How to Swear Like a Spaniard

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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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253 Comments on “How to Swear Like a Spaniard

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  1. A good explanation for every swearing in here; but there are some tips to be taken into account:

    – “Me cago en tu puta madre” is maybe the worst swearing you can say to another person. It could be something similar to calling him/her a ‘F**king c***’.
    – “Me cago en…” can be used as a softer way of swearing; but you have to be very careful on what are you “cagando en…” ;). Naming “la Virgen del Pilar” in that swearing in Zaragoza can lead you into problems. Naming God sounds very bad. The best way of using this swearing is saying just “Me cago en…” or “Me cago en todo”. “Me cago en la leche” can be used as well.

    – “Joder” and “Gilipollas” are very well explained. Anyway, in polite environments “Joder” turns into “Jo” and “Gilipollas” is not acceptable at all. Softer words are “Idiota” or “Tonto” (Idiot/Fool).

    – “Hostia” means “Slap” as well. “Te doy una hostia” or “Te pego una hostia” is a very offensive way of threatening someone with slapping him/her.

    – For the others, the meaning is moreless perfect.

    – Just a quick note on “Coño”. Although the direct translation to English is the C-Word; its meaning is even softer than “Joder” as a surprise expression. Although in formal language it must be avoided, in everyday Spanish “coño” can be used almost for everything that surprises you.
    Coño can be used to give strenght and anger to a sentence. A normal “¿Qué quieres?” (What do you want?) can be turned stronger and show anger just adding a “Coño”: “¿Qué coño quieres?” (What the hell do you want?”)

    Anyway, using swearing in Spanish is very difficult if you’re not used to it. Spanish is a language full of sarcasm and irony; and you can use a swearing as strong as “Hijo de puta” (Son of a bitch) to refer to a close friend of you when speaking to another close friend if the first has received a good piece of news and you’re happy for him. Otherwise, it’s almost as offensive as that “Me cago en tu puta madre” at the beggining; so be careful when using swearing in Spanish!!!

      1. I think every spaniard has their favorite palabrota, it just seems like the range for the me cago en… is so expansive haha. I still can never, ever bring myself to say it though

    1. AHHH why weren’t you online when I was writing this last night?!?!

      This will be my go to guide haha., I am always too nervous to whip out the palabrotas when I am talking to spaniards except for the easy ones, they are so complex and so many depend on how you say it.

  2. I had also never heard “que te folle un pez” but I just consulted with the novio (a Granadino) and he assures me it’s used plenty in his barrio. He’s also added that better put, it’s “que te folle un pez espada.” It hurts more, he explained.

    1. The complete phrase somewhere here n spain is”Que te folle un pez que la tiene fresca” and it can be translate as “Go an get fucked by a fiish ti shoud have it(the dick) fresh”
      About Hostia and Ostia
      Hostia is something relative to Church and OStia can mean
      Te doy dos Ostias… I´ll give you twice (angry and fight mode)
      eres la ostia… you´re the best
      es la ostia …is the bestOne of the tipycall one

      Estoy hasta el coño o Me tienes hasta el coño try that when you can´t anymore with a situation

      Deja de dar por culo..when some one is continuosly annoying with something or

      and many many more and its variants

      1. también viene de puerta (golpe con una puerta).

        La RAE muchas veces no tiene ni puta idea.

      2. Lol. No es que tenga idea o no, es que ellos dictan lo que esta bien o no, no tu xD. Puede que dar una hostia venga de la expresión de la eucaristia (como cobró sentido engativo, puedo imaginarmelo) y de ahí derivar a golpe. Lo dela puerta posiblemente no tenga nada que ver, o directamente evolucionó con h y ahora se escribe así.

      3. estamos un poco mal acostumbrados con el ostia. Lo hemos visto tantas veces mal escrito que ya nos creemos que es así. Y que la RAE no tenga ni idea… es discutible Alberto

  3. I thought “me toca los cojones” meant “I don’t give a flying fuck” but that could be in Latin America. “No me toques los cojones” on the other hand is similar to “stop bothering/annoying me”

    1. I think in Spain me toca los cojones means like, something is bothering you, but I could be wrong, it’s hard to keep these all straight!

      1. It depends on the way you use the word “cojones”.
        1. Me toca los cojones = It’s fucking bothering me
        2. ¡Cojones! = Fuck!
        3. Tocarse los cojones = be lazy as fuck, do fucking nothing
        4. Tener cojones = be fucking brave
        5. Costar/valer un cojón = be fucking expensive
        6. ¡Tócate los cojones! = I don’t even know how to translate this, but you use it when being surprised or you feel an argument is too stupid. “¿Pues no me viene el muy gilipollas del profesor y me dice, después de haber estudiado una semana, que no hay examen? ¡Tócate los cojones, colega!”
        7. Salir de cojones = be damn succesful -> “El examen me salió de cojones”
        8. de cojones = fucking a lot, very fucking much -> “Hace un frío de cojones”, “tiene una mala hostia de cojones”
        9. Estar (o tener a alguien) hasta los cojones = be fucking fed up -> “Estoy hasta los cojones del calor”, “Me tienes hasta los cojones de lo pesado de mierda que eres”
        10. Me sale de los cojones = I fucking say/want so, I fucking feel like -> “Haré lo que me salga de los cojones”
        And so many more.

        Remember, to have the most simillar sense to Spanish, “fucking” must appear in every English sentence.

      2. You’re right. “Me toca los cojones” means that something is bothering you a lot.

        Me toca los cojones = It’s fucking bothering me

        Its a thing you definitely do NOT want. To have anyone touching you, your balls…

      3. That’s correct.
        there’s also a similar expression “Tocarse los cojones” or “Estar tocándose los cojones” (a reflexive verb use) which means “being extremely lazy and not doing anything”

    2. The spanish expression for “I don’t give a fuck” is “Me suda la polla”, which mean “My dick sweats” . Wonderful.

  4. Another one who’s never heard the “que te folle un pez!” Also, I hear la hosta so much more in the north than I ever did done south…the vascos love it! And my favorite “me cago” is “me cago en el mar”….lol

    1. haha I can’t believe how many different ways you can use me cago en…!

      I used to hear hostias all the time in Córdoba but a lot less in La Rioja, it varies so much by region!

      Have you learned any fun palabrotas en euskera?

      1. Fun post, and nice blog!
        As far as I know, euskera doesn’t have many palabrotas. I don’t speak euskera, but many times listening some euskera conversations the only words I get were random spanish palabrotas which is quite hilarious
        By the way, from a basque tv program (if you understand spanish)

      2. In Ceuta, a small town in North of Africa, in front of Gibraltar, Muslims usually speaks in Arab swearing un Spanish.

      3. Really interesting and accurate explanations about swearing in spanish.

        In Euskera we don’t have many insults, some of them are just translations from spanish.
        We have words like “kaka” or “kakazaharra” a very soft way to say “joder” or “mierda”.

        I’ll investigate a bit and uodate this info

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