As well as being a tremendous country, Mexico is one of the real linguistic driving forces of Latin America. Here are some Mexicanisms and their importance to translation into and from Spanish.
While there are some words that are still used despite having been removed from Spanish spoken in Spain a couple of centuries ago, the enormous influence of the Mayan civilization has given rise to a Spanish language that is full of Mexicanisms, which we find incredibly interesting as an essential addition to its vocabulary. In fact, there is an official dictionary of Mexicanisms which reflects the massive importance of these phrases and Mexican expressions.
Mexicanisms can be classified under three main groups:
- Indigenisms. These are phonetic adaptations, or in some cases direct transcriptions, of Mayan or Nahuatl words that are still used for the same purpose. Without a doubt, they are fascinating for those who love to study languages and those who are highly interested in the use of consonants, particularly their pronunciation, which is often complex.
- Synchronic Mexicanisms. There are around 600 of these, and what makes them special is that they don’t come from Mexico, but from Spain. They’ve begun to disappear in our country, but their use has been maintained in our twin land. This group could be considered the archaeological remains of Spanish, and a more-than-deserved tribute to a both rich and indispensable language.
- Mexicanisms. Exactly as it says. These are produced by speakers of standard, everyday Spanish.
Let’s get down to business and take a look at the most widely used Mexican expressions. In a second and a third post, we will share the most commonly used words and the most popular proverbs in Mexico. We have aimed to be as thorough as possible in conveying the most accurate meaning of these expressions, but if you know of any other variants or definitions that are worth taking into account, feel free to let us know!
20 widely used Mexican expressions
- A darle que es mole de olla. With clear reference to the tasty and traditional Mexican soup "Mole de olla," this indicates that one has to be particularly quick in order to get a job finished. It can also be used to say "Let's start."
- Aguanta vara. An expression used to hold another person to their promise. Also used to request patience.
- Armar un pancho. This basically means "to be angry" but is usually used to describe childish tantrums.
- Como el perro de las dos tortas. If we imagine man’s best friend choosing between two sandwiches, it is logical to assume that this expression indicates indecision. Used to describe people who never seem to decide on any one particular thing.
- De chile, mole y pozole. This mix of Mexican dishes is specifically used to point out the aspect of variety in a place or situation. In Spanish from Spain, we would use "de todo un poco."
- Dejaste la víbora chillando. This is used to describe somebody who starts a fight or quarrel and then leaves without facing the consequences.
- Echarse un coyotito. Synonym of "to have a siesta" (to have an afternoon nap).
- Esta noche cena Pancho. This has nothing to do with Pancho eating, rather another kind of activity which can be carried out horizontally or vertically (I’m sure you can guess what that is).
- Hacer de chivo los tamales. This tasty American dish is usually made using pork, chicken or beef. To use goat meat would be an offense to the person eating it. That's exactly what it means.
- Hazme el paro/la valona. No idea what it means, right? It means "do me a favor."
- Me estás dando el avión. One of the stranger expressions, this means that you’re not paying attention to the person who's speaking to you.
- Me vale un reverendo cacahuate. The Spanish synonym would be "me importa un bledo/un comino" which is a slightly more informal and vulgar way of saying "I don’t care."
- No manches. Used in a very day-to-day sense. This is used to express disbelief and shock at something that somebody just said.
- No te rajes. Coming from the typical "ranchera" style of Mexican music, this refers to the importance of keeping a promise.
- Órale/Órale pues. This comes from the English "alright," but is used in Mexico to put emphasis on a phrase or action, and even to propose a particular challenge.
- Ponte la de puebla. No idea? It means that you should give half of something to the person saying it.
- ¡Qué chido! This is used to mean "that’s great!" or "fantastic!"
- ¡Qué pelón está el cochi! Use this when you’re unsure whether or not something can be done.
- Te crees muy acá ¿no? This is used for people who think of themselves as better than everybody else.
- Ya ni la amuelas. To say that someone did something bad. Sometimes, this describes those who insist on being incredibly annoying all the time.
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Spanish translations by qualified, native Spanish translators