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SPANISH LANGUAGE

Getting explicit: How to swear like a Spaniard

Everyone in Spain, from sweet little kids to frail old ladies, peppers their everyday conversation with enough swearwords to make a sailor blush. Here's how to join in.

Getting explicit: How to swear like a Spaniard
Peppering your speech with Joder is completely fine in Spain. Photo: amordebarrio.com

Forget swearing like a trooper, the real phrase should be swearing like a Spaniard.

Unlike in many other countries, references to toilet habits, male and female genitalia and other taboo subjects pop up in general conversations all the time without anyone giving it a second thought. 

What’s all this about people doing their business in the milk? And why do testicles keep being mentioned?

Swearing in Spain is as common as it is ludicrous, so if you wish to embrace the ever-present potty language or simply want to understand what your Spanish friends are trying to convey, read on!

But beware, the longer you live in Spain, the more normal you’ll think it is to drop rude words into everyday conversation.


Photo: Vengel Crimson

¡Me cago en la leche!: Spaniards metaphorically crap on all kinds of things when they want to express anger or frustration; from God Almighty (Dios), to your mother (tu madre) and the salty sea (la mar salada). Perhaps the most bizarre thing they choose to mentally defecate on is ‘the milk’. All these expressions sound very vulgar in English but in Spanish they’re so common most recipients would barely bat an eyelid (unless it’s directed at their mothers).

READ MORE: Five ways that ‘leche’ means more than just ‘milk’ in Spain


Photo: Kristem Shoemaker

¡Qué coñazo!: If you think this translation sounds bad enough, let us assure you the more literal one would have sounded a lot worse. If something is a drag you use the expression ¡Qué coñazo!. The Spanish C-word, much more socially acceptable than in English-speaking countries, is also used to express everything from surprise to indignation: ¡Coño!. Don’t be surprised if you hear everyone from grandmothers to schoolkids shouting it out at top volume.


Photo: David Goehring/Flickr

¡Hostia! (host/sacramental bread): Probably the most common form of blasphemy used by Spaniards. If someone or something is la hostia, it is amazing or the bee’s knees. ¡Hostia! on its own is used as damn or bloody hell are in English. Then there’s to give someone a host, dar una hostia, which means to smack or hit someone.


Photo: Francesco Rachello

Estar pedo/llevar un pedo: ‘To be fart’ or ‘to carry a fart’ has nothing to do with flatulence surprisingly. Although the word for a fart in Spanish is pedo, the expressions are a colloquial way of saying ‘to be drunk’. For interest’s sake, in Spanish you throw a fart if you want to say you’ve passed wind – tirarse un pedo. Not that you would make that public knowledge!


Photo: Alec Schueler

Me importa tres cojones: This saying means ‘I couldn’t give a damn’ in English. Why testicles?, you may ask. Well, cojones (balls/nuts in English) is commonly recognised as the Spanish word with the highest number of derivative meanings. It’s used as a verb (acojonar – to scare), as an adjective (acojonante – amazing) and many more! Even the number of cojones can change the whole meaning of the sentence: ¡Y un cojón! means ‘not a chance!’ while hacer algo con dos cojones means to be brave.


Photo: Paolo Camera

De puta madre: Calling someone a hijo de puta (son of a bitch) might land you in trouble in Spain despite the customary use of swearwords by many Spaniards. But the most common superlative in colloquial Spanish is de puta madre, which means great or awesome. It can also be used as an adverb: juega de puta madre – he plays really well.


Photo: Thomas Beck

Llevar los huevos de corbata: Male genitalia used again in a common colloquial expression in Castilian Spanish. To wear your balls as a tie translates as being tense or nervous. In fact, Spaniards will often hold their throat and say ‘this is where I have my balls’- con los huevos aquí – when they want to express nervousness or fear.


Photo: Joseph Choi

¡Está que te cagas1: Why something being good would induce toilet troubles is another mystery. But Spaniards, mainly young ones, will very often use this saying when they’re excited about how great something is. There’s also ‘¡Cágate!’, or crap yourself. You say this when you want to express shock or surprise.

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SPANISH LANGUAGE

Five things to know about the Galician language

You may have visited Galicia, but what do you know about the Spanish region's unique language? Here are five things to know about Galician or Galego.

Five things to know about the Galician language

It’s a language, not a dialect

Many may assume that Galician or Galego is just a dialect of Spanish, but in fact, like Catalan and Basque, Galician is in fact a separate language. In 1978 the language was officially recognised as one of the five official regional languages of Spain.

According to Galician’s Council of Culture, before it was officially recongised, Castilian Spanish was the dominant language, socially and culturally, while Galician was marginalised. However, today it is taught in schools, there are media outlets written in Galician and it is more integrated into the society.  

It’s more closely associated with Portuguese than it is with Spanish

Both Galician and Portuguese are said to have derived from the same Romance language spoken around the 9th century called Galician-Portuguese, however around the 14th century these languages began to diverge slightly as borders were established. 

“Despite a divergent historical evolution since the Middle Ages, today Galician and Portuguese are mutually understandable almost effortlessly,” says the Galician Council of Culture. Today, Galician and Portuguese still have similar grammar and vocabulary, however there are differences in the way they sound and in the spelling of the words. 

READ ALSO: Ten unique Basque words you need to learn right now

It’s spoken by around 2.8 million people

According to the Galician government, Galego is spoken by 2.8 million people. It is spoken mostly in Galicia, but there are also Galician speakers in Asturias, León and Zamora, as well as three small places in Extremadura. 

Galician’s Council of Culture also says that it is spoken by immigrant communities in South America, particularly in Argentina and Uruguay; in Europe mostly in Germany, Switzerland and France. It also states that the majority of the inhabitants of Galicia speak Galician as their first language and use it on a daily basis. 

Galician has its own public holiday

Galician even has its own public holiday, known as Galician Literature Day or El Día de las Letras Galegas. It has been celebrated every May 17th since 1963 by the Royal Galician Academy as a tribute to writers of Galician literature.

Each year, the festival is dedicated to a different Galician literary figure, in 2021 it was the poet Xela Arias and this year, it will be dedicated to the poet Florencio Delgado Gurriarán, who was exiled to Mexico. 

READ ALSO: Five reasons why Galicia is Spain’s version of Ireland

Galician has over 70 words to describe rain

It is said that Arabic has many different words for ‘camel’ and according to language experts Galician has around 70 words to describe rain. It’s no wonder, as Galicia is known as the wettest region in Spain. 

The language has different words depending on whether the rain is light, heavy, if there are lots of clouds or if it’s sunny and raining at the same time. For example, ‘Battuere‘ is used when the rain is intense and ‘Torbón‘ describes rain accompanied by thunder and lightning. While ‘Sarabiada‘ means the rain that falls on ice and snow. 

Useful words and phrases in Galician: 

Next time you’re in Galicia, why not try speaking some Galician for yourself? Here are a few useful words and phrases to get you started. 

Bos días – Good morning 

¿Como te chamas? – What’s your name?

¿Falas galego? – Do you speak Galician?

Saúde! – Cheers 

Bo proveito! – Bon appetit or Enjoy your meal 

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