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25 Phrases You'll Only Hear in Spain

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Published:
May 13, 2021

With Spanish being one of the most spoken languages in the world, you can imagine how often new words, phrases, and slang pop up in the everyday language of its speakers. While most Spanish speakers come from Central and South America (it’s the official language of more than 20 countries), each country has its own slang and way of speaking. 

Because the countries of Central and South America are closer together and people frequently travel between them, it’s common for some words and phrases to travel throughout entire regions. Spain is a little different though. 

Because it’s isolated from other Spanish-speaking countries, castellano, or the Spanish spoken in Spain, can sometimes take on a life of its own. With some words having different meanings in Spain than in Latin America and some phrases only existing in Spain, it’s important to know some of the differences. Here are 25 Spanish words and phrases you’ll only hear in Spain. And if you want to learn more words like this, try Drops!

Spanish phrases you'll only hear in Spain


1 Vale - “Okay” in Spanish

Vale is one of the most popular expressions in Spain, and you’ll hear it everywhere you go. It’s the Spanish way of saying “okay,” and you can use it as a response for pretty much anything.

  • ¿Me puedes ayudar? - “Can you help me?”
  • Vale. - “Okay”

2 Qué chulo - “Cool” in Spanish

If you see something really cool or amazing, you can use this phrase. It’s mostly used to describe items, like a shirt in a store or a new video game. Be careful though - if you use it for a person, it means they’re arrogant!

  • Tienes un nuevo coche. ¡Qué chulo! - “You have a new car. How cool!”
  • Sería tan chulo ir a Argentina. - “It would be so cool to go to Argentina.”

3 Ser un chaval - “to be gullible” in Spanish

This phrase means “to be a kid” and is used to describe someone who is naive, gullible, or inexperienced. It’s not necessarily a negative description though! More recently, chaval has also become a slang term like “dude” in English.

  • Él no entiende porque es un chaval. - “He doesn’t understand because he’s a kid.”
  • Chaval, ¿dónde estás? - “Dude, where are you?”

4 Ser mono - “Cute” in Spanish

The word mono actually means “monkey,” but Spanish people also use it as “cute.” 

  • Su perro es tan mono. - “Her dog is so cute.”
  • Mi sobrina es tan mona. - “My niece is so cute.”
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5 Ir a tapear - “To get get tapas” in Spanish

Tapas are one of the most popular things to eat in Spain. They’re small appetizers you can share with friends or family, like cheeses, cured meats, and olives. This phrase simply means you’re going to go out to eat tapas!

  • Voy a tapear con mi familia. - “I’m going to eat tapas with my family.”
  • ¿Quieres ir a tapear conmigo? - “Do you want to go eat tapas with me?”

6 ¡Qué fuerte! - “Wow!” in Spanish

Fuerte by itself means “strong,” but in Spain, you can use it when you’re surprised or shocked, similar to “Wow!” or “Oh my gosh!” in English.

  • ¡Perdí todo mi dinero ayer! - “I lost all my money yesterday!”
  • ¡Qué fuerte! - “Oh my gosh!”

7 Ser la leche - “To be the milk” in Spanish

This phrase literally means “to be the milk,” but it’s used to describe something amazing or terrible in Spain. You’ll actually hear a lot of things described as leche in Spain, and it can really mean anything. It’s usually pretty easy to figure out if it’s a positive or negative meaning based on the context though.

  • Mi novia me compró un coche. ¡Es la leche! - “My girlfriend bought me a car. She’s the best!”
  • El estudiante nunca me contesta. ¡Es la leche! - “The student never answers me. He’s the worst!”

8 Tío/Tía - “Guy/girl” in Spanish

The literal meaning of these words is “uncle/aunt,” but Spaniards also use them as an informal way to say “man/girl.”

  • ¿Qué pasó, tío? ¿Estás bien? - “What happened, man? Are you okay?”
  • ¡Es la leche, tía! - “It’s the best, girl!”

9 Guay - “Cool” in Spanish

This is a truly Spanish word. It simply means “cool,” and you’ll hear it used in pretty much every conversation in Spain.

  • ¡Tu camisa es tan guay! - “Your shirt is so cool!”
  • ¡Qué guay la nueva película! - ‘The new movie is so cool!”

10 Pinchos - Northern-style tapas

Pinchos are pretty much the same thing as tapas, but can be found mostly in the north of Spain. They’re usually prepared on a skewer and served on top of bread.

  • Este restaurante tiene los mejores pinchos. - “This restaurant has the best pinchos.”
  • Vamos a comer pinchos esta noche. - “We’re going to eat pinchos tonight.”

11 Pavos - “Bucks” in Spanish

Pavos are usually turkeys, but in Spain, they’re also money. Using this is the equivalent of saying “bucks” in English.

  • Esa camisa cuesta demasiado…¡75 pavos! - “That shirt costs too much…$75!”
  • Quiero visitar el nuevo restaurante con mi novia, pero no tengo bastantes pavos. - “I want to go to the new restaurant with my girlfriend, but I don’t have enough money.”

12 Estar como una cabra - “To be crazy” in Spanish

Goats can be a little skittish sometimes, so that’s what Spaniards call people when they’re acting crazy.

  • Él está como una cabra. No importa lo que le dije. - “He’s crazy. He doesn’t care what I said to him.”
  • Ella está como una cabra después de comer azúcar. - “She’s crazy after she eats sugar.”

13 Flipar - “To flip out”

This word actually sounds similar to its English equivalent. You use flipar when someone is “flipping out.” Used mostly by the younger population, it refers to something that leaves you surprised or that you can’t believe.

  • ¡Estoy flipando! ¡Gané la competencia! - “I’m flipping out! I won the competition!”
  • Él está flipando. Tiene un nuevo trabajo. - “He’s flipping out. He has a new job.”

14 Molar - “To Like” in Spanish

Spaniards use “molar” just like the verb “gustar.” Both verbs are also reflexive. Meaning “to like”.

  • Esta película me mola. - “I like this movie.”
  • Me mola esta canción. - “I like this song.”

15 Estar en pelotas - “To be naked” in Spanish

The literal meaning of this phrase is a little crude (“to be in balls”), but it’s common for Spaniards to use it when someone is naked.

  • Quiero ir ahora pero estoy en pelotas. - “I want to go now but I’m naked.”
  • No puedes estar en pelotas en público. - “You can’t be naked in public.”

16 Guiri - “Tourist” in Spanish

Hopefully, after using some of these phrases in Spain, you won’t hear anyone calling you a guiri. This is how Spaniards refer to tourists.

  • Hay muchos guiris aquí en el verano. - “There are a lot of tourists here in the summer.”
  • Quiero ir a la playa pero hay demasiado guiris. - “I want to go to the beach but there are too many tourists.”

17 ¡Hostia! - “Oh my gosh!” in Spanish

Similar to vale, you’ll hear this word in every conversation in Spain. It’s an exclamation that’s similar to “Oh my gosh!” in English, but can also be used to emphasize words.

  • ¡Hostia, tío! No sabía que trabajaste aquí. - “Oh my gosh, dude! I didn’t know you worked here.”
  • Hoy el sol hace un calor de la hostia. - “Today the sun is so damn hot.”

18 Coger - “To get” in Spanish

In Latin America, you may get a few stares if you use this word in a normal conversation because it has a sexual connotation. In Spain though, it simply means “to get” or “to fetch.”

  • Necesito coger dinero de mi casa. - “I need to get money from my house.”
  • ¿Puedes coger a los niños después de la escuela? - “Can you pick up the kids after school?”

19 Estar de paro  - “Unemployed” in Spanish

Hopefully, you’re never unemployed, but if you are, you’ll need to know this phrase.

  • A causa de la pandemia, estoy de paro. - “Because of the pandemic, I’m unemployed.”
  • Ahora mi hermana está de paro. - “Now my sister is unemployed.”

20 Estar a dos velas - “To be broke” in Spanish

You don’t necessarily need to be unemployed to be broke, but no matter what your employment status, you can use this phrase to say you don’t have any money. It literally means to “be between two candles (because you don’t have electricity)”.

  • Estoy a dos velas porque he comprado tantos regalos para mi madre. - “I’m broke because I bought so many gifts for my mom.”
  • Estoy de paro, tío. Estoy a dos velas también. - “I’m unemployed, dude. I’m broke, too.”

21 Dar prisa - “To rush someone” in Spanish

When someone is rushing a Spaniard (which doesn’t happen too often…), you may hear them use this phrase.

  • Mis colegas siempre me están dando prisa. Ellos nunca planean nada. - “My coworkers always rush me. They never plan anything.”
  • Tengo que darme prisa en comer. Tengo una cita en cinco minutos. - “I have to hurry and eat. I have an appointment in five minutes.”

22 Mogollón - “A ton” in Spanish

In Spanish cities like Barcelona, Madrid, and Seville, there are huge groups of people during the summer. Especially in these areas, you’ll hear people use this word to describe the number of people.

  • Esta playa tiene un mogollón de gente. - “This beach has a huge amount of people.”
  • Hay un mogollón de guiris en Barcelona. - “There’s a huge group of tourists in Barcelona.”

23 Ser la caña - “To be the best” in Spanish

A caña is a small glass of beer in Spain, and you’ll always see Spaniards drinking them in the bars. It’s also a compliment to be called a caña! It’s similar to saying someone is “the best” in English.

  • Has hecho todo bien. ¡Eres la caña! - “You did everything well. You’re the best!”
  • Mi equipo ganó anoche. ¡Somos la caña! - “My team won last night. We’re the best!”

24 Ser un crack - “To be the best at something” in Spanish

Similar to being a caña, being a crack is also a compliment. You can use it to describe someone who is the best at something.

  • Marilyn Monroe era una crack para su época. - “Marilyn Monroe was the best for her time.”
  • Celine Dion es una crack cantando estas canciones. - “Celine Dion is the best at singing these songs.”

25 Se le fue la pinza - “To lose it” in Spanish

This phrase is a little less common than others on the list, but it’s still a good one to know if you’re talking to a Spaniard. You can use se le fue la pinza when someone has lost it, gone crazy, or is being completely unreasonable.

  • Mi profesor cree que podemos escribir 10,000 palabras esta noche. ¡Se le fue la pinza! - “My teacher thinks we can write 10,000 words tonight. He has lost it!”
  • Mi madre me dijo que soy el mejor futbolista del mundo. ¡Se le fue la pinza! - “My mom told me I’m the best soccer player in the world. She’s crazy!”

Learning Spanish can be difficult, especially when you factor in the cultural aspect. For this reason, it’s important to use an app like Drops that can teach you the right words to use in different Spanish-speaking countries, including Spain. Because the words, phrases, and slang can be really different, you don’t want to get yourself in an awkward conversation! 

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About the Author: Chad Emery is an American currently living in Spain. He loves everything to do with languages, and he started Langoly to help people learn and teach them more effectively. He enjoys finding the best apps, platforms, and resources to help people achieve all their language-related goals. 

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