Quick answer – ‘holi’ and ‘holis are basically more cheerful alternatives to ‘hola’ (‘hello’), the most common Spanish greeting. They translate to something along the lines of ‘hi’ or ‘heya’ and are mostly used by younger generations in informal situations.
If you’re in Mexico, you’re going to hear ‘holi’ and ‘holis’ almost on a daily basis, either from the mouths of close friends or on social media. Both words are a great way to add a sprinkle of fun / a touch of sweetness when greeting someone!
In other Spanish speaking countries, such as Peru and Bolivia, you’ll hear both words being used in much the same way!
Just remember to only use both ‘holi’ and ‘holis’ with friends and loved ones; using these words in a more formal setting (with your boss, work colleagues, or clients) isn´t recommended!
Here are some examples –
¡Holi, Amanda! ¿Cómo estás? = Heya, Amanda! How are you?
¡Holis, Daniel! Moría por verte … = Hi, Daniel! I was dying to see you …
Uses / Meanings of ‘Holi’ / ‘Holis’ in Spanish
‘Holi’ and ‘holis’ can be used in the following ways –
- To greet a close friend, family member or partner
- As an alternative to ‘hi’ in informal social situations
- As a rhetorical question used to show surprise or to get someone’s attention
To greet a close friend, family member, or partner
As mentioned previously, both ‘holi’ and‘holis’ are cute, cheerful ways to say ‘hi’ to a friend, family member or partner.
They´re perfect for when you´re in a jovial, and perhaps somewhat affectionate mood!
Una mamá saludando a su hijo
¡Holi, Juanito! ¿Cómo te fue en la escuela?
¡Holi, mami! Muy bien, te extrañe.
A mother saying hi to her son
Hey, Juanito! How was school?
Hi, mom! Great, I missed you.
As an alternative to ‘hi’ in informal social situations
‘Holi’ and ‘holis’ can both be used as a greeting in informal social situations.
Think greeting your friends at a park / café or at an informal get-together.
Camila está llegando a la fiesta de su amiga
¡Holis a todos! Ya llegué.
¡Holis, Camila! Ya te habías tardado …
Camila is arriving at her friend’s party
Hi, everyone! I´m here.
Hi, Camila! It was about time …
As a rhetorical question used to show surprise or to get someone’s attention
The words ‘holi’ and ‘holis’ can also be used as a rhetorical question when the speaker hasn´t understood something (normally when speaking on the telephone) or wants to get someone´s attention in a gentle, non-confrontational way.
Sofia está hablando por teléfono
¿Holis??? No entendí la pregunta, ¿me la puedes repetir por favor?
¡Claro que sí!
Sofia is speaking on the phone
Hello??? I didn’t understand the question, could you please repeat it?
Ximena intenta hablar con su hermano
¿Holi??? ¡Te estoy hablando Nando!
Perdón, Ximena, tenía los audífonos puestos.
Ximena is trying to talk to her brother
Hello??? I’m talking to you Nando!
I’m sorry, Ximena, I had my headphones on.
‘Hola’ vs ‘holi’
Both ‘hola’ and ‘holi’ are common greetings in Spanish, so what´s the difference?
Well, ‘hola’ can be used in both formal and informal settings, whereas ‘holi’ is used exclusively with people that you already know and are reasonably close to!
Just remember that, depending on context, ‘hola’ can sound more or less formal.
Martín llega a la oficina (formal)
Hola, buenos días a todos, el cliente de China está aquí.
Martín arrives to the office (formal)
Hello, good morning to everyone, the client from China is here.
Julieta está saludando a sus amigas (informal)
¡Hola, chicas! ¿Qué onda?*
Julieta is saying hi to her friends (informal)
Hello, ladies! What’s up?
*Erika’s note – ‘qué onda’ is a super informal Mexican greeting similar in meaning to the English ‘what’s up’.
Whereas ‘holi’ is always informal –
Federica está mandando un mensaje de texto
Holi, flaquito*, ¿A qué hora llegas a casa?
Federica is sending a text message
Hi, skinny, what time are you coming home?
*Erika’s note – ‘flaquito’ is the diminutive form of ‘flaco’ (or ‘skinny’ in English). It’s quite a common pet name here in Mexico!
‘Holi’ / ‘Holis’ pronunciation
The pronunciation of the words ‘holi’ and ‘holis’ is similar to that of the word ‘hola’; the ‘ho’ is said like ‘oh’ and the ‘li’ or ‘lis’ like the name ‘lee(s)’.
/ oh lee /
/ oh lees /
‘Holi boli’ meaning
An even funnier way to greet someone is with a ‘holi boli’ or ‘holis bolis’.
This expression is mainly used by Mexican kids and teenagers, and ‘boli’ actually means ‘ball’ or ‘little ball’, but it´s really just a play on words as ‘boli’ obviously rhymes with ‘holi’!
Ana llega a los juegos y saluda a sus amigos
¡Holi bolis! ¿Listos para jugar?
Ana gets to the playground and says hi to her friends
Hey there! Ready to play?
Hopefully this article has helped you to better understand the colloquial use of ‘holi’ and ‘holis’. Make sure to use them when travelling around Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries!
If you wanna learn even more informal Spanish greetings, definitely check out our EPIC list of all the different ways to say ‘what’s up‘ in Spanish!