Spanish word of the day: Chorizo

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.

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

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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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.