Spanish Expressions You May Have Overheard In Casual Conversations

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Behind Mandarin Chinese and ahead of English, Spanish is the second-most spoken native language in the world. It has an estimated 480 million native speakers, with nearly an additional 100 million people who speak Spanish as a second or foreign language.

Which means you're probably already familiar with everyday, Spanish 101 such as buenos días ("good morning/day") or te amo ("I love you"). That's why we've rounded up some less familiar Spanish terms abuzz in popular culture or conversation (you know, how people actually talk).

A quick warning: There will be some strong language and adult content ahead.

mami and papi

Literally, mami (or mamí) and papi (or papí) mean "mother" and "father," but in Spanish slang, they take on a number of other meanings.

A colloquial and child’s form of the Spanish mamámami is “mommy” in Latin-American Spanish, especially in the Caribbean. It has also become roughly equivalent to “honey” or “baby,” not unlike slang uses of momma in English, particularly for a “hot,” self-assured woman. Mami can also be a term of endearment for a close female friend. Some also call themselves mami as a declaration of self-confidence (e.g., I look like a mamí in this dress!).

Mami has also started showing some signs of acting as a kind of Spanish-language equivalent of mom, a slang term of admiration, especially for famous people. But, be warned: if used of strangers, mami may be considered misogynistic, especially if whistled at a woman (e.g., Hey, mami!)

Papi ("daddy") also has more than one meaning: It is often used as a general term of affection for any man, whether it’s a relative or lover. Papi is also a friendly way to refer to any male associate, similar to calling a friend “dude” or “buddy"—or, if you're the rap artist Drake, it's what you call yourself.

If you want to turn the terms mami or papi up a notch, you might consider …

papi chulo and mami chula

Papi chulo is a slang expression with a checkered history. Today, it is used to refer to an attractive man, but that wasn't always the case. A more direct translation of papi chulo from Spanish is “pimp daddy.” Papi, as we saw in the previous slide, is a diminutive, affectionate form of “father” ("daddy") and chulo (“pimp”), but also “attractive,” “cocky,” or “cool” in colloquial settings.

Papi chulo carries a variety of slang connotations depending on region. But, calling someone papi chulo is generally done in reference to their appearance and confidence, either with a negative (Rico Suave) or positive connotation (hunk).

The female equivalent of chulo is (mami) chula, Spanish slang for "cute" or "a beautiful woman." An informal term, chula is found in Spanish and mixed Spanish-English conversations. It’s common enough, thanks to Latin-based hip-hop, for some English speakers to use chula.

Chula can be an adjective or a noun. Calling a woman mami chula has a much more sexual tone, like "sexy momma."

morrito and morrita

In Mexican and Central American Spanish, (la) morrita literally means “little girl," apparently a diminutive form of the colloquial morra. Its plural is (las) morritas. It can have the sense of "girlfriend, fiancée, or a sexy young woman," as in the English slang chick.

Morro and morrito are its male counterpart, “boy” or “little boy,” with the effect of “boyfriend.”

The slang, evidenced as early as the 1860s, may originate in northern Mexico. Telenovelas set in northern Mexico may have helped spread morrita in reference to a beautiful young women, but it appears to have been popularized in the 2010s thanks to popular Norteño and Mexican hip-hop bands.

Another way to refer to a young person you care about in Spanish is …

mija and mijo

The term mija is a colloquial contraction of the Spanish words mi (“my”) and hija (“daughter”). Its male counterpart is mijo, joining mi and hijo (son).

Mija is widely used as a familiar form of direct address. Spanish-speaking parents, naturally, often use mija when getting the attention of a female child or speaking to them fondly. It has also become a term of endearment among female friends or a female significant other, where it carries the sense of “my girl” or “sweetheart.”

While intended to be affectionate, some young women, however, may find mija belittling, condescending, or sexist, particularly if coming from a male peer.

An LA-based DJ, Amber Giles, notably uses Mija as her stage name. She says it was given to her as a nickname by a friend in her hometown of Phoenix, Arizona.

wepa

Stoked! Awesomesauce! ¡Wepa!

Wepa is a versatile Latin-American Spanish slang exclamation used to express excitement, congratulations, and joy, similar to the English Oh yeah!Wow!, or That’s awesome! 

In Puerto Rican Spanish, wepa is a versatile slang interjection that apparently originates as an imitation of the English Woo-hoo! The term rose to prominence in Puerto Rico thanks to the 1974 smash hit “El Jogorio (Wepa Wepa Wepa)” by Alfonso Velez.

The exclamation is variously used to express amazement or great happiness, often in reaction to good news. It’s particularly popular at events where people are singing or dancing, pumping up the good times. Internet users tag social-media posts with “#wepa” to express the sentiment, as well.

In some instances, people will use wepa as an abstract noun for the joyful feelings a shout of wepa conveys (e.g., When my mother cooks a traditional Cuban dish, I am filled with wepa).

If you are so overwhelmed with wepa you can't even, you might beg …

no más

The expression no más in Spanish means "no more." Its specific sense can vary depending on context, however, which means it can also translate to "enough," "no longer," or "just."

One famous example is the No Más Fight between legendary boxer Sugar Ray Leonard and Chilean boxer Roberto “El Cholo” Durán at the New Orleans Superdome in 1980. At the end of the eighth round, Durán turned toward the referee and quit the match by pleading “No más,” or “That’s enough.”

But while no más is a great expression to have handy, it might not be quite as useful as …

claro

Literally meaning and related to "clear," claro is one of the most useful words in Spanish and Portuguese. It can express emphasis and agreement, as in claro que sí (“yes, of course”). It’s also used as a filler word, such as when you’re trying to think about what to say next, not unlike sure or well in English.

But when claro is used on its own in a sentence, not as a modifier of a noun, claro usually carries the force of “obviously” or “clearly,” as in Está claro que no te gustan los perros (“It’s clear you don’t like dogs”). As a stand-alone word, it also expresses agreement, as in ¡Claro! Me gustan los perros (“Of course! I like dogs.”).

OK, now that we've got those terms covered ... let's move on to the vulgarities, for educational purposes, claro .... We're going to run through a few you may have come across in popular Spanish-language songs, films, or social media.

If you don't like unsavory language, skip to the end of this slideshow for a more wholesome sendoff.

culo

Culo is a vulgar word in Spanish, literally meaning "butt" or "ass," used in a range of coarse expressions.

Culo appears in many Spanish-language idioms, colloquially translating to the English sense of “getting screwed over.” One expression is dejar al alguien con el culo al aire, literally “to leave someone with their ass in the air” but having the effect of “to leave someone stranded.”

Other notable Spanish culo expressions insult someone’s intelligence or appearance, like cara de culo (“butt-face”).

While widely used in many idioms, the Spanish culo is also considered very rude. El trasero or las nalgas (“buttocks”) are more polite versions.

Unfortunately, there aren't really more polite versions of our next term …

puta and del putas

Don't say this around tu abuela ("your grandma").

Puta (plural, putas) literally means "whore" in Spanish. The ultimate origin of puta is obscure, though it’s commonly thought to come from a Latin word for a “girl.” Forms of the word are found across the Romance languages, not just Spanish.

In Spanish, puta extended as a derogatory word for “whore” to an all-purpose swear, kind of like the English fuck(ing). Puta is often used as an exclamation of surprise, positive or negative: Puta! I just stubbed my toe.

It also appears in the colorful Colombian expression del putas, which corresponds to the English terms like "the best," "awesome," "excellent," or "(it) rocks." It’s common to see del putas in expressions such as estás del putas, meaning you’re the best, or llevados del putas, meaning best of the best. On social media, "#delputas" often appears as a hashtag to call some person, song, or thing “the best.”

The next two expressions are often used together. And while they don't originate as literal vulgarities, they're often used that way. Curious? Read on …

pinche and cabrón

In many Spanish dialects, pinche is a strong swear word variously meaning "goddamned," "shitty," or "fucking," among other senses. However, the term literally refers to a low-level or temporary worker, particularly one who works in a kitchen.

Similarly, the word cabrón literally means "male goat," but it's used in a manner roughly equivalent to the English bastardbadass, or dude. Context is indeed everything with cabrón, as it can be an actual male goat, a bastard, something awesome, someone very skilled, or a term of endearment among bros.

Pinche is often used to intensify cabrón. Pinche cabrón shows up in young, urban English- and Spanish-language movies, TV, and music, such as the 2014 single “Collard Greens” by LA-based hip-hop artist Schoolboy Q featuring Kendrick Lamar, who raps el pinche cabrón to call a man “fucking idiot.”

vaya con Dios

Vaya con Dios is a Spanish-language phrase meant as a farewell. It literally translates to “go with God.”

Among Spanish speakers, vaya con Dios is considered more formal, heard among older, devout Christian speakers or reserved for elevated settings, such as at church or before embarking on a trip. An English equivalent may be godspeed or Lord be with you.

Among English speakers, vaya con dios is often used for dramatic effect in speech and writing, including online. It can be negative (“Good riddance!” “Sayonara!”) or somber (“Fare thee well” or “RIP”). The phrase can also used as an attempt to code-switch when speaking/writing affectionately of Spanish-speaking culture (e.g., at the end of a holiday).

¡Adios!

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