‘Qué gacho’ – Meaning / In English

In short – ‘qué gacho’ is a common Mexican interjection mostly used when describing something ‘unpleasant’, ‘ugly’ or ‘bad’.

‘Gacho’ is actually the Spanish word for ‘bent down’ (especially when referring to bovine animals / horns) OR ‘drooping’ / ‘floppy’ (think dog ears).

So how did it end up being associated with undesirable things / situations in Mexican slang?

Well, keep scrolling to find out everything there is to know about the phrase ‘qué gacho’!

Uses / Meanings of ‘qué gacho

 ‘Qué gacho’ can be used in the following ways –

  • As a synonym of ‘ugly’ or ‘unpleasant’

  • As a synonym of ‘bad’ (i.e., of poor quality)

  • As a synonym of ‘that’s awful’ or ‘that’s messed up’

  • To complain when someone is being ‘mean’

As a synonym of ‘ugly’ or ‘unpleasant

As I mentioned above, the dictionary definition of ‘gacho’ is ‘bent down’ or ‘drooping’, but in Mexico it’s come to mean ‘ugly’, ‘disagreeable’, ‘unpleasant’, etc.

Nowadays almost no one in Mexico uses ‘gacho’ to describe a downward facing position, so when Mexicans utter an emphatic ‘qué gacho’, you can be sure that they’re talking about something that they find unpleasant.

Viviana – ¡Qué gacho me quedó el dibujo!

Benjamín – Vamos, no está tan mal…

Viviana – Sí, ¡cómo no*!

Viviana – My drawing is horrible!

Benjamín – Come on, it’s not that bad …

Viviana – Yes, it is!

*Rupert’s pro tip – ‘cómo no’ is an extremely common Spanish expression used to disagree with a statement/opinion.

As a synonym of ‘bad’ (i.e., of poor quality)

Similarly, ‘qué gacho’ can be used to describe something of very poor quality or something that simply doesn’t live up to our expectations.

Saliendo del teatro

Tenoch – ¡Qué gacho estuvo eso, eh!

Rita – He visto mejores puestas en escena de niños de primaria …

Leaving the theater

Tenoch – That was lousy, huh!

Rita – I’ve seen better plays at elementary schools …

As a synonym of ‘that’s awful’ or ‘that’s messed up’

When a situation is just ghastly or dreadful, an emphatic ‘¡qué gacho!’ is often the order of the day.

Margarita – ¿Por qué esa cara larga?

José Luis – Me robaron mi celular en la combi…

Margarita – ¡Híjole*! ¡Qué gacho!

Margarita – Why the long face?

José Luis – I had my phone stolen on the bus …

Margarita – Damn! That’s awful!

*Erika’s top tip – ‘híjole’ is another first-rate Mexican interjection, the likes of ‘jeez’ or ‘damn’.

To complain when someone is being ‘mean

‘Qué gacho’ isn’t just used to describe things / situations.

It can also be aimed at people who are behaving very poorly!

¡Qué gacho eres! Te acabaste la leche y no compraste más…

How rude of you! You drank all the milk and didn’t buy more …

En el patio de la escuela

Miriam – ¡Qué gacha tu hermana! La ví molestando a una niña más chica que ella.

Karlo – ¡Ahora mismo hablo con ella!

In the schoolyard

Miriam – Your sister’s so mean! I saw her bullying a girl smaller than her.

Karlo – I’m gonna talk to her right now!

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 seas gacho’ meaning

As you can probably guess, ‘no seas gacho’ is a bit like saying ‘don’t be mean’.

Un padre regaña a su hijo pequeño

Madre – No seas gacho con tu hijo, ¿qué no ves que está chipil*?

A father scolds his young child

Mother – Don’t be mean to your son, can’t you see that he’s feeling down?

*Erika’s note – ‘chipil’ is Mexican slang for ‘downcast’ or ‘melancholic’.

However, it’s also used a bit like the popular phrase no seas malito (or ‘be nice’) when asking someone for a favor –

No seas gacho, ¿podrías prestarme tu cargador de celular?

Could you be a pal and lend me your phone charger?

Anda, no seas gacho, preséntame con tus amigos.

Come on, be nice and introduce me to your friends.

Qué gacho’ pronunciation

 ‘Qué’ is said like ‘keh’, the ‘ga’ in ‘gacho’ is said like ‘gah’ and ‘cho’ sounds like ‘choh’.

/ keh gah-choh /

Similar expressions to ‘qué gacho

Qué gacho, Nacho

This is just another fun way of saying ‘qué gacho’.

It was popularized in the 70s by a character named Vulgarcito in the well-known Mexican comedy ‘Ensalada de Locos’ (‘Crazy Salad’).

Frase completa de Vulgarcito

¡Qué gacho, Nacho, qué feo, Mateo!

That’s mean, Nacho, that’s ugly, Mateo!

Bien gacho

Bien gacho’ can actually be used both as an adverb (‘bien’) + adjective (‘gacho’) combo AND as an adverbial phrase, depending on context –

As an adjective + adverb combo

¡Este queso está bien gacho!

This cheese is really horrible!

As an adverbvial phrase

Me deprimí bien gacho después de la graducación.

I got really depressed after graduation.

¡Está lloviendo bien gacho!

It’s raining really hard!

Final thoughts

So, you’re now an expert on all things ‘qué gacho’ … congrats! Make sure to give it a whirl the next time you hang out with your Mexican pals!

Oh, and if you wanna learn more unique Mexican slang words, don’t miss our article on the meaning of ‘Godínez’ (spoiler: it’s much more than just a surname!).

¡Hasta pronto!

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.

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