In short – ‘Qué rollo’ is a very common expression throughout the Spanish-speaking world (especially in Mexico and Spain). Its meaning varies according to intonation and context, but it normally translates to either ‘what’s up’ or ‘what a drag’.
If you were to translate ‘qué rollo’ literally, well, it probably wouldn´t make much sense, because a ‘rollo’ *NORMALLY* means ‘roll’ or ‘scroll’ in English …
… but in everyday conversation it´s more often used to mean ‘drag’ (i.e., ‘what a drag’), ‘lie’ (of the untruth variety) or as part of a longer phrase (i.e., ‘qué rollo’ / ‘puro rollo´/ etc.)
Wanna know more?
Well, let´s get into the nitty-gritty!
Uses / Meanings of ‘qué rollo’
‘Qué rollo’ can be used in the following ways –
- As a synonym of ‘what a drag’
- To describe an inconvenient or tedious process / situation
- To describe a long, drawn-out story
- As a synonym of ‘what’s up’
- As a synonym of a ‘lie’
As a synonym of ‘what a drag’
A quick foray into the Royal Academy of Spanish Language and you´ll see that a ‘rollo’ isn´t just a ‘roll’ in the traditional sense of the word, but also a person or situation which is‘boring, tiring or annoying’.
The expression ‘qué rollo’ can therefore be used in a similar way to the English ‘what a drag’.
En una clase en la preparatoria
Mariana – ¡Qué rollo con esta clase!
Sebas – Sí, sentí que me dormía …
In a class in high school
Mariana – That class was a drag!
Sebas – Yeah, I was falling asleep …
Xavier – Mi mamá pasó una hora regañándome por llegar tarde a casa.
Valentín – ¡Qué rollo! ¡Ni que tuvieras diez años!
Xavier – My mom spent an hour telling me off because I came home late.
Valentín – What a drag! It’s not like you’re ten years old!
To describe an inconvenient or tedious process / situation
You know those occasions when you wish you had a clone or a robot to take your place?
You know, when you´re doing things like getting a passport, taking a driving theory test, or anything that involves paperwork and waiting rooms.
Well, qué rollo’ is probably on the tip of most Spanish speaker´s tongues when they´re in any of the above situations!
¡Qué rollo es sacar la licencia de conducir! Me la pasé todo el día en la oficina de tránsito.
What a pain it is to get a driver’s license! I spent all day at the DMV.
To describe a long, drawn-out story
A ‘rollo’ is also defined as ‘a long, tedious and boring speech’, be it a lecture, monologue or even just an unwanted conversation.
En la oficina
Pam – ¡Qué rollo se echó Pablo!
Roberto – De verdad que sí. ¡Esa junta pudo haber sido un correo!
At the office
Pam – Pablo just kept blabbing on!
Roberto – He really did. That meeting could´ve been an email!
As a synonym of ‘what’s up’
Not all of the meanings and associations of ‘qué rollo’ are negative.
You´ll likely also hear it being used as a greeting, kinda like ‘what’s up’*.
¡Esteban! ¿Qué rollo? Hace mucho que no te veía.
Hey there, Joaco!
Esteban! What’s up? I haven’t seen you for a while.
*Erika´s note – make sure to check out my magnum-opus on all the different ways to say ‘what´s up’ if you´d like to learn even more alternatives!
As a synonym of a ‘lie’
Last (but not least!), a ‘rollo’ is also used as a euphemism for a lie or a far-fetched story.
In this sense ‘qué rollo’ means something along the lines of ‘that´s a lie’.
Adolescente – Perdón por llegar tarde. Me quedé trabajando en una tarea con mis compañeros.
Madre – ¡Qué rollos cuentas, Xavier! El vecino te vio bebiendo con tus amigotes.
Teenager – Sorry I’m late. I was working on a school project with my classmates.
Mother – What a tall tale, Xavier! The neighbor saw you drinking with your friends.
´Qué rollo´ pronunciation
To pronounce ‘qué rollo’ like a pro, divide it into three syllables:
- ‘qué’ is said like ‘keh’
- ‘ro’ sounds like ‘rroh’ (remember to really roll that ‘r’!)
- And ‘llo’ is said like ‘yoh’
/ keh rroh-yoh /
Other expressions with ‘rollo’
Es un rollo
This phrase literally means ‘it’s a roll’ in English, but it´s also used to mean ‘it’s a drag’, ‘it’s a pain (in the neck)’, or ‘it´s a lie’.
¿Vas a tramitar tu pasaporte? ¡Es un rollo!
Are you going to get your passport? It’s a pain in the neck!
A mí no me mientas, eso es un rollo …
Don’t lie to me, that’s bull …
This one literally translates to ‘without rolls’ in English, but it´s actually an expression similar to ‘cut to the chase’.
Ya dímelo, sin rollos: ¿qué le dijiste a Milo?
Just cut to the chase already … what did you tell Milo?
Mal rollo / Buen rollo
In these expressions, ‘rollo’ is basically a synonym for ‘vibe’, so someone (or something) with a ‘mal rollo’ has a ‘bad vibe’ and someone with a ‘buen rollo’ has a ‘good vibe’.
A ‘mal rollo’ is also a euphemism for something bad or unlucky, and a ‘buen rollo’ for something fortunate or worthy of celebration.
¡Qué mal rollo que reprobaras el examen!
It sucks that you failed the exam!
Irene me cayó muy bien, es muy buen rollo.
I liked Irene very much; she has a really cool vibe.
Qué rollero / Qué rollera
A ‘rollero’ (masculine) or a ‘rollera’ (feminine) is slang for either a chatterbox or a liar.
¡Qué rollero es tu hermano! Pensé que nunca pararía de hablar.
Your brother is such a chatterbox! I thought he’d never stop talking.
‘Puro rollo’ can be used to mean a ‘blabbermouth’, a ‘tiresome story’ or a ‘bunch of lies’.
Esa maestra es puro rollo. ¡Nunca le puedo poner atención!
That teacher is such a blabbermouth. I can never pay attention to what she’s saying!
No le* creas nada a Pedrito; cuenta puro rollo.
Don’t believe a word Pedrito says, it’s just a bunch of lies.
Erika´s note – although Pedrito (the indirect object) is mentioned in the sentence, the indirect pronoun ‘le’ is also used (to avoid confusion!).
Be sure to check out our article ‘lo’ vs ‘le’ vs ‘la’ if you wanna know more!
Understanding an expression as versatile as ‘qué rollo’ may be tricky at first, but I´m sure this article will come in handy next time you hear it in conversation!
Just make sure to pay attention to intonation and context, because they’ll definitely be your allies when mastering the word ‘rollo’!
Oh, and if you want to dip your toes into even more Mexican slang, be sure to check out our article on the various meanings of ‘qué pasó’.
¡Hasta la próxima!