In short – if you visit Mexico, have Mexican friends, or consume Mexican media (movies, series, vlogs, etc.), you’re bound to hear the word ‘wey’ (or ‘güey’) –basically Mexican Spanish for ‘dude’ / ‘bro’ – and probably quite a lot!
Although it’s a colloquial expression and not suitable for formal situations (for reasons we’ll get into later), don’t be surprised if you hear it used amongst close friends, relatives, classmates and even businesspeople!
So, what does it mean and when can you use it? Well, tag along and let’s dive into one of the most popular expressions in Mexican slang!
Uses / Meanings of ‘wey’
‘Wey’ can be used in the following ways –
- As a synonym of ‘stupid’ or ‘clumsy’
- As a synonym of ‘dude’, ‘bro‘ or ‘guy’
- To address close friends
As a synonym of ‘stupid’ or ‘clumsy’
To understand how it all began, let me take you back to 1958, when the word ‘güey’ appeared in written form for the first time in the novel “Where the air is clear” by Carlos Fuentes.
Fuentes was trying to express himself as a working-class Chilango would and, well, ‘güey’ was a popular colloquialism at the time, meaning something along the lines of ‘stupid’ or ‘dumb’.
Un hombre choca con otro caminando en la calle
¡Fíjate por donde vas, güey! ¿Qué no sabes caminar?
Two men bump into each other while walking along the street
Watch where you’re going, idiot! Don’t you know how to walk?
And where did it come from?
Well, the word itself derives from ‘buey’ (or ‘ox’ in English), the castrated bull that’s used to plow fields in a slow and kinda clumsy manner.
Now, there’s an interesting linguistic phenomenon in Mexican Spanish: some words with the syllable ‘bue’ get pronounced as ‘güe’.
This was viewed as a “working class” linguistic quirk and ‘güey’ was therefore considered a vulgar word by so-called “high society”.
En el aeropuerto
Héctor – Ah, ¡qué güey soy!
Pepe – ¿Qué pasó?
Héctor – ¡Olvidé mi pasaporte!
In the airport
Héctor – Ah, I’m such a moron!
Pepe – What happened?
Héctor – I forgot my passport!
As a synonym of ‘dude’, ‘bro‘ or ‘guy’
At the end of the 20th century, youngsters started using ‘güey’ as a slang term and it gradually turned into a way to describe AND address anyone, akin to saying ‘dude’ or ‘guy’.
It became so widespread that the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language finally recognized it in 2001, though the only definition listed is ‘stupid’ (see above!).
Marina – Llegó un wey, pero no lo conozco.
Nacho – Ah, sí, es mi primo. Ven, te presento.
Marina – Some guy arrived, but I don’t know him.
Nacho – Ah, yeah, he’s my cousin. Come with me, I’ll introduce you.
To address close friends
‘Wey’ is also a great way to address your close friends!
For a while, it was used exclusively amongst men, but nowadays it’s used to refer to both men and women.
Dos amigas se encuentran en una cafetería
Sandra – ¿Cómo estás, güey*? ¡Qué gusto verte!
Valeria – ¡Sandy! No manches, wey, hace años que no te veía.
Two friends meet in a cafe
Sandra – How are you, girl*? It’s so nice to see you!
Valeria – Sandy! No way, sis, I haven’t seen you in years.
*Erika’s note – Mexicans spell the word ‘wey’ in many different ways! Find out exactly why (and which one’s correct!) in our article on ‘güey’ vs ‘wey’.
‘Wey’ is pronounced like the English word ‘way’ (simple, right?) –
/ wehee /
Well, you’ve probably noticed that little symbol above the ‘ü’ in ‘güey’ and wondered what the heck it is …
It’s actually a dieresis, which when placed above a ‘u’ in ‘ue’ / ‘ui’ vowel combos, makes a sound similar to ‘w’ (hence why people often write ‘güey’ as ‘wey’).
/ gwehee /
‘Este wey’ meaning
‘Este wey’ means ‘this dude’ in English, and it’s a common Mexican expression which can be used to describe either a ‘guy’ or a ‘girl’.
Depending on intonation, ‘este wey’ can also be used as an interjection to denote shock about another person’s surprising or outrageous behavior (mostly in a negative way) –
¡Este wey! ¡Se salta la fila en el banco y luego se pone a gritarle a la cajera!
This guy! He skips the line at the bank and then starts yelling at the teller!
‘Órale, wey’ meaning
‘Órale’ is a Mexican interjection used to express either shock or agreement.
As a phrase, ‘órale, wey’ can be used in a similar way to expressions such as ‘yeah, man’ or ‘come on, dude’ in English.
Órale, wey, nos vemos a las ocho en tu casa.
Okay, bro, I’ll see you at your house at eight.
¡Órale, wey! No te pases de listo o vamos a tener problemas.
Watch it, dude! Don’t be a smartass, or else we’re gonna fall out.
Similar expressions to ‘wey’
You can use this one when someone trips over something or falls over; it’s kinda like saying ‘watch out, dude’.
Un chico tropieza en las escaleras del metro
¡Álzalas, wey! ¡Vas a causar una estampida!
A boy stumbles on the subway stairs
Watch out, dude! You’re gonna cause a stampede!
‘Vas, wey’ is a great way to encourage your friends; it’s a bit like saying ‘you go, bro’ or ‘go for it, dude’ –
Faby – Muero de ganas por invitar a Claudio en una cita.
Isabel – ¿Y qué esperas? ¡Vas, wey!
Faby – I’d really love to ask Claudio on a date.
Isabel – What are you waiting for? Do it, girl!
This one roughly translates as ‘stop, dude’, and it’s normally used when someone is doing something irritating, and you want them to stop!
We’ve actually dedicated an entire article to ‘ya, wey’, so make sure you check it out if you wanna know more!
So, you’re now an absolute master on all things ‘wey’!
Keep in mind that – although mostly friendly – this is still a colloquial expression, so avoid it in formal environments (unless the people you’re speaking to are throwing it around willy-nilly … which does sometimes happen!).
Ready to learn more Mexican slang? Then make a beeline towards our article on ‘desmadre’, it’s another SUPER common word!