Meaning of ‘No manches’: Mexican Slang 101!

In short – ‘no manches’ is an extremely common Mexican expression that literally translates to ‘don’t stain’ in English (yep, I was super confused when I first heard it too!). However, it has A LOT of different colloquial meanings and connotations; it can mean ‘no way‘, ‘you’re kidding‘, ‘jeez‘, ‘darn‘ (and more!), depending on the context!

It’s actually a euphemism for a much more vulgar phrase … though if you spend any time in Mexico, you’re probably going to hear it quite a lot as it’s also super common.

Let’s get into the juicy deets!

Uses / Meanings of ‘no manches

No manches’ can be used in the following ways –

  • To express surprise or disbelief

  • To express excitement

  • To express disappointment
  • To express anger or outrage

To express surprise or disbelief

‘No manches’ is the perfect expression for when you’re rendered speechless.

In this sense it means something like ‘no way’ or ‘you’re kidding’.

Suprised lucha wrestler saying "no manches"

Almendra – Ayer corté con mi novio.

Heriberto – ¡No manches! No lo puedo creer. Se veían muy bien juntos.

Almendra – I broke up with my boyfriend yesterday.

Heriberto – You’re kidding me! I can’t believe it. You looked so good together.

Expert tip – wanna look like a true local and surprise your Mexican friends in the process? Then accompany ‘¡no manches!’ with a hand-slicing motion at neck/upper chest level (kinda like the gesture we make in English when we hear that something bad has happened or are being told some really juicy gossip)!

Nicolás – ¡No manches!

Karla – ¿QUÉ PASÓ?

Nicolás – ¿No has visto las noticias? ¡El popocatépetl está haciendo erupción!

Karla – No manches…¿Neta?*

Nicolás – No way!

Karla – What happened?

Nicolás – Haven’t you seen the news? Popocatépetl is erupting!

Karla – No way … Honestly?

*Rupert’s pro tip – ‘¿NETA?’ is a fun and extremely common Mexican expression, it’s kinda like saying ‘really?’ or ‘for real?’ in English (amongst other things!).

To express excitement

If you’re as excited as you are speechless, then a heartfelt ‘no manches’ will help convey just that –

Néstor – ¡Te dieron el papel protagónico en la obra de teatro!

Lucrecia – ¡No manches! Pensé que no lo lograría.

Néstor – You got the leading role in the play!

Lucrecia – You’re kidding! I didn’t think I’d get the part.

Mario – ¿Qué crees? ¡Nos ganamos pases VIP para el concierto!

Bertha – ¡No manches, qué BUENA ONDA!

Mario – Guess what? We won VIP passes to the concert!

Bertha – Oh my gosh, that’s so cool!

To express disappointment

Of course, life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, and depending on the intonation and context, ‘no manches’ may also reflect utter disenchantment or frustration.

In this context, it normally translates to ‘darn’, ‘jeez’, and the likes.

Disappointed lucha wrestler saying "no manches"

En el aeropuerto

Federico – No manches

Gaby – ¿Qué pasa?

Federico – ¡Olvidé el pasaporte!

In the airport

Federico – Come on

Gaby – What’s the matter?

Federico – I forgot my passport!

Miriam – Las oportunidades para comprar una propiedad son escasas para nuestra generación.

Ben – No manches, wey*…Tienes razón.

Miriam – Opportunities to buy a property are rare for our generation.

Ben – Jeez … You’re right.

Rupert’s pro tip – I can’t tell you just how many times I’ve heard people use ‘no manches’ with a ‘WEY’ / ‘GÜEY’ (meaning ‘dude’ or ‘bro’ in English) affixed to the end (i.e. ‘no manches, wey’).

If you wanna sound like a true Mexican, I’d seriously consider whacking a ‘wey‘ in there too!

To express anger or outrage

Finally, ‘no manches’ can also be used to express feelings of rage (I did warn you that life wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows!).

Angry lucha wrestler saying "no manches"

No manches que volviste a llegar tarde al trabajo…¡no tienes remedio!

Don’t tell me you were late for work again … you’re hopeless!

Nacho – WEY, creo que te estafó…

Beatriz – ¡No manches!

Nacho – Dude, I think he conned you …

Beatriz – Darn it!

It’s also important to note that if you’re addressing more than one person, you’re gonna have to use ‘no manchen’ instead –

En el metro de la Ciudad de México

Viejo – ¡No manchen! ¡Dejen de empujar, van a lastimar a alguien!

On the Mexico City subway

Old man – Gosh-darn! Stop pushing; you’re going to hurt someone!

By the way, if you wanna top up on your Mexican slang, you NEED to check out our “Master Guide” … it’s everything you need to know all in one place 👇🌵🇲🇽

Erika pointing to the word "Mexican Slang Master Guide"

No manches’ pronunciation

‘No manches’ consists of two words:

  • The word ‘no’, although spelled the same as ‘no’ in English, is pronounced like ‘noh’
  • ‘Man’ sounds like ‘mahn’ and ‘ches’ is said like ‘chehs’

/ noh mahn-chehs /

Is ‘no manches’ a bad word?

‘No manches’ is so popular and widespread that it’s kinda become disassociated from its more vulgar cousin.

It’s even made its way onto the big screen; the first installment of the Mexican comedy “No manches, Frida” come out in 2016.

Regardless of how commonplace and innocuous it might be, keep in mind that ‘no manches’ is still a colloquial expression, so it’s best kept out of the workplace, etc.

I actually polled ALL of my Mexican friends and asked them if they considered it offensive in any way, and these were my findings –

Infographic showing if "no manches" is considered offensive and the situations in which it shouldn't be used

They were also kind enough to share with me if there were instances in which they considered ‘no manches’ to NEVER be suitable.

Here are some of their responses –

Sí, cualquier situación formal con alguna figura de autoridad.

Yes, any formal situation with an authority figure (i.e., doctors, teachers, etc.).

Con mis abuelos, supongo…o en situaciones muy formales.

With my grandparents, I guess … or in very formal situations.

Creo que depende más del tono en que lo digas, que la expresión en sí misma.

I think it depends more on the tone in which you say it than the expression itself.

BUT don’t be surprised if you DO also hear people using it in more formal contexts as well!

From my personal experience, it’s often best to play it by ear! Irrespective of the above guidelines, if all your colleagues at work are saying ‘no manches’, then it’s probably ok … same goes when meeting the in-laws!

Just make sure to proceed with caution …

Padre – ¡No manches! ¿Qué haces trepado en ese árbol?

Hijo – ¡Dijiste “no manches“!

Padre – ¿Y luego?

Hijo – Mi mamá dice que no diga esa frase.

Father – Gosh-darn! What are you doing up in that tree?

Son – You said “gosh-darn“!

Father – So?

Son – Mummy told me not to say that.

Lucha wrestler's son saying "¡No manches!" while playing video games

Before you go …

Make sure to check out our QUIZ ON ALL THINGS ‘NO MANCHES’.

Oh, and if you now find yourself saying ‘no manches‘ at every turn, shimmy on down to our article on ‘CHALE’; yep, it’s also used to express surprise, disbelief, and disappointment!

¡Hasta la próxima!

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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