spanish slang

Essential Spanish Slang: 36 Phrases That Make You Sound Like a Native

Most Spanish speakers use many slang words in their daily conversations. The worldwide geographical distribution of Spanish speakers complicates matters even further; even for native speakers, it can be difficult to understand Spanish slang from other Spanish-speaking countries. 

Let’s take for example the word dinero (money). In Venezuela, they call it plata or cobre/cobres depending on the region. In other countries, some people call it real. But, in Mexico, it’s called lana. Many words for just one term.

In this article, you’ll discover the most important Spanish slang expressions with example sentences. Use them and you'll sound just like a native speaker.

Ready?

Why is it important to learn Spanish slang words?

Learning Spanish slang words will help you to: 

  • communicate in a natural and efficient way with locals;
  • understand Spanish memes, jokes, and popular local phrases;
  • travel through Spain and Latin American countries with ease;

You don’t have to learn all Spanish slang, of course, but I recommend you learn some essential slang words that’ll help you discover more about Spanish culture and blend in with native speakers.

General Spanish Slang Chunks

It’s not surprising that Spanish slang phrases are highly dependent on the region. For example, in Spain you can say ¡Cómo mola! to say something is cool. On the other hand, if you’re in Mexico, you could say Está bien chido. to express something is cool. 

More Mexican slang in this video with teacher Paulísima from Spring Spanish, a YouTube Channel and language learning platform I co-founded.

Let’s see a list of Spanish slang chunks you can’t miss having in your vocabulary. 

SpanishEnglish
Ponerse/Ponte las pilasTo step it up
Echar/Echarle la mano a alguienTo help someone
Hablar hasta por los codosTo be very talkative
Dejar plantado a alguienTo stand someone up
Ser del año de la peraTo be really old

Now, let’s see a short story with all Spanish phrases to understand how a native speaker would use them. 

Tienes que ponerte las pilas Raul. Sino, te botaran del trabajo, Marcos habla hasta por los codos pero siempre quiere echarte una mano. No desperdicies la oportunidad que tienes. Aunque Marcos parece ser del año de la pera, jamás ha dejado plantado a alguien. 

(You have to step it up, Raul. Otherwise they’ll fire you, Marco is very talkative but is always willing to help you out. Don’t waste this opportunity. Even though Marcos seems very old, he has never stood anyone up.)

See? There you go, a full monologue based on Spanish slang chunks. For non-natives, understanding that monologue can be pretty difficult. But, thankfully, you have made the right decision.

In some cases, native speakers use ponerse las pilas to say that you need to find motivation and move on. Sometimes, it might also might that you have to get to work. 

The slang phrase Hablar hasta por los codos is quite common in countries like Venezuela, Colombia, and Mexico. 

If you ever visit one of those countries and you’re very talkative, people will definitely tell you that. 

Of course, there are more Spanish slang chunks like the ones below. But, these, in some countries, aren’t that popular.

SpanishEnglish
Tomar el peloThe Spanish equivalent to “pulling someone’s leg” and you can use it when someone is taking you/someone for a fool.
Hacer castillos en el aireA Spanish phrase to say that someone is dreaming or has a lot of imagination and what they say is not even close to reality.
Tener pajaros en la cabezaNatives use it to express that you’re not thinking in what’s important.
Estar en la lunaTo be all over the place and not being able to focus.
Ponerse rojo como un tomateThis is an expression you can use when someone gets embarrassed.
Tirar la toallaLiterally, the Spanish slang equivalent to “to give up”.
Ser un ratón de bibliotecaAn expression native Spanish speakers use to say that you or someone spends too much time studying.

Essential Spanish slang words for everyday use

Apart from learning Spanish slang phrases, it’s really important to get familiar with single Spanish slang words. As you already know their use depends on the region, or country. Let’s see a few of the most popular words. 

SpainVenezuelaColombiaMexicoEnglish
PintaBirraPolaChelaBeer
TíoPanaParceWeyDude
ResacaPeaGuayaboCrudoHangover
La poliLos pacosLos tombosLa chotaThe police
Un favorUna vueltaUn catorceUn paroA favor
GuayChévereBerraco/ BacanoChidoCool

To give you an idea, here’s how to ask “Can you do me a favor?”  in different Spanish-speaking countries:

  • ¿Me haces una vuelta?
  • ¿Me puedes hacer un catorce?
  • Necesito me hagas un paro
  • ¿Me puedes hacer un favor?

Fun fact: although geographically, Colombia and Venezuela are right next to each other, their slang expressions and chunks are quite different. Spanish slang can even change from city to city within the same country.  For example, here's another video from Spring Spanish where we compare slang from Mexico, Colombia, and Venezuela:

Conclusion

Learning Spanish slang  will help you to communicate when traveling, meeting new people from different countries and more. Adding these phrases to your toolbox will make you sound less like a textbook and more like a native speaker. 

The easiest way to learn slang phrases (and Spanish in general) is through a method called Conversation Based Chunking™. This method (I’ve written a book on it too) is used by hundreds of thousands of students around the world with great success. 

Curious to learn more? Make sure to get your free Spanish Chunking Starter Pack, where I show you a 4-step method to learn Spanish without having to memorize word lists and grammar rules. It comes with tutorial videos for Conversation Based Chunking ™, resource lists to get you started, and much more. Conversation Based Chunking™ is currently being used by hundreds of thousands of students across the world with great results.

If you want to get fluent in Spanish, I recommend you check out the free starter pack and start implementing the methodology in your studies.

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