Spanish Word of The Day: ‘Pata’

"Pata" may be a short word but it has plenty of uses in everyday Spanish.

Spanish Word of The Day: 'Pata'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Wisegie/Flickr

Why do I need to know this word?

Well, aside from being the word in Spanish for animal leg or paw as well as the noun for a female duck, “pata” is used in quite a few common Spanish expressions.

There’s “meter la pata”, which you may have guessed means to put one’s foot in it.

There’s also “a pata” which is a colloquial word of saying on foot, so “ir a pata” is to go somewhere on foot, or if you say “salir/irse por patas” it means you to scram or run off quickly.

Another handy expression with “pata” is “estirar la pata”, which in the most literal sense means to stretch one’s leg but actually means to die, similar to saying to kick the bucket or to bite the dust in English.

If you’ve got “mala pata”, it means you have bad or rotten luck.

If something is “patas arriba” it’s a mess.

And last but not least, there’s “de pata negra” in reference to the delicious Iberian ‘jamón’, which is used to refer to something which is of excellent quality or traditionally Spanish.

When should I use “pata” and all these expressions?

“Pata” is a very colloquial way to refer to a human leg, so don’t use it if you visit your podiatrist.

The same goes for all the expressions mentioned above with “pata” – they’re fairly colloquial so will sound best when used with friends and people you can let your guard down with.

Then again, there are expressions like “saltar a la pata coja” (to jump on one foot), patas de gallo (crow’s feet) or “la pata de un mueble” (the leg of a piece of furniture) in which “pata” is the correct word to use.

Can you give me some examples?

Mi perro se ha hecho daño en una pata.

My dog has hurt one of its paws.

Acaba de meter la pata, ha insultado a la mujer de mi jefe.

He just put his foot in it, he insulted my boss’s wife.

Tuvimos que volver a casa a pata porque ya no había autobuses.

We had to return on foot as there weren’t any more buses.

El ladrón salió por patas cuando vió al policía.

The thief scrammed when he saw the police officer.

¡Qué mala pata! Ya no quedan entradas.

What rotten luck! There aren’t any more tickets left.

Está toda la familia esperando que el viejo estire la pata para hacerse con la herencia.

The whole family is waiting for the old man to kick the bucket so they can get their hands on the inheritance.

Tienes la habitación patas arriba. ¡Recógela!

Your room is an absolute mess, clear it up!

El fisioterapeuta me hizo saltar a la pata coja.

The physiotherapist made me jump on one foot.


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Spanish Word of the Day: ‘Chachi’

Who would’ve thought that there’s a word used all the time in Spain that has something to do with Winston Churchill? Or so the story goes. 

Spanish Word of the Day: 'Chachi'

Chachi is a colloquial way to express approval for something or someone, in the sense of it/them being cool, awesome or great.

It’s mainly a word used by young people in Spain, so saying it to your bank manager or boss may raise an eyebrow or two, but it’s in no way derogatory or rude.

There’s even the expression ¡Chachi piruli Juan Pelotilla! that was popularised by a 90s’ kids show on TV called Telebuten, but it’s now a rather outdated way of saying ‘cool’ in Spanish. 

Chachi is certainly a rather bizarre sounding word and Spain’s Royal Academy actually has it recorded as deriving from chanchi (which nobody uses).

Linguists are not 100 percent certain about the origin of the word but there are two very interesting theories. 

The first is that chachi was first coined in the southern coastal city of Cádiz during World War II, at a time where hunger among locals and contraband at the port were both rife.

Smuggled goods from nearby Gibraltar were considered of the utmost quality as they came from the United Kingdom, and the story goes that Gaditanos (the name for people from Cádiz) referred to these bootlegged products as ‘charchil’, in reference to UK Prime Minister at the time Winston Churchill.

Over time, charchil became chachi, a slang word which (if the story is true) came to mean ‘cool’ across Spain.

Other philologists believe that chachi comes from Caló, the language spoken by Spain’s native gipsy or Roma population. 

Chachipé or chachipen reportedly means ‘truth’ or ‘reality’ in this language spoken by 60,000 people across the Iberian Peninsula.

This could’ve been shortened to chachi and gone from being used like chachi que sí/claro que sí (of course) to chachi to mean ‘cool’.

Whichever theory is true, chachi is a great word to add to your arsenal of Spanish vocab. 

There’s also the Spanish word guay, which has a very similar meaning to chachi; we reviewed it here.


Carlos es un tío chachi. 

Carlos is a cool guy.

¡Pásalo chachi!

Have a great time!

La verdad es que es juego de mesa muy chachi.

The truth is it’s a very cool board game.

¡Qué chachi! Van a hacer un concierto en la plaza.

How cool! They’re going to hold a concert in the square.