25 May 2020

Common Spanish slang you’ll hear on the streets of Spain - Part I

Slang is one of the most fun parts of learning a new language. It helps you get beyond what you’ve learned in the classroom or textbook and connect with people of that country on a casual level. Everyone uses slang when speaking their own language, so it make sense to learn some words and phrases in Spanish too. Here are some of the most common Spanish slang words and expressions used here in Spain.

two friends talking and smoking in Gothic Quarter in Barcelona with man in sports clothes walking by

1. Guay

If you’re looking for the ultimate Spanish slang word that encapsulates everything you want to describe as amazing, cool and just overall awesome, guay is it. You’ll hear this everywhere on the streets of Spain and it’s super easy to use.

¡Qué guay fue la fiesta de ayer!
That party yesterday was awesome!

2. Tío/tía

When you hear tío or tía on the streets of Spain, there’s a pretty good chance those people aren’t talking about their relatives. Although they mean aunt and uncle, tía and tío are popular Spanish slang terms for guy, dude, man, chick etc. Add this to the end of any exclamation and you’ll sound just like a Spaniard!

¡Te ves muy bien, tío!
You’re looking really good, man!

¡Ese tío no deja de mandarme mensajes molestos!
That guy won’t stop sending me annoying messages!

3. Guiri

To avoid sounding like a guiri, your best bet is to learn some of these slang words! Know why? Because guiri is a term used for foreigners or tourists. It can be used in a friendly or derogatory form, it all depends on the context.

Has notado cuántos guiris hay en la ciudad? Seguro que un crucero atracó hace poco.
Have you noticed how many tourists there are in the city? Surely a cruise ship docked not long ago.

4. Vale

It’s not exactly a slang term, per se, but vale is used to say fine, right, OK, good and sure. You can use it the same way you’d use OK and use it at the end of a question when you expect an answer. We’ve included this one in here because vale is very Spanish. In other countries in Central or South America, they use dale or sale instead.

- Vamos a tomar algo después del curro?
- Shall we grab a drink after work?
- ¡ Vale !
- Sure!

Me tengo que ir, pero hablamos más tarde, vale?
I’ve got to go, but we’ll talk later, OK?

5. Flipar

Flipar is another Spanish slang term used a lot in Spain. Think of it as going mental or crazy for something in English. You can use it to express your admiration for something, show shock or surprise, or even describe being under the influence of drugs.

¡ Flipo con que la señora nos tiró agua desde su balcón! ¡Ni siquiera hacíamos ruido!
I’m freaking out that that lady threw water on us from her balcony! We weren’t even making noise!

flipas si crees que las playas de Barcelona son mejores que las de la Costa Brava
You’re crazy if you think Barcelona’s beaches are better than the Costa Brava’s.

6. Currar /curro

The Spanish have their own slang verb for working and it’s currar. El curro is a job.

Sandra no puede venir. Tiene que currar.
Sandra can’t come. She has to work.

¿Te gusta mi nueva laptop? Me lo regalaron en mi curro nuevo.
Do you like my new laptop? They gave it to me at my new job.

7. Majo/maja

Majo is used as an adjective to describe people and objects and its uses are many. It can mean nice, pretty and good-looking. You may not know this but it’s an old word that was used to describe a typical “dandy”-type character in XIX century Madrid.

¡Qué vestido más majo!
What a cute dress!

Me encanta nuestra profe nueva. ¡Es muy maja!
I love our new teacher. She’s so nice!

8. Dar palo

Dar palo is a Spanish slang term you wish existed in your language. When you don’t feel like doing something because it’s annoying or you’re feeling lazy, you can say it gives you a stick. Many people also you is to describe something that’s embarrassing.

Tía, da palo ir hasta Badalona para vernos con María si ya estamos todas en el centro.
Girl, it’s a drag to go all the way to meet up with María if we’re already all in the centre.

9. Botellón

When summer rolls around, the streets of Spain are filled with young people and groups of friends that drink in public There’s a slang word for this that comes from right here in Spain: botellón. Funnily, a botellón is just means big bottle as it’s an augmentative form made by adding ón to the end of botella.

¡Organizamos un botellón este finde para celebrar tu cumple!
Let’s organize a botellón (drinking in the street party) this weekend to celebrate your birthday!

10. Ligar

If you’re single and in the dating sphere in Spain, you should know what ligar means. This is a slang term used by most Spanish-speaking countries that means to flirt, make out or hook up with.

No puedo creer que Elena ligó con ese guapo marinero anoche. ¡Flipo!
I can’t believe Elena made out with that hot sailor last night. I’m freaking! (In a good way)

11. Liar

Liar is an adaptable slang term used a lot in Spain. Liar traditionally means to wrap up or package, but in Spain it can mean that you botched something or messed it up, it can mean to get confused (liarse), and when it comes to romantic relationships it can mean to have an affair or get involved with someone (also liarse). Have you ever noticed that quite a few people in Spain roll their own cigarettes? They also liar them! They use tabaco de liar and paper de liar to put them together.

Me lié con las direcciones así que vendré tarde.
I got confused with the directions so I’ll be late.

Juan lo lió con Mónica diciéndole que subió de peso.
Juan messed up with Monica by telling her she gained weight.

12. ¡Hostia!

Once you hear someone exclaim ¡hostia! on the street or in a café, you won’t be able to unhear it and will notice it everywhere. Hostia is literally the communion wafer that you receive in church and using it shares a similarity with using the lord’s name in vain – Oh my God! For this reason some people (and children when they don’t want to be disciplined for swearing) prefer not to use it and say ostras (oysters) instead because it sounds similar enough.

Hostia is one of these words that can be used in combination with other words for different meanings too. Una mala hostia can be used to talk about someone’s bad mood or bad-tempered character. De la hostia can mean either amazing or terrible – think sick in English. And if you give someone an hostia, you’re really giving them a bad beating. These examples might help:

¡ Hostia, tío! No sabía que vivías tan cerca de mí.
Damn, man! I didn’t know you lived so close to me.

El trafico le puso de muy mala hostia.
The traffic put him in a really bad mood.

En el verano en Sevilla hace un calor de la hostia.
The summer in Sevilla the weather is damn hot.