An Unabridged Glossary of Mexican Slang for Cooks
When I first started in this kitchen, staffed by all Latinos except for me and another guy, I had just spent the last few months in Asia, trying to learn enough of six different languages to get around and get by. I had taken 2 years of Spanish in high school, but that was many years ago. My Spanish was rusty, to say the least.
A few are fluent in English, but many of the guys speak quite decent broken English, with a strong accent. Between that, the noise of the kitchen, and my terrible hearing, it has sometimes been a struggle to understand what is being said to me, even in English.
But then there's a whole level of discussion that was taking place about me, often right near me. As I had never learned to cuss in Spanish, I was at a complete loss. But most of it is just the culture of ball-busting, rather than actual insults. As an aid for those who might be in a similar situation, what follows is a survival guide to Mexican slang mixed in with key kitchen words that I'll continue to add to as I learn more words. I don't claim to know the definitive meanings of these phrases, just how I hear them used.
Another good reference is www.insultmonger.com's Mexican Spanish page, although there's a lot of stuff on there that I haven't heard - maybe they have included regional slang or something. [Also, Wikipedia's List of Chicano Caló words and expressions and daveamason.com's audio Spanish lesson]
A lot of of it is crude and rude, locker room-type language, so if you are offended by that sort of thing, don't read further. If I have any of the definitions or spellings wrong, please feel free to comment and correct me.
Simple Spanish pronounciation guidelines - use short vowel sounds. H is silent at the beginning of a word. J is said like H in English. Double L is a Y sound, like pollo is pronounced poh - yoh. Roll your R's. Double R means to trill the R harder. e.g. chee cha rrrron es (pork rinds or see below). Nouns can be either masculine (usually ends with o) or feminine (usually ends with a), and adjectives should be changed to agree. e.g. un chico borracho, una chica borracha
?a ver cuando? - literally, when will I see it? Used to harrass someone when waiting for a component or a dish from them
abajo - located down low
abrelatas - can opener
acido or agrio - acidic, sour or tart
afilar - the verb to sharpen, like a knife
afiloso - adjective for sharp
aguado - adjective for a thin, watery texture. Opposite of espeso
al dentro - inside. Opposite of afuera, meaning outside
algunas veces - sometimes
almejas - pronounced al may hass - clams
almuerzo - lunch
amargo - bitter
amarillo - the color yellow, but can also refer to cheddar cheese (queso amarillo)
aprender - the verb, to learn. See enseñar
arriba - located up high.
asokao - busy, in the weeds
atras - behind - called out as a warning when walking behind someone
basura - trash
becerra - veal. Also, ternero or ternera
bien cocinado - well cooked, or well done, as a steak
biscocho or biscochito - literally cookie or little cookie, but used to mean chicks or pussy e.g. mucho biscocho esta noche means, there's a lot of pussy here tonight.
bisteca - steak
borracho - drunk
borrego - mutton. See cordeiro
briago - drunk
buenas - casual greeting, shortened from buenas tardes or buenas noches
cabra - female goat. Or sometimes chiva.
cabron - literally big goat, but it's used like asshole. Can also mean cuckold, but that seems less common.
cafe - coffee, or coffee colored - brown
caldo - soup, or stock. Caldo de pollo means chicken stock.
caliente - hot - as in high temperature - called out as a warning when carrying something hot
calmate - calm yourself, or calm down
camote - sweet potatoes (or garnet yams)
cangrejo - crab
capitalino - slur for someone from Mexico City. Use with caution.
carbon - charcoal
carbonero - a grill cook
carnal - pronounced kahrrr nahl - [it was explained to me that this is a slang used for someone that you are really tight with. Like blood brother or something. Deep meaning.]
carne - the word for meat. Many times, it will refer to beef, but usually will be further specified, e.g. carne de res (beef meat), or carne adovada (vinegar marinated pork)
Capulina - from what I gather, a Mexican comedian who is the butt of jokes. Whenever someone does something klutzy or careless, you may hear, "!Ay, Capulina!"
catracho or katracho - Honduran - not offensive
cayate means shut up. For emphasis, !cayate, puto! or "shut up, bitch!"
cebollas - onions
cena - dinner
chaka chaka - to have sex
chaparrito - little guy - There are quite a few Mexicans who are small in stature, like 5' tall or less who get called this
chaqueta - pronounced cha KEHT tah - same word as jacket, but means to jerk off. Not sure why, but I'm guessing that it sorta sounds like chaka chaka, and the suffix makes it like "little sex".
charola - sheet pan
chef - in Spanish, it's prounounced with the CH sound instead of the SH sound like in English or French
chicharrones - either tits (like chichis) or burnt (from pork rinds).
chilango or chilanga - a slur for a man or woman from the Mexico City area - insulting
chingar - the verb, to fuck
chinga tu madre - literally means, fuck your mother, but it's used like, "Oh, my God!" in English.
chingado - it's fucked. Or it's fucked up.
chingate - fuck you
chingadera - literally, fuckin' thing - used as a catch-all like da kine or whatchamacallit. ?Donde esta la chingadera? could mean where's the immersion blender, the can opener, the lighter - by context, obviously.
chingon - pronounced ching GOHN - bad ass. Literally, means big fuck or big fucker.
chinito - although not accurate, chino is often used for Asians in general. Chinito is the diminutive, literaly meaning little Asian, but often the connotation is not respectful. An English equivalent might be "little fuckin' Asian guy". Depends on context and how familiar you are with that person.
chivo - goat
chola - cock or dick
Chuy - pronounced like "chewy" - the more familiar nickname for people named Jesus. No one seems to know how Chuy is derived from Jesus. You may hear the affectionate mi Chuy [my Chuy] if they're buddies.
cocina - the kitchen. Or it can mean the cuisine of a region or country- la cocina mexicana
cocinero or cocinera - a cook
compa - homie, friend - short for compadre, I believe
con permiso - used when you need someone to move so you can get by
conejo - rabbit
cordeiro - lamb
cortado - cut, [from the verb cortar - like zanahorias cortadas means cut carrots] Or if referring to a dressing or mayonaise, it could mean a broken emulsion
cuadrados - dice or cubes or squares
cuadritos - small dice or cubes or squares
cuchara - spoon
cucharon - literally, big spoon, but usually means ladle
cuchillo - pronounced koo-chee-yo - knife. Called out as a warning when walking with a knife in the kitchen
culero - asshole
culo or culito - ass or little ass
cuñado - brother in law - usually not offensive, except if he's implying that he's banging your sister
derecho - to the right
desayuno - breakfast
descanso - rest, or day off
dulce - sweet
duro - hard texture, like raw potatoes. Opposite of suave
enfadoso - pain in the ass
enojado - mad or angry
enseñar - the verb, to teach
escuchar - the verb, to listen. Escuchame means, "listen to me."
espeso - adjective for a creamy or thick texture, like a sauce. Opposite of aguado.
la familia - literally, the family, but in the restaurant, usually refers to the meal prepared for the staff - the family meal. Also called comida - the meal.
feo or fea - ugly. Opposite of bonito or bonita
flaco or flaca - skinny guy or skinny girl
gabacho - white guy - not sure if this is purely descriptive or somewhat insulting like guero
gordo - fat guy or fatso
guero - pronounced weh row - white boy - offensive [sorta like cracker or honkey, I guess]
guardar - pronounced wahr dahr - to save, or to keep
guantes - pronounced wan tess - gloves
hacienda tortillas - literally "making tortillas," but can be used to refer to lesbians, because of the pat-pat motion of making tortillas by hand. [because there's no penetration]. Also, tortilleras - the tortilla makers. Both are rude expressions.
hermana - sister - I note this because a common insult is to comment on your sister, claiming to have been with her, meeting her later, she's staying at my house, etc.
horale or órale- pronounced Oo rrah ley - Mexican slang for what's up or right on or wow or I agree. Say it with enthusiasm! Often in the form of órale, pues, which is alright, then.
horno - pronounced OR noh - the oven
huey [or wey or güey] - pronounced "way" - used like dude, but actually means something like fool.
izquierda - pronounced izz key air dah - to the left
jabali - wild boar
la jefa - jefe in Spanish is leader, so I believe it would be correct to say either el jefe or la jefe. But using jefa sounds like heifer (cow), so it is a not so subtle insult [I'm wrong here, it's correct Spanish to say la jefa for a female leader - must have been a joke in a particular context]
juntos - together, or conjuntos - altogether
lavaplatos - a person who is a dishwasher
limpia - clean. Opposite of sucio.
limpiar - the verb, to clean
liquadora - blender
lo siento - literally, I feel it (bad), but means I'm sorry
llenar - pronounced yeh nar - to fill (like a container)
llevar - pronounced yeh var - to lift or carry
llorar - the verb, to cry. Him mucha llora, güey, or that guy cries a lot, dude.
lonche - lunch in Spanglish
lonchamos - we eat lunch in Spanglish
mandolina - the mandolin, a slicing tool, like the French all stainless one, or the plastic Japanese one
maquina - machine - usually means either the dish sanitizer (the dishwasher) or the blender base
marcar - the verb, to mark - as in to put grill marks on. e.g. Solo marcalos, por favor, or put grill marks only on those (don't cook them all the way), please.
marcador - marker, like a Sharpie. Regular pens are lapis or pluma
maricon - gay man
mariposa - literally butterfly, but also used for a gay man
medio or media - medium, like a size medium. See mita
mediano - describing a steak prepared medium
meseros - waitstaff, or servers
mezclar - the verb to mix. e.g. Mezclarlos, por favor, or Mix those, please.
mio or mios - my thing or things. "Es mio" means "It's mine." Or "Son mios" means "they are mine." Opposite of tuyo or suyo, below. Useful for defending your saute pans on the stove or ninth pan containers.
mirrey - pronounced mee RRRRAY ee - dude. [derived from mi rey, which means my king. It's like using the honorific "my lord" in English]
mita - when referring to half of a whole. ?Quieres una mita? means do you want half of this?
mojado or mojada - wet. Opposite of seco.
morena - African-American girl/woman
morro - boy, used like dude
mota - marijuana
nalgas - ass or buttocks. As a joke, when someone says gracias (thank you) to you, you can say "de nalgas" instead of the usual and correct "de nada (think nothing of it, or you're welcome)."
necesitar - the verb, to need. Yo necessito vino blanco means "I need white wine."
nice - like nice in English, but put after the noun, Spanish style, e.g. una chiquita NICE
no mames - literally means, "don't suck", but used like the English idiom, "Stop pulling my leg."
no me tocas, huey - pronounced no meh toe-kahss, way - don't touch me, dude.
no me tocas mi culo, huey - pronounced no meh toe-kahss, mee koo loh, way - don't touch my ass, dude.
occupado - busy
oaxaco - pronounced wa ha koh - slur for people from the state of Oaxaca, Mexico
Oaxaquito - pronounced wa ha key toe - literally, little Oaxacan (Oaxaca is a state in Mexico where many LA Mexicans originate), but similar to chinito, it has a disrespectful connotation. Good retort when necessary.
ojete - pronounced o HET eh - asshole
olla - pronounced OH-yah - pot (for cooking)
olvidar - to forget. Me olvido is I forgot. No te olvides is (you) don't forget.
oye - hey (to get someone's attention)
oveja - female sheep, ewe
oro - gold, or golden
paisa or paisano - countryman, compatriot, someone from the same country
pajaro - literally bird, but used to mean a man's genitals. Sometimes pajarito is used for female genitals
panzon - fatso
la parilla - the grill
pastelera - a female pastry cook
pato - duck
pavo - turkey or also guajolote
pedo - literally fart, but can mean drunk. Sorta like shitfaced, I guess. Also, ¿que pedo? or what's your problem? Rude phrasing.
pepino - cucumbers, or pickles
pedazo - a slap from someone's cock. [Literally, it means a piece, but it was always accompanied by a twist of the hips to demonstrate what he meant] e.g. "Si, pero a la next, un pinche pedazo, huey!" or "Yes, but the next time this happens, I'll slap you in the face with my cock, fool!" [or, you'll get a fucking piece of my dick, fool!] Uhhh, very insulting.
pico or picoso - spicy hot, as from chiles
piel - skin
pimienta - black pepper, as opposed to chili peppers
pinche - an amplifier, like fuckin' as an adverb. e.g. pinche cabron is about the same as fuckin' asshole. Or pinche Tadeo (my name from high school Spanish class, now revived). By context, it can also be just a throwaway expression for when someone does something characteristic of their personality - "Fuckin' Tad talks a bunch of smack."
piso - the floor. e.g. "Nunca pone nada en el piso del walk-in" means never put anything on the floor in the walk-in (room sized refrigerator).
plancha - the flattop griddle
pollo - chicken
preocupar - the verb, to worry. e.g. No te preocupes, huey means don't worry, dude. Or if you say it strongly, it can mean, none of your business, fool!
preparador - prep cook. Usually the next step up from a dishwasher. Once they've proven themselves as a dishwasher, they are taught how to clean, cut, and par-cook vegetables.
pulmon or pulmones - literally means lungs, but can also be an slur for gay
puñal - pronounced poon - yahl - slur for gay
puñado - slur for a gay man
puta madre - literally, whore mother, but used like "Oh, my God" in English
puto - for calling a man a pussy or a bitch. Used amongst friends, but can also be fighting words. Use with caution.
?que honda? - pronounced kay OHN-da - what's up
quemado - burnt
quemar - to burn. e.g. me quemo is I burned myself
quitar - the verb, to remove
rayador - grater
la raza - the race (of Mexicans), the Mexican people as a whole. Or, can mean the cooks or the kitchen staff, since the majority are Mexican or Latino
!relajate, huey! - pronounced ray LAH ha tey, way - relax yourself, dude!
repollo - cabbage
res - beef
rojo - literally, the color red - but used to describe a steak prepared rare
rosa - the color pink
salado - salty, or salted
sartenes - a saute pan or frying pan
seco or seca - dry, or dried. Opposite of mojado
serrote - slur for [correction: not Hondurans, actually for Salvadoreans]
servieta - dinner napkin
suave - soft texture, like braised meat. Opposite of duro.
sucio - dirty. Opposite of limpio
suyo or suyos - his or her thing or things. "?Son mios o tuyos?" - are these mine or yours? might prompt, "Son suyos" meaning his things (a third person's things).
tapadera - a lid, like for a container. Sometimes used in place of hat, as a joke. Todos (de ustedes) necesitan tapaderas could mean "All these containers need lids" or "Everyone needs a hat"
tenazas - tongs
tenedor - fork
tiempo - time or timer
tirar - the verb, to throw out
toalla - pronounced toe ah ya - towel
traiga - from traer, to bring. e.g. "por favor, traigame los tomates" means please bring me the tomatoes.
tranquilon - very calm, relaxed.
tuyo or tuyos - your (noun or plural nouns). "?Estos son tuyos?" means "Are these things yours?" They might respond, "Si, son mios" or, "yes, they are mine".
vaquita - literally, little female cow, or a fat girl
venado - venison
voltear - the verb, to turn over
wachale - watch out in Spanglish. Or sometimes, "Wacha your _____ [sauce, fish, etc]."
ya - already. e.g. "?ya terminas?" means you're finished already? Or Ya me voy, meaning I'm already leaving, equivalent to I'm outta here!.
zanahorias - carrots
Last edit March 7, 2010, 11:25pm.