Swearing or cursing is an unavoidable part of any language. Even if you consider yourself the sort of person who never ever swears, it may still serve you well to have a good grasp of some basic “palabrotas” or swear words.
Whilst we’re going to try and keep today’s post as clean as possible, we will still need to mention a few choice words. So, if you’re easily offended or simply don’t wish to see some stronger language used, we suggest that you hit the close button now, whilst we distract you with a nice picture of a puppy.
If you’ve made it this far don’t worry too much, because as we are about to find out, swearing in Spanish really isn’t that bad! So without further ado, let’s get into it!
Let’s face facts: People swear and curse all the time. It is an unavoidable part of every language. This said, how we swear and also how often is very dependent on the type of person you are. Some people rarely swear whilst maintaining their almost saint-like composure, whilst others appear to incessantly pepper their outbursts with extremely colourful language. As a general impression though, I believe it’s fair to say that swearing in Spanish generally isn’t deemed as strong as perhaps it is in English.
Words that we might find as English speakers extremely rude or vulgar simply aren’t in Spanish. To the point that many words are commonly said in front of children without a second thought. Whereas the equivalent words would almost certainly raise eyebrows when said in polite English-speaking company. With this in mind then, let’s take a look at a few Spanish curse words that may not be as strong as we might first assume: Mierda
Meaning: Sh*t, Crap
Alternatives: “Caca” (Poo)
Usually used in frustration, it pretty closely mirrors how we use the word in English.
“¡Oh, mierda!” (Oh, sh*t!)
As with English, we can also use this word adjectively when describing things negatively.
“Pues, eso fue una
mierda” (Well, that was sh*t).
Notice that in constructions like this, the Spanish uses an article, whereas we don’t in English even though it’s considered an abstract concept and not the physical thing. Joder
When used in isolation joder
is normally used as an exclamation or interjection, but as already mentioned, it is not deemed remotely as strong as its English counterpart. Usually more in the spirit of “damn it”, or “for f*ck sake”. Joder
also functions as a verb in its own right, which then becomes a lot more vulgar.
“¡Jodete!” (F*ck you!)
“Me jodiste, quiero recuperar mi dinero” (You screwed me, I want to get my money back)
Even though joder isn’t considered too strong in insolation, there is a more polite form in jolín.
This can be thought of as like when we use alternative form interjections in English like sugar
in place of sh*t and f*ck. Hostia
Meaning: Holy sh*t, Christ, Jesus
Literally meaning host
and used as an interjection or a general exclamation; this word has its origins in the Catholic church. “La hostia” describes the holy communion which even today, for some, plays an important role in Spanish culture. If you are of a certain age or extremely religious, then this word is still considered extremely rude, in the sense that many people say that you should never use the Lord’s name in vain.
“Hostia, no tengo idea” (Christ, I have no idea)
is another alternative polite form that is used in place of hostia,
rather like jolín
is used in place of joder. Coño
Meaning: Pussy (only literally),
Whilst literally meaning the lady parts and thus translating as pussy
or even the C word,
its usage is completely different to how we might use it in English. In English we might call someone a pussy as an insult or even a C word in extreme cases, however this is NOT how coño
is used. Coño
is used as a general exclamation, usually expressing annoyance, surprise or frustration. So, this word is not normally directed at someone as an insult but instead used to make a statement stronger.
“¡Darse prisa, Coño!” (Hurry up for f*ck sake!)
“¿Qué coño?” (What the f*ck?) Cabrón
Alternatives: “Cabrones” (plural),
Strictly speaking bastardo
is the Spanish word for bastard. However, no one really uses that word in the same way. Whilst bastard describes someone whose father is absent, the word cabrón
describes someone whose partner is cheating on them. So, whilst the meaning is completely different to bastard, we can see how and why this may be used in the same way as a general insult.
“Ese cabrón mentiroso” (That lying bastard)
“¡Qué cabrones!” (What bastards!) Hijo de puta
Meaning: Son of a bitch, Son of a whore (more literally)
Used as a general insult just as we do in English. Between friends it may be considered fairly tame, but if said to a stranger then it suddenly becomes quite strong.
The word puta
is a pejorative word meaning prostitute or whore, but may be used in front of nouns to mean f*cking, which adds a vulgar form of emphasis.
“Puta locura” (F*cking madness) Puta madre
Let’s finish with an interesting one. Usually used as an exclamation, this again is not deemed as strong as it’s English counterpart.
However, it can be used in a positive way too. When prefixed with “de” (of)
then this expression takes on a different meaning, one of excellence. In the same way that “something is sh*t” in English is considered negative, but when “something is the
sh*t” we actually mean it’s great.
“Era de puta madre” (It was the bomb!)
“Madrid es un lugar de puta madre” (Madrid is a f*cking awesome place) Conclusion | En conclusión
Hopefully today’s post hasn’t been too strong. Let’s not forget, even if you don’t consider yourself the sort of person that curses much, having a good grasp of this type of vocabulary is still essential, particularly when we hear real people speak.
Also realising that whilst many English words and phrases are used in more or less the same way, their relative strength may not be the same. This is very important to understand when starting out with Spanish, especially as we don’t wish to take or give offense unnecessarily.