In short – the Spanish word ‘gallo’ *normally* translates to ‘rooster’ in English, but it actually has a whole plethora of different meanings in Mexican Spanish.
A ‘gallo’ can be a ‘serenade’, a ‘tuft of unruly hair’ and, if that weren´t odd enough, it can also mean ‘a gob of spit’ (ok, gross!).
Well, worry not … I´m here to blast all those lingering doubts away once and for all.
Let´s get into it!
Uses of ‘gallo’ in Mexican Slang
- As a synonym of ‘serenade’
- A false note when singing
- To describe a tough, feisty man
- As a synonym of ‘wey’ (i.e., ‘dude’)
- As a synonym of a ‘gob of spit’
- A tuft of unruly hair
- As a synonym of ‘joint’ (of the marijuana variety)
As a synonym of ‘serenade’
In Mexico ‘gallo’ is a popular way of saying ‘serenade’ (think sickly sweet lovers and mariachis aplenty).
It´s usually preceded by the verb ‘llevar’.
Pedro – Hoy es el cumpleaños de mi novia.
Juan – Vamos a llevarle gallo!
Pedro – Today is my girlfriend’s birthday.
Juan – Let’s serenade her.
Creo que va a llevar gallo a su novia.
I think he´s going to serenade his girlfriend.
A false note when singing
We´ve all been there … you´ve picked up the karaoke mic, you´re feeling confident (probably due to the beers, but who cares?) and you´re belting that tune out at the top of your voice, when suddenly … eeeeek!
That false note that just came screeching out, well, it´s called a ‘gallo’ in Spanish.
Just be thankful that it was only karaoke and that you weren´t ‘llevándole el gallo’ (which, for those who skipped straight to use number 2, means ‘serenading’) someone important!
Se le salió un gallo mientras cantaba.
He let out a false note while singing.
To describe a tough, feisty man
A ‘gallo’ can also mean a feisty, presumptuous “tough guy” … kinda like a ‘rooster’, right?
You´ll also hear the diminutive ‘gallito’ which expresses the same idea but in a more affectionate way.
Fernando – Mira, Pedro quiere pelear con su hermano.
Jorge – Si, es muy gallito.
Fernando – Look, Pedro wants to fight his brother.
Jorge – Yeah, he’s feisty.
As a synonym of ‘wey’ (i.e., ‘dude’)
Already heard the super popular Mexican slang word, ‘wey’?
Well, for those who haven´t, it´s basically the Mexican equivalent of ‘man’ or ‘dude’.
And guess what? Our ol´friend ‘gallo’ can also be used as a synonym of ‘wey’ (i.e., ‘dude’), irrespective of whether the man (or woman) in question is feisty or tough (see above!).
Sí, gallo, está muy cañón* la situación.
Yeah, dude, it´s a really tough situation.
Erika´s note – if you say that a situation ‘está cañón’, it basically means that it´s tough or difficult. Head over to our article on the various meanings of ‘está cañon’ to find out more!
As a synonym of a ‘gob of spit’
Heard the phrase ‘tengo un gallo en la garganta’?
Well, the person in question had a gob of spit in their throat!
¡Guácala! (or ‘Gross!’ in English).
Hugo – Perdón, traigo un gallo en la garganta.
Ramón – ¡Toma un poco de agua!
Hugo – Sorry, I´ve got a gob of spit in my throat.
Ramón – Drink some water!
A tuft of unruly hair
Having a bad hair day?
Is there one unruly tuft in particular that you just can´t for the life of you get to stay in place (despite lathering it with your favorite gel/wax)?
Well, there´s a word for that tuft of hair in Spanish … and it´s (drum roll!), you guessed it, ‘un gallo’.
María – Te acabas de levantar, ¿verdad?
Eduardo – Sí, ¿cómo sabes?
María – Porque traes un gallo …
María – You just got out of bed, didn´t you?
Eduardo – Yeah, how do you know?
María – Because of your “bed hair” …
As a synonym of ‘joint’ (of the marijuana variety)
In Mexico ‘un gallo’ also means a ‘joint’ or ‘spliff’ (or whatever your term of choice may be!).
Just don´t use this one in Spain as the preferred term that side of the Atlantic is ‘un porro’.
Pásame el gallo, wey.
Pass me the joint, dude.
The word ‘gallo’ is a two-syllable noun.
In order to pronounce it correctly, just say ‘ga’ like ‘gah’ and ‘llo’ like ‘yoh’.
The stress falls on the first syllable – ‘GA-llo’
/ gah-yoh /
Other expressions with ‘gallo’
Sentirse muy gallo o muy gallito
If someone tells you, ‘¡Te sientes muy gallo!’, it means that you´ve probably been showing-off or bragging about your skills.
It can also refer to someone who thinks they´re a good fighter (a bit like a fighting cock!).
¡Conque te sientes muy gallo para cocinar!
So, you think you´re a pro at cooking!
Ser mi gallo
This one´s used to talk about the person (or animal) that you think´s going to win in a competition or fight.
Again, this use has it´s origins in the extremely cruel tradition of “cock fighting”.
Yo creo que va a ganar Pacquiao; él es mi gallo.
I think Pacquiao´s gonna win; he´s my man.
If someone´s angry, you could say that he/she ‘comío gallo’ (literally ‘He/She ate rooster’).
This again harks back to the idea that roosters are aggressive animals and that the person´s anger is due to the fact that they ate a rooster (and therefore became angry and aggressive in turn)!
Renata – No entres a la oficina de la jefa. Está de mal humor.
Sofía – Si, creo que comío gallo.
Renata – Don’t go into the boss’ office. She’s in a bad mood.
Sophia – Yeah, I think she’s mad.
Dormirse el gallo
Want to give a funny excuse for being late?
Well, ‘dormirse el gallo’ means that you overslept!
It can also mean that you didn’t take action as quickly as you should have!
Diana – ¿Fuiste a votar?
Francisco – No, se me durmió el gallo.
Diana – Did you cast your vote?
Francisco – No, I overslept.
Patas de gallo
‘Patas de gallo’ (literally ‘rooster´s feet´) is another way of referring to the wrinkles that develop around our eyes (otherwise known as ‘crow´s feet´ in English).
I suppose they do sorta resemble a crow / rooster´s feet!
Necesito ponerme botox; ya se me notan las patas de gallo.
I need botox; my crow´s feet are getting more obvious.
Pico de gallo
This expression translates literally as ‘rooster’s beak’, but don’t let that fool you because ‘pico de gallo’ is actually a traditional (and rather delicious!) Mexican salad containing chopped tomatoes, cilantro, and onions.
¿Me trae pico de gallo por favor?
Could you bring me some ‘pico de gallo’ please?
As you can see, ‘gallo’ is an incredibly versatile word in Spanish; it has multiple meanings and pops up in a whole load of super fun colloquial expressions.
Why not give one or two a try next time you´re chatting with a local!
Oh, and if you want to learn more Mexican slang, head over to our article on ‘sobres’ (it´s a super useful word to know)!