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.
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.
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!
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.
The word mono actually means “monkey,” but Spanish people also use it as “cute.”
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!
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.
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.
The literal meaning of these words is “uncle/aunt,” but Spaniards also use them as an informal way to say “man/girl.”
This is a truly Spanish word. It simply means “cool,” and you’ll hear it used in pretty much every conversation in Spain.
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.
Pavos are usually turkeys, but in Spain, they’re also money. Using this is the equivalent of saying “bucks” in English.
Goats can be a little skittish sometimes, so that’s what Spaniards call people when they’re acting crazy.
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.
Spaniards use “molar” just like the verb “gustar.” Both verbs are also reflexive. Meaning “to like”.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Hopefully, you’re never unemployed, but if you are, you’ll need to know this phrase.
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)”.
When someone is rushing a Spaniard (which doesn’t happen too often…), you may hear them use this phrase.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.