Spanish profanity

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The overwriting text in blue says "putos", an insult meaning "faggot / poof" (graffiti on a wall in Montevideo, Uruguay).

The Spanish language employs a wide range of swear words that vary between Spanish speaking nations, and in regions and subcultures of each nation.


As in most languages swear words tend to come from semantic domains considered taboo such as the domains of human excretions, sexuality, and religion.[1] As in most languages, in Spanish swearing serves several functions in discourse, as emphatic interjections expressing emotion, as expressions of interpersonal stances such as aggression or as expression of gender identity, and as forms of linguistic play.[2][3][4][5][6][7]

Spanish insults are often of a sexual nature, taking the form of implying a lack of sexual decency if the insulted person is a woman (e.g. puta, ramera "whore", perra "bitch") or implying a lack of masculinity if the insulted person is male (e.g. maricón "faggot", puto "male prostitute").[8] A particularly forceful Spanish insult is any mention of someone else's mother, (called mentar la madre), including also in its strongest form insinuations or mentions of sexual relations (e.g. ¡chinga tu madre! "fuck your mother!").[9][10][11][12][13]

Emphatic exclamations, not aimed to insult but to express strong emotion, often include words for sexual relations (e.g. ¡joder! "fuck!", ¡chingados! "fuckers!") or to excretions or sexual organs (¡mierda! "shit!", ¡carajo! "penis!"). Sexual taboo words that describe a masculine sexuality may be used in a positive sense (e.g. cabrón "male goat", gallo "rooster", chingón "fucker").[8]


"¡Chinga tu madre, cabrón!" in C major. About this sound Play .

The official definition of this word in Spain is "an adult male goat".

The modern Spanish version, including Mexican Spanish, has different connotations depending on the place or situation, but is commonly accepted as the Spanish equivalent for the English profanity "motherfucker". As an adjective it is equivalent to "tough," as in, "It is tough" (Está cabrón). In offensive mode it means "asshole".

The seven-note musical flourish known as a shave and a haircut (two bits), commonly played on car horns, is associated with the seven-syllable phrase ¡Chinga tu madre, cabrón! ("Fuck your mother, asshole!"). Playing the jingle on a car horn can result in a hefty fine for traffic violation if done in the presence of police, or road rage if aimed at another driver or a pedestrian.[14]

In Mexico, cabrón refers to a man whose wife cheats on him without protest from him, or even with his encouragement. In Puerto Rico, it has a similar connotation, but it and cabrona (for women) are used regardless of whether the cheating victim knows about his/her wife/husband cheating or not, and whether the couple is separated or not.


This term has several acceptations, including the action of chingar meaning cutting-off long tails of animals. As a vulgar or profane term it has connotations related to disgrace, difficult, miserable, or unfortunate events or conditions.

Though the negative expression "hijo de la chingada" literally translates to "son of the chingada" it would be erroneous to attribute the term "la chingada" to a woman or a personification of a female.

In Puerto Rico, "chingada" means sex—"chingada" is similar in meaning to the term "fuck" in English, "una chingada" means "one sexual act" and "la chingada" usually means "the girl who had sex". Likewise, the term "chingo" means "had sex" or "will have sex" (as in "yo te chingo a tu esposa"—"I have-or will have-sex with your wife").


Pendejo (according to the Diccionario de la lengua española de la Real Academia Española, lit. "a pubic hair'[15]) according to the Chicano poet José Antonio Burciaga, "basically describes someone who is stupid or does something stupid."[15] Burciaga said that the word is often used while not in polite conversation.[15] Pendejo is equivalent to the English expression dumb-ass, which literally means, "as dumb as a donkey".

Burciaga said that pendejo "is probably the least offensive" of the various Spanish profanity words beginning in "p", but that calling someone a pendejo is "stronger" than calling someone estúpido.[15] Burciaga said "Among friends it can be taken lightly, but for others it is better to be angry enough to back it up."[15] In Mexico, "pendejo" most commonly refers to a "fool", "idiot" or "asshole". In Mexico there are many proverbs that refer to pendejos.[15]


Pinche has different meanings:

In Spain, where Castilian Spanish is the national language, the word may refer to a sous chef.[3] However, its main and usual definition is that of a restaurant chef assistant or a kitchen helper who helps prepare the ingredients, assists in cooking the food and cleans the utensils. Some restaurants in Spain have the name "El Pinche", to the great amusement of Mexican and Chicano tourists.[3]

In Mexico, the word can be inappropriate or offensive depending on tone and context. Furthermore, it is often used as an expletive attributive (much like the English terms "damn", "fucking", or British English "bloody"), as in estos pinches aguacates están podridos… ("These damn avocados are rotten…"); Pinche Mario ya no ha venido… ("Fucking Mario hasn't come yet"); or ¿¡Quieres callarte la pinche boca!? ("Would you shut your bloody mouth?"). Another meaning is used as an insult, as in pinche güey ("loser"), or to describe an object of poor quality, está muy pinche ("It really sucks").[citation needed] Therefore, it can be said in front of adults, but possibly not children, depending on one's moral compass. Sometimes pinchudo(a) is said instead.[citation needed] It refers to a mean-spirited person.[3]

In El Salvador, the term means "tiny" or "very little" and it is not necessarily considered vulgar.

In Nicaragua, the term means "stingy" or "cheapskate" and it is not vulgar.


The word puta (uniform in all Hispanic nations), similar to the Portuguese derives from the Latin putus meaning boy and puta, girl. It has roughly the same meaning as English whore, but in some regions is considered very offensive when specifically directed at a woman. It can also translate as "bitch". The male version, puto can be used to refer to a male whore, but in Mexico it is a derrogatory term for a homosexual man i.e. "gay whore".

It is, however, considered less offensive when used as an adjective, in which case it is equal to the English "fucking," similar to the Mexican word pinche; for example, dame las putas llaves ("give me the fucking keys") or es puto idiota (he's a fucking idiot).

In addition, the phrase, hijo de puta, literally means "son of a whore", (which translates to "son of a bitch" in English ) can often mean "motherfucker."


The verb joder/joderse means "to fuck," and follows the same rules as its English equivalent: "to fuck somebody" e.g. anoche, Juan y su novia se jodieron ("last night Juan and his girlfriend fucked"), no me jodas (don't fuck with me), or lo has jodido (you've fucked up). It cannot be used as an adjective, like the English "fucking", but is often used as a light interjection: ¡Joder! Olvidé mi abrigo ("Shit! I've forgotten my coat").

Alternative ways demonstrating the meaning in the first context are: follar, cogerse (Argentina), and echar un polvo.


  • Carajo a noun meaning "cock", but it can also mean "fuck" in the figurative sense e.g. me importa un carajo lo que se dice ("I don't give a fuck what they say")
  • Coño, equivalent to "cunt" but bears less profanity. It is often used to express surprise or exclamation such as ¿qué coño dijiste? ("what the fuck did you say?"). The word concha or "shell" is often heard in Latin America meaning "pussy" and sometimes in the diminutive, conchita refers to "cunt".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Espinosa, M. "Algo sobre la historia de las palabrotas." Razón y palabra. Primera revista digital en Iberoamérica especializada en comunicología 23 (2001).
  2. ^ de Marlangeon, Silvia Beatriz Kaul, and Laura Alba Juez. "A typology of verbal impoliteness behaviour for the English and Spanish cultures." Revista española de lingüística aplicada 25 (2012): 69-92.
  3. ^ a b c d Gladstein and Chacón (editors) 39.
  4. ^ Martínez, R. A., & Morales, P. Z. (2014). ¿ Puras Groserías?: Rethinking the Role of Profanity and Graphic Humor in Latin@ Students' Bilingual Wordplay. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 45(4), 337-354.
  5. ^ Durán, Marco Antonio Pérez, and Oscar Arriaga Olguín. "Inventario fraseológico de las groserías en estudiantes de San Luis Potosí." Revista de Lingüística y Lenguas Aplicadas 9.1 (2014): 79-87.
  6. ^ Sacher, Jason, and Toby Triumph. How to Swear Around the World. Chronicle Books, 2012.
  7. ^ Mateo, J., & Yus, F. (2013). Towards a cross-cultural pragmatic taxonomy of insults. Journal of Language Aggression and Conflict, 1(1), 87-114.
  8. ^ a b Grimes, L. M. (1978). El tabú lingüístico en México: el lenguaje erótico de los mexicanos. Bilingual Review Pr.
  9. ^ Bakewell, Liza. Madre: Perilous Journeys with a Spanish Noun. WW Norton & Company, 2010.
  10. ^ Ilarregui, G. M. (1997). Is the Spanish language sexist? An Investigation of Grammatical Gender. Es sexista la lengua espanola?. Una investigacion sobre el genero gramatical. Women and Language, 20(2), 64-66.
  11. ^ González Zúñiga, J., & Hernández Arias, L. (2015). Análisis semántico y sintáctico de las frases idiomáticas compuestas con las palabras" padre" y" madre" en el español de México (Doctoral dissertation).
  12. ^ Gregersen, E. A. (1979). Sexual linguistics. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 327(1), 3-18.
  13. ^ Santaemilia, J., 2008. Gender, sex, and language in Valencia: attitudes toward sex-related language among Spanish and Catalan speakers. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 2008(190), pp.5-26.
  14. ^ Gerrard, Arthur Bryson, ed. (1980). Cassell's Colloquial Spanish (3rd revised ed.). London: Cassell Ltd. ISBN 978-0-02-079430-1. 
  15. ^ a b c d e f Gladstein and Chacón (editors) 40.


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