or esse [es-ey] or [ey-sey]
What does ese mean?
Ese, amigo, hombre. Or, in English slang, dude, bro, homey. Ese is a Mexican-Spanish slang term of address for a fellow man.
Examples of ese
Where does ese come from?
Ese originates in Mexican Spanish. Ese literally means “that” or “that one,” and likely extended to “fellow man” as shortened from expressions like ese vato, “that guy.”
There are some more elaborate (though less probable) theories behind ese. One goes that a notorious Mexican gang, the Sureños (“Southerners”), made their way from Mexico City to Southern California in the 1960s. Ese is the Spanish name for letter S, which is how the gang members referred to each other. Or so the story goes.
Ese is recorded in English for a “fellow Hispanic man” in the 1960s. It became more a general term of address by the 1980s, though ese remains closely associated (and even stereotyped) with Chicano culture in the US.
Ese is notably found in the Chicano poetry of José Antonio Burciaga and Cheech & Chong comedy routines (Cheech Marin is Mexican-American.)
White confusion over ese was memorably parodied in a 2007 episode of the TV show South Park. On it, the boys think they can get some Mexican men to write their essays, but them men write letters home to their eses.
Who uses ese?
For Mexican and Mexican-American Spanish speakers, ese has the force of “dude,” “brother,” or “man,” i.e., a close and trusted friend or compatriot.
I needa kick it wit my ese's its been a minute
— al (@a1anxs) February 1, 2019
It’s often used as friendly and familiar term of address…
Always a good time with my ese. 😎 pic.twitter.com/xxM4YroWDV
— | Y | G | (@yg_monroe) January 12, 2019
…but it can also be more aggressively and forcefully.
Cypress Hill 2018:
Who you tryin' ta mess with, ese?
Don't you know I'm seeking professional help for my deep rooted emotional problemsssssss?!?
— JAY. (@GoonLeDouche) June 30, 2018
“You’d have to be crazy to swipe left.” Who you tryna get crazy with, ese? Don’t you know I’m loco? Sorry, always wanted to say that. Anyway, swipe left. Might actually be crazy.
— Why I Swiped Left (@LeftyMcSwiper) December 17, 2018
Ese is associated with Mexican and Chicano American culture, where it can refer to and be used by both men and women. The term is also specifically associated with Mexican-American gang culture.
What's up ese? pic.twitter.com/0vAQxZZ6SO
— AlesiAkiraKitsune© (@AlesiAkira) January 21, 2019
It is often considered appropriative for people outside those cultures to use ese, especially since some non-Mexican people may use ese in ways that mock Mexicans and Mexican-American culture.
This is not meant to be a formal definition of ese like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of ese that will help our users expand their word mastery.