Spanish is the official language of more than 20 countries and has over 500 million speakers, so imagine how much slang is out there waiting to be discovered - it can even vary from from city to city!
Speaking Spanish is already a really cool skill to have, but speaking it with authentic, local expressions is even cooler. Here are a few phrases to take you to the next level, and one step closer to sounding like a native!
WARNING: These Spanish slang expressions and curse words are representations of real human behaviour. They are intended to help learners get a better understanding of authentic Spanish, but at times they may be unpleasant or offensive. Reader discretion is advised.
Literally: to put your batteries in
Meaning: to get cracking, to get a move on
You can use “ponerse las pilas” when someone is being too slow and needs to move with a bit more urgency. You can also use it to encourage someone to focus and get a task done quickly.
It's used in the reflexive or imperative form.
It's so common it even comes in an abbreviated form: ¡Pilas!
Literally: good wave
“Buena onda” can be used to describe cool people, places or moments. It’s used mainly in Chile and Argentina.
Literally: The host (Communion bread)
Meaning: varied according to context – but always vulgar
Spain is historically a Catholic country, which means the Church features prominently in the language's curse words (very blasphemous, we know).
“La hostia” is used as an exclamation of surprise or dismay. It can also be used as an intensifier, similar to how f**king is used in English. Beware, this is quite a vulgar expression.
Literally: give pumpkins
Meaning: to brush someone off, or reject them
This is a sad one. "Dar calabazas" is used when someone doesn't want to go out with you, and you try to persuade them but they still say "no". So, it's used to say that your love is not welcome, or in the event that someone breaks your heart. We hope you never have to use this expression!
Literally: another rooster would sing
Meaning: things could have been different
“Otro gallo cantaría” means that if something different had happened in the past, it would have led to a different outcome. It can also be used the same way we use “if only" in English.
The origin of this expression is religious too – specifically, when Christ tells the apostle Peter that he will deny him three times after his death. The full phrase is "Si Pedro no hubiera negado a Jesucristo tres veces, otro gallo cantaría", meaning "if Peter hadn't denied Jesus three times, another rooster would sing".
Literally: to talk with your elbows
Meaning: to be a chatterbox
“Hablar por los codos” is used to describe someone who speaks too much, especially about irrelevant things. You can also say “hablaron hasta por los codos” – literally, "they spoke so much, even from the elbows!" – when people talk and talk to each other, usually because they're getting along well.
Literally: s**t, s**t
Meaning: break a leg
Also "mucha mierda" or "pura mierda" is a common expression in the performing arts. You would say this to someone who is about to perform. It's a backstage custom – and a much-needed one considering you cannot say “buena suerte” (good luck), because that is considered bad luck!
We love slang expressions and we know many students want to learn all the naughty words as well. That's why we've prepared this very entertaining workshop called: Slang and Profanity.
Join us in Melbourne or online during our Autumn Intensives for this fun workshop and get speaking like a native!
Wednesday April 20th 6.30-8.30pm in Melbourne CBD
Not sure which course is right for your Spanish level? Test your Spanish level now!
Ready to start learning? Find a class and enrol now!
February 8, 2022
Easy! Surprise your Spanish-learning friends, family or colleagues with a Gift Voucher. A voucher may be for a full course or to go toward a course fee or even for texts. Please note that you…