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?

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253 Comments on “How to Swear Like a Spaniard

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    1. Disclaimer: the following post contains a lot of swear words. Please proceed with caution 😉

      Here’s the origin of “pollas en vinagre”:

      So… “pollas en vinagre” would literally be “gallinas pequeñas en ácido acético” which translates to “small hens in acetic acid” (vinegar). **This was from ElOtroLado and some of the examples I’m going to write are taken from there**

      “Pollas en vinagre” is more or less like “cojones” in the sense that it has multiple meanings, but it’s not used in the same ways.

      One of its uses is like an equivalent of “meh, whatever man…”. Example: “Bah, pollas en vinagre. Tú te vienes con nosotros de fiesta porque lo digo yo y punto”. That would translate like “Whatever, man… You’re coming with us to party out because I say so. End of discussion.”

      Another translation is “…nor nothing”. Example: “Ni ‘es que me da vergüenza’ ni pollas en vinagre. Le dices que te gusta y te dejas de tonterías”. That would translate to “Nor ‘I’m too shy’ nor nothing. Tell him/her that you like him/her and get it over with”.

      Another example:
      – Mamá, ¡cómprame un helado!
      – Ni helado, ni pollas en vinagre

      – Mom, buy me ice-cream!
      – “You’re not getting ice-cream nor anything, young man” in a harsh “no, you fat kid” kind’a way, although this harsh way of expressing stuff isn’t meant to be taken in a harsh way. People that’ve lived in Spain will understand (or not).

      This use of “pollas en vinagre” reminds me of the expression “qué […] ni qué niño muerto”. As in “Qué tequila ni qué niño muerto. ¡Pero si ya te has tomado 8 chupitos!” as in “Forget about it. You’ve drunk enough shots for tonight”. But that’s kind’a off-topic, so I won’t get into that fabulous expression.

      “Pollas en vinagre” is also used as in “no”. A very solid “no”.
      – Papá, ¿me dejas tu Mercedes? Lo necesito para ir a la uni.
      – Sí… pollas en vinagre.

      – Dad, can you lend me your Mercedes? I need it to go to class.
      – …yeeeaNO.

      It can also be used kind’a like an angry “nothing” or “fucking nothing”, as in “queríamos ir a escalar, pero como llovió, al final, pollas en vinagre” that translates as “we wanted to go rock climbing, but sense it rained, in the end, fucking nothing” as in “we couldn’t fucking go because of the rain”.

      It can be used as in saying that something is worthless.
      – Me voy a comprar el Iphone
      – ¿Para qué? Eso son pollas en vinagre

      – I’m gonna buy an iPhone
      – “What for? Those things are worthless” or “That’s for fools/tools”.
      (Please, Android fans, hold your orgasms)

      Sooo… In general and to sum up, I’d say that “pollas en vinagre” is used to discard or dismiss something or someone, or to express that something ended up being canceled or ruined.
      Although there’s the exception, where it’s used as “fucking awesome”. “Buah, tío. El pincha éste es la polla en vinagre.” (notice that it’s used in singular) as in “Wow, dude… This DJ is fucking ripping it”

      The end! 😀

      1. Great explanation but yeah still wicked complicated! I just like to throw it out whenever in Spanish to cause general amusement 🙂

      2. Never used “pollas en vinagre” as a spaniard the way you used it in your examples…

        I usually say “Y una polla en vinagre” like I would say “Y una mierda” (“And a shit”). Usually when I try to say to another person she/he’s not right about something.

        Or “Déjate de pollas en vinagre” used as a way to say to someone to stop saying bullshit.

  1. This post is so damn funny I’m still laughing!
    Anyway, you forgot some great ways of cursing in Spanish: “me cago en todos tus muertos” (literally, “I shit on all your dead relatives”, which is REALLY offensive) and “me cago en todo lo que se menea” (“I shit on everything that moves/shakes”).
    And if you’ve written about “coño”, why don’t you talk about “polla”? Not like in “gilipollas” or in “pollas en vinagre”, but like “ser la polla” (“be something great”, literally “be the dick”), “me suda la polla” (“I don’t give a shit”, literally “my dick is sweating”) or “Fulanito me puede comer la polla” (“I don’t fucking care about what John Doe thinks”, literally “John Doe can eat my dick”).
    Oh, and never forget “me importa tres cojones”, “te pego una hostia que te visto de torero/que te mando a la semana que viene” or “ser un jodido coñazo de tres pares de cojones”, like this comment.

    1. I heard the me cago en todos tus muertos was something gypsies say and I had no idea to phrase that in a politically correct way on here haha

      Also, I love Spanish 😀

      Did you watch the cojones video I posted? It was cojonudo!

      1. Oh, no. “Me cago en todos tus muertos” is not only a gipsy thing. In fact, “me cago en…” is used by everyone in Spain.
        I watched the cojones video and, by the way, I strongly recommend everyone to watch this one from “La Hora Chanante”, probably one of the funniest and most bizarre TV programs on Spanish history:
        (Yes, it’s about “hijo de puta”: Chimo and I remembered yesterday that you didn’t write about it and immediately thought about this video).

      2. Fer was right when he encouraged me to read this post, although he knows perfectly well that I’m a lady who doesn’t use swearwords… I do, but just mentally. And it’s funny because I do use them in English more than in Spanish because I feel they are not meaningful for me (in English, that is).

        Anyway, your post is hilarious and I wasn’t even aware (til now) that “me cago en…” could be so versatile!

        About swearwords in Spanish and how different they can be, let me tell you a funny anecdote: my granny would repeat an unknown word from time to time, “cois”. It really killed not knowing what it meant at all, because she used it a lot when she was angry or upset. I really owe her my manners to some extent, since she wouldn’t let us use swearwords when we were kids. One day, wandering around a bookshop, I found the perfect Christmas gift for her: a Rebollar Dictionary. El Rebollar is a tiny region, part of Salamanca, pretty isolated, deep in the forest, where my granny came from. They even have their own dialect, although it’s more like a different type of Spanish, with a unique vocabulary and some strange grammar twists, if you get what I mean. At long last, flipping through the book, I found the word I was looking for: “cois” is the Rebollar word for “coño”. She was swearing all the time, while telling us not to do it… Miss you, granny, but you were a troll ¬¬

      3. Yay I’m glad you liked it Lucía 🙂

        It’s sounds like your grandma was AWESOME haha! That is such a great story! I love how profound the Spanish language, something like that never happens in English! So interesting!

      4. Just to point something out, that dialect of El Rebollar is Leonese language. Not Spanish, not Castillian. I encourage you to research about Leonese.

      5. I forgot something you might like to browse. The exact name of that dialect is “la Palra’l Rebollal”

      6. “Me cago en tus muertos” is used by gypsies and payos (non-gypsies) but, if you are payo, make sure you do not say it to a gypsy or you can be stabbed.

      7. Informal, “Me cago en tos tus muertos” tos to say todos… It is VERY informal, and not gramatically correct.

  2. Just found your site and I love this post! I learned Spanish in Chile and Puerto Rico and some of these can be found everywhere, and others I learned from Spanish friends and then #5 and #10 are completely new to me. hahaha!!!

    1. Yeah definitely some of these are universal! I am still surprised by how many variations there are for palabrotas in the spanish speaking world. Even within Spain, every region has their own, it’s so vast!

      number 5 and 10 are just special haha

  3. Hahaha this cracked me up – I wish Germans had more original curse words as they really have adopted so many of our American ‘favorites’. I also wish I loved speaking German. Not quite there yet, but I do feel a sense of pride when I successfully do so that’s a start.

    1. I sympathize, I took German for 2 years in college, such a hard language to master, especially when I was there, I would try to practice and people would just answer me in English, so annoying!

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