In short – ‘está cañón’ is an extremely common Mexican expression with a few different meanings. In (very) casual conversation it’s used to say that something is difficult and requires effort OR that something is really cool / awesome.
‘Está cañón’ may not be in your dictionary, but you’ll likely be surprised at how common it is in colloquial Spanish, particularly among millennials.
The phrase is composed of the third person singular of the verb ‘estar’ – ‘está’ (don’t forget that accent!) – and the adjective ‘cañón’.
As a noun ‘cañón’ actually means both ‘canyon’ (takes you back to geography class, doesn’t it?) and ‘cannon’ (think looting pirates), but don’t let this confuse you as ‘está cañón’ has absolutely nothing to do with either geography or pirates … it’s actually just a “softer” way of saying the more vulgar ‘está cabrón’.
Uses / meanings of ‘está cañon‘
‘Está cañón’ can be used in the following ways –
- As a way of saying ´it’s tough´ / ‘it’s difficult’
- As a way of saying ‘it’s really awesome’
As a way of saying ‘it’s tough’ / ‘it’s difficult’
You’ll hear people saying ‘está cañón´ when talking about how challenging something is or as a way of showing empathy for a challenge that someone else is facing.
By saying ‘está cañón´, you’re basically acknowledging that something is extremely difficult.
It’s kind of like the English phrases ‘it’s tough’ / ‘it’s difficult’.
Juan – Hoy tuve un día terrible. Logré salir de la oficina para después pasar 4 horas en el tráfico. Llegue a casa después de la media noche.
Diana – Pobre de ti. La verdad yo prefiero andar en metro. Manejar en esta ciudad está cañón.
Juan – I had a terrible day. I finally escaped the office just to spend four hours in traffic. I got home after midnight.
Diana – Poor thing. Honestly I prefer to take the metro. Driving in this city is a pain in the a**.
Tonathiu – Me platicó que vivió en la calle y me dio mucha tristeza.
Teresa – Sí, estuvo cañón.
Tonathiu – She told me that she was homeless, and I felt really sad.
Teresa – I know. It was tough.
Irma – ¿Cuánto tiempo tardas en completar un maratón?
Daniel – ¡Pfff! Normalmente como 5 horas en total. ¡Está cañón!
Irma – How long does it normally take you to run a marathon?
Daniel – Pfff! Normally like 5 hours. It’s exhausting!
As a way of saying ‘it’s really awesome’
´Está cañón´ can also be used to say that something is really awesome.
Just remember that it’s an informal phrase, so it’s best used with close friends and family.
Ramón – ¿Oye viste el documental que te recomendé?
Luisa – Sí, lo vi. Está cañón.
Rampon – Did you watch the documentary that I told you about?
Luisa – Yeah, I did. It’s really awesome.
Jonathan – Ayer pasé por un puesto de tacos. ¡Eran los mejores que he probabo!
Luis – ¿Son los de Don Pablo? ¡Están cañones!
Jonathan – Yesterday I stopped by a taco stand. They were the best I’ve ever had!
Luis – Was the place called Don Pablo? They’re amazing!
‘Está cañón’ pronunciation
When speaking Spanish, don’t forget that an acute accent (á, é, í, ó or ú) normally indicates which part of the word is stressed.
Both ´está´ and ´cañón´ have an accent on the second vowel, so the second syllable is stressed. As such, ´está´ is said like ´EsTA´ and ‘cañón’ like ‘caÑÓN’.
Also, the ‘ñ’ in Spanish is pronounced a bit like the ‘gne’ in ‘lasagne’.
/ ehs TAH kah NYON /
Phew! It’s a bit of a mouthful, isn’t it!
Similar expressions to ‘está cañón‘
The expression ´qué cañón´ can be used interchangeably with ‘está cañón’ when referring to something difficult / challenging.
All you need to do is switch out ‘está‘ for ´qué´ and you’ll be good to go!
As mentioned previously, ‘está cabrón’ is the (much!) more vulgar cousin of ‘está cañón’.
It’s a popular phrase in Mexico but is to be handled with “mucho cuidado” as it really is on the vulgar side!
‘Está cañón’ should be your go-to if you’re thinking of using the ever-popular ‘está cabrón’ but don’t like to use foul language or just aren’t in the right company (i.e., with your closest friends).
If you want to show some empathy to the person you’re conversing with or you want to express how amazing something is (in an INFORMAL setting!) don’t hesitate to whip it out!
Oh, and make sure you check out on ALL the different phrases with the word ‘madre‘ in Mexican slang, it’s sure to widen your horizons!