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10 Authentically Spanish Words and Phrases You Won’t Learn in Class

Updated: Aug 25, 2020

The Spanish that you read in most textbooks is absolutely correct, but it is missing the colour and variety of the language spoken in Spain. Take a look at this list of phrases to improve your understanding and to sound more like a native Spanish speaker.


Photo by Andre Guerra on Unsplash


¡Qué fuerte!

This is a phrase you will hear across Spain. Translated literally this means “how strong!” It is used as a way to express surprise like “Wow” or “Oh my gosh”.


Un chaval

“Chaval” is an informal way to say “kid” or “young person”. You can also say “¿Qué tal, chaval?”. This is the equivalent of saying “How’s it going, mate?”.

Buen rollo

“Buen rollo” literally translates as “good roll”. It is generally used to mean “good vibes” or “good feeling” and would have the sense of something being friendly, harmonious or generally positive.


Ser mono

“Un mono” is a monkey in Spanish. However, specifically in Spain, “ser mono” can be used to mean “to be cute”.

Photo by Andre Mouton on Unsplash


¡Madre mía!

“Madre mía” means “my mother”. It is often used as an exclamation a bit like using “my god” in English.


Tomar el pelo

The literal translation of this is “to take the hair”. However, when someone in Spain asks you “¿me estás tomando el pelo?”, this means “are you kidding me?” or “are you pulling my leg?”.


Photo by Edgar Chaparro on Unsplash

Estar como una cabra

Although the literal meaning of this phrase is “to be like a goat”. To say “estoy como una cabra” means “I am a little crazy today”.



Estar sin blanca

This phrase is used in Spain when someone hasn’t got any money and wants to say “I’m broke”. This idiom comes from a coin introduced in 1386 called the Blanca de Agnus Dei.



Con las manos en la masa

Translated word for word this phrase means: “With hands in the dough”. However, "agarrar a alguien con las manos en la masa" means “to catch someone in the act” or “to catch someone red handed”.



Tío/tía

You may know the words “tío” and “tía” as “uncle” and “aunt”. You’ll find in Spain these are also used as informal slang. ¿Qué pasa tíos? means “What’s up guys?”.


Many of these words and phrases are very specific to Spain. For each Spanish speaking country there are a whole range of idioms and informal slang that give the language a regional flavour. I hope this helps you when you start having conversations in Spain. Have you come across any Spanish slang or idioms? Let me know in the comments!

Further reading


Click here for more tips on how to improve your Spanish vocabulary.


Click here for some advice on reaching your goal of fluency in Spanish.




Hi, I am Karen. I am a languages tutor and blogger. I offer online tuition for students across the UK. I live in Tonbridge, in Kent, with my husband and my son. For me learning Spanish has meant fun, adventure, friendship and fulfilling work. I love sharing all that I have learnt with my students and via my blog. If you would like to receive 10% off your first online lesson, as well as regular updates and tips for learning Spanish, subscribe here.



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