Learning Spanish For Members

18 cool Spanish words that come from Spain's Gypsy language

Alex Dunham
Alex Dunham - [email protected]
18 cool Spanish words that come from Spain's Gypsy language
The gitano language, Spanish Caló, uses Spanish syntax but Romani vocabulary. (Photo by JORGE GUERRERO / AFP)

Caló, as Spanish Romani is called, has heavily influenced Spanish slang and colloquialisms, from the go-to words for ‘cool’ to ‘dodgy’, ‘mad’ and many more. Here are 18 words used all the time in Spain that were coined by the 'gitanos'.


Spain’s Gypsy population, who now number around 730,000, have faced plenty of discrimination since they first arrived in the country in the 1500s.

And yet in many ways this long-established Romani ethnic group has left its mark on Spanish culture and language more than in any other country they migrated to from India.

In the southern region Andalusia in particular, music, dance and traditional attire all have Gypsy roots. 

In fact, the stereotypical Spanish image of flamenco guitar playing, sevillanas dancing and colourful dotted dresses has stronger Gypsy cultural links than Iberian ones.

The gitano language, Spanish Caló, uses Spanish syntax but Romani vocabulary, a hybrid which can nonetheless hardly be understood by Spanish speakers.

But just like Arabic words were soaked up by Castilian Spanish during centuries of Moorish rule, Spanish Romani has sprinkled a wide array of words into castellano, especially colloquialisms, which are used all the time in Spain nowadays. 

Here are 18 of the best Spanish words that are derived from Caló, including synonyms and examples of how to use them.



Camelar: To sweet-talk, to be taken in by, to seduce. 

Formal synonym: Seducir 

Example: No intentes camelarte a mi hermana. 

Don’t try to seduce my sister.


Currar: To work, to make an effort. There’s also the noun ‘curro’ meaning a job. 

Formal synonym: Trabajar

Example: Tengo que currar toda la noche. 

I have to work all night. 



Molar: To like, to be cool. 

Formal synonym: Gustar, resultar agradable

Example: Me mola mucho, ¿por que no crees que mola? 

I really like it, why don’t you think it’s cool?


Mangar: To steal, to nick. 

Formal synonym: Robar

Example: Un ladrón nos ha mangado la tele.

A burglar has nicked our TV.



Pirarse: To go away, to clear off. 

Formal synonym: Irse 

Example: ¡Pírate de aquí, anda!

Come on, clear off!


Sobar: To sleep, to snooze, to kip. 

Formal synonym: Dormir

Example: No te sobes, es muy temprano.

Don’t fall asleep, it’s too early.


Chupa: leather jacket. 

Formal synonym: Chaqueta de cuero

Example: ¡Qué chupa más guapa!

What a cool jacket!


Paja: Wank, masturbation. There’s also the verb pajearse or hacerse una paja, which means to have a wank.

Formal synonym: Masturbación

Example: Deja de hacerte pajas como un adolescente. 

Stop wanking off like a teenager.


Piños: Teeth, chompers, gnashers

Formal synonym: Dientes

Example: Me he dado una hostia en todos los piños.

I’ve knocked myself right in the chompers.


Queli: Home, crib, pad 

Formal synonym: Casa

Example: Venga tío, vamos a tu queli. 

Come on dude, let’s go to your house.


Paripé: Show, farce, sham. There’s also hacer un paripé, to make a scene.

Formal synonym: Simulación, although paripé isn’t considered that colloquial.

Example: ¡Menudo paripé se han montado!

What a scene they’ve made!


Chalado and Pirado: Two ways of saying mad. 

Formal synonym: Loco

Example: Es un chalado, un auténtico pirado.

He’s a madman, an absolute nutter.


Chungo: Dodgy. Read more about it here

Formal synonym: De mal aspecto, difícil

Example: Está chunga la cosa.

Things are looking dodgy. 


Chachi: Cool, nice. Read more about why chachi may have British links here

Formal synonym: bueno, genial

Example: ¿Vamos al concierto? ¡Chachi!

We’re going to the concert? Cool!


Pureta: Old man, slightly derogatory

Formal synonym: anciano, persona mayor

Example: Estás hecho un pureta. 

You’re an old man now.


Garito: Bar with a bad reputation, gambling den 

Formal synonym: Bar de mala fama

Example: Estuvimos en un garito de copas hasta las y tantas.

We were in a bar having drinks until early in the morning.


Potra: Luck, usually good luck. 

Formal synonym: buena suerte

Example: ¡Qué potra tienes! Te ha tocado la lotería.

You’re so jammy! You’ve won the lottery.



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