Differences between Mexican and European Spanish

Although to most may seem as the same language, Spanish variations can be very much different. For example, the Spanish language used in Europe differs in many ways from Mexican Spanish. Here some examples of different vocabulary:

MexicanSpanish – English

  • alberca – piscina – swimming pool
  • camarón – gamba – crab
  • camión  – autobús – bus
  • carro  – coche – automobile
  • celular – móvil – mobile
  • chamaco – chico – boy
  • chamarra – chaqeta – jacket
  • chango – mono – monkey
  • computadora – ordenador – computer
  • cuarto – habitación – room
  • departamento – piso – flat
  • derecho – todo recto – straight
  • playera – camisa – T-shirt
  • placticar – charlar – chatter
  • popote – pajita – drinking straw
  • rentar  – alquilar – rent
  • tina – bañera – bathtub

Further differences

As the Spanish language developed separately in both countries, there are differences in vocabulary, dialect, tone of voice as well as pronunciation.

For example, the Mexican population uses the past tense more as a completed act: “she laughed” or “he ran“. By contrast, in Spain these times are more likely to be pronounced as “they laughed” or “he’s gone“, with the Spanish equivalents of course.

Also, Mexicans tend to downsize everything. This turns chico into chiquito and casa into casita . Also, the word “ahorita” actually means “now“, but it can just as well mean in several hours.

The Mexican dialect differs in its intonation from other dialects in Latin America. Although the pronunciation differs from region to region, one can clearly hear the Mexican origin. It is very special almost like deliberate and very understandable sounding.

Indian influences

Native American words are rarely found in Mexican vocabulary. Names and places are the exception. Otherwise, only several terms were adopted, which were completely unknown to the Spaniards at the time of colonization. Some of them can be found slightly modified even in other languages:

Mexican – English

  • aguacate – avocado
  • cacahuate – peanuts
  • cacao – cocoa
  • canoa – canoe
  • chocolate – chocolate
  • hamaca – hammock
  • maiz – maize (corn)
  • tabaco – tobacco
  • tomato – tomato

American influence

On the other hand, the adjoining US is much more influential on the Mexican vocabulary. The following terms have become firmly established in Mexico: beisbol, bye, chance, closet, clutch, ferry, hobby, look, nice, parking and ride.

English Words with Mexican Spelling

Although other terms have their origin in English, they are adapted to the Mexican spelling:

Mexican – English

  • catsup – catchup
  • chequear – to check
  • eslogan – slogan
  • fútbol – football
  • güisqui – whiskey
  • hamburguesa – hamburger
  • roquero – rocker
  • sweter – sweater

Classification by special expressions

The jargon in Mexico can be very different. Certain terms reflect social status. For example, young people have a different vocabulary than, for example, special occupational groups. Visitors to Mexico should pay close attention to who they are talking to. Otherwise, it can easily lead to an unintentional insult. For example, buey usually means guy or buddy, but can also be understood as an idiot. Here are some expressions to be used with caution:

Mexican – English

  • a huevo – That’s the way it is! Certainly!
  • a poco – For real?
  • a toda madre – Excellent!
  • aguas – Attention!
  • ahorita – right now
  • ándale pues – OK
  • bunea / mala onda – Cool / bad thing
  • buey – Guy, buddy or idiot
  • cabrón – motherfucker
  • carnal / carnala – Brother, sister
  • chamba – job
  • chavo / chava – Boy / girl
  • chela – beer
  • cheve – beer
  • chido – Cool! Excellent!
  • chilango – Person from Mexico City
  • chin – Such a crap!
  • chingado – Damn it!
  • chingar – cheat
  • chingo – a lot of
  • churro – Marijuana cigarette
  • compa – Buddy, friend
  • cruda – hangover
  • cuate – Buddy, friend
  • cuico – police officer
  • desmadre – chaos
  • fresa – snob, imaginary person
  • fuchi – disgusting, I do not like it
  • gacho – bad, annoying
  • gringo – Americans, foreigners
  • güero / güera – blond, person with blond hair
  • güey – Guy, buddy or idiot
  • hijole – Oh my God
  • hueva – idleness
  • jodido – difficult, complicated
  • mamacita – pretty, hot girl
  • mamada – nonsense
  • mande – I beg your pardon? Also, to answer phone
  • neta – truth
  • me vale – I do not care
  • mordida – bribe
  • narco – Drug dealer
  • no manches – Do not shit me! Just say it!
  • lana – money
  • órale – ok, great
  • pedo – drunk
  • pendejo – asshole
  • pinche … – damn …
  • pisto – alcoholic drinks
  • puñal – gay
  • que onda? – How are you? What’s up?
  • rola – song
  • sale – OK
  • tamarindo – traffic policeman
  • zas – Yes, OK
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