In short – ‘firulais’ is a popular made-up word used to refer to any dog in Mexico, especially strays and/or mixed-breed dogs.
This extremely popular expression has even made its way onto national TV programs and the Latin American dubbing of international series, such as the famous 90s animation series Rugrats, in which the main character’s dog (originally ‘Spike’ in the American version) was actually called ‘Firulais’.
But what does ‘Firulais’ actually mean? Well, the answer will definitely surprise you!
Supposedly the origin of ‘firulais’ goes back to the 20th century, when American immigration officials would ask Mexican immigrants to make sure that any dogs accompanying them were “free of lice”.
Many of these immigrants would then go back to visit their families in Mexico and brag about their dogs being ‘free of lice’. It’s believed that people began to use the word ‘firulais’ to refer to any dog, including those who were unerring fleabags, to mock their pretentious relatives.
Uses / Meanings of ‘firulais’
‘Firulais’ can be used in the following ways –
- As a way to refer to any dog in a friendly manner
- As a very popular way to name dogs
As a way to refer to any dog in a friendly manner
It may have started as a joke, but people soon started calling any dog on the street by the name of ‘Firulais’, mostly in a friendly manner.
It’s important to mention that in many parts of Mexico (and other Latin American countries), especially in small towns and the countryside, stray dogs aren’t considered a “problem” as such (as is the case in bigger cities), they’re just part of a neighborhood’s furniture.
There are many places where strays are an important part of everyday life: they’re fed by the local butcher and other neighbors, they lay on the sidewalks to bathe in the sunlight, and they’re regularly petted by passersby.
This may explain why any dog without a proper name immediately becomes ‘Firulais’ … it’s no longer anonymous and becomes part of the community.
Una niña y su madre caminan en la calle
Niña – ¡Mira, mamá! ¡Un perrito!
Madre – ¡Ay, qué lindo! Dile hola a Firulais.
A girl and her mother walk down the street
Girl – Look, Mommy! A puppy!
Mother – Oh, how cute! Say hi to Firulais.
Fabián – Había un firulais muy lindo echado en la banqueta, ¿lo viste?
Lalo – No…Yo creo que ya se fue a buscar comida a otra parte.
Fabián – There was a cute little dog lying on the sidewalk, did you see it?
Lalo – No … I think he went to get food elsewhere.
As a very popular way to name dogs
Eventually, people started actually calling their pets ‘Firulais’ too!
This, of course, includes Tommy’s dog in the Latin American dubbing of the Rugrats.
Padre – A ver, niños, ¿cómo le vamos a poner al cachorro?
Niños (al unísono) – ¡Firulais!
Padre – Mmm…¿No creen que le podamos dar un nombre un poco más original?
Father – Let’s see, kids, what are we gonna call the puppy?
Children (in unison) – Firulais!
Father – Umm…Don’t you think we can come up with something a bit more original?
Valeriano – ¿Ya le diste de comer a Firulais?
Martín – No, ya se acabó el alimento* para perros…
Valeriano – Have you fed Firulais yet?
Martín – No, we ran out of dog food …
*Erika’s note – ‘Alimento para perros’ and ‘comida para perros’ are both valid ways to say ‘dog food’. But can these words be always used interchangeably? Check out our article on ‘alimento’ vs ‘comida’ to find out more!
‘Firulais’ is composed of four syllables:
- ‘Fi’ sounds like ‘phee’
- ‘Ru’ is said like ‘roo’ (remember that this is a soft ‘r’, so just tap the roof of your mouth with the tip of your tongue)
- And, finally, ‘lais’ sounds like ‘lies’
/ phee roo lies /
Similar expressions to ‘firulais’
Over the years Mexicans have come up with other ways to call random dogs, such as ‘El Solovino’, a fancy-looking word that’s actually just an abbreviation of the phrase ‘él solo vino’ (‘he just came’ in English).
It’s used to refer to any dog that pops up in a neighborhood.
¿Ya viste al Solovino? Llegó hace unos días a la tienda y decidimos adoptarlo.
Have you seen Solovino? He arrived at the store a few days ago and we decided to adopt him.
‘Lomo’ is the ‘back’ of an animal.
‘Lomito’ is its diminutive form and also one of the most petted parts of a pup, hence it being used to refer to dogs in general.
Oye, ¿sabes si puedo llevar a mi lomito al restaurante?
Hey, do you know if I can take my doggy to the restaurant?
Another popular name – often given to strays – in recent years is ‘Milaneso’ (which is a made-up masculine form of the word ‘milanesa‘).
Keep in mind that many stray dogs are given meat at local butcher shops, so, yeah, they get named after the things that people feed them.
¡El Milaneso está bien loco! Se la pasa intentando atrapar su propia cola…
Milaneso is really crazy! He keeps trying to catch his own tail …
I hope you’ve enjoyed finding out the true meaning of ‘Firulais’. Now that you know the story behind it, perhaps you’ll try it out next time you pet a cute pup!
Oh, and if you wanna learn about more interesting Mexican slang, make sure to check out our article on ‘vato’. It’s sure to make its way into your everyday lexicon.
¡Hasta la próxima!