5 common Spanish slang words to put in your back pocket

Learning Spanish this summer? Want to take it beyond Feliz Navidad and No hay problema? Well, no hay problema (and Merry Christmas of course).  You’ve come to the right place.

Here is a selection of everyday Spanish slang words used across Spain and/or Latin America. ¡Vamos!

Che (Argentina)

This first word should probably ring a bell. If you’re planning to travel to Argentina, the slang word che will come in handy to punctuate (almost) every one of your sentences, and translates as “hey” or “man”.  Widely used across the country, che is said to come from the Italian que which also serves as a transition word in many contexts. 

Did you know? Ernesto Guevara used the word so often that it became his nickname.

Example: Che, te quería hablar de nuestro gerente.

Translation: Hey, I wanted to talk to you about our manager. 

Guay (Spain)

Very popular across Spain, this colloquial term refers to something or someone “great”, “cool”, or “amazing”. It can also be used to show that you agree with the person you are talking to. 

Example: ¡Qué guay esta película! 

Translation: This film is really great!

We like to consider our Spanish course pretty guay as well.

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Tía/Tío (Spain) – Chama/Chamo (Venezuela) – Flaca/Flaco (Argentina) – Güey (Mexico)

All of the above words have something in common – they all refer to “a stranger” or a person whose name is unknown”, and can also translate as “girl” or “guy”. 

The literal translations of tía and tío are “aunt” and “uncle”, chama and chamo “little girl” and “little boy”, while flaca and flaco describe someone skinny. The Mexican word güey (pronounced “whey”) comes from the Spanish word buey which means “ox” and can also help refer to someone who is stupid.

Example: Ven tía/chama/flaca, vamos a beber una copa.

Translation: Come on, girl, let’s get a drink.

Vale (Spain)

Walk around any city in Spain and you’ll most likely hear this word used in abundance. Vale means “okay”, “got it” or “all right” and often replaces   (“yes”). Native Spanish speakers use this term day in and day out to punctuate sentences. 

Did you know? This slang term is actually a derivative of the word válido (“valid”).

Example: He tenido un montón de novias en mi vida, ¿vale?

Translation: I’ve had lots of girlfriends, okay? 

Buena onda (Chile, Argentina, Mexico) 

We end this colloquial list with a feel-good expression. Buena onda translates as “good vibes” (literally “good waves”) and is often used in Latin America to describe someone who is “cool”.

Fun fact: the opposite of buena onda is simply… mala onda.

Example: Realmente esta chica es muy buena onda.

Translation: This girl really has good vibes.

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