In short – ‘chamaca’ is a feminine noun that translates to ‘girl’ or ‘teenager’ in English.
It’s actually a great example of the cultural fusion between Spain and Mexico after the Spanish conquest. Instead of deriving from Latin, Greek or Arabic – like most Spanish words – ‘chamaca’ comes from Náhuatl, one of the many indigenous languages spoken in Mexico.
The root word in Náhuatl, ‘chamahuac’,means ‘growing’ or ‘fat’, and refers to kids becoming bigger as they enter adolescence, but nowadays its meanings can range from ‘daughter’ to ‘girlfriend’, so you’ll definitely need to pay attention to context with this one!
Ready to find out more? Well, let’s get to it!
Uses / Meanings of ‘chamaca’
‘Chamaca’ can be used in the following ways –
- To refer to ‘girls’ in general, especially ‘teenagers’
- To refer to a ‘naughty kid’
- As a synonym of ‘daughter’
- As a synonym of ‘girlfriend’
To refer to ‘girls’ in general, especially ‘teenagers’
This is basically how the original word, ‘chamahuac’, was used by the Nahua people.
‘Chamaca’ refers to ‘girls’ who were neither children nor adults (i.e., teenagers).
Malena – ¿Dónde están las chamacas?
Ruben – Están jugando en la alberca.
Malena – Where are the girls?
Ruben – They’re playing in the pool.
Linda – ¿Dónde compraste esas galletas? ¡Están deliciosas!
Ángel – Se las compré a una chamaca de la colonia que las vende para recaudar fondos para su escuela.
Linda – Where did you buy these cookies? They’re delicious!
Ángel – I bought them from a girl from the neighbourhood who sells them to raise funds for her school.
To refer to a ‘naughty kid’
Depending on intonation, you might hear some people (especially parents!), refer to girls who are misbehaving / being mischievous as ‘chamacas’.
¡Chamaca! Ya te dije que no se juega con las tijeras.
You rascal! I told you not to play with the scissors.
En una fiesta infantil
¿De quién es esa chamaca que está saltando sobre la mesa?
At a children’s party
Whose brat is that jumping on the table?
As a synonym of ‘daughter’
Parents use ‘chamaca’ to refer to their ‘daughter’ in the same sense that we say ‘my kid’ or ‘my little girl’ in English.
En la oficina
Mildred – Joaco, ¿tuviste oportunidad de revisar mi correo?
Joaquín – ¿Podemos comentarlo mañana? Tengo que ir por mis chamacas.
In the office
Mildred – Joaco, did you get a chance to check my e-mail?
Joaquín – Can we discuss it tomorrow? I have to go pick up my daughters.
Adrián – ¿Tienes hijos?
Samantha – Sí, tengo una chamaca. ¿Y tú?
Adrián – Do you have children?
Samantha – Yeah, I have a little girl. And you?
As a synonym of ‘girlfriend’
‘Mi chamaca’ can also be used in a similar way to the English expression ‘my girl’ (i.e., ‘my girlfriend’).
It’s worth mentioning that this isn’t the most popular way to say ‘girlfriend’ in Mexico; most people prefer to say ‘mi chica’
Mi chamaca está chipil* porque la corrieron de su chamba.
My girlfriend is a bit down because she got fired.
*Erika’s top tip – ‘chipil’ is another term derived from Náhuatl and an extremely common way of saying ‘down’ or ‘glum’ in Mexico.
‘Chamaca’ consists of three syllables –
- ‘Cha’ is said like ‘chah’
- ‘Ma’ sounds like ‘mah’
- And ‘ca’ is said like ‘kah’
/ chah-mah-kah /
Similar words / expressions to ‘chamaca’
This variation of ‘chamaca’ is far less innocent.
It refers to a ‘beautiful woman’ and since it was extensively used in the sixties and seventies to objectify women in movies and TV shows who were considered sexually attractive, it still has a sexist ring to it (which is maybe why ‘chamaca’ as a synonym of ‘girlfriend’ has lost popularity over the years)!
En la playa había varias chamaconas.
There were quite a lot of hot women at the beach.
This word is the diminutive of ‘flaca’, which means ‘skinny’. It’s a common pet name amongst couples and another way of saying ‘girlfriend’ in Mexico.
Voy a consentir a mi flaquita llevándola a su restaurante favorito.
I’m going to pamper my girlfriend by taking her to her favorite restaurant.
‘Flaquita’ has a few other connotations in Mexican slang, so I’ve actually devoted a whole article to its various meanings, if you wanna check that out!
This is another word that derives from Náhualt.
The original word, ‘itzcuintli’, actually means ‘dog’, but it’s also a popular way to refer to girls who are misbehaving.
But don’t be surprised if you hear parents call their children ‘escuinclas’ in an affectionate manner too!
Una abuela saludando a su nieta
¡A ver, escuincla, ven a darle un abrazo a tu abuela!
A grandmother greeting her granddaughter
Listen, kid, come give your grandmother a hug!
This is a common way to refer to a ‘young woman’, not just in Mexico but across the Spanish-speaking world!
En el metro me senté junto a una muchacha que estaba leyendo el mismo libro que yo.
On the subway I sat next to a girl who was reading the same book as me.
So now you know all the different meanings and connotations of ‘chamaca’, plus a little bit of Náhuatl to boot, how about that?
Ready to impress your Mexicans pals with your knowledge of local expressions? Then be sure to explore our list of all the different expressions with ‘échale‘ in Mexican Spanish!