One of the most common questions I’m asked as a Spanish teacher is, “When are we going to learn the fun words?” I almost always answer with, “All of them are fun!” but it’s very clear what they want to learn. Generally speaking, most people learning a language want to be able to speak it like a native, and part of that means learning slang terms, or “fun words.”
Keep in mind that slang terms and colloquial expressions vary from country to country and region to region, meaning that one area’s slang terms are completely different from those in another place. Spanish has grown and changed into different dialects over time, and different slang terms have developed. Here, we’ll show you some terms to impress your native speaker friends, and we’ll tell you where these words are said.
Some slang terms are common across all Spanish-speaking countries, so we’ll start with those first. For the most part, these words are commonly used and understood. This makes them great new words to add to your vocabulary:
- La plata– “Plata” literally translates to “silver”, but this is a common way to refer to money.
- La vaina– If you’re trying to say “thing”, you might already know the word “la cosa,” which is the common term in dictionaries and Spanish classes. However, “la vaina” is a more casual way to say “thing.”
- ¡Ojo!- Yes, an “ojo” is an eye, but if you hear someone say this expression, they’re trying to tell you “Watch Out!” or “Careful!”
- Ponerse las pilas- This is a common phrase to say to someone that needs to get moving. If someone tells you “¡Ponte las pilas!” they’re telling you to literally “put in your batteries” or to hurry up.
Country-specific slang terms
- ¡Qué padre! (Mexico)- Although it looks like “How Dad!”, it’s actually an expression that roughly translates to “Cool!” in English. This is very common in Mexico, so you’re very likely to hear it.
- Tío/Tía (Spain)- Meaning “uncle” or “aunt”, this is actually the most common way to refer to someone in Spain!
- Tener mala leche (Argentina)- You might hear this in other countries as well, but it’s most common in Argentina. This expression, meaning “to have bad milk” is one way to say “to have bad luck.”
If you’re interested, there are many more where these came from. Once you’ve mastered these and shown your friends, we encourage you to learn more local words.