Some things just sound better in Spanish, like all of these words

In Miami, Spanglish is just life. Sometimes you can’t help throwing in a Spanish word or two because it just feels right.

But the truth is that Spanish has so many great words that English doesn’t have that sometimes we find ourselves using them even when talking to a non-Spanish speaker. Some Spanish words and phrases sum up a situation with laser focus or are just satisfying to say. They roll off the tongue.

So here are a few of the Spanish language’s stellar words and phrases that all English speakers need to add to their vocab.  Some of them are regional slang, so make sure to read the room before using them. Dale!

Words about smells

Grajo  – /GRAH-hoe/

noun

A term used to describe B.O. or funk. But say it out loud. It sounds like it smells.

Example: “Oh my god, your gym bag smells like grajo.”

Sicote – /see-KOH-tay/

noun

A term used by Dominicans to describe the smell of stinky feet. I don’t know if other countries use it, but it is just a great word.

Example: “Those shoes smell like straight up sicote.”

Pecueca – /peh-KWEH-ka/

noun

Another great word to describe stinky feet, more widely used. Why doesn’t English have this word?

Example: “The minute you take off your shoes, the house smells like pecueca.”

Low key curse words

Ño – /NYO/

noun

This is the PG version of coño, which everyone knows is interchangeable with the s-word. You say this word whenever you are startled, surprised angry, impressed or upset. The trick is to really savor the /ny-/ part of the word. Just let it roll around in your mouth, then the /o/ part jumps out as punctuation.

Example: “Ño, that chick is fine.”

Sinverguenza – /sin-vare-GWEN-za/

noun or adjective

This translates to “shameless,” but it is more accusatory.

Example: “You’re still using your ex boyfriend’s Netflix login? You are SUCH a sinverguenza.”

Lambón – /lahm-BOHN/

noun

This is the Dominican word for a suck up or ass kiss. But it can also be used to describe a person who is trying to get free stuff.

Example: “Here comes that lambón Johnny. He still owes me money for our Miami Spice lunch.”

De Madre – /deh-MAH-dray/

expression

We use this term in Miami all the time when something is just too, too much.

Example: “Did you see that girl’s butt implants? De madre.”

Malparido/a – /mal-par-EE-doh/

noun or adjective

I learned this word from a Colombian friend and it’s a pretty bad insult, but I don’t really have a gauge for how bad of word it is because the direct translation is “miscarriage.” So when you scream that at someone, you basically are saying “You should never have been born!” which sounds like a hex. I am pretty sure I have heard it on a Colombian novela, so I don’t think it’s NSFW.

Example: “If this malparido doesn’t stop tailgating me, I am going to hit my brakes.”

Words that just don't exist in English

Friolento/a – /free-oh-LENT-oh/

adjective or noun

There isn’t a word in English to describe that person who is always cold.

Example: “It’s that friolenta over there that is always turning off the AC.”

Tocayo/a – /toe-KAY-oh/

noun

This is a word to describe a person that has the same name as you. How specific is this?

Example: “Hey tocaya!” – I say to another person named Amy.

Estrenar – /es-tren-AR/

verb

This is the best word ever. It essentially means to debut, like a movie. But you can use it for any first.

Example: “I am going to estrenar my Louboutins at Ricky’s party tonight.”

Aguaje – /ah-gua-hay/

noun

When you are faking the funk, boasting about something you have no intention of following through on or just bragging in general you are committing and act of aguaje. I’ve heard this phrase a lot among Dominican friends most often in this context:

Example: “He was doing all this aguaje like he was going to pay the check, but in the end he didn’t even put in $20.”

Words that are oddly specific descriptions of people's physical appearance

Tuerto/a – /TWER-to/

noun or adjective

A person with one eye, or a person with a problem in one eye, or a person with an eye patch on, like a pirate.

Example: “My left contact fell out so I am totally tuerta.”

Manco/a – /MAHN-ko/

noun or adjective

If you are a person without a hand or an arm or the use of one hand or arm. The less tragic use of this word is to describe a person who has their arm in a cast.

Example: “My poor William is manco until his dislocated elbow heals.”

The word 'vaina'

Vaina – /VAI-nuh/

noun

This is a catch-all word for many things, used commonly by Dominicans, Colombians and Venezuelans. A vaina is literally the husk of a bean or a sheath for a sword, but its non-literal uses are legion.

A vaina can be:

  • Any thing.

Example: “Put that vaina on the table.”

  • A thing that you can’t remember the name of.

Example: “What’s the name of the vaina you stick in the computer to download a file?”

  • A situation

Example: “The worst part of the vaina is that it happened when I left my driver’s license at home.”

  • The crux of an issue

Example: “But the real vaina is that he is married.”

  • A lamentation  

Example: “They stole our Uber? Que vaina.”

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