How To Talk Like A Mexican: Part Two

This is the fourth of a series of three posts on the vocabulary of the three countries I visited in Latin America: Ecuador, Colombia, and Mexico. I collected expressions from friends and from conversations around me. Most of the three vocabularies are in Spanish, but they also include words in Quichua, Nahuatl, and Czech, among others.

“How To Talk Like A Mexican” is comprised of two parts: Part One, which included all my Mexican Spanish phrases beginning A through G; and Part Two (which you are reading now), that includes all Spanish phrases beginning H through Z in addition to several phrases in other languages such as Nahuatl. 

Language is a fascinating subject influenced by factors as varied as geography, history, and anthropology. I welcome any questions, suggestions, or corrections you have to add to this vocabulary. I hope that you find it interesting and informative for future travels! This series is incomplete, and I look forward to expanding it in future.

Thanks to the friends that helped with the Mexican glossary, including Yanni, Isis, Nick, Christian, Armando, Jorge, Nelson. Quiero agradecer en particular Gerardo y Gabriel, dos amigos queridos que me enseñaron tantas palabras de su lengua materna que no pude escribir la mitad en mi cuaderno. ¡Espero que nos veamos pronto!


Aquí he dejado mis últimas palabras sobre los dichos que encontré durante mis viajes por Latinoamerica. Me parece extraño que hace un año ya estaba viviendo en Quito – cocinando, descubriendo la ciudad, recibiendo cartas en los correos (¡cómo se sabe cuando realmente se ha llegado en su hogar!). Y han pasado casí seis meses desde que volví al Reino Unido, un país debajo de cielos grises y dividido de su referendo reciente sobre el U.E.. Espero que 2017 nos pasará mejor que este año, que ha regalado tantas lastimas a tanta gente.

Acabo de darme cuenta que en menos que tres meses iré a Guatemala. ¡Imaginate cuantas palabras encontraré por allá, en este país desconocido! Cuando regresaré de Guatemala publicaré un post de, “Cómo Hablar Español Guatemalteco”, para añadir a mi serie actual. 



Hasta ahora todo bien – lit. “Until now, all good”. So far, so good.

Hijo de tigre pintito – lit. “Son of the painted tiger”. Seemed to be similar to, a leopard doesn´t change its spots.

¡Hijo de tu reputisima madre! – lit. “You son of your reputable mother!” A spectacular diss.

Hijole – see Órale.

Hueso – bone, or an avocado stone.

Inconscientemente – unconsciously

Is-is-is – used to emphasise something. For example, Importante is important. Importantissimo is very important. Importantis-is-is-issimo is very important indeed.

Jalle – the store.

Jetear – to go to sleep, used in a casual sense. Similar to “to drift off”.

Jitomate – tomato. Not to be confused with tomate. A tomate in Mexico is a sour green fruit the size of a ping-pong ball, that is liquidised to form the base ingredient of salsa verde. 

Juegalo – see Órale.

Justa en el coracora is short for corazón, meaning “heart”. Roughly equivalent to our expression, “Right in the feels!”.

La belleza está en los ojos de quien la ve – Equivalent to our expression, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”.

Lo que se ve es lo que hay – what you see is what you get.

Lo que siembras es lo que cosechas lit. “What you seed is what you harvest”. Equivalent to, “You reap what you sow”.

Mamon – usually used for a guy who is a bit weak, a loser, perceived as not being masculine. Also someone a little fresa. Not sure if it can be used for a girl also?

¿Mandes? – lit. “You send?”. Used when you didn´t hear someone, and want them to repeat what they´ve said.

Matar dos pajaros con un tiro – lit. “To kill two birds with one throw”. Equivalent to, “to kill two birds with one stone”. 

Me vale madres – lit. “It matters mothers to me”. Used to denote that something doesn’t matter to you; similar to our expression, “I couldn’t care less”. 

Mejor cien amigos que cien pesos – lit. “Better a hundred friends than a hundred pesos”. A hundred pesos is approximately $5.

Merolico – someone who talks very fast, in a colloquial or slangy style. A merolico is akin to a salesman or confidence trickster, notorious for being sharp-tongued, slick, entertaining, and distrustful.

Mestizo – mixed-race.

Miruña – see chiquita. Term of endearment, meaning something like, “little one”.

Mocho – (of a word) shortened, curtailed. For example, porfa in place of por favor (“please”).

Molcajetes – a salsa-maker, or really a mortar and pestle. Also the name of a cinder cone in the state of Nayarit.

Más mexicano que nopal – lit. “More Mexican than nopal”. Nopal is the prickly pear cactus found throughout Mexico. Many Mexicans are aware of stereotypes of their country, with those cartoons of a moustachioed guy in a sombrero snoozing underneath a nopal. Therefore, this saying has a touch of self-deprecation to it.

N.T.C. – short for “No te creo!” Or, “I don´t believe you!”. Pronounced “enne-teh-seh”.

N.T.P. – short for “No te preoccupes“, meaning “don´t worry”. Pronounced “enne-teh-peh”.

Naco – Mexican version of a chav/ned/bam.

¿Neta? – used as an expression of disbelief, similar to, “You can´t be serious!”.

Nicknames There exists a diminuation for almost every common name in Mexico; the nicknames are unanimously dissimilar to the originals. For example, Francisco (nicknames include Pancho, Paco, Chico); José (nicknames include Pepe).

No les vale – lit. “It doesn´t matter to them”.

¡No mames! – lit. “Don’t suck my tit!”. A vulgar way of expressing disbelief or incredulity, similar to our expression, “You’re kidding me!”. Not to be used in polite company!

¡No manches! – lit. “Don’t stain!”. A polite form of “¡No mames!” (see above).

No pude evitarlo – “I couldn´t help it.”

Nueva look – a new style, a makeover.

Ñengo – used for a very slim person; similar to our “skinny malinkey lang legs”. See also: palilo botanero. 

O sea – lit. “Or that is”, similar to “That is to say…”. This is the subjunctive form of ser (“to be”) and is used to clarify what you mean. 

Oaxaca – the state from which the restaurant Wahaca gets its name; Oaxaca and Wahaca are pronounced exactly the same. I know – it blew my mind, too.

¡Órale! – lit. “Pray it!”. A highly versatile and useful word used to mean, variously: hey!, wow, jeez, oh dear, cool, oh shit, interesting, and many more. See also: Andale, Hijole, Juegalo. 

¿Pa´que buscarle tres pies al gato? – lit. “Why are you looking for a cat with three legs?”. The second part of this question is, “…when there are so many with four?”. Roughly, this expression is used for someone who is making a mountain out of a molehill, or finding difficulty in a trivial problem. With this expression, you are asking: “Why are you looking for your answer in the wrong place?”.

Pachanga – a big, big, happy, fun party.

Padre – cool. This is the most generic way of saying “cool” (see also: chido, chingon). Padre also means “father”, interestingly, and I can advocate for calling your parents the superpadres in order to score brownie child points that you can cash in at a later date.

Palillo botanero – lit. “chopsticks”. Used figuratively to refer to someone really skinny (a “skinny malinkey lang legs”). See also: ñengo.

Parques de Papel – lit. Paper Parks. Areas of land that have been determined as “Areas of Conservation” or “Nature Reserves” by the central government, but are not, in reality, conserved or cared for.

Perro que ladra no muerde – lit. “The dog that barks doesn’t bite”. Equivalent to, “his bark is worse than his bite”.

Petricor el olor del suelo después de la lluvia. The smell of the earth after it has rained.

Picar – lit. to bite, but figuratively refers to something spicy. For example: “¡Hasta el katsup le pica!” – “Even ketchup bites him!”, or “Even ketchup is too spicy for him!”. 

Piedras rodeandos se encuentran – lit. “Rolling stones meet”. Almost the opposite of “a rolling stone gathers no moss”. This saying suggests that travellers are, naturally, constantly moving to new places; should you meet someone significant during your travels, by your nomadic nature it is likely that you both will meet again. To my mind, a sense of fate and destiny permeats many Mexican sayings.

Piloncillo – unrefined sugar-cane. Piloncillos are found as dark-brown sugar cones, sold in one-kilogram bags. They are a useful ingredient in Mexican cooking, or can be eaten straight from the packet. 

Pinche – lit. second cook on a ship. An expression used before someone‘s name, either cheekily or to show you‘re not especially fond of them. For example, pinche José” translates as something like “that damned José”.

Piropo – chat-up line, usually vulgar. 

Platicar – to chat.

Pulque – an alcoholic milky drink made from fermenting the heart of the agave plant. Pulque is the cousin of mescal and tequila, and often flavoured fruitily. Very good quality in San Luis Potosí state.

¡Que huevo! Or ¡Que flojera! – meaning, “what a pain!” Or, “I can´t be arsed!”

¿Que onda? – “What’s up?” See also: ¿Que pedo? and ¿Que pex?

¿Que pedo? – see above.

¿Que pex? – see above.

… que tuvieras tan suerte – lit. “You should be so lucky”.

Ronroneo – a curling or rolling “r” sound (ronronear, “to purr”). Refers to the Spanish way of rolling “r”s, with your tongue towards your lips (as opposed to the French way, which is pronounced further back in the throat).

Sale – meaning “cool”, “ok”, “got it”. See also: dale in Ecuadorian Spanish, vale in Spanish Spanish.

“Segura tu mama es repostera porque hizo este bombón” – lit. “Your mum must have worked at the candy store because look at this marshmallow she made!” Definitely my favourite Mexican phrase of all time. This is an example of a piropo, a pick-up line.

Selfies – selfies.

Ser clavado de algo o alguien – to be stuck on something or someone. For example, an intense crush on someone, or a song you can‘t get out of your head. 

Seseo – a lisp. Spanish Spanish, compared to Mexican Spanish, is noticeably more seseando or lisping: c when found before i or e is pronounced th‘, as is z.

Silvestre – sylvan.

Sobres – meaning “cool”, “ok”, “got it”. See also: Sale.

Taquear – to eat tacos.

Te crées muy muy – lit. “You think much much of yourself”. Something akin to, “You think youre so cool!”.

¿Te late? – “Does that suit you?”

¡Te vale madres! – lit. “You matter mothers!” What is it with mothers mattering nothing in Mexican sayings? This expression means: “none of your business!”.

Te llavas las manos conmigo – lit. “You’re washing your hands with me”. Not quite our “you’re washing your hands with me” – more like “you’re getting me into trouble”, or “you’re throwing me in the deep end”. Meaning, “you’re letting me take the blame for your wrongdoing”.

Tengo el mal de puerco – lit. “I have the pain of the pig”. Used for when you have eaten too much and feel full and tired, and you want to go sleep and fatten yourself up.

Thug – pronounced “tuug”, same meaning as English.

Tontada – a stupid thing.

Toparse con alguien – to bump into somebody.

Tornamesa – turntable.

Tortas – filled sandwiches. In Spanish, torta is a cake, and emparedados are sandwiches. In Mexico, pastel is cake and tortas are sandwiches. In Colombian, ponque is cake. I have no idea.

Un standard – a car that drives manual, as opposed to automatico (a stick-shift).

Una chafa – a rip-off

¡Vamos a pistear! Or, ¡Ponemos en pixtos! – “Let´s get smashed!”

“Vas a querer o se lo echo al perro” – lit. You´ll want it or it’ll be thrown to the dog. Aggressive chat-up line, something along the lines of “you know you want it”. Don´t use this one on a girl you like, it is really offensive.

Verbo mata carita – lit. “A single word kills a little face”. Meaning, actions and charm work better than a pretty face when trying to seduce a girl.

Viceversa – same same in English.

¡Ya basta! – “Enough already!”

¡Ya entendí! – “Got it!”

Ya no hay manera ni modo de resultar esta pregunta – “There’s no will or way to solving this question”.

¡Ya te traigo en jabon! – lit. “I’ll turn you into soap already!” A threat to beat someone up.


Pupichek bellybutton

NAHUATL (indigenous language of the Mayans, spoken on the Pacific Coast and in the southern states of Mexico)

Xolotsquintles the hairless dogs of Colima. Seen whispering at the roundabout to Comala.

Tianguis a flea-market or car-boot sale.

Lakall man
Sigwal woman



TEÉMEK (indigenous language spoken in La Huasteca of San Luis Potosí state)

Nenek hello

Chusushi goodbye


I hope you have enjoyed this series of blog posts. I hope to see you around Reasoning with Volcanoes soon!

2 thoughts on “How To Talk Like A Mexican: Part Two

  1. Hi, the correct expression is “Que hueva” its mean like is not a good thing to do or you dont want to make it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s