How to Swear Like a Spaniard

swear Spanish

DAMN, this wind SUCKS!

One of my favorite things about living in Spain was speaking Spanish. Blinding flash of the obvious, speaking Spanish in Spain, but I loved every minute of it. I loved ordering breakfast at the cafe around the corning of my apartment. I loved chatting with the bus driver. I loved talking to my little 3 year old students in baby Spanish. I loved having park bench conversations with old Spanish men on Sundays. I even love making mistakes! I loved everything about it, how you had to work and work at it, to have the soft “j”s and double “r” roll off your tongue.

Spanish is such a beautiful language for me, and so very different from English. I love that you literally say “give me a coffee with milk” and “kisses” instead of hugs. Spanish is like Italian, it’s so colorful and vibrant. It’s so alive! You speak with more than just your lips and tongue, you talk with your whole face, your hands, your arms. It’s so elaborate and dramatic! I love it! In Spain there are so many accents and so many regional sayings, you are always hearing something new! There are so many beautiful expressions, so many interesting and descriptive ways to say things in Spanish, I never get tired of learning and practicing. And one of the things Spain does the best: swearing.

swear Spanish

There are so many different ways to swear in Spain, it’s hard to remember them all! Cursing is an integral part of the language, so it has become less taboo that in English. You hear it much more often and much more frequently peppering up sentences than we do in the US or England. No one can ever say that Spanish isn’t a colorful language.

And let’s be honest here, what’s one of the first things you do when you start studying a new language? You look up the bad words (palabrotas)! So here, I have done the hard work for you and compiled a list of some of the most common and hilarious curse words used in Spain! Feel free to chime in with a few of your own!

1. Me cago en tu puta madre

This one takes the cake for one of the most hilarious and frightfully offensive swear words I have heard in Spain. Literally, “I shit on your bitch of a mother,” one should use this phrase selectively and with caution. Remember, madres are sacred in Spain. In fact, the “me cago en…” is one of the most common curse phrases you’ll hear in Spain. Whether you hear me cago en Dios “I shit on God”-that’s one is really bad -or me cago en la leche, literally “I shit in the milk” but used more like “holy shit!” there is no shortage of possibilities to be had with this one, like me cago en todos los santos or me cago en la Virgen del Pilar. Just remember if you want to insult anyone or anything in Spain, bring in the moms or anything related to the Catholic church and you’re good to go!

swear Spanish

The “fuck you” of the English can never compare with the me cago en tu puta madre of the Spanish

2. Joder

Joder is about as common in Spanish as ok is to English. You hear it all the time. Loosely translated as “fuck,” it is nowhere near as strong. To soften it, many of my younger students would say jooo-er and not say the “d” or the little ones say jolines. That of course doesn’t stop the adults. I used to work with a teacher who loved to say (scream) “Joooooder, por qué no te callas?” (Fuck, why don’t you just shut up?) at the students in class. It was hilarious. And a little bit frightening, but that’s the Spanish public education system for you.

3. Gilipollas

Personally, I like to think gilipollas means “dumbass.” Normally I equate the phrase no seas gilipollas to “don’t be a dumbass.” My middle school students used to love to insult each other with this one. Sometimes I translate it in my head as “blithering idiot” to keep things interesting.

swear Spanish

Pretty much the definition of gilipollas 

4. La hostia

This one was bigger in southern Spain than when I lived in the north. La hostia means “the host,” you know, like in communion. Spain being a thoroughly Catholic country, one of the worst and most common ways to curse is to somehow incorporate the holy mother church. Hostia or hostias can mean many different things, like “shit” or “holy shit” usually an exclamation all on it’s own, like something you can’t believe. Eres la hostia means “you’re the shit,” in a good way or hostia puta “holy fuck.” Don’t forget you can always say, me cago en la hostia, “I shit on the host.” Yikes, that’s blasphemous!

5. Que te folle un pez

This one is one of my favorites and one I have personally never said because I am terrified of using it wrong, and I think it sounds just plain ridiculous as a native English speaker. Que te folle un pez basically means “I hope you get fucked by a fish.” See what I mean when I say Spanish is colorful? How do you even come close to insulting like that in English?! How do you even begin to compare “screw you” or “fuck you” to that?

6. Cojones

In spanish they say “cojones sirve para todo,” and it’s true. Cojones is without a doubt the most versatile of all the Spanish curse words on this list; you can use it for just about anything. Normally, it means “balls,” you know, in the masculine sense. “You’ve got balls (as in courage or well, the other kind too)”- tienes cojones. “That bothers me” – me toca los cojones and my personal favorite, estoy hasta los cojones – “I can’t take it anymore, I’m up to my (eye) balls.” Here is a hilarious video in Spanish that explains it all!

swear Spanish

7. Cabrón

For me cabrón has always meant “bastard,” “dick” or “total asshat.” Literally meaning “male goat,” I most frequently hear it as qué cabrón or qué cabrones in plural. People who suck, people who are assholes and deserve a good punch in the heard. According to Urban Dictionary, “A good definition that would apply to all Spanish speaking countries would be asshole-fucker-bitch.” Can’t top that even if I tried.

8. Que te den (por culo) 

This one is kinda like “up yours.” Seriously, does anyone even say that anymore? I learned this the hard way after getting in a big screaming fight with one of my roommates 2 years ago about how washing dishes means less cockroaches. Ick. Anyways, culo means “ass” so I think you can probably figure out what the rest of it means on your own. I am too much of a lady to write that out completely, plus, who knows what kind of traffic I would be inviting on here if I did. You can say just que te den or que te den por culo, both meaning “fuck you.”

9. Coño

Coño means, c….., cu…, crap. I just can’t bring myself to say it or write it. Let’s just say it’s very naughty and starts with a “cu” and ends with a “nt.” I don’t think I have ever said the “c” word in my life. I think I would have been expelled from my fancy women’s college if I ever did. Normally it’s used like “fuck” or “shit” and not as strong as the “c” word in English. 

swear Spanish

“¡Coño! I wish I had though twice about playing in the bubble machine! My pants are soaked!”

10. Pollas en vinagre

I’m going to end with my all-time favorite curse word in Spanish. Readers, I present to you pollas en vinagre “dicks in vinegar !” Use it how you best see fit, its exact meaning still eludes me!

What’s the most interesting swear word you have encountered on your travels?

Nail photo here
San Fermín photo here
Cat photo here


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232 Comments on “How to Swear Like a Spaniard

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  1. I have also never heard que te folle un pez…do they say it in the north?

    I have always been fascinated by Spanish swear words, and feel like they better express my frustration. Though I lay down the law on my kiddos in class – they think I don’t know much Spanish, but my ears sometimes ALWAYS pick up on it. Even my first graders last year couldn’t even get away with “jopetas” or even “joe”

    I did a post on cojones and it’s various uses: http://sunshineandsiestas.com/2011/09/18/on-spanish-tacos-and-balls/

    1. Kids are so sneaky! We confiscated a fortune teller they made last summer that said things like “mama verga” and “gilipollas” so mature haha

    2. Here in the southern Spain we use to say a lot “Que te folle un pez / pez espada / pez polla” or just “Que te follen”.
      We use to insult us a lot (among friends), but only as a way of natural speaking, I mean without malice 🙂

  2. Hahahaha this is such a good reference!!! I hear “joder” here in Jaén province all the time but mainly as “joé” (like that tourist shirt that says “joé, qué caló”).

    “Coño” amazes me how it’s almost a filler word in conversations, but I’m too afraid to use it because of what it means in English.

    My Spanish flatmate usually says “HOstias, TÍo!!!” whenever we talk about apartment problems or bullfighting. 😛

    And I’ve even heard the Holy Family, “José y María,” thrown around as a curse word! Oh Spanish, how we love you 🙂

  3. Whoa, l’ve never heard “Que te folle un pez”–Spanish has so many fishy expressions (“ser un pez gordo,” etc).

    I heard “hostia” a lot in León, but there it was used as more of a threat; “Voy a darte una hostia,” or “I’m going to give you the host” meant that the speaker’s fist was coming your way. Colorful language, indeed!

    1. It can be better: “¡Que te folle un pez sierra!”

      As an alternate, I (as a biologist) propose you “¡Que te la mame una lamprea”. Offers a lot of new sensations (I suppose).

      1. Actually, the full expression would be “¡Que te folle un pez, que tiene la polla fría!”, meaning ‘I hope you get fucked by a fish, for it has a cold dick!’

    2. Yep, we often say “que te folle un pez-polla”, that would mean: “I hope you get fucked by a dick-fish” (still worse, I know!)

    3. A very good post! I really liked it. But Iam from the north of Spain and I have to say that hostia is much often used in the north. In país vasco people is wellknown because they use “aiba la hostia!”, that means something has surprised them. Excuse my English!

    4. From Barcelona 😉 What you say as “Fat Cat”, “Big boss” or “BOSS”, is what “Pez gordo” means.

      But when an english person reads something like “Que te folle un pez”, “go get fucked by a fish”… you must understand that its an expression and not a literal sentence.

    5. In that particular case, the word is “Ostia”, without the “h”.
      -Voy a darte una ostia (I’m going to hit you)
      Most of the spaniards don’t even know that the word is written otherwise, so they write “hostia”

      Actually, the etymology of “ostia” comes from latin: ostiarii (slam the door)
      However, “hostia” means wafer

      1. Search in the RAE dictionary the word “hostia” Maybbe you’ll leanr something new 😉

        Ostia means oyster

      2. Oyster is “ostra”, not “hostia”.
        We also say “¡Ostras!” (oysters!) when surprised or amazed.

      3. Man, ostia is completely wrong. It’s so common that people writes it without h that it seems the right way, but it isn’t.

        Tío, el voy a darte una ostia se ha escrito tantas veces mal que se ha normalizado, pero sigue estando mal. Échale un vistazo a la RAE, va siempre con h.

    1. Very good job indeed! I would also add to the list “me la suda/me la pela” which is used as “I don’t give a flying fuck”. It is OK to say it in a social context, your friends, siblings, maybe your GF/BF, but it is pretty rude to say it to someone you barely know, or to someone you have to be respectful to (family in law, colleagues or even your own parents), as you are making an indirect reference of “how something is making your dick sweat” (literal translation)

      Cheers!

    2. Do you realize that Spanish is the primary language in about 21 r countries of the world, and the curse words vary

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