10 Spanish Slang and Idioms Commonly Used by Native Speakers

Spanish slang is part of our day-to-day conversations. It is true that as I get older I use some of these expressions less, but…. I can’t help it, they are part of our language.

The use of this Spanish slang by students learning Spanish makes their speech and conversation sound much more native and at the same time connect more with the local speakers.

A big step in me learning English was when I integrated the word cool into my conversations. If you are a native English speaker, now you can understand what I mean, since when someone says in English “it’s so cool!” it resonates one hundred percent with the person who listens to it. There are no substitutes for this phrase. In this article, you will discover a selection of 10 Spanish slang words, with real examples of how to use them, so you can practise and start using them in your conversations.

Spanish slang words: verbs

We start our list of Spanish slang words with verbs. You will see that many of these words have their origin in the Caló language.

The Caló language, also known as Calé, Zincaló or Iberian Romani, is a variant language of Romani, used by the Gypsy people, mainly in Spain. It is estimated that between 65,000 and 170,000 people speak it in Spain, France, Portugal and Brazil, among other countries. That is a lot of people!

Flipar is a verb that comes from the English flip. The translation of flip into Spanish is ‘to turn something around quickly’, for example, flip a coin.

In our colloquial language, flipar means ‘to hallucinate, be very surprised or excited about something or someone.’ The connection between the English word flip and the meaning of flipar in Spanish is ‘something that turns your mind around.’

  • Cuando te cuente lo que ha hecho Alex… ¡Vas a flipar!

Molar is a verb that comes from the Caló language. We use it a lot in the colloquial expression ¡cómo mola!, which means I like it a lot!

In colloquial language, molar means “to like” and grammatically, it can be conjugated the same as the verb ‘to like’: me mola tu bici (me gusta tu bici), me molan las pelis de terror (me gustan las pelis de terror).

  1. Pirarse

Pirarse is another verb that, once again, has its origin in the Caló language.

In colloquial language, pirarse means ‘to leave a place’. It is a verb that is conjugated with reflexive pronouns.

  • Me piro, ya he terminado de trabajar y he quedado con mi hermana para ir al cine.
  • Juan se piró de clase antes de las dos.

The verb potar comes from the word ‘pote’ which is a measure or container that has the shape of a belly or vessel, to which the suffix -ar is added, from the infinitives of the first conjugation in Spanish.

From the Latin pōtō, pōtāre, means ‘to drink’, particularly an alcoholic liquor. In colloquial language, potar means ‘to vomit’, which is just what happens to some of us after drinking too much alcohol…

  • Algo me sentó mal ayer en la cena y he estado toda la noche potando. ¡Qué mal!

Spanish idioms: nouns

We now continue with three nouns widely used in our daily conversations as Spanish slang words.

The word tío/tía, in colloquial language, means ‘colleague, friend, dude, individual’.

In the seventies, with the end of the Franco dictatorship and when every night turned into party nights, the word tío/tía arose among colleagues and friends to refer to each other.

María Moliner’s dictionary reflects it like this: ‘It is used above all among young people as a name to address or attract the attention of the male or female interlocutor. It is synonymous with colleague or dude.’

-Vamos a ver el partido del Real Madrid en el bar esta tarde. ¿Vienes?

-No puedo tío, tengo que trabajar.

Tío, ¡siempre estás igual!

We have taken this word directly from the Caló language and it means ‘work’.

-Yo voy al curro en moto, ¿y tú?

– Yo no estoy trabajando. Ahora mismo estoy buscando curro.

The word birra means ‘beer’ and we have taken this word directly from the Italian (birra) which, in turn, took it from the German (bier).

– ¡Camarero! Un par de birras bien fresquitas, que hace mucho calor.

– ¡Marchando!

More slang in Spanish: two adjectives and an expression

We finish our list of colloquial expressions and Spanish slang words with two adjectives and one expression.

At the beginning of this article I gave an example of my use of colloquial words in English with cool… Well, here we have the equivalent in Spanish: guay.

It is actually a very old word, and was used as an exclamation meaning regret, pain, or threat in classical poetry. However, nowadays, in colloquial language, the word guay means just the opposite: ‘good, nice, fun’. 

The change in use of the word guay happened in the 80s, the years of la movida, when this word was rescued and began to be used with the meaning of ‘good and wonderful’.

-¿Sabes qué? Me voy a España este verano para estudiar español.

– ¡Qué guay!

In colloquial language, pringado is a derogatory adjective that means ‘someone clumsy, who is easily fooled, or who gets involved (willingly or not) in actions that do not get him anywhere or that do not bring him any benefit.’

According to some linguists, the origin of this word comes from the Latin pendicare, which means ‘to hang’ or ‘to slide from above’. In its adaptation to the native languages of the Iberian Peninsula, the verb ‘pringar’ arose. One of the meanings of this verb was ‘to stain’ and thus, it began to be associated with a negative meaning, of being clumsy.

  • Mateo es un pringado, al final siempre acaba haciendo el trabajo de todo el mundo.

In colloquial language, when we say something ‘es un rollo’, we mean that ‘it is very boring.’

This expression is a variant of the original ‘es un rollo macabeo’. The Maccabees were a Jewish liberation movement that in the 2nd century B.C. fought against the Syrians in order not to be Hellenized.

The story of how it happened is recorded in the Bible, but it was originally written on papyrus scrolls. The account of what happened is so detailed that its reading became tedious and endless, which is why the expression ‘rollo macabeo’ began to be used (and its variants: enrollarse, soltar un rollo, ser un rollo…) as synonymous with something long and tedious.

  • Esta peli es un rollo. Vamos a ver otra cosa.

Would you like to learn more Spanish slang words?

If you have enjoyed reading this article, and you want to learn more Spanish slang words, false friends, homonyms… You can continue doing so with us at our online Spanish school, Your Spanish Hub.

Take a look at our catalogue of online Spanish classes and at our Membership Programme, and book your trial class today with one of our accredited native teachers.

Our classes are guays, molan a lot, sometimes you are going to flipar with the activities… so, we can assure you that ¡no son un rollo! 😉

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