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19 Dirty Spanish Words You Thought Were Harmless

19 Dirty Spanish Words You Thought Were Harmless

Why are they laughing at me? What the heck did I just say?

If you’ve travelled to a Spanish-speaking country, without learning how to speak Spanish, then you’ve experienced the embarrasement that comes with saying the wrong Spanish word. Especially if it’s a dirty one!

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    All languages come with their own words that have an “alternative” interpretation to native speakers, and it’s often these humorous words that bring us close together.

    Learn them all, and you’ll be in “the know” next time you get laughed at while speaking Spanish. Heck, you might even start laughing when other people say them—and that’s when you officially know you’re a Spanish speaker rather than a Spanish student.

    1. Sapo

    Clean meaning: Toad

    Dirty meaning: A lady’s hoo-ha

    This one is number one of my list, because I’ve had people laugh at me when actually speaking about toads in the context of ongoing biological research.

    There’s no way to avoid the crassness, no matter your context or technically perfect Spanish. If you’re not speaking to biologists, maybe you could pretend you only know the word for frog (rana). I say you tackle this head on, though. No fear. Make the scientific community (and me) proud by unabashedly using precise language regardless of the consequences.

    2. Concha

    Clean meaning: Seashell

    Dirty meaning: Map of Tasmania

    If you didn’t know that Tasmania is shaped like that, now you do—forever. You’re welcome. This word makes appearances in many explicit phrases used to curse people out, such as “¡Concha [de] tu madre!” and the weirder “¡Concha [de] la lora!”

    3. Perra

    Clean meaning: Female dog

    Dirty meaning: Floozie

    This darn gendered language seems like it’s designed to cause these problems on purpose. You automatically have to define a dog as a male or female dog when speaking, either a perro or perra.

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    In English, we have our own vulgar word that technically means “female dog” but is almost never used for that reason. Spanish uses “female dog” for another insult, namely “a woman of loose morals” or “a loose woman who’s had many lovers.”

    4. Comerse

    Clean meaning: To eat (reflexive)

    Dirty meaning: To do the deed

    This one caused my personal, all-time favorite Spanish embarrassment story. While talking to my Ecuadorian homestay family about a Spanish class assignment involving “La caperucita roja,” I did a metaphorical faceplant after talking about how the wolf eats the grandmother. Talk about reinventing classic stories. I will never forget the sound of eight Quiteños laughing hysterically at my Spanish blunder.

    5. Rica

    Clean meaning: Wealthy (when referring to people), delicious (when referring to food)

    Dirty meaning: Delicious (when referring to people)

    You can make a similar mistake if you’re still confusing ser and estar and want to describe someone as “a good person.” If you say that “Ella está buena” instead of “Ella es buena,” look out for some raised eyebrows—you just said that “She’s a hot piece of tail,” not that “She’s a good human being.”

    6. Culo vs. Nalga vs. Trasero

    Clean meaning: Butt

    Dirty meaning: Butt

    Okay, the dirtiness here is caused by a common mix-up between the two words listed above. Culo is a raunchy word that impressionable Spanish learners often pick up by listening to too much reggaeton.

    Nalga is a more benign word which means something akin to “butt,” “butt cheeks” when plural and “lil’ butt cheeks” when phrased more diminutively as nalguitas—but despite being more anatomical it’s still moderately crude.

    Stick with trasero, which comes out sounding more like the English “behind,” and you’ll be polite in anyone’s company.

    7. Grasa

    Clean meaning: Fat, oil

    Dirty meaning: Fat

    Again, this is another case of word mix-ups. You may have learned that grasa technically means fat, but that doesn’t mean you should refer to your own body fat or someone’s else’s that way. Instead say, “Tengo unas libras de más” (I have a few extra pounds), rather than pointing to yourself and talking about nasty, greasy lard.

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    8. Huevos

    Clean meaning: Eggs

    Dirty meaning: The two amigos

    You can always use huevitos if you want to make sure you don’t bungle this one up. In some countries—I myself am only aware of this happening in parts of Mexico—some native speakers defer to blancos when they’re discussing eggs.

    9. Pelotas

    Clean meaning: Smaller balls (as opposed to balón or bola which refer to a larger ball) used in sporting events

    Dirty meaning: The two amigos

    You may be talking about tennis equipment, but this will never not be funny.

    10. Bolas

    Clean meaning: General ball-shaped items, balls used for sporting events, edible balls of food

    Dirty meaning: The two amigos

    There is no Spanish word for sports-related balls that isn’t funny. Sorry. This particular word is twice as bad because you can also eat bolas in many parts of the Spanish-speaking world. Suddenly, “¿Qué comiste hoy en el almuerzo?” becomes a dangerous question.

    11. Chorizo

    Clean meaning: Sausage

    Dirty meaning: Exactly what you think it means

    Your home country doesn’t matter—it’s part of human nature to identify vaguely phallic-shaped items and laugh at them. We all know what a sausage looks like, and we all know what that word can mean in the right (or wrong) context.

    12. Pechuga vs. Pecho

    Clean meaning: Chicken breast/human chest, human breast

    Dirty meaning: Breasts

    Let’s clear all this up right away: Pechuga is for talking about chicken breasts and pecho is a more technical term for a human chest. Pecho can be used when speaking about medical issues, physical fitness, breastfeeding and any other usual topic of conversation.

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    Pechuga, when used in reference to a person, conveys that you think of that person as a slab of meat. Pecho, used when talking about meat, conveys that you don’t know how to speak Spanish.

    You don’t always want to say pecho when talking about people (or yourself), since that can be awkward if you’re in the midst of a girls’ night out or something. If you actually want to talk casually about boobies (and not the blue-footed kind) with friends, in Ecuador you can use chichis in a playful sense and avoid sounding totally awkward.

    13. Bolsa

    Clean meaning: Bag, shopping bag, sack

    Dirty meaning: Sack

    Say funda instead, for the love of God.

    14. Pájaro/Pajarito

    Clean meaning: Bird, little bird

    Dirty meaning: Homosexual (offensive)

    This totally innocent word becomes an offensive slur when used in the wrong country. In many places, ave sounds heavy, awkward or is simply less-commonly used, and that’s where you’ll want to use pájaro to talk about our winged, flying friends.

    In other regions, namely the Caribbean and perhaps a few others, you should only ever use ave. Pay attention when people speak or ask your hosts if you’re unsure! Honestly, you can never go very wrong with ave, so it’s the safe choice no matter where you are.

    15. Ganas

    Clean meaning: Desire, urge; to have the desire or urge to do something

    Dirty meaning: Animal urges (ahem)

    Sure, you can say “Tengo ganas de comer una hamburguesa enorme” (I feel like eating an enormous hamburger), but don’t pause after “Tengo ganas.” If your conversation exchange partner thinks the sentence ends there, funny looks will abound.

    16. Coger

    Clean meaning: To grab

    Dirty meaning: To do the deed

    In many countries and contexts, this verb is A-OK. The internet will expressly forbid you from using it in most Latin American countries, but Ecuadorians and Colombians (citizens of countries that are supposed to only know of the dirtycoger usage) can be heard innocently saying things like “Voy a coger un taxi” (I’m going to take a taxi) all day long.

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    It’s pretty much a toss up when you’ll get someone snickering at you for using it, no matter where in the world you are—though I’ve heard the word is actually off limits in Chile and Peru, so you might want to ask when you arrive at your Spanish-speaking destination.

    17. Me cago vs. me caigo

    Clean meaning: I fall (me caigo – caerse)

    Dirty meaning: I sh*t myself (me cago – cagarse)

    Even if you’re not clumsy and falling down all the time, me cago is a great phrase to have on hand, particularly for the expression “Me cago de [la] risa,” which is roughly equivalent to ROFL. You may also want to describe how you’re falling in love with “Me cago en el amor.” Now, these phrases come from the irregular (and seriously vulgar in every possible context) verb cagarse, not caerse (to fall).

    Beginning Spanish language learners have been known to accidentally mix these up or simply mis-conjugate or mispronounce their intended verb. Urban Dictionary can’t even tell the difference between these phrases, which shows you just how deep this goes.

    Even if you always say “Me caigo” perfectly, you may well have immature jokesters play off your words, twist your words around for jokes at your expense or chuckle at you de la nada.

    18. Vaina

    Clean meaning: Thing

    Dirty meaning: Thang

    This is possibly the most frequently-used word in the Dominican Republic. Absolutely everything is a vaina, so leave cosa behind once you’ve set foot on Dominican soil. Since everything can be a vaina, it’s no small wonder that it can be used to casually refer to one’s private parts—mostly for ladies.

    You’ll get some giggles if you say this one with misplaced emphasis, silly context where it could be somehow construed sexually or if everyone has had enough Presidentes (popular brand of Dominican cerveza nacional) that night.

    19. Estoy caliente

    Clean meaning: There is no clean meaning, this is just an all-around sexual thing to say—but lots of Spanish learners say it.

    Dirty meaning: I’m hot/smokin’/feeling quiggly

    Classic. The ol’ “Estoy caliente” instead of “Tengo calor” switcharoo. Many Spanish learners have fallen to this phrase before you, and it never fails to elicit a sidelong glance or giggle from native conversation partners. You were trying to say that you feel hot due to the current temperature or climate, and instead you boasted about your hot bod or eagerness for intimate encounters.”

    Where to go from here?

    You can always learn more Spanish words by checking out free Spanish classes online, using Memrise to memorize more words, or working with a private Spanish coach on websites like Rype.

    More by this author

    Sean Kim

    Sean is the founder and CEO of Rype, a language learning app. He's an entrepreneur and blogger.

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    Last Updated on December 10, 2019

    5 Smart Reasons to Start Journal Writing Today

    5 Smart Reasons to Start Journal Writing Today

    Here’s the truth: your effectiveness at life is not what it could be. You’re missing out.

    Each day passes by and you have nothing to prove that it even happened. Did you achieve something? Go on a date? Have an emotional breakthrough? Who knows?

    But what you do know is that you don’t want to make the same mistakes that you’ve made in the past.

    Our lives are full of hidden gems of knowledge and insight, and the most recent events in our lives contain the most useful gems of all. Do you know why? It’s simple, those hidden lessons are the most up to date, meaning they have the largest impact on what we’re doing right now.

    But the question is, how do you get those lessons? There’s a simple way to do it, and it doesn’t involve time machines:

    Journal writing.

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    Improved mental clarity, the ability to see our lives in the big picture, as well as serving as a piece of evidence cataloguing every success we’ve ever had; we are provided all of the above and more by doing some journal writing.

    Journal writing is a useful and flexible tool to help shed light on achieving your goals.

    Here’s 5 smart reasons why you should do journal writing:

    1. Journals Help You Have a Better Connection with Your Values, Emotions, and Goals

    By journaling about what you believe in, why you believe it, how you feel, and what your goals are, you understand your relationships with these things better. This is because you must sort through the mental clutter and provide details on why you do what you do and feel what you feel.

    Consider this:

    Perhaps you’ve spent the last year or so working at a job you don’t like. It would be easy to just suck it up and keep working with your head down, going on as if it’s supposed to be normal to not like your job. Nobody else is complaining, so why should you, right?

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    But a little journal writing will set things straight for you. You don’t like your job. You feel like it’s robbing you of happiness and satisfaction, and you don’t see yourself better there in the future.

    The other workers? Maybe they don’t know, maybe they don’t care. But you do, you know and care enough to do something about it. And you’re capable of fixing this problem because your journal writing allows you to finally be honest with yourself about it.

    2. Journals Improve Mental Clarity and Help Improve Your Focus

    If there’s one thing journal writing is good for, it’s clearing the mental clutter.

    How does it work? Simply, whenever you have a problem and write about it in a journal, you transfer the problem from your head to the paper. This empties the mind, allowing allocation of precious resources to problem-solving rather than problem-storing.

    Let’s say you’ve been juggling several tasks at work. You’ve got data entry, testing, e-mails, problems with the boss, and so on—enough to overwhelm you—but as you start journal writing, things become clearer and easier to understand: Data entry can actually wait till Thursday; Bill kindly offered earlier to do my testing; For e-mails, I can check them now; the boss is just upset because Becky called in sick, etc.

    You become better able to focus and reason your tasks out, and this is an indispensable and useful skill to have.

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    3. Journals Improve Insight and Understanding

    As a positive consequence of improving your mental clarity, you become more open to insights you may have missed before. As you write your notes out, you’re essentially having a dialogue with yourself. This draws out insights that you would have missed otherwise; it’s almost as if two people are working together to better understand each other. This kind of insight is only available to the person who has taken the time to connect with and understand themselves in the form of writing.

    Once you’ve gotten a few entries written down, new insights can be gleaned from reading over them. What themes do you see in your life? Do you keep switching goals halfway through? Are you constantly dating the same type of people who aren’t good for you? Have you slowly but surely pushed people out of your life for fear of being hurt?

    All of these questions can be answered by simply self-reflecting, but you can only discover the answers if you’ve captured them in writing. These questions are going to be tough to answer without a journal of your actions and experiences.

    4. Journals Track Your Overall Development

    Life happens, and it can happen fast. Sometimes we don’t take the time to stop and look around at what’s happening to us at each moment. We don’t get to see the step-by-step progress that we’re making in our own lives. So what happens? One day it’s the future, and you have no idea how you’ve gotten there.

    Journal writing allows you to see how you’ve changed over time, so you can see where you did things right, and you can see where you took a misstep and fell.

    The great thing about journals is that you’ll know what that misstep was, and you can make sure it doesn’t happen again—all because you made sure to log it, allowing yourself to learn from your mistakes.

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    5. Journals Facilitate Personal Growth

    The best thing about journal writing is that no matter what you end up writing about, it’s hard to not grow from it. You can’t just look at a past entry in which you acted shamefully and say “that was dumb, anyway!” No, we say “I will never make a dumb choice like that again!”

    It’s impossible not to grow when it comes to journal writing. That’s what makes journal writing such a powerful tool, whether it’s about achieving goals, becoming a better person, or just general personal-development. No matter what you use it for, you’ll eventually see yourself growing as a person.

    Kickstart Journaling

    How can journaling best be of use to you? To vent your emotions? To help achieve your goals? To help clear your mind? What do you think makes journaling such a useful life skill?

    Know the answer? Then it’s about time you reap the benefits of journal writing and start putting pen to paper.

    Here’s what you can do to start journaling:

    Featured photo credit: Jealous Weekends via unsplash.com

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