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. 



  • ¡Valeria, ponte las pilas! Hay que trabajar. 
  • Tengo que ponerme las pilas y terminar este artículo.

It's so common it even comes in an abbreviated form: ¡Pilas!


Literally: good wave

Meaning: cool


“Buena onda” can be used to describe cool people, places or moments. It’s used mainly in Chile and Argentina. 



  • Las profesoras de El Patio son muy buena onda.
  • ¡Qué buena onda en esta fiesta!


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.



  • Ese inspector de la hostia 
  • ¡Me cago en la hostia! (Be careful with this one!)


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!



  • Mi esposa me dio calabazas hasta tres veces antes de tener nuestra primera cita.
  • Invitá a Mario a la fiesta pero me dio calabazas


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".



  • Si hubiera estado más atenta otro gallo me cantaría
  • Si ese presidente so hubiera ganado las elecciones otro gallo cantaría


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.



  • Esas amigas hablan hasta por los codos.
  • Juan no se calla nunca. ¡Habla hasta por los codos!


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! 

Do you want to learn more Spanish slang?

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!

Dates are:

Wednesday April 20th 6.30-8.30pm in Melbourne CBD

Wednesday April 27th 6.30-8.30pm Online

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!

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