Spanish Slang & Phrases You Should Know
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Spanish Slang & Phrases You Should Know

¡Hola amigos! Are you ready to dive into the colorful world of Spanish slang? Whether you’re a beginner just dipping your toes into the world of Spanish vocabulary or a seasoned language learner looking to expand your Spanish language skills, mastering common Spanish slang words is essential for speaking Spanish like a native Spanish speaker.

Spanish is the fourth most spoken language in the world after English, Mandarin and Hindi. It’s also the official language in six nations and territories where our students travel:

Costa Rica Flag Costa Rica Dominican Republic Flag Dominican Republic
Ecuador Flag Ecuador Guatemala Flag Guatemala
Peru Flag Peru Puerto Rico Flag Puerto Rico

Other Spanish speaking countries include Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Equatoria Guinea, and Nicaragua.

From the mountain villages of Dominican Republic to the lush rainforests of Costa Rica, learning Spanish slang can add spice and flavor to everyday conversation with a native speaker. But did you know that each Spanish speaking country has its own unique set of slang words?

Below are some basic Spanish words and phrases that may help with the day-to-day conversation while traveling, along with common Spanish slang you may run into in various countries.

Greetings

  • Hello – Hola
  • How are you? – ¿Cómo estás?
  • Good morning – Buenos días
  • Good afternoon – Buenas tardes
  • Good night – Buenas noches
  • Welcome – Bienvenido
  • Goodbye – Adios
Spanish Language Immersion in Costa Rica with Rustic Pathways

Spanish Language Immersion program in Costa Rica
Copyright: © 2015 Rustic Pathways

Etiquette

  • Please – Por favor
  • Thank you – Gracias
  • Excuse me – Perdón
  • Sorry – Lo siento

Useful Questions & Sentences

  • Where is the bathroom? – ¿Dónde está el baño?
  • Could you repeat that please?  – Repite por favor.
  • How do you say ___ in Spanish? – ¿Cómo se dice ___ en español?
  • I don’t understand – No entiendo.
  • I want to go to ___. – Yo quiero ir a ___.
  • Where is ___? – ¿Dónde está ___?
  • I would like ___. – Yo quisiera ___.
  • How much is it? – ¿Cuanto vale ___?

Casual Conversations

  • What is your name? – ¿Cómo te llamas?
  • My name is ___. – Me llamo ___.
  • Where are you from? – ¿De dónde eres?
  • I am from ___. – Yo soy de ___.
  • How old are you? – ¿Cuantos años tienes?
  • I am ___ years old. – Tengo ___ años.
  • Do you speak English? – ¿Hablas inglés?
  • I speak a little Spanish. – Hablo un poco de español.
  • I am hungry  – Tengo hambre
  • I am thirsty – Tengo sed
  • I am cold – Tengo frio
  • I am hot – Tengo calor

Ready to learn more about common greetings in countries around the world? See more in our guide How to Say Hello, Goodbye, Please, and Thank You in Multiple Languages.

Common Spanish Slang Words and Phrases in Latin American Countries

Here are some of the most common Spanish slang words and phrases used in various Spanish-speaking countries around the world. Try out these different Spanish slang words on your next language learning journey to the following countries:

Costa Rica Flag Costa Rica Dominican Republic Flag Dominican Republic
Peru Flag Peru Puerto Rico Flag Puerto Rico
Ecuador Flag Ecuador Mexico Flag Mexico

Costa Rica:

Costa Rica map with horizontal blue, white, and red stripes

  • Pura vida – “pure life” This refers to the Costa Rican way of life. This slang term is often used as a response to ¿Cómo estás?
  • Mae – It means “dude” but this Spanish slang word can be used to refer to any man or woman.
  • Por Dicha –  Thank goodness
  • Tuanis – Cool
  • Pulperia – A small corner store

Peru:

Peru map with vertical red and white stripes

  • Bacán – Cool (also used in Ecuador)
  • Chévere – Great
  • Soroche – Altitude sickness (Take precautions to avoid having to use this word!)
  • Al toque – Right now (used when someone is in a hurry)
  • Jama and jamear – Food and to go eat
  • Luca – Refers to money, specifically 1 Peruvian Sol

Rustic Pathways students can practice their Spanish skills during the Andes to Amazon program in Peru.
Copyright: © 2014 Rustic Pathways

Ecuador:

Ecuador map with horizontal yellow, blue, and red stripes and a coat of arms

  • Achachay – Feeling cold
  • ¿Cachas? – Do you understand? or Did you “catch” something?
  • Pana — Buddy
  • ¡De una! — Absolutely!
  • ¡Mentira! — Used to express excitement or astonishment
  • ¿Qué fue? — What’s up?

Dominican Republic:

Dominican Republic map with a centered cross and national emblem

  • Bacano – Something cool or someone who is really good at something difficult
  • Nítido – Another word for great or cool
  • Chercha – A party or good time
  • Chillaxing – Anglican word that’s also used here, means relaxing or chilling
  • Colmado – Small corner store
  • Hevi nais – Very nice
  • ¿Dime a ver? – What’s up?
  • Vaina – Thing or stuff. It’s often used when something is negative, so travelers may want to avoid using the word.

Puerto Rico:

Puerto Rico map with red and white stripes and a blue triangle with a white star

  • Boricua – Name for the local Puerto Rican people based on the language of the indigenous Taino people
  • Janguiar – To hang out
  • Chavos – Money (also used in the Dominican Republic)
  • Gufear – To goof or joke around
  • ¡Mano! – Hey bro!

Mexico:

Mexico map with vertical green, white, and red stripes and an eagle emblem

  • ¿Qué onda? – The English equivalent is “What’s up?”
  • Buena onda – Cool or good vibes. This slang term is common in other Spanish speaking countries in Latin America.
  • Güey – Dude or guy
  • HíjoleWow or geez. It is mainly used to express surprise or shock.
  • No manchesNo way or you’re kidding. This Mexican slang word literally means “don’t stain yourself.”

In formal settings or if it’s your first time visiting a Spanish speaking country, we recommend using formal Spanish. However, if you are feeling confident and want to connect with native speakers on a deeper level, try out these Spanish slangs and impress the locals with your language skills.

About the Author

Scott Ingram

Scott is the Director of Admissions at Rustic Pathways. He has spent the last 15 years in the student travel and experiential education world. Before helping families find the perfect Rustic Pathways program, he led gap year programs that took students around the world and spent three years teaching English in Japan.