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Mexican Spanish

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Mexican Spanish
Español mexicano
Native to Mexico
Native speakers
103 million (2014)[1]
L2: 7,080,000 in Mexico (2014)
Latin (Spanish alphabet)
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottolog None
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Mexican Spanish (Spanish: español mexicano) is a set of varieties of the Spanish language as spoken in Mexico and in some parts of the United States and Canada, where there are communities of Hispanic origin influenced by North American Spanish-speaking media.

Spanish was brought to Mexico in the 16th century. As in all other Spanish-speaking countries (including Spain), different varieties of the language and accents exist in Mexico, for both historical and sociological reasons. However, the varieties that are best known outside of Mexico are both the educated and the working-class varieties of central Mexico, largely because the capital, Mexico City, hosts most of the mass communication media with international projection. For this reason, most of the film dubbing identified abroad with the label "Mexican Spanish" or "Latin American Spanish" actually corresponds to the central Mexican variety.

Mexico City was built on the site of Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec Empire. Besides the Aztecs, the region was home to many other Nahuatl-speaking cultures as well; consequently many speakers of Nahuatl continued to live there and in the surrounding region, outnumbering the Spanish-speakers, and the Spanish of central Mexico incorporated a significant number of Hispanicized Nahuatl words and cultural markers. At the same time, as a result of Mexico City's central role in the colonial administration of New Spain, the population of the city included a relatively large number of speakers from Spain, and the city and the neighboring State of Mexico tended historically to exercise a standardizing effect over the language of the entire central region of the country.


10 varieties of Mexican Spanish.
  Norteño del (Nor-)este (eastern northern variant)
  Norteño del (Nor-)oeste (western northern variant)
  Bajacaliforniano (peninsular northern variant)
  Occidental (western variant)
  Bajío (lowlands variant)
  Altiplano (central variant)
  Sureño Central (central southern variant)
  Costeño (coastal variant)
  Chiapaneco (south-eastern variant)[2]
  Peninsular Oriental (eastern peninsular variant)

The territory of contemporary Mexico is not coextensive with what might be termed Mexican Spanish. The Spanish spoken in the southernmost state of Chiapas, bordering Guatemala, resembles the variety of Central American Spanish spoken in that country, where voseo is used.[3] Meanwhile, to the north, many Mexicans stayed in Texas after its independence from Mexico, and their descendants continue to speak a variety of Spanish known as "Tex-Mex". And after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo many Mexicans remained in the territory ceded to the U.S. and have continued to speak Spanish within their communities in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming. In addition, the waves of 19th- and 20th-century migration from Mexico to the United States (mostly to the formerly Mexican area of the Southwest) have contributed greatly to making Mexican Spanish the most widely spoken variety of Spanish in the United States. The Spanish spoken in the Gulf coastal areas of Veracruz and Tabasco and in the states of Yucatan and Quintana Roo exhibits more Caribbean phonetic traits than that spoken in the rest of Mexico. And the Spanish of the Yucatán Peninsula is distinct from all other forms in its intonation and in the incorporation of Mayan words.

The First Mexican Empire comprised what is present-day El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras, aside from the mentioned present states of United States; thus Mexican Spanish originally included dialects of Belizean, Guatemalan, Honduran, New Mexican, Nicaraguan, and Salvadoran Spanish.

Regarding the evolution of the Spanish spoken in Mexico, the Swedish linguist Bertil Malmberg (not to be confused with the poet Bertil F. H. Malmberg) points out that in Central Mexican Spanish—unlike most varieties in the other Spanish-speaking countries—the vowels lose strength, while consonants are fully pronounced.[4] Malmberg explains this as influence from the consonant-complex Nahuatl language through bilingual speakers and place names. However, there are currently more than 50 native Mexican languages spoken throughout the country, and they all contribute to the diversity of accents found all over Mexico.[5] For example, the tonal or "sing song" quality of some forms of Mexican Spanish derives from some of the indigenous languages such as Nahuatl and Zapotec, which, like Chinese, include tonality in their standard form. The tonal sound and overlengthening of the vowels in some forms of Mexican Spanish was particularly strong among mestizos who spoke one of the native Mexican languages as their first language and Spanish as a second language, and it continues so today. However, the strength of the consonants in Mexican Spanish is not necessarily from native Mexican influence, especially since other Romance languages, most notably Italian (which is replete with double consonants), also have strengthened consonants, and Mexican Spanish dates from the 16th century.



The consonants of Mexican Spanish
  Labial Dental Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar Glottal Labio-
Plosive p [p]
b, v [b]
t [t]
d [d]
  c, qu [k]
g, gu [ɡ]
cu []
gu, gü, hu [ɡʷ]
Approximant b, v [β] d [ð]   i, hi, ll, y [j] g, gu [ɣ] u, hu [w]
gu, gü, hu [ɣʷ]
Affricate   tl []
tz [ts]
ch []
ll, y []
ll, y [ɟʝ] ~ [ʝ]  
Fricative f [f] c, s, z [s]
s, z [z]
x [ʃ] j, g, x [x] j, g, s, x [h] ju [] ~ []
Nasal m, n [m] n, m [n]   ñ, n [ɲ] n [ŋ]
Lateral l [l]
Trill   r, rr [r]    
Tap   r [ɾ]    


Due to influence from local languages like Nahuatl, Mexican Spanish also has a voiceless alveolar affricate [t͡s] and a lateral alveolar affricate [t͡ɬ] represented by the respective digraphs /tz/ and /tl/,[6] like in the word tlapalería [t͡ɬapaleˈɾia] ('hardware store') and coatzacoalquense [koat͡sakoalˈkense] ('from Coatzacoalcos').


In addition to the usual fricatives of other American Spanish dialects ([f], [s], [x]), Mexican Spanish also has [ʃ][6] mostly in words from indigenous languages. The [ʃ], represented orthographically as x, is commonly found in words of Nahuatl or Mayan languages such as Xola [ˈʃola]. The spelling x also represents two other pronunciations: [x] (also mostly in place names) as in México [ˈmexiko], and (in words of Greco-Latin origin) [ks] as in anexar [anekˈsar]. In many Nahuatl words in which x originally represented [ʃ], the pronunciation has changed to [x] (e.g. Jalapa/Xalapa [xaˈlapa]). In words of Zapotec origin x is pronounced as [ʒ].[7]

Regarding the pronunciation of the phoneme /x/, the articulation in most of Mexico is velar [x], as in caja [ˈkaxa] ('box'). On some dialects of the coastal regions, the normal articulation is glottal [h], as in most Caribbean and Pacific coast dialects, Canarian, and most dialects in Andalusia and Extremadura in Spain, thus México, Jalapa, and caja are respectively pronounced [ˈmehiko], [haˈlapa], and [ˈkaha]. Note however that in other Spanish variations in the coastal regions the articulation is also [x]. In dialects of Oaxaca, much of Chiapas and the southern Highland and interior regions, the pronunciation of /x/ is uvular [χ]. This is identical to the Mayan pronunciation of the dorsal fricative which, contrary to the Spanish romanization x, in Mayan languages is commonly represented by j. In Spanish spelling before the conquest of Mexico, the letter x represented /ʃ/. Historical shifts have moved this articulation to the back of the mouth.

In Northern Western Mexican Spanish, Peninsular Oriental, Oaxaqueño and in eastern variants influenced by Mayan languages [tʃ], represented by ch, tends to be deaffricated to [ʃ], a phonetic feature typical of both Mayan languages and southwestern Andalusian Spanish dialects.

In most variants of Mexican Spanish the letter y is pronounced as either a palatal fricative [ʝ] or approximant [j] in most cases; after a pause, it's instead an affricate [ɟʝ ~ dʒ]. The letters ll follow the same pronunciation as y in many dialects (see yeísmo).

In the Occidental, Bajío, Central Southern and Peninsular Oriental variants of Mexican Spanish z is pronounced as [z] rather than like in some southern Spanish variations where the letters s and z are both pronounced as [s] (seseo), or as [s] and [θ] (distinción, in most of Spain), respectively.[citation needed] In the Defeño variant z can be pronounced interchangeably between [z] and [s] although a very sibilant [s] seems to be preferred.[citation needed] The pronunciation of z as [z] in the Defeño dialect seems to be a recent innovation originating in the 1980s influenced from American media.[citation needed] In words of Zapotec origin it is pronounced as /z/ as it is in the Zapotec language and many speakers in the states of Oaxaca and Chiapas differentiate the letter z from s. A common feature of most Mexican Spanish dialects is seseo wherein s, z, and c (before e & i) are all pronounced as /s/; this feature is very common to other Latin American Spanish dialects and also common to Canarian and many Andalusian Spanish dialects. The pronunciation of Mexican Spanish z as [z] in the Spanish of Oaxaca is derived from both seseo and Zapotec pronunciation.[citation needed]

Also present in most of the interior of Mexico is the preservation (absence of debuccalization) of syllable-final /s/; this, combined with frequent unstressed vowel reduction, gives the sibilant /s/ a special prominence. This situation contrasts with that in the coastal areas, on both the Pacific and the Gulf Coastal sides, where the weakening or debuccalization of syllable-final /s/ is a sociolinguistic marker, reflecting the tension between the Mexico City norm and the historical tendency towards consonantal weakening characteristic of coastal areas in Spanish America, dialects of both the Pacific and the Gulf Coast have received more influences from Andalusian and Canarian Spanish dialects.


As most Spanish dialects and varieties, Mexican Spanish has 5 vowels: two high vowels (/i, u/), two mid vowels (/e, o/) and one open vowel (/a/).

A striking feature of Mexican Spanish, particularly in that of central Mexico, is the high rate of unstressed vowel reduction and elision, as in /ˈtɾasts/ (trastos, 'cooking utensils'). This process is most frequent when a vowel is in contact with the sound /s/, so that /s/+ vowel + /s/ is the construction when the vowel is most frequently affected.[8][9][10] It can be the case that the words pesos, pesas, and peces are pronounced the same /ˈpesəs/. The vowels are slightly less frequently reduced or eliminated in the constructions /t, p, k, d/ + vowel + /s/, so that the words pastas, pastes, and pastos may also be pronounced the same /ˈpasts/.


Mexican Spanish is a tuteante form of the language (i.e. using and its traditional verb forms for the second person familiar). Vosotros (Second Person Plural, in English "you all") is only in current usage in Spain and can also be found in certain archaic texts in Mexico. It sounds odd to Mexican ears. However, since it is used in many Spanish-language Bibles throughout the country, most Mexicans are familiar with the form and understand it. Nevertheless, like in the rest of Spanish America, it has fallen out of everyday use.

An interesting feature of Mexican Spanish, found mainly in Central Mexico, is the frequent use of diminutive suffixes with many nouns, adverbs and adjectives, even where no semantic diminution of size or intensity is implied. Most frequent is the -ito/ita suffix, which replaces the final vowel on words that have one. Words ending with -n use the suffix -cito/cita. Use of the diminutive does not necessarily denote small size, but rather often implies an affectionate attitude; thus one may speak of "una casita grande" ('a nice, big house').

When the diminutive suffix is applied to an adjective, often a near-equivalent idea can be expressed in English by "nice and [adjective]". So, for example, a mattress (un colchón) described as "blandito" might be "nice and soft", while calling it "blando" might be heard to mean "too soft".

Frequent use of the diminutive is found across all socioeconomic classes, but its "excessive" use is commonly associated with lower-class speech.[citation needed]

Some prefixes and suffixes[edit]

In some regions of Mexico, the diminutive suffix -ito is also used to form affectives to express politeness or submission (cafecito, meaning little coffee; cabecita, meaning little head; chavito, meaning little young boy), and is attached to names (Marquitos, meaning little Marcos; Juanito, meaning little Juan) denoting affection. In the northern parts of the country, the suffix -ito is often replaced on informal situations by '-illo" (cafecillo, cabecilla, morrillo, Juanillo).

In Spanish, the "-ísimo" is used as a suffix to emphasize the original meaning of adjectives; it is equivalent to the Italian/Latin/Portuguese "issimo/íssimo". For instance, the word "grande", which means literally big, can be emphasized (grandísimo) therefore meaning "very big".

The suffix "-ote" is typically used in Mexico as the augmentative ending; thus making nouns bigger, larger, more powerful, etc. For example, the word "camión" by itself literally means "bus"; adding the suffix, camionzote means "big or long bus". It can be repeated just as in the case of the suffix "-ito" and "-ísimo", therefore camionzotototote means "very very very big bus".

The suffix "-uco" or "-ucho" and its feminine counterparts "-uca" and "-ucha" respectively, are used as a disparaging form of a noun; for example, the word casa, meaning "house", can be modified with that suffix (casucha) to change the word's meaning to make it more disparaging, and sometimes offensive; so the word "casucha" is often a shanty, hut or hovel. With the word madera (wood), for example, it is often used with the other suffix (-uca: maderuca) and it means rotten, ugly wood.

Other suffixes include, but are not limited to: "-azo" as in "carrazo", which refers to a very impressive car (carro) such as a Ferrari or Mercedes-Benz; "-ón", for example "narizón", meaning "big-nosed" (nariz = "nose"), or "patona", a female with large legs (patas). Some others include "-udo", as in "narizudo", also meaning "big-nosed"; the prefix "a-" or "en-" used with the suffix "-ado", as in "acamado" or "engentado", meaning, respectively, someone who is tired of being in bed, and someone who is tired of being in crowds and with many people.

It is also common to replace c-/s- with ch- to form diminutives, e.g. IsabelChabela, José María → Chema, Cerveza (beer) → Chela, Concepción → Conchita, Sin Muelas (literally, without molars) → Chimuela (toothless). This is common in, but not exclusive to, Mexican Spanish.


Some syntactic patterns that sound very "non-standard" to the Peninsular ear are routine in Mexican Spanish. First and foremost is the more or less conventionalized ellipsis of the negative particle "no" in clauses containing the preposition "hasta" (until):

  • Hasta que me tomé la pastilla se me quitó el dolor. ('Until I took the pill, the pain did not go away.')

In this case, the sentence has the sense indicated by the English translation only if the main verb is implicitly understood as being negated.

A departure from Peninsular usage (which Mexico shares with many other areas of Spanish America) involves using interrogative "qué" in conjunction with the quantifier "tan(to)"[11] ("Qué tan" , "Qué tanto" = How much):

  • ¿Qué tan graves son los daños? (How serious are the damages?) (Whereas in Spain the question would be posed as "¿Hay muchos daños?") (Is there a lot of damage?)
  • ¿Qué tan buen cocinero eres? (How good a cook are you?) (Whereas in Spain the question would be posed as "¿Eres buen cocinero?") (Are you a good cook?)

Note that phenomena relating to bilingualism are likely to be encountered among bilinguals whose primary language is not Spanish or in isolated rural regions where the syntactic influence of indigenous languages has been important historically. One of the most discussed of these phenomena is the redundant use of verbal clitics, particularly "lo", a tendency that is encountered in language contact areas throughout Latin America.

Another departure from Peninsular Spanish is that of the preference for the use of the preposition "por" instead of "durante", that in Mexico, as well as in some other regions of the Spanish Americas, is commonly used to convey a time duration or span. For example, whereas in Peninsular Spanish using "por" in a sentence such as Fue el presidente de la compañía por veinte años (He was the president of the company for twenty years) would sound odd and even incorrect—the preferred sentence being in that case Fue el presidente de la compañía durante veinte años—that use of "por" is widespread in Mexican Spanish, to the point that "durante" is quite uncommonly used.

A new way of talking, influenced by the way people from the State of Mexico ask questions, is present more or less recently in central Mexico. Whereas in Mexico City people used to ask: ¿Quieres...? (Would you like...?) nowadays, due to such (negative) influence, tends to ask: ¿No quieres...? (Wouldn't you like...?) This phenomenon exists in other European languages. For instance, French has a curious way of dealing with negative questions. If you ask a question in the affirmative, «Est-ce que vous voudriez manger quelques choses" You would answer "Oui". However, should you pose the question in the negative; «Ne voudriez-vous pas manger quelques choses», the affirmative answer would be «si,si». Answering «oui» denotes "Yes, I wouldn't want anything to eat".

Media influence in Mexico and abroad[edit]

Historically, Mexico has produced many comical shows, soap operas, drama series, family shows and game shows that have been very successful not only on the national level both also in all Latin America, Brazil, Spain, other countries of Europe and Asia[12] (e.g. El Chavo del Ocho). A common and recurrent feature of these shows is the exaggeration of the characters' and presenters' way of speech or accents in order to remark personality traits and stereotypes, which often resulted in the caricaturing of the Mexican culture and people [13](e.g. El Chapulín Colorado and María Mercedes, see also the Spanish entry for El Chavo del Ocho). The Mexican audience understands and enjoys such caricaturing, characterizations, exaggerations, and distortions of the language and ways of speech, since the national audience understands that it is completely intentional and for comical, dramatical, ironical, or even satirical purposes and it has become part of the pop culture of the country. However, it seems that this sometimes confuses the Spanish speaking audiences from other countries, which are not aware of that trait of Mexican media and modern culture, and erroneously identify the distorted ways of speech and accents in the media as authentic, everyday, "normal" Mexican Spanish. The intentional distortion of the ways of speech is also patent in the Mexican dubbing of some animated foreign films for kids like Pixar's, DreamWorks' or Disney's, and also in comical films like those of the Canadian actor Jim Carrey.[14]

The media of the USA has also influenced modern Mexican Spanish and culture,[15] in particular that of the easy-going middle and high classes in the largest cities of Central Mexico. Nowadays, such influence has extended also to the rest of the country. Since the late 60's and 70's, but more strongly during the 80's, the so-called Valley English displayed in the USA media influenced the way of speech and intonation of a large part of the middle and high classes, which adopted it as a symbol of social status, cosmopolitan background and modernity. Because of this, many of the slang and neologisms used in Valley English and other varieties of USA English associated with yuppie speech were incorporated as slang into this "high status" Spanish either as direct translations or as adaptations, e.g. "as if" became "como que", "whatever" became "como sea (güey)", "it sucks" became "No mames", "sucker" became "mamón", "faggoty" or "faggot" became "puto" (which was and is still considered a strong word in educated speech and so little used)[16] or "puñal", "bar out" became "madrear/putear", "grotesque/gross" became "grueso" and "it is gross" became "está grueso", "Surely!" became "seguro", "fresh" became "fresco", "groovy" became "gruvy", "Valley girl/preppy" became "fresa", etc. Although as in English, many of these words exist in standard Mexican Spanish, their over repetition and the particular intonation of the emerging variety was foreign to standard Spanish, but correlates well with that of Valspeak/yuppie English, e.g. "como sea" would be often pronounced as "como seaaaaa", "seguro" as "seguuuuuroooo" and "grueso" as "gruééésó".[citation needed] The resulting variation of Mexican Spanish has become known as "Fresa" and is used by a large part of the middle and high classes. Note however that a large part of the Mexican middle and high classes (e.g. politicians, businessmen, medics, lawyers, professors, etc.) and most of the working class continues speaking standard or educated regional variations of Mexican Spanish and regards "Fresa" as over pretentious and actually uneducated, even when by adaptation it has become a natural way of speaking for their counterparts. Note that a similar situation occurred in Spain, where words like "flipar","boom","jet-set" and "jersey" were introduced in a similar way.[17]

Perhaps the clearest indicator of the synthetic origin of the Fresa speech/accent is the fact that the fathers and/or grandfathers of fresa speakers have either neutral/standard or educated regional accents (i.e. not fresa) while at the same time their families have been longstanding members of the high and middle classes. This phenomena also occurs in the USA among speakers of Valspeak or yuppie English, e.g. the well known case of young Hollywood celebrities that come from business, artist or musician families.[18]

Besides the Valspeak and yuppie English, the influence of the USA rock and pop music and culture has also influenced the Fresa Spanish. The English spoken by celebrities like Paris Hilton would roughly correspond to its equivalent in the USA. Notice however, that in more formal environments and circumstances, rather than high class or cosmopolitan the Fresa variation is considered superficial or artificial and even second-rate by academics and the culturally conservative middle and high classes, which prefer the standard neutral variation or the educated regional variations of Mexican Spanish. Because of this, in the past many everyday speakers of "Fresa" tended to disregard completely this way of speech when giving conferences or public speeches (for instance inside universities or enterprises) and adopted standard or educated regional variations. This occurred because the "fresa" variation its associated slang was not accepted as a high status statement by the intellectual elite which often regards it as synthetic and artificial, and thus "fake" and over-pretentious;[19][20] and furthermore, sometimes discriminatory and racist.[21] In fact, the disregard of the educated elite and population in general was so high, that during the 70's, the Mexican comedian Luis de Alba, caricatured and mocked both the accent, ways of speech and attitudes of the Fresa subculture through is character "El Pirruris". De Alba had attended college in a private university where the Fresa subculture is known to exist and he based the 'Pirruris' character on the mannerisms he observed on some of his classmates.[22]

On the other hand and as the counterpart of the Fresa speech, the Mexican media and in particular the comical shows and soap operas also often caricature the ways of speaking of the working class, through what is known as the "Naco" speak, e.g. in very popular shows like "La hora pico" (prime time) and La Familia P. Luche. Originally, this way of speaking roughly corresponded to the lowest urban social classes of the Capital[23] but it has also extended to the rest of the country. Note however that the "Naco" speech is also an extreme stereotype/subculture and it does not corresponds to the actual way of speaking of the Mexican working class, which also uses standard proper Mexican Spanish. On the other hand, the "Naco" dialect incorporates a lot of slang, double sense words or rude words and phrases, many of them proper Spanish words; however, the meaning associated to them greatly diverges from the original one, such that even Mexicans not used to it would have to infer their meaning from the context, particular intonation or similarity with other words or phrases. Phrases now considered very Mexican like "¿Qué pedo?" (literally "What's farting?") which is used often in informal speech in place of the formal "¿Qué pasó?" or "¿Qué pasa?" ("What happens?" or "What's going on?") were previously considered really uneducated if not non-sensical. Here the mere fact that "pasó" (happens) begins with a strong "p" (e.g. when used for expressing surprise, shock or even to express happiness for seeing someone) has been enough to replace it by the more shocking "pedo" ("fart") in "Naco" speech.[citation needed] In Mexico city, speakers of this variation would also use expressions like "¿Qué pasión?" ("What passion?") or "¿Qué paraguas?" ("What umbrellas?", insinuating both an erection and a greeting, "Naco" speech uses a lot of erotic and non-erotic double sense, which was also a feature of the nahuatl culture in Central Mexico[24]) just because of the sound similarity of these words with "pasó/pasa" (i.e. they begin with "pas" and "pa" respectively). This probably occurs because of early influence of the Nahuatl language in the Central Spanish variation.[25] Nahuatl is an agglutinative language, so composed word are often similar in their root word or lexeme, differing only in the added words or suffixes. This feature led to the creation of hybrid words[26] with nahuatl roots and Spanish suffixes and also influenced the Spanish slang in Central Mexico. Nowadays the "Naco" and "Fresa" speeches have influenced each other. "Fresas" adopted very early "Naco" (low class) expressions to pose as rude and rebel, whereas "Nacos" were also influenced by the USA and Mexican media and the "Fresa" subculture. So, nowadays phrases like "¿Qué pedo?" and "Wey/Güey" are used in very informal speech by speakers of all ages and social statuses, even when they are still considered uneducated and vulgar.

Finally, the Chicano culture of the USA has also influenced Mexican Spanish, particularly close to the USA border, such that English words like "truck" have become "troca", "parking" have become "parquear", and "winnie" is sometimes used instead of "salchicha" (sausage), see Spanglish.

Some examples of lexicon[edit]

Mexican Spanish retains a number of words that are considered archaic in Spain.

Also, there are a number of words widely used in Mexico which have Nahuatl, Mayan or other native origins, in particular names for flora, fauna and toponyms. Some of these words are used in most, or all, Spanish-speaking countries, like chocolate and aguacate (avocado), and some are only used in Mexico. An example of the latter would be guajolote, for "turkey" (although pavo is also used, as in other Spanish-speaking countries) which comes from the Nahuatl huaxōlōtl [waˈʃoːloːt͡ɬ]. Other examples would be papalote for "kite", from the Nahuatl pāpālōtl [paːˈpaːloːt͡ɬ] for "butterfly"; and jitomate for "tomato" from the Nahuatl xītomatl [ʃiːˈtomat͡ɬ] (see List of Spanish words of Nahuatl origin for a more complete list). Other usages that are unique to colloquial Mexican Spanish include:

  • pelo chino: "curly hair".[27] The word chino derives from the Spanish word cochino, "pig".[27] The phrase originally referenced the casta (racial type) known as chino, meaning a person of mixed indigenous and African ancestry whose hair was curly.[27] Sometimes erroneously thought to be derived from Spanish chino, "Chinese".[27]
  • chichi(s): "breast(s)". From Nahuatl chīchīhualli [tʃiːtʃiːwɑlːi].[citation needed] Considered informal.
  • ¿Mande?: "Beg your pardon?" From mandar, "to order", formal command form. ¿Cómo? (literally "How?"), as in other countries, is also in use. The use of ¿Qué? ("What?") on its own is sometimes considered impolite, unless accompanied by a verb: ¿Qué dijiste? ("What did you say?").
  • ahorita: "soon; in a moment". Literally "right now". E.g. Ahorita que acabe, "As soon as I finish (this)". Considered informal.
  • chingadera: "trash; crap". Considered vulgar.
  • chingado: "damned". Considered vulgar.
  • chingar: "to screw/ruin/rob/steal/fuck/work/eat". Vulgar.
  • ¿Cómo la ves?: "What do you think about it?" Literally "How do you see it?"
  • escuincle: "a bratty child". From Nahuatl itzcuīntli [it͡skʷiːnt͡ɬi], "dog".
  • bronca: "fight" or "problem". Literally "aggressive woman or girl, or wild female animal". Commonly used among young people.
  • bronco: "wild, untame". E.g. leche bronca: "unpasteurized milk"; literally, "wild milk".
  • güey, wey or buey: "dude", "guy" (literally, "ox"). As an adjective, "dumb", "asinine", "moronic", etc. Not to be confused with "Huey" from the Aztec title "Huey Tlatoani", in which "Huey" is a term of reverence.
  • güero: "light-haired and/or light-skinned person". Not considered offensive.
  • naco: "a working-class, boorish, foolish, ignorant and/or uneducated person". Pejorative.
  • Órale: (1) similar to English "Wow!" (2) "Okay". (3) Exclamation of surprised protest. May be abbreviated ¡Ora! May be considered rude.
  • ¿Qué onda?: "What's up?" Literally, "What's the vibe?"
  • padre: used as an adjective to denote something "cool", attractive, good, fun, etc. E.g. Esta música está muy padre, "This music is really cool." Literally, "father".
  • chido: "cool, attractive, fun, etc."
  • pinche: "damned", "lousy". E.g. Quita tu pinche cara de aquí. ("Take your lousy face away from here"). As a noun, literally, "kitchen assistant".
  • pedo: "problem" or "fight". Literally "fart". Also, in a greeting, ¿Qué pedo, güey? ("What's the situation, dude?"). As an adjective, "drunk", e.g. estar pedo, "to be drunk". Also the noun peda: "a drunken gathering". All forms are considered vulgar for their connection to pedo, "fart".
  • popote: "drinking straw". From Nahuatl popōtl [popoːt͡ɬ], the name of a plant from which brooms and drinking straws are made.[citation needed]
  • En un momento: "Just a minute", "Hold on a second", etc. Literally "in a moment".
  • hablar: "to call (on the telephone)". Used in place of the standard llamar.
  • macho: "manly". Applied to a woman (macha): "manly" or "skillful".
  • chavo (chava); chamaco (chamaca); chilpayate: "a child, teen, or youngster". Also huerco (huerca), morro (morra), and plebe are used in northern Mexico. All these terms except chilpayate are also found in their diminutives: chavito, chamaquito, huerquito, morrito. Considered informal.
  • Este...: a filler word, similar to American English "um". Literally, "this". Also used in other countries.
  • cholo: In northern Mexico, equivalent to the English term gangsta; in central and southern Mexico, equivalent to pandillero ("hooligan", "gang member"), which refers to young slum-dwellers living in extreme poverty, drug dependency, and malnutrition.

Note however that most of the words above are considered informal (e.g. chavo(a), padre, güero, etc.), rude (güey, naco, ¿cómo (la) ves?, etc.) or vulgar (chingadera, pinche, pedo, etc.) and are mostly used as hard slang among friends or in informal settings, so they must investigate about the Mexican Spanish words before pronouncing. In 2009, at an audience for the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Mexico and the Netherlands, the then Crown Prince of the Netherlands, Willem-Alexander made a statement to the audience with a word which, in Mexican Spanish, is considered very vulgar. Highlighting the different connotations across Latin America, the prince's Argentine translator used the word chingada as the ending to the familiar proverb: A shrimp that sleeps is carried by the tide, without realising the vulgarity associated with the word in Mexico. The prince, unaware of the differences, proceeded to say the word to the bemusement and offense of some of the attendees.[28]

Similar dialects[edit]

New Mexican Spanish has many similarities with an older version of Mexican Spanish. The small amount of Spanish spoken in the Philippines has traditionally been influenced by Mexican Spanish (as the territory was initially administered for the Spanish crown by Mexico City and later controlled by Acapulco). Chavacano, a Spanish-based creole language in the Philippines, is based on Mexican Spanish.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Spanish → Mexico at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Similar to Central American Spanish in border zones and on working-class speakers.
  3. ^ "¿Voseo en México? - Breve perspectiva del voseo en Chiapas"
  4. ^ Malmberg (1964:227–243); rpt. Malmberg 1965: 99-126 and Malmberg 1971: 421-438.
  5. ^ "Descubren en México cinco nuevas lenguas indígenas" (Newspaper) (in Spanish). El Universal. May 11, 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  6. ^ a b Lope Blanch (2004:29)
  7. ^ Merrill, Elizabeth (2008), "Tilquiapan Zapotec", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 38 (1), doi:10.1017/s0025100308003344 
  8. ^ Canfield (1981:61)
  9. ^ Cotton & Sharp (1988:154–155)
  10. ^ Lope Blanch (1972:53)
  11. ^ Kany, p. 330
  12. ^
  13. ^ Orozco-Goméz Guillermo (2006), Nueva Época, La telenovela en mexico: ¿de una expresión cultural a un simple producto para la mercadotecnia?, Núm. 6, pp. 11–35 pdf in Spanish
  14. ^
  15. ^ Manzo-Robledo Francisco, Cultura Mexicana Light,
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ Goggans Janice W. & Di Franco Aaron, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Regional Cultures: The Pacific Region, Greenwood 2004, pp. 281
  19. ^ Monsivaís Carlos, Léperos y catrines, nacos y yupis,Mitos Mexicanos, Taurus, 2001, pp. 214,216-218,
  20. ^ Rajunov Daniel (2012), La bacanal de los fresas, Puro Cuento, Volumen 2, Vassar College, Departamento de Estudios Hispánicos,
  21. ^ Baéz-Jorge Félix, Los indios, los nacos, los otros (apuntes sobre el prejuicio racial y la discriminación en México),
  22. ^
  23. ^ Delfín Guillaumin, La cultura mexicana a través de los ojos de Monsiváis: el naco, ¿El actual salvaje urbano de la Ciudad de México?,
  24. ^ Johansson Patrick (2006). Dialogía, Metáforas y Albures en Cantos Eróticos Nahuas del Siglo XVI. Revista de Literaturas Populares, Año VI, Num. I, Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, UNAM
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ a b c d Hernández Cuevas, M.P. The Mexican Colonial Term "Chino" Is a Referent of Afrodescendant. The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.5, no.5, June 2012.
  28. ^ Spanish quote gets prince into trouble


  • Canfield, D[elos] Lincoln (1981). Spanish Pronunciation in the Americas. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-09262-3. ISBN 0-226-09263-1. 
  • Cotton, Eleanor Greet; Sharp, John (1988). Spanish in the Americas. Georgetown University Press. ISBN 0-87840-094-X. 
  • Kany, Charles E. (1951) [1st ed. 1945]. American-Spanish Syntax. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-42407-3. 
  • Lope Blanch, Juan M. (1972). "En torno a las vocales caedizas del español mexicano". Estudios sobre el español de México (PDF). Mexico: editorial Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. pp. 53–73 
  • Lope Blanch, Juan M. (2004). Cuestiones de filología mexicana. Mexico: editorial Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. ISBN 978-970-32-0976-7. 
  • Malmberg, Bertil (1964), "Tradición hispánica e influencia indígena en la fonética hispanoamericana", Presente y futuro de la lengua española 2, Madrid: Ediciones Cultura Hispánica, pp. 227–243 
  • Malmberg, Bertil (1965), "Tradición hispánica e influencia indígena en la fonética hispanoamericana", Estudios de fonética hispánica, Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investicagión Científica, pp. 99–126 
  • Malmberg, Bertil (1971), "Tradición hispánica e influencia indígena en la fonética hispanoamericana", Phonétique général et romane: Études en allemand, anglais, espagnol et français, The Hague: Mouton, pp. 421–438 
  • Moreno De Alba, José G (2003). Suma De Minucias Del Lenguaje. Mexico: editorial Fondo De Cultura Económica. 

External links[edit]

  • Jergas de habla hispana—A Spanish dictionary specializing in dialectal and colloquial variants of Spanish, featuring all Spanish-language countries including Mexico.
  • Latin American Spanish—This is the universal and somewhat arbitrary name that is given to idiomatic and native expressions and to the specific vocabulary of the Spanish language in Latin America.
  • Güey Spanish—Mexican slang dictionary and flashcards.
  • Mexican Spanish slang—Several hundred words of Mexican slang and English meanings.