6 Mexican Slang Words You Need to Know
Slang words are arguably one of the most important parts of fully understanding another language—but they’re not always easy to pick up on. Historically speaking, slang has always been spoken, not written down, so new words and meanings arise from word-of-mouth in any given community or society. In that sense, the internet is a gamechanger, but where to start? And with what Spanish dialect?
With Mexican Spanish, you’re in luck, because many of its slang words start with the same two letters, “ch,” and have the same “che” (pronounced “chay”) sound. Our third “Speaking of Spanish” video covers six Mexican slang words you need to know to sound like a local, all of which start with “ch.” If you’re feeling confident after watching our video, keep practicing—and learn a few more!—from a classic Mexican music group, Café Tacvba, whose song “Chilanga Banda” is well known for being chock full of “ch” Spanish words.
“Ch” Mexican slang words to check out
There is no shortage of Spanish words to express that you like something, but chido is a good colloquial option to say “cool” or “great” instead of the more classic muy bueno or increíble. Chido doesn’t exist in other Spanish dialects nor does it have an original meaning that it’s been repurposed from. It’s a word that can express agreement, approval, excitement, and general positive feelings about places, situations, events, things…you name it!
An example: Ese concierto estuvo muy chido. = That concert was very cool.
If something is “shoddy” or “of really poor quality,” you’re going to want to use the slang word chafa. It’s not just reserved for objects, though. Chafa can also be used to refer to something that’s been pirated or is counterfeit; to describe a person or group of people, like a sports’ team; as an expression (¡Qué chafa está…!); and even as a verb (chafear) to describe something that has stopped working.
An example: Esa película está muy chafa. = That movie was really bad.
When you think of the word pretty, most think of bonito/bonita, maybe lindo/linda, and, if you’re in Spain, guapo/guapa. In Mexican Spanish, chulo/chula is the word you’re looking to use if you find something (or someone, but in a kind, non-sexual nor romantic way) really pretty. Use it to compliment a part of someone’s outfit or to tell someone you think they look cute today. (Oddly enough, across the world in Spain, chulo/chula means “cool”—with both positive and negative connotations, depending on context.)
An example: ¡Esa camiseta está chula! = That shirt is pretty!
Have you ended up in a conversation about work? Instead of the more traditional trabajo, use the slang word chamba to refer to “work” or a “job.” A fun fact about the word chamba is that its origins are in Old Portuguese, eventually making its way to Latin America (Mexico and Peru, primarily).
An example: Tengo mucha chamba. = I have a lot of work to do.
In true Spanish fashion, it wouldn’t be a word if you couldn’t turn it into at least five other variations of itself, and chamba is no exception. Chamba comes in verb form, too, which is chambear, or “to work.” On the other side of the Atlantic, Spain also has its own noun-verb combo deal for the “work” and “to work” that deviates from the standard trabajo/trabajar, which is curro and currar.
An example: Tengo que chambear hasta tarde. = I have to work until late.
“A beer by any other name would taste as sweet”…That’s how that quote goes, right? Let’s just hope that’s true, because in Spanish, there are many different ways to refer to this one simple beverage. The traditional word for “beer” is cerveza, but in Mexico, you’ll want to say chela.
In parts of Latin America, the literal translation of chela is “blonde,” which is why some light-haired women in Mexico have Chela as their first name. Since the color is almost an exact match to your standard lager, it makes sense that chela stuck as a slang word for beer, too. And if you haven’t had enough “ch” words yet, Mexican slang also uses the word cheve for “beer,” too.
An example: Pásame una chela. = Hand me a beer.
Choose from these “ch” slang words, too
- The verb chachalaquear means “to talk a lot” or “to be a chatterbox.” Someone who is chachalaqueando is probably talking too loudly and insistently and coming off as very annoying.
- chango or changa
- Instead of using muchacho or muchacha or niño or niña, try out the Mexican slang term for “boy” or “girl,” which is chango or changa.
- Normally, you’d say someone is bajo if they’re short (referring to their height), but Mexican slang calls for the word chaparro.
- What’s up, chavo? This slang word typically means “dude,” but can also mean “guy”—often referring to a younger man.
- Throw some heat on your sentence by adding che to the beginning of it, which is an emphatic “hey!” to really get someone’s attention. In other Spanish speaking countries, it can also mean a colloquial way to refer to a friend, like “bro,” “mate,” “pal,” and so on.
- You know that person who can’t help but constantly brag about stuff? Typical chiflado, which means “show-off,” “spoiled brat,” or “know-it-all” in Mexican slang.
- Have you ever met someone from Mexico City? Anyone from there is a chilango, which simply means “citizen of/native to Mexico City.”
- We all love a little bit of chisme, or “gossip,” right? This Mexican slang word also exists as an adjective—chismoso or chismosa—which is used to describe “someone who is gossipy/loves to gossip.”