Part of the fun of learning a new language is picking up slang or local phrases. This not only helps you to feel integrated and natural when chatting to a native speaker but it’s also a great ice breaker.
I was lucky enough to live in a city in Spain (Córdoba) where English isn’t widely spoken. It is on the rise and lots of people attend English academies so it won’t be long before the locals speak the language fluently but I was immersed into the language from scratch back in 2015.
Córdoba is often overlooked by tourists in favour of Sevilla and Granada but this is a real shame as Córdoba is magical and leaves a long-lasting impression. It was my privilege to live there for almost four years and where I became fluent in Spanish from scratch.
Read on to arm yourself with Spanish phrases to sound like a native!
Working in a high school, I picked up on plenty of unusual words and phrases which I couldn’t help but enquire as to what their meanings were.
I have used all of the following expressions whilst in conversation with natives to mixed reactions but generally fits of laughter.
Disclaimer: I lived in Andalusia so some of them may be regional however I have used them whilst speaking to people from Barcelona, Latin America and all over Spain really so I think they are pretty much understood wherever, if not actively used.
I suppose it’s like someone from Liverpool understanding phrases used by someone from London but wouldn’t use them themselves.
Ok, here are my top Spanish colloquialisms to use to sound like a native speaker!
Aguafiesta- this translates as ‘waterparty’ but it means ‘party pooper’. It’s sort of like extinguishing the fire of a party with water… In a phrase you might say ‘No seas aguafiesta’ (don’t be a party-pooper).
Cachondeo- this means a piss-take or something so easy it’s ridiculous. In English slang you might say something is a ‘sit-off’ or a ‘chill’. In a phrase- ‘Geografía es un cachondeo total’ (Geography is such a sit-off/chill).
Sí o Sí- Yes or yes. In English we would say this like ‘100% yes’ or ‘Yes, definitely.’
No ni ná- This would translate literally as ‘no nor nothing’. It’s a way of saying ‘absolutely not!’.
Sobremesa– this is a Spanish institution. After a longggg meal, they will go on to talk over the table for hours upon hours. The food will have long been cleared away, the wine long polished off but they will continue to talk until the early hours about everything.
Pisco- this is a rather Andalus way of saying just a little bit of something. ‘Un pisco de pan, por favor’. (A little bit of bread, please.)
Boquerón- this is one of the little sardine/anchovy type fish you get in the chiringuito beach huts or in tapas restaurants however I heard one of my students describe her friend as a boquerón and I asked what she meant. Apparently, it means someone who has never been kissed!
Ea- This is said like “e-ya”. I can only describe it as being like “yeah….” to prove a point or “yeah I know, exactly…” or ‘see…?’
Esaborío– a bore or a dullard! (I knew one of these in Córdoba, unfortunately….)
Cipote- this is an informal word for a certain part of the male anatomy and is used as a sort of jokey skit word…
Soso/sosa- A boring person who lacks salt (in other words, they lack zest)
Anda/Anda ya!- This literally means to walk or walk now! However it is usually a positive reaction to good news. “I have a new job!” “Andaaa!”
Malaje- A bad person who gives off an unpleasant vibe
Jartible– Something or someone that is annoying
Pesado/a- same as above; annoying and a bit of a headcase!
Chiquitine/a- this is a way of saying someone is small or cute; a term of endearment
Mala cara– this is like saying someone has an unfriendly expression or a sulky look
Ser un trozo de pan- literally to be a piece of bread. This means someone who is too soft.
Ser pan comido- to be eaten bread. Sounds strange but it’s a way of saying ‘easy peasy!’
Cutre- I love this one!! It doesn’t have a direct translation but it sort of means scruffy, shabby-chic, dog-eared, slap-dash…..
Empalagoso/a- this adjective refers to viscous food that sticks to your mouth but also means something clichéd or cheesy…. Pasteloso/a means the same thing!
Empanado/a- this is how you would describe something covered in something. For example, what us Brits would call a ‘pasty/pastie’ , the Spaniards call an ’empanada’. It can be used to describe someone who isn’t ‘the sharpest tool in the toolbox’.
Un bicho malo nunca muere- A bad insect never dies. This refers to horrible people probably outliving good people! A pessimistic thought- I prefer to believe in karma!
Plantar un pino- to plant a pine tree. Or, to leave something else behind… in the toilet… yeah.
El Botellón- this refers to street drinking and is an institution in Spain! It’s the teenagers’ way of subverting the expense of alcohol in bars and around the feria time, you’ll see thousands of people (teens and grown-ups) with their covert drinks in brown paper bags.
Domingueros- a person/family who go to the beach on Sundays, maybe what we call in my country ‘a Sunday driver’ only it refers to those who will drive a good distance to the beach, set up a marquee, barbecue, table and chairs and sit there all day until it’s time to return home for work the next day.
So that’s it! Hopefully these phrases will help you along in making friends; they will serve as a conversation starter for sure!
Have you ever used these phrases with native Spanish speakers? Did it propel you into their friendship groups or did it go down like a lead balloon?
What are your favourite Spanish idioms or colloquialisms? Leave them in the comments section below!