Spanish word of the day: Chorizo

The Local Spain
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Spanish word of the day: Chorizo
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Wisegie/Flickr

Everyone knows this word refers to Spain’s most famous sausage, the delicious pork product spiced with smoked paprika that is eaten the world over.


But beyond its everyday use, the word has a more negative meaning - thief - and is hurled as an insult against corrupt politicians or fraudsters.

Why do I need to know this word?

It’s a word that you will often here in discussions about corruption and by those protesting against the misuse of public funds during times of economic hardship.

And in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and with Spain heading towards what is widely considered to be the deepest recession since the Spanish Civil War, it’s a term likely to be brandished around against those in power whose fingers have been caught in the till.

The chorizo has become a potent symbol, with sausages brandished at protests to demonstrate against corruption and economic hardship and slices of sausage have even been used as a protest vote inserted in ballot papers. 

The term has been used recently against the former King Juan Carlos as he fled into exile amid allegations of money laundering as well as politicians named in the Gürtel case, a widespread scandal that shook the Popular Party and led to the downfall of former PM Mariano Rajoy.

The youth of PSC call for prison for the "chorizo" of Juan Carlos I.




Why chorizo?

It seems the use of the term 'chorizo' to refer to a thief or swindler in Spain, has its roots in a series of words used in calo, the Spanish Romani language, to refer to thieves and the act of stealing.

"It comes from Calo. In Calo there are words like 'chori' which is in the dictionary and means thief, 'chorar' which means to steal, to pilfer and there are some variants like 'choro' or 'choribar' etcetera that aren't in the dictionary but have been documented," explains Leonardo Gomez Torrego, a consultant at Fundeu BBVA, a foundation that promotes the correct use of the Spanish language.

Legend has it that it became popular to describe thieves as chorizos in medieval times when thieves were executed and hung in public squares “like cured meat”.

Photo: Franzconde/Flickr

Who can I use this word with?

Basically anyone, as it’s not offensive except to the person being called a  “thief” but maybe make sure the mother-in-law isn’t a huge royalist before you insult King Juan Carlos.

Add it liberally to discussions about cheating politicans and corrupt bankers.

Give me some examples:  

La corrupción hace que muchos políticos se conviertan en unos chorizos - Corruption makes many politicians become chorizos

This headline in El Periodico refers to the constant investigations, court cases and appeals that formed the news at the time.

No hay pan para tanto chorizo - There is not enough bread for so much chorizo.

While this one in El Plural describes the arrival of the disgraced former treasurer of the PP.

Gritos de "chorizo" a Bárcenas a su llegada a Anticorrupción - Shouts of “chorizo” as Bárcenas arrives at court”.



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