Quick answer – ‘güey’ is the “official” way to spell this super popular Mexican slang term according to the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language AND the Mexican Academy of Language.
HOWEVER, in everyday interactions, you’ll also see it spelled as ‘wey’ and ‘we’.
So, which one should you use? Stick around and find out!
‘Güey’ is mostly used in the following way –
As a linguisticly correct way to spell the Mexican slang term derived from ‘buey’.
“¡Güey!”, gritó un comerciante. = “Dude!”, a shopkeeper yelled.
‘Wey’ is mostly used in the following way –
In everyday writing, such as in text messages, social media and the likes.
Wey, te estamos esperando. = Bro, we’re waiting for you.
‘Güey‘ vs ‘wey‘
You might wonder why there are two (or three!) ways to spell this word.
Well, let’s quickly dive into some Spanish history and phonetics (trust me, it’ll be worth it!).
‘Güey’ was originally a derogatory term meaning ‘stupid’ or ‘clumsy’, but it later became a synonym of ‘guy’ or ‘dude’.
But before all that, well, ‘güey’ wasn’t an actual word … it was just the way many people in Mexico pronounced ‘buey’ (or ‘ox’ in English)!
Since oxen are considered slow and clumsy animals, ‘buey’ became synonymous with those same attributes.
Un hombre camina sobre un piso recién pintado
¡Qué büey eres! ¿Qué no ves que la pintura está fresca?
A man walks across a freshly painted floor
You idiot! Can’t you see that the paint is fresh?
And why did people pronounce it like ‘güey’? Well, changing the syllable ‘bue’ to ‘güe’ was nothing more than a linguistic quirk common amongst farmers and the like!
grandfather – abuelo = agüelo
good – bueno = güeno
ox – buey = güey
And if you’re wondering about that little symbol above the ‘ü’ in ‘güey’, well, it’s a dieresis.
And guess what?
Yep, when you whack a dieresis on a ‘u’ in ‘ue’ / ‘ui’ vowel combinations, it’s pronounced just like a ‘w’, hence why people also write ‘güey’ as ‘wey’ (See? It all ties together!).
En un mensaje de texto
Oye, wey, pásame las fotos de la fiesta, porfa.
In a text message
Hey, bro, please send me the photos from the party.
If we were to remove the dieresis, we would get a different sound, such as the one in ‘maguey’, which is said like ‘mah-gey’.
Which spelling is correct?
In truth, ‘güey’ is a colloquial expression no matter how it’s spelt!
It took MANY decades for official sources, such as the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language, to acknowledge it as an actual word (and only in the sense of ‘stupid‘!).
Since ‘güey’ follows the phonetic rules of Spanish, this is how you’ll find it written in dictionaries and academic / literary texts, but in everyday life and on social media, people often just write ‘wey’ and ‘we’, which makes sense because they’re way easier to type (I mean, do you know how to type dieresis?).
En una novela
Miré al güey a los ojos, y en su mirada pude observar terror puro.
In a novel
I looked the guy in the eye, and in his gaze I could see pure terror.
En un mensaje de Whatsapp
We, se me antoja ir por tacos. ¿Te late?
In a WhatsApp message
Bro, I feel like going for tacos. You up for it?
Gender and plural form of ‘güey’
Originally, ‘güey’ referred exclusively to men (oxen are male after all), but nowadays friends use it to address each other regardless of gender.
Jimena – Wey*, ¿vas a ir a la fiesta del viernes?
Lilia – Claro, ¿tú no, wey?
Jimena – Girl, are you going to the party on Friday?
Lilia – Sure, girl, aren’t you?
*Erika’s note – if you wanna know more about its specific uses, don’t miss our article on the meaning of ‘wey’.
Andddd the plural of ‘güey’ is ‘güeyes’ (or ‘weyes’ if you’re writing it with a ‘w’) –
Esos weyes se ven peligrosos. Yo que tú, no los provocaba.
Those guys look dangerous. I wouldn’t provoke them if I were you.
‘Güey’ is definitely a very interesting word and one you’re bound to hear when immersing yourself in Mexican culture.
Keep in mind that even though MANY people use it ALL the time, it isn’t suitable for more formal occasions. A good tip is to only use it if the person / people you’re speaking to are throwing it about themselves.
I mean, “When in Rome!”, right?
Or should that be, “When in Mexico!” …
Ready for another popular Mexican expression? Then check out the meaning of ‘desmadre’ next!
¡Hasta la próxima!