquial meaning: Very good, cool, extraordinary.
For quite some time now, guay has been one of the most important colloquial words in the Spanish language. If you want to be a master of daily conversations, you should keep this word in mind and adapt it to every context. Nowadays, everything can be guay: a store, a person, a city or even clothes.
- ¡Ahh, tu sofá es super guay! (Ahh, your couch is super cozy!)
- Este libro es muy guay (This book is very good).
Colloquial meaning: Work, job.
You may have already heard this word somewhere before, but please don’t think that Spaniards are talking about churros (fritters) all day long! It is very common to hear young people referring to their job with the word curro. In addition, people use the verb currar to refer to the actual action of going to work.
- Lo siento, ahora no puedo quedar. Estoy en el curro (I’m sorry but I can’t meet you now. I’m at work).
- Estoy harta de currar tanto (I’m sick of working so much).
Dictionary definition: Uncle/aunt.
Colloquial meaning: Friend, pal, guy.
When your new friend starts talking about the tío (uncle) he met yesterday, his tía (aunt) who will come over later to visit, or how his other tío across the street has a nice car, you might wonder just how big a family your friend has. Well, that assumption is not quite right. That’s because tío and tía are used as slang words to refer to a person’s friends (of about the same age), or to men and women in general. Therefore, in this example, your new friend is not actually referring to members of his own family.
- Mira este tío, parece majo (Look at this guy, he seems nice).
- Tío, ¡no me llames a las seis de la mañana! (Hey man, don’t call me at 6AM!)
Dictionary definition: Child, young person.
Colloquial meaning: Dude, man (used for both males and females).
Chaval and chavala are nearly equivalent to tío and tía above, but they are used when referring to young people, such as a friend (of your own age) or young people in general. The ending depends on the gender of the person you are addressing. When you talk about young people in general, use chavales or chavalas.
- Hola chavala, ¿cómo estás? (Hey dude (girl), how is it going?)
- Mira a estos chavales, ¡están fumando y sólo tienen quince años! (Look at those teenagers, they are smoking and they are only fifteen years old!)
Dictionary definition: Gambling hall, winnings of illegal gambling.
Colloquial meaning: Club, disco.
When a friend asks you to go out to a garito on a Friday night, he is probably not asking you to join him at a shabby gambling hall where you’ll likely lose all your savings. Instead, he’s probably just inviting you to go out and dance at a normal nightclub.
- ¿Te gustó el garito al que fuimos la semana pasada? (Did you like the club we went to last weekend?)
- Este garito parece guay, la música que ponen es bastante alternativa (This club seems nice, they usually play underground music).
Dictionary definition: Dough, pasta, mixture, paste.
Colloquial meaning: Money.
When somebody talks about pasta in Spain, they most certainly are not referring to the pasta that you eat, nor the paste that is used to fill holes in your wall. They will instead be referring to money! If a friend asks you for pasta, don’t serve him a plate of spaghetti… give him some cash!
- No me queda mucha pasta este mes, así que no puedo salir este fin de semana… (I don’t have much money left this month, so I can’t go out this weekend…).
- ¿Me puedes dejar 5 €? No he traído nada de pasta (Can you lend me €5? I don’t have any cash with me right now).
Colloquial meaning: Shoes, footwear.
When you meet up with a friend and she tells you that she’s just bought new zapas and points to her feet, what she means is that she’s just bought a new pair of shoes. This word is very common among young people, and while it can refer to any type of shoe, it most commonly refers to sneakers or casual shoes (as opposed to high heels).
- ¿Has visto qué guay son mis nuevas zapas? / Si, ¡qué chulas! ¿Dónde las compraste? (Did you see how nice my new sneakers are? / Yeah, how nice! Where did you buy them?)
Colloquial meaning: Tourists from northern countries.
Do you come from England? Are you blonde and get burnt instead of getting a tan in the summer? Have you ever visited Spain? Then you’ve definitely been called guiri by a Spaniard. This is the word that everyone uses to refer to tourists, especially those that fit the typical stereotype: blond haired, blue eyed and fair skinned (oh wait, I mean bright red!!).
- Mira esos chicos rubios de ahí, parecen dos guiris. (Look at those two blond boys there, they look like tourists.)
- Los guiris suelen pasar todo el día en la playa tomando el sol, ¡y luego se ponen rojos como un cangrejo! (The tourists typically lay down on the beach to sunbathe all day long, and after they become red like lobsters!)
Well, my italki friends, there’s my explanation of Spanish slang words for you. If you manage to internalize these expressions, I guarantee that you’ll make great progress towards becoming a real pro in Spanish. Your new knowledge of slang words will surely help you to shine during your informal Spanish gatherings.
Remember, the best way to improve is through practice. So, I challenge you today (or over the next few days) to write a story using the words and phrases described above. Leave a comment below with your sentences and I will correct them.
If you have any further questions, or if you wish learn even more idiomatic expressions in Spanish, please do not hesitate to contact me!
Speak to you soon guys!