Mexican Slang Master Guide!!

INTRO: if you’re new to the blog (welcome!), my name’s Rupert, and I’m a Spanish teacher living in Mexico.

And, well, after 10 years in Mexico, I’ve definitely picked up a slang word or two.

So, I thought it was time to crank out a MASSIVE guide that’ll help you crack Mexican slang once and for all!

Trust me when I say that there are a few words on this list that are gonna take you by surprise 😉

Must-know interjections

¡Ándale! – Come on! / Hurry up! / Let’s go! / Go on! / Okay!

‘ÁNDALE’ is one of those words that you’re gonna hear ABSOLUTELY EVERYWHERE (and I’m not exaggerating!), so you’d do well to add it to your vocab list 😉

You can use it to encourage someone –

¡Ándale, tú puedes!

Come on you can do it!

To rush someone – as in ándale, ya vete’ (hurry up, go’) –, to tease – as in ándale, síguele’ (which loosely translates as go on, I dare you’) –, or even to express agreement!

I’ve also heard ‘ándales’ being thrown around at times; Erika (my wife, for those of you who don’t watch our YouTube vids!) has a super sweet aunt in Tlaxcala who only ever seems to use ‘ándales’, for example.

¡Híjole! – Jeez! / Darn!

If something doesn’t go your way and you’re in Mexico, feel free to let out a heartfelt ‘HÍJOLE’ … it’s what the locals do!

As with all self-respecting interjections, it’s often accompanied by a hand gesture.

Once you recognize it, you’ll be able to spot when someone’s saying ‘híjole‘ from a mile off!

¡Órale! – Wow! / Come on! / Hurry up! / Oh, I see! / Okay!

This is another SUPER common Mexican word, and it actually shares most of its meanings with ‘ándale’!

HOWEVER, ‘ÓRALE’ is also used to show that you understand an idea/concept – as in ‘oh, I see!’ –, AND to show anger or disappointment – akin to ‘darn!’.

My tip is to use them interchangeably ONLY when conveying surprise, encouragement, or agreement (and you’ll probably find that some Mexicans use one more than the other in these contexts … Erika’s more of an ‘órale‘ fan, for example!).

BUT when used to mean ‘hurry up’, ‘ÁNDALE’ IS WAY MORE COMMON!

¡Chale! – Oh, no! / Oh, wow! / Oh, darn!

There’s no better way to EXPRESS DISAPPOINTMENT AND/OR BAFFLEMENT IN MEXICO than with a sincere ‘chale‘ (pronounced ‘chah–leh’). It’s especially popular in Mexico City, but you might hear it in other parts of the country too.

Trust me when I say that you’re gonna find ‘chale‘ super useful; it’s NOT a cussword, so you can use it in most situations/contexts (despite it being somewhat informal!).

I even hit up 100 Mexicans to see what slang they’re vibing with the most and, yep, good ol’ ‘chale‘ made the cut –

Infogaphic showing the favorite slang terms of 100 Mexicans

¡No manches! – You’re kidding! / No way / Jeez / Darn

‘NO MANCHES’ is very similar to ‘chale’, BUT it’s considered more informal, so it’s NOT suitable when you’re visiting the doctor, dentist, candlemaker, etc.

Here’s an example: if you get a traffic ticket from a police officer and you feel really frustrated, you might get away with an innocent ‘chale‘, but I definitely wouldn’t recommend risking a ‘no manches‘.

If you wanna find out more, go check out my MASTER GUIDE TO EVERYTHING ‘NO MANCHES’.

Knocked out lucha libre wrestler saying "¡No manches!"

¡Aguas! – Watch out! / Careful!

I remember that in one of my first-ever Spanish classes the teacher told me that if I wanted to warn someone about something, I just had to shout ‘¡cuidado!’ … but in Mexico, it’s actually WAY more common to yell ‘¡AGUAS!’.

Trust me when I say that EVERYONE will be looking around to see what’s wrong!

Oh, and another super useful phrase with ‘aguas‘ is ‘échame aguas’, which means something like ‘keep a lookout’.

Échame aguas, wey.

Keep a lookout, dude.

¡Pa’ su mecha! – Holy moly / Holy cow

‘PA’ SU MECHA’ (pronounced ‘pah soo meh-chah’) is a fun way to express surprise in a REALLY Mexican way.

It’s a super common phrase, and I’ve been told it was popularized by “El Chavo del 8” (look it up if you haven’t yet heard of it … it’s REALLY popular here in Mexico!!) and other telenovelas.

It’s not offensive at all and I had my Mexican pals in stitches the first time I used it … I don’t think they saw it coming!

¡Qué padre! – Awesome!

Yep, ‘padre’ in Spanish DOES indeed mean ‘father’ (you’re not imagining things!).

BUT in Mexican slang, ‘padre’ also means ‘cool’ or ‘awesome’.

A stereotypical "padre" (or "father")

As such, the phrase ‘QUÉ PADRE’ means something along the lines of ‘that’s great!’ or ‘that’s awesome!’.

¡Qué oso! – That’s so embarrassing!

If you hear a shrill ‘QUÉ OSO’ (normally in a FRESA ACCENT!), well, you might wanna stop what you’re doing if it’s directed at you, OR quickly take a peek in the direction that the speaker’s looking because it means they find something REALLY embarrassing or cringeworthy.

There’s actually a good reason why ‘oso’ or ‘bear’ is used … check out the full article if you wanna know more!

Qué oso que seas grosero con el mesero.

It’s so embarrassing when you’re rude to the waiter.

¡Qué gacho! – How unpleasant! / That’s awful! / How mean!

‘GACHO’ is Mexican slang for ‘ugly’, ‘distasteful’, ‘unpleasant’, or ‘mean’, so, yeah, you probably get the gist!

¡Qué poca! – What the heck! / Shame on you!

Unlike ‘QUÉ GACHO’, which is kid-friendly, ‘QUÉ POCA’ is a euphemism for a rather vulgar expression with the word ‘madre’ (or ‘mother’), so don’t go throwing it about willy-nilly!

It’s a great way to express outrage at a person’s shameful actions, OR frustration with an annoying situation –

¡QUÉ POCA, se me ponchó una llanta!

What the heck, I’ve got a flat tire!

¡A toda madre! – Awesome! / That’s amazing!

There are LOADS of expressions with the word ‘madre’ in Mexican Spanish, but we won’t go into them all here as some of them are pretty darn rude (and to be honest, I want to stay on good terms with my advertising partner!).

Cartoon of a Mexican mother with expletives in one hand and a thumbs up in the other

The whole concept is kinda confusing because ‘madre’ is used in A LOT of the rudest Mexican phrases/expressions, but kind of in a respectful way … the idea being that ‘mothers’ are sacred and shouldn’t be insulted (which I definitely agree with, by the way!).

Anyway, ‘A TODA MADRE’ is similar to ‘QUÉ PADRE’, but just a bit more effusive!

For example, if I managed to buy tickets to watch my favorite band, I’d probably say ‘¡qué padre!’, while if I got the tickets FOR FREE and/or got to meet the band, I’d definitely splurt out ‘¡a toda madre!’.

Also, ‘qué padre‘ is kid-friendly, while ‘a toda madre‘ is best kept amongst close friends … got it?

A rocker saying "¡Estuvo a toda madre."

13 ¡Está poca madre! – Awesome! / That’s amazing!

If ‘QUÉ POCA’ has a negative connotation, then ‘está poca madre’ does too, right? WRONG!

It’s super confusing, I know … but if you say something ‘está (meaning ‘it is’) poca madre’ instead of ‘qué (meaning ‘what’) poca madre’, then it means it’s AMAZING (with a capital “A”!!).

Here are some general guidelines –

very informal situations + only adults around – ¡Está poca madre! / ¡A toda madre!

informal AND formal situations and/or there are kids around – ¡Qué padre!

14 ¡Qué hueva! – What a drag!

This one basically means that something is boring, tiresome, or a drag! As in, ‘Mañana es lunes¡QUÉ HUEVA!, or ‘Tomorrow’s Monday … what a drag!’

This isn’t a rude expression per se, but it IS still slang! If you’re still chatting to that candlemaker, or you’re around small children, definitely plump for ‘qué flojera’ instead.

¡Está de huevos! – That’s awesome!

BUT if something’s REALLY cool, you can say, ‘está de huevos’!

Yeah, Mexican slang is kinda contradictory at times!

The child-friendly version is ‘está de pelos’, which literally translates as ‘it’s (made) of hair’ or ‘it’s hairy’.

¡A huevo! – All right!

Similarly, you can think of ‘a huevo’ as a celebratory interjection in Mexican slang.

I’ve found that it’s normally reserved for when you receive really good news, OR when something turns out exactly the way you wanted, like, for example, when your favorite football team wins an important match –

¡A huevo! ¡Ganó la selección mexicana!

Hell yeah! Mexico won!

¡Vientos! – All right!

‘Vientos’ (which means ‘winds’ in English) is similar to ‘a huevo’ but WAY more kid-friendly, AND you can use it around your boss, in-laws, etc.

¡Fúchila! / ¡Fuchi! – Yikes!

‘FUCHI’ OR ‘FÚCHILA’ (pronounced ‘foo–chi–lah’), are fun ways to say ‘yuck’ or ‘yikes’, appropriate for all occasions.

Popular greetings

¿Quiúbole? / ¿Quiubo? – What’s up?

The first time I heard this one, I honestly thought it was a joke and that the person in question (who’s pretty ‘burlón’ anyway!) was teasing me … but it’s not!

Quiúbole‘ and ‘quiubo’ are basically VARIATIONS OF THE PHRASE ‘¿QUÉ HUBO?’ (‘what happened?’), and I recommend you commit them to memory (but maybe don’t worry so much about the spelling!) because they’re SUPER common all over Mexico.

If all those vowels leave you scratching your head (they definitely left me scratching mine!), here’s how to pronounce them –

quiúbole = kee–oo–boh–leh

quiubo = kee–oo–boh

¿Qué onda? – What’s up?

An ‘onda’ is literally a ‘wave’ (think radio waves, etc.!), but in Mexican slang it translates better to a ‘vibe’.

‘QUÉ ONDA’ literally means ‘what’s vibing’ or ‘what’s up’!

This’ll be your go-to informal greeting when in Mexico, so get it written down and into that Anki deck ASAP!

Man saying "¡Qué onda, wey!"

¿Qué pex? – What’s up?

While you can use ‘qué onda‘ to greet pretty much anyone, ‘QUÉ PEX’ is best reserved for close friends/family.

It’s not a rude expression, but it IS a euphemism for ‘QUÉ PEDO’, another popular greeting that’s considered somewhat vulgar.

¿Qué pasó? – What’s up?

¿Qué pasó?‘ means ‘what happened?’ in Spanish, but in Mexican slang, IT ALSO MEANS ‘HI’ OR ‘WHAT’S UP’ as, yep, you guessed it … it’s also an informal greeting.

Man saying "¡Qué pasó, Pedro!"

In my opinion, this one’s another phrase that you REALLY NEED TO KNOW otherwise it’s pretty darn confusing when you do come across it (and you WILL come across it!)!

Pedro – ¿Qué pasó, wey?

Joel – ¿Qué onda, WEY? ¡Qué gusto verte!

Pedro – What’s up, bro?

Joel – What’s up, bro? Nice seeing you!

¿Qué tranza? – What’s up?

Yep, yet another way of saying ‘what’s up’ in Mexican slang!

‘¿Qué tranza?’ is mostly used in Mexico City and, along with ‘qué pedo’, it’s the most informal greeting on this list. Make sure to check out my piece on ALL THE DIFFERENT WAYS TO SAY ‘WHAT’S UP’ IN SPANISH if you wanna learn even more informal greetings 🤘

Popular farewells

Ahí nos vidrios – See you later

A popular way of saying ‘see you later’ in Spanish is ‘ahí nos vemos’ (literally ‘see you there’ and, yep, it’s also used if the speakers have no plans to see one another in the near future!).

But that aside, it’s not too difficult a phrase, right? In fact, I vividly remember noting it down in my notebook with a proud smirk on my face, accent and all!

So, as you can probably imagine, I was VERY confused when a friend said ‘ahí nos vidrios’ (‘there we … glass’???) before hanging up the phone.

As it turned out, it’s just a fun alternative to ‘ahí nos vemos’ (phew!).

Vámonos que aquí espantan – Let’s get out of here

Vámonos que aquí espantan’ is a popular way of saying ‘goodbye’ in offices at the end of the day; it literally translates as ‘let’s go, they scare in here’.

Supposedly this phrase gained popularity because a lot of office buildings in Mexico are said to be haunted (think late-night ghost sightings, etc. … you know, normal office stuff!), BUT I imagine it’s also a cheeky jab at the higher-order and/or office culture in general.

Nos vemos al ratón – See you later

‘Nos vemos al rato’ means ‘see you in a bit’, but wordplay-loving Mexicans decided that they may as well say (and I do agree that it sounds WAY funnier!), ‘nos vemos al ratón’.

Yep, a ‘ratónIS a mouse!

Cámara – See ya

I can’t tell how many times I’ve heard people in Mexico City ending a conversation with ‘A SIMPLE ‘CÁMARA’ (which literally means ‘camera’). It’s a very informal – but friendly – way of saying, ‘see ya’ or ‘see you later’!

Oh, and it’s also used to express agreement –

Lisa – ¿Quieres ir al parque?

Óscar – ¡Cámara!

Lisa – Wanna go to the park?

Oscar – Sure!

Which brings me nicely on to the next section …

VERY Mexican ways to say yes/to express agreement

Simón – Yes

Símon is Simon in Spanish … but IT CAN ALSO MEAN ‘YES’ if you happen to be in Mexico!

Trust me, you’re gonna hear it A LOT in certain areas/zones!

Sobres – Yes

‘SOBRES’ is yet another example of a “normal” word being converted into a super popular slang term.

It means ‘envelopes’ (yep, of the letter kind!), BUT it’s also an extremely common way of expressing agreement.

I’ve also heard my CHILANGO friends use ‘sobres y zas’ to seal a deal or agree to a plan.

Cartoon of one envelope (i.e., a "sobre") saying "Vamos por una chela." and another envelope saying "Sobres, wey."

Oh, and the phrase andar sobres is used when someone’s REALLY intent on doing something … it often translates well as ‘to be after someone/something’ –

¡Jaun anda bien sobres con Carmen!

Juan’s definitely after Carmen! // Juan’s all over Carmen!

Va – Okay

A common way to say ‘okay’ in Mexican Spanish is VA’.

As I already mentioned, Mexicans love (and I do mean LOVE) to play with the language, especially with similar-sounding words or syllables, so people in Mexico City often say ‘bambi’ (yes, as in the beloved children movie) instead of ‘va‘.*

Cartoon bambi saying "What the heck am I doing here?"

*Remember that ‘v’ is said like ‘b’ in most of Latin America (although you will find more Americanized Mexicans – particularly border dwellers and FRESAS – pronounce the ‘v’ as we English speakers would).

Me late – Okay

Me late’ is another widespread expression in Mexico, akin to ‘okay’, ‘sure’ or ‘I like it’

Me late esa idea.

I like that idea.

Similarly, THE QUESTION ‘¿TE LATE?’ is used to ask someone if they like something, OR if they ‘agree’ with a plan –

¿Te late ir por una pizza?

Would you like to go get a pizza?

Iguanas ranas – Likewise

Yippee, another Mexican wordplay!

I mean, don’t tell me that it’s not WAY funnier AND more interesting to say ‘iguanas ranas’ (meaning ‘iguanas frogs’) instead of ‘igualmente’ or ‘igual’!

Clarines – Of course

‘Claro’ is Spanish for ‘of course’, but Mexicans always like to mix things up, so you’ll often hear ‘clarines’ instead, which according to the RAE is a not-so-common type of musical instrument!

I mean, do YOU know what a ‘bugle’ is??

Por su pollo – Of course

Similarly, why say ‘por supuesto’ (Spanish for ‘of course’) if you can say ‘por su pollo’?

Get it? No? Don’t worry, no one does.

A cartoon cactus saying "of course"

Sale y vale – Okay

Or you can say ‘sale y vale’ (pronounced ‘sah–leh ee bah–leh’) and sound like a true native speaker.

I’ve also heard ‘SALE VALE’ and a simple ‘sale’; all three are SUPER COMMON!

Saying no, the Mexican way

Nel – Nope

‘NOPE’ IN MEXICO is ‘nel‘ (pronounced ‘nehl’).

Nel pastel – Nope

Wanna level up? Then say ‘nel pastel’ (which means, ‘nope … erm … cake’).

It doesn’t have anything to do with cakes though … ‘NEL’ just rhymes with ‘pastel’ (did I mention that Mexicans like wordplays yet?).

Naranjas / Naranjas dulces – Nope

‘Naranjas’ (or ‘oranges’) are both fruits AND another way to say ‘nope’.

You can also say, ‘naranjas dulces’.

I’m just hoping that you won’t be as confused as I was when I first heard ‘naranjas’, ‘naranjas dulces’, and ‘nel pastel’ … because let me tell you that I was VERY, VERY, VERY confused!

Ni madres – No way

Ah, another phrase with ‘madre’!

‘Ni madres’ means something like ‘absolutely not’ or ‘no way’, and it’s considered a bit vulgar, so if your boss asks for something you can’t do, a simple ‘no’ will probably suffice!

If you wanna get cheeky, you could use the euphemism ‘ni maíz’, or the longer ‘ni maíz palomas’. I’ve found that the latter often makes little kids laugh (especially my oldest son!), so it’s a far cry from the original (rather rude!) expression.

Cool ways to say ‘dude’ or ‘bro’

Wey / Güey – Dude

If there’s one word that embodies Mexican slang, it’s definitely ‘WEY’ (which means ‘dude’ or ‘bro’)!

But did you know that ‘wey‘ (ALSO WRITTEN AS ‘GÜEY’) was initially derogatory?

Cartoon of a "wey"

It used to mean ‘stupid’, and actually still does in some contexts (which we’ll look at a bit later!). I was SUPER confused by this when I first found out as most of my friends call each other ‘wey‘ (even female friends) ALL the time!


Vato – Dude

The same goes withvato (ALSO SPELLED AS ‘BATO’), which is defined by the RAE as a ‘foolish man’, but in Mexican slang is simply a way of saying ‘dude’ or ‘guy’

¿Y ese vato quién es?

Who’s that dude?

However, this one isn’t as versatile as ‘wey‘ and you won’t hear Mexicans call a woman ‘VATO’ … or at least not that I’ve heard!

A young man with "vato" in one hand and "bato" in the other

Valedor / Valedora – Bro / Sis

‘Valedor’ (or ‘valedora’) means something like ‘defender’ in English, BUT it’s also another way of saying ‘bro’, as in a good pal.

I mean, if you think about it, your ‘bro’ or ‘pal’ is someone who’s got your back (or at least they should do!).

Mirrey – My bro

True story: when a random guy somewhere in Pedregal (a wealthy area of Mexico City) called me ‘mi rey’ (or ‘my king’ in English), well, I was a bit taken aback.

I mean, surely that kind of flattery was a bit extreme!

Well, turns out it wasn’t actually flattery … yeah, I know, I probably should have worked it out … ‘MIRREY’ is just how young upper-class guys (or ‘FRESAS’) say ‘bro’.

Carnal / Carnala – Brother / Sister

‘CARNAL’ (‘carnala’ for female) quite literally means ‘blood-related’ in Spanish, and it’s another way of referring to either siblings or friends.

Despite the blood-related connotation, you’ll sometimes get ‘tianguistas’ (people who work in local open-air markets) calling you ‘carnal‘.

Don’t worry, they’re not mistaking you for their long-lost cousin, it’s just a way of being friendly! The cynic in me would also say that this sort of camaraderie also helps them get new customers/close sales too 😉

Gallo – Bro

A ‘gallo‘ is a ‘rooster’ in English and, yep, it CAN also mean ‘bro’. You’ll find it mostly used as ‘mi gallo’ (i.e., ‘my bro’).

It doesn’t work when addressing women though … ‘gallina’ (or ‘hen’) means ‘coward’, so similar to the concept of ‘a chicken’ in English.

But ‘gallo‘ also has a TON of other meanings: a ‘gob of spit’, a ‘false note when singing’, a ‘serenade’, a ‘tuft of unruly hair’, AND the person you’re rooting for in a sporting competition or match!

Check out my GUIDE TO ALL THINGS ‘GALLO’ if you wanna find out more!

Cartoon of an angry rooster

Mijo / Mija – Bro / Sis

‘MIJO’ is a contraction of ‘mi hijo’, meaning ‘my son’, and ‘mija’ = ‘mi hija’ (i.e., ‘my daughter’).

Just as with ‘hij@’, ‘mij@’ can also be used to affectionately refer to someone younger than you, irrespective of whether they’re actually your son/daughter!

AND they can also mean ‘bro’ and ‘sis’, so feel free to throw them about willy-nilly … well, obviously within reason.

Morro / Morra – Dude

Morro’/’morra’ are usually used to refer to kids, BUT they can also mean ‘dude’, ‘bro’, or even ‘boyfriend’ (or ‘girlfriend’ in the case of ‘morra’).

SUPER USEFUL Mexican adjectives

Machín – Tough / Brave

If you really wanna sound Mexican, DON’T say stuff like ‘muy macho’ or ‘mucho macho’ (which is grammatically incorrect!) when describing someone tough … it’s WAY better to say ‘MACHÍN’

Ese wey es bien machín.

That dude is really tough.

Machín‘ can also describe a sexist man, SOMETHING ‘AWESOME’, or a large amount/quantity of something –


Enrique es un machín.


El DJ está machín.

a lot

La salsa pica machín.

Oh, and if you wanna say ‘really awesome’ or ‘loads and loads’, just whack a ‘bien’ in front of ‘machín‘ –

Está bien machín, wey.

It’s super awesome, man.

Chafa – Lousy / Fake

If you bought some cheap wireless headphones and they stopped working after two months, you could say that they’re ‘chafas‘.

And that cute knockoff purse you got at the ‘mercado’? Yep, it’s likely to be super ‘CHAFA’ too!

Fresa – Upper class / Uptight / Luxurious

And what about that Prada coat that cost a fortune?

Well, that’s ‘FRESA’ … not to be confused with the fruit!

Fresa‘ is also a good way to describe anyone upper-class or, as we say in the UK, posh.

Pedo / Peda – Drunk

A ‘pedo’ is a ‘fart’, but in Mexican slang it also means ‘drunk’

Estoy pedo; no puedo manejar.

I’m drunk; I can’t drive.

Like ‘wey‘ and ‘madre’, ‘pedo‘ is a bone-fide starlet of Mexican slang; mosey on down to my article on ALL THINGS ‘PEDO’ if you’d like to know more 😉

Buena onda / Buen pedo – Cool

Remember ‘qué onda‘?

Well, both ‘onda‘ and ‘pedo‘ (I did tell you that ‘pedo’ was a bit of a starlet!) can also be used to describe a person’s innate characteristics!

So, if your Mexican friend says you’re ‘BUENA ONDA’ or ‘BUEN PEDO’, it means you’re ‘cool’!

I’d say that ‘buena onda‘ and ‘buen pedo‘ normally mean that someone has positive vibes and is generally pleasant to be around, and if they’re ‘chido’ (which is the literal translation of ‘cool’ in Mexican slang), well, they’re “cool” in the traditional sense of the word (i.e., likable, stylish, etc.).

Mala onda / Mal pedo – Mean / Disagreeable

However, if someone tells you that you’re ‘mala onda’ or ‘mal pedo’, it’s because they think you’re either disagreeable or downright mean!

Yeah, you don’t really want to be on the receiving end of this one!

Chido / Chida – Cool

Another one for the vocab list!

‘Chido’ (pronounced ‘chee–doh’) is the Mexican version of ‘cool’ or ‘awesome’.

You’re often gonna be using it with the verb ‘estar’ to convey your personal, subjective opinion about something –

Está bien chido.

It’s really cool.

Están chidas tus botas, wey.

Your new boots are super cool, dude.

Está chida la fiesta.

The party’s awesome.

Cagado / Cagada – Hilarious

When something’s really funny in Mexico, it’s normally described as ‘cagado’ (at least by slang-loving youths!).

Just don’t make the same mistake I did and whip this one out around the in-laws, as it actually refers to someone who’s pooped their pants!

Your new go-to phrase (but not when the in-laws are around!): ¡Ah, qué cagado! = Oh, that’s hilarious!

Rifado / Rifada – Great / Skilled / Talented

If you wanna show off your mastery of Mexican slang, don’t tell your friend that he’s ‘talentoso’ (or ‘talented’) with the guitar; TELL HIM HE’S ‘RIFADO’ (or ‘rifada’ if it’s a woman).

Matado / Matada – Grinder

You know that pal who’s always working and doesn’t know how to relax?

Well, he’s a ‘matado’.

Fabiana es súper matada en la escuela.

Fabiana works SO HARD at school.

Essential slang phrases/expressions

Al chile – For real / To be honest

If a Mexican friend starts a sentence with ‘AL CHILE, I know I’d better prick my ears up, put a sincere face on, and take whatever they’re gonna say seriously.


Because, surprisingly, ‘al chile‘ actually has nothing to do with spicy food … it means something like ‘TO BE HONEST’!

Al chile, no creo que Rodrigo le sea fiel a su novia.

To be honest, I don’t think Rodrigo is faithful to his girlfriend.

It’s considered a kinda vulgar expression, so it’s often better to use ‘LA NETA’ (which also means ‘to be honest’). I’d also venture to say that ‘neta‘ is more widely used than ‘al chile‘.

Oh, and if someone calls you ‘la neta del planeta’, well, you’re simply the best!

Cartoon planet saying "You're the best!"

Hacerse wey – To goof off / Play dumb

If you’re Mexican pal says, ‘NO TE HAGAS WEY’, they’re either telling you to stop playing dumb OR to stop goofing around … I’m sure you’ll know which when the time comes!

This is a good example of ‘WEY’ being used to mean ‘dumb’ as I mentioned earlier.

Hacerse pato – To goof off / Play dumb

The gentler, kid-friendly version of ‘hacerse wey’ is ‘hacerse pato’ (literally: ‘to play duck’!).

Now, I don’t know if ducks actually do play dumb (maybe ask a zoologist!), but that’s the expression!

No te hagas pato, Marcela; ya dime dónde escondiste mi balón.

Don’t play dumb, Marcela; tell me where you hid my football.

Sacar de onda – To scare / confuse

I forgot to mention that there are actually loads of EXPRESSIONS WITH THE WORD ‘ONDA’, which is a bit of a glaring omission on my part.

‘Sacar de onda’ describes a sense of confusion, anxiety or just being plain ‘ol scared!

This is actually one of Erika’s favorite expressions and let me tell you that she uses it A LOT!

Tirar la onda – To hit on someone / To flirt

Mexicans don’t flirt, they ‘tiran la onda’ (or ‘throw the vibe’).

¿Le estás tirando la onda a Andrea?

Are you hitting on Andrea?

Or if you’re feeling more animalistic, you can ‘echar/tirar los perros’ (or ‘throw the dogs’), which isn’t animal cruelty, just good ol’ flirting!

You might also hear, ‘tirar/echar el perro’ too!

Está cabrón / Está cañón – That’s tough / Difficult

These two are used to describe a difficult situation.

And how to choose between them?

Are you in a very formal setting / amongst strangers / are there kids around? Well, ESTÁ CAÑÓN is the phrase to plump for!

Hanging out with your close pals? You should probably go for a full-on ‘está cabrón’.

Hacer el paro – To help out

Back in the day, I’d politely ask, ‘¿Me puedes ayudar?‘, whenever I needed help of some kind.

But after living in Mexico for a while, I’ve worked out that if I’m with friends it sounds more natural to say, ‘¿ME HACES EL PARO?’, instead.

The two mean the same thing, but the second one is WAY more Mexican.

Ni modo – Oh, well

If things go awry and it’s time to just go with the flow, just say ‘ni modo‘.

It’s the MEXICAN EQUIVALENT OF ‘NEVER MIND’ or ‘it doesn’t matter’.

Ni pedo / Ni pex – Oh, well

Whilst ‘ni modo’ is perfectly safe to use regardless of the situation, ‘NI PEDO’ is best suited to VERY casual exchanges.

A gentler – albeit still informal – variation is its euphemism: ‘ni pex’. Ah, and ‘PEDO’ is also used to mean ‘problem’ or ‘issue’, so both ‘sin pedo’ AND ‘no hay pedo’ mean ‘no problem’.

Equis – Whatever

If you wanna react to a situation with an indifferent ‘whatever’, just say ‘¡EQUIS!’ (pronounced ‘eh–kees’)!

Imelda – ¡Olvidé el paraguas!

Javi – ¡Equis! No está lloviendo tan fuerte.

Imelda – I forgot my umbrella!

Javi – Whatever! It’s not raining that hard.

Provechito – Enjoy your meal

For MANY Mexicans, it’s customary to say ‘provecho’, or the diminutive ‘provechito’, before or during a meal; it’s a bit like saying ‘bon appetit’ or ‘enjoy your meal’.

Being British I wasn’t at all used to telling random people in a restaurant to enjoy their meal, but I quickly got used to it (and actually find it weird that no one does this when I go back to the UK!).

Useful party vocab

Pachanga – Party

Still calling a party a ‘fiesta’?

Well, in Mexico you’d better get used to ‘PACHANGA’ (although ‘fiesta’ is obviously ok as well!).

Desmadre – Big party

And if you have a MASSIVE party, you can use the word ‘desmadre‘.

Qué buen desmadre hicimos ayer.

What a good party we had yesterday.

And ‘desmadre‘ can also be used to describe a BIG mess or just chaos in general; waltz on down to our ARTICLE ON ‘DESMADRE’ if you wanna know more!

A boy in a SUPER messy room saying "¡Qué desmadre!"

La peda – A party (where there’s alcohol)

‘La peda’ (‘THE party’) or ‘una peda’ (‘a party’) is a gathering at which there’s A LOT of drinking.

So, if you’re invited to one, expect to get wasted … definitely don’t make the same mistake as yours truly and rock up with a big bottle of Mango Boing!

Echar relajo / Echar desmadre – To party

‘To party’ in Mexican slang is ‘echar relajo’ (kid-friendly) OR ‘echar desmadre’ (for your pals only).

¡Móchate! – Chip in!

If you get invited to ‘una peda’ and your Mexican pal asks you, ‘móchate con las chelas’, it just means ‘bring some beers’ (or whatever else they tell you to chip in with).

They might also just look at you and proceed to make a slicing movement across their chest accompanied with a wink and/or a whistle:

I know you’re in Mexico, but DON’T run for the hills! It’s just another – very popular – way of saying ‘MÓCHATE’, but, well, without actually speaking.

Chela – Beer

If you were wondering about the phrase ‘móchate con las chelas’, well, ‘chela‘ is just MEXICAN SLANG FOR BEER.

You’ll hear ‘cheve’ quite a lot too!

Caguama – A forty-ounce

A ‘CAGUAMA’ is a big ass turtle in Spanish, but it’s also a big ass ‘bottle of beer’ in Mexican slang!

The next time you’re told to go for ‘unas caguamas’ (which you WILL get told at some point if you like to party and/or drink!), well, you now know what to do!

El chupe – The (alcoholic) beverages

If your pal says,móchate con el chupe’ (instead of ‘móchate con las chelas’), you now have carte blanche to bring whatever beverages that take your fancy … as long as they’re alcoholic that is!

Ways to cheer on or flatter your Mexican pal

Te la rifas – You rock

Remember the adjective ‘rifado’ earlier on this list? Well, it can be a verb too!

If you wanna let your friend know that they’re absolutely KILLING it, just say ‘TE LA RIFAS’.

You might also hear a simple ‘te rifas’.

Eres la onda – You’re the best

As I mentioned earlier, in Mexico you can be ‘BUENA ONDA’ (‘cool’) or ‘mala onda’ (‘mean’).

But if someone says, ‘ERES LA ONDA, it means you’re the bomb!

In all honesty, the only time I’ve ever had this directed my way was when I did a BIG favor for one of my best pals!

Estás cabrón – You rock

‘Está cabrón’, might mean something is difficult, BUT if someone says that YOU ‘estás cabrón’, then they’re admiring your mad skills!

Yeah, another slightly contradictory one, I know!

Your everyday slang vocab

Lana – Money

‘Lana’ means ‘wool’ in Spanish, but it’s also a very MEXICAN WAY OF SAYING MONEY.

Other colloquial ways to say money include: ‘varo’, ‘feria’, and ‘moralla’ (which are low denomination coins!).

Cháchara – Knickknack / Junk

With just a little bit of ‘varo’ in your pocket, you can buy some cool ‘chácharas’ (or ‘knickknacks’) at many of the local markets scattered all over Mexico!

It also means ‘junk’ (of any kind!).

Cariñoso – Expensive

You’re not gonna find this nuance in a dictionary!

In Mexican slang, ‘cariñoso’ doesn’t mean ‘affectionate’, but ‘EXPENSIVE’!

So, ‘Esa cháchara está cariñosa.’ = ‘That junk isn’t worth your money.

Chilango – A Mexico City resident

ANYTHING and ANYONE from the country’s capital is a ‘CHILANGO’.

If you live long enough in Mexico City, you too will be transformed into a Chilango, mwahahaha …

Godínez – An office worker

Most people in Mexico refer to office workers as ‘GODÍNEZ’ (or a ‘GODÍN’ if you’re just talking about one).

Fun fact: Godínez’s favorite farewell is ‘vámonos que aquí espantan’ (which you might remember from earlier on).

Cartoon of a typical "godín" saying "Soy Godínez"

Chalán – Helper / Assistant

‘Chalán’ is a not-so-nice word for an assistant in Mexican slang. It isn’t rude per se, but it’s not that kind either … but you’re gonna hear it ALL the time!

¿Qué no tienes chalanes que te ayuden?

Don’t you have any assistants that can help you?

Chamba – Work / Job / Gig

Yes, a job in Spanish is ‘un trabajo’, but in Mexican slang it’s ‘UNA CHAMBA’.

This one’s so commonplace that you’ll gonna hear it used in literally ALL situations/contexts!

It’s also a good one to use if you want to make yourself sound just that little bit more Mexican – its verb form is ‘CHAMBEAR’.

Changarro – Small shop / Office

Mexicans have a slang word for small stores, shops, and even street stalls: ‘changarro’.

Truth be told, I’ve heard plenty of ‘GODÍNEZ’ use it jokingly to refer to their workplace, even if they’re big corporate buildings!

Choro – A lie / A long speech

If your Mexican friend asks you, ‘¿es choro?’, what they’re really asking is whether you’re being serious or not!

A ‘choro’* can either be a lie or a long boring speech (even if it’s truthful!).

The verb form is ‘chorear’!

*Not to be confused with ‘chorro’ which is a colloquial way of saying ‘diarrhea’.

Chanchullo – Racket / Scam

A ‘racket’ or ‘scam’ is a ‘chanchullo’ (pronounced ‘chahn-choo-yoh’).

Firulais – Dog

In Mexico, dogs aren’t just ‘perros’; they’re often – affectionately – called ‘FIRULAIS’.

Chones – Underpants

Yep, not even underwear is safe from the influence of Mexican slang!

Some years back, Erika told me we should buy some new ‘chones’ for New Year’s Eve, and I didn’t quite know what to say …

It turns out that wearing new underpants over New Year is a widespread tradition in Mexico …  each color even has a different meaning!

I decided on some fun yellow ones (which are meant to bring prosperity!) … am I oversharing?

Chascarrillo – Joke / Funny pun

Finally, I give you ‘CHASCARRILLO’ (pronounced ‘chahs–kah–ree–yoh’), which is a pun or a joke.

A ver, Rupert, ¡échate un chascarrillo sobre lo difícil que es aprender español!

Come on, Rupert, share a joke about how difficult it is to learn Spanish!

Before you go…

Now that you’re a Mexican slang whiz, why not dive even deeper into Mexican Spanish and explore all the expressions and COLLOQUIAL USES OF THE WORD ‘MERO’.

¡Nos vemos allá!

Rupert's lived in Mexico for nearly a decade and has been working as a Spanish teacher for even longer (over 10 years now, wow!). He specializes in simple (yet effective) explanations and is a veritable grammar-whizz.

And some cheeky vids ...

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