Advice, Culture

Speaking of Spanish: Mexican Slang

Best Mexico City slang

If you’re learning Spanish, sometimes you’re only taught the proper words. Let’s change that—here are some key phrases you can use when out and about in Mexico:



Chido for cool. 

It doesn’t get more Mexican than chido. If you’re in Mexico, this is important Spanish to learn. Deploy this phrase when something is fantastic. Está muy chido ese film(“The film is very cool”). For context, you can use this instead of the traditional phrases of muy bueno or increíble.

Chafa for cheap. 

Water stains on the hotel ceiling? Dress that frays at the seams? For anything that’s lousy, trashy, cheap, or of a general poor quality, use the adjective chafa. For example: Solamente hay camisas chafas en la tienda. (“There are only cheap shirts in the store.”) 

Chulo/a for pretty. 

Be extra careful with this one. Chulo can mean “pimp” in some contexts, but, in general, when you’re describing something that’s pretty or attractive, you can use this word. 

Chambear when it’s time to work. 

Sure, you could describe working as un trabajo (a job) or trabajando (working). But that’s no fun. Instead, use una chamba or chambeando—it’s a more informal, Mexican way of saying the same thing. 

Cincho for your belt. 

If you’re out shopping and found that must-have belt at a bargain price, opt for cincho rather than cinturón. Take home that glamorous accessory with, Me gustaría el cincho. (“I would like the belt.”)

Chela for beer. 

We all know cerveza is beer, but change it up with this local term: chela. Next time you’re ordering a round for your friend, ask ¿Quieres una chela? Voy al bar. (“Want a beer? I’m going to the bar.”)

Chilangos for CDMX locals.

Just like Angelenos, New Yorkers, or Parisians, people from Mexico City (CDMX) have their own demonym: chilangos. The history of this word is politically fraught; the term can be pejorative, but exists in a more lighthearted context today. Competing theories point to the indigenous languages of Mexico, specifically Maya or Nahuatl, as the word’s potential source.

No signal on your trip to Mexico? Don’t fret: check out Phrasebook, which teaches you real-world expressions—no internet connection required. Available with your free trial.

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