Most people go into language learning with a noble goal in mind, but it’s not unrealistic to assume you’ll have the most fun learning curse words in other languages. Profanity certainly scratches an itch, and at the very least, it’s good to at least be aware of what people are saying to you when they’re feeling feisty. Even if you never work up the nerve to strike back, it never hurts to recognize a sick burn when you hear one.
And besides, how do you know that English swear words are really where it’s at? When we surveyed a small panel of our Babbel colleagues who grew up in other countries, most agreed that English profanities are kind of repetitive and overly focused on sex. Perhaps the tradeoff is that you can lob an F-bomb anywhere in the world and be understood. That’s a certain kind of privilege, but are you really getting what you want out of life?
If what you want is to become a sophisticated sommelier of curse words in other languages, this article is a good place to start diversifying your palate. We answered some of the most frequently Googled questions about curse words in other languages. Enjoy!
Common Questions About Curse Words In Other Languages, Answered
How do you curse in Portuguese?
Easy: you acquaint yourself with some basic building block words and just stack them together. The more elaborate you get, the more you raise the stakes.
Some basic terms you should familiarize yourself with include foda-se (“fuck” in interjection form), caralho (“dick”), and filho da puta (“son of a bitch”). If you’re feeling extra passionate, you can just roll them all together in one stream-of-consciousness expression of angst.
Remember that cursing is an emotional art, and thus doesn’t have to expressly make sense. In Portugal, you can say cona da mãe street, which literally translates to “your mother’s vagina street.” Why shouldn’t that have an address?
If you’re looking for even more creative ways to insult someone in Portuguese, we have ideas.
Which hand gestures are offensive in France?
Let’s start with one we’re all familiar with: the middle finger. Yep, that one will register in France too, which may or may not have something to do with the fact that French people really love the F-word. French people say “fuck” almost as much as English speakers do, and it even appears uncensored in English-language TV shows and newspaper headlines in France. So while the offense will be understood if you throw up a middle finger, it’s probably not the most offensive thing you can do.
Next is the chin flick, which you might associate with Italy but is also common in France. It’s a dismissive gesture that’s meant to communicate that you don’t care or you want the other person to get lost.
Need a slightly stronger version of this? Slap your bicep with your palm as you jerk the other forearm toward your face.
If you’re visiting France and want to be prepared for some of the strange hand gestures you might encounter, here’s a pretty good run-down. And if you’d like to insult someone verbally, we’ve got you covered.
What are the most popular Swedish swear words?
Generally speaking, Scandinavian countries love to invoke the devil, Satan and Hell more than the sex- and potty humor–related fixations of English speakers. But to be sure, Swedes have no problem throwing in a kuk or a fitta when they feel moved to (the male and female sexual organs, respectively, but in disrespectful terms).
You can find a comprehensive list of Swedish insults here. Otherwise, here are some common ways to invoke the underworld in Swedish:
fan — devil or damn
djävul* — devil
jävlar — a plural version of the above that’s often used as an interjection, like “shit!”
helvete — hell
fan ta dig — may the devil take you (“fuck you,” in so many words)
*Colloquial spellings include jävel and djävel
What are the craziest Russian insults?
Russians are known to be pretty colorful and creative in their verbal expressions. Sure, you’ll hear a lot of the stereotypical блять (blyat’, which literally means “whore” but is used like the F-word) and сука (suka, or “bitch”). You’ll even hear them strung together, like “сука блять!”. Try it, it’s fun.
But the best Russian insults aren’t necessarily the simple ones. Observe:
Конь в пальто! (Kon’ v palto!) — “Horse in a coat!” It’s a rude way of saying “none of your business” or sarcastically responding to someone asking you who you are.
Перхоть подзалупная (perhot’ podzalupnaya) — “peehole dandruff”
Хуй с горы (hui s’gory) — “penis from the mountains”
Чтоб тебе дети в суп срали (Chtob tebe deti v’sup srali) — “May your children shit in your soup.”
What are the funniest Spanish swear words?
Spanish profanities can cover a wide range of emotions, but the Venn diagram of feelings they elicit often overlaps with “funny.”
Sometimes the humor derives from the fact that the Spanish-speaking world is vast and diverse, which means that the same word can often have different cultural meanings depending on where you are. If you’re used to the dialect of some Spanish-speaking countries, where concha just means “shell,” you might be in for a rude awakening in places like Argentina and Colombia (where it’s an offensive term for the female sexual organ).
Sometimes the humor also derives from the fact that you can get very creative with Spanish obscenities. Compound words are important when you’re getting into the cursing game. What do you get when you combine tocar (“to touch”) and pelotas (“testicles”)? A tocapelotas.
Here are some more funny Spanish insults and curses:
pagafantas — A man who pays (“pagar“) for all your Fanta drinks (or whatever else you’ll be having) because he’s desperate to win you over.
culicagado (Colombia) — “crapped ass”
Me cago en… — “I shit on….” what exactly? Your call. Someone’s milk? Everything that moves? The world is your toilet.
Que te folle un pez (Spain) — “Get fucked by a fish.”
tu puta madre en bicicleta (Spain) — “your whore mom on a bike”
Are there swear words in German?
Is this really a question you even need to ask? To be clear, Germans swear a lot — about as much as anyone else — but the swears, at least according to one of our native German experts, are more straightforward and less creative than they are in some languages. Truthfully, German insults are pretty hilarious and creative, but maybe in a more ironic, deadpan way.
The other thing to note is that attitudes toward sex and nudity are pretty relaxed in Germany, so sexual curse words aren’t as common because they don’t register as being especially taboo. Casual poop slang like kacke and scheiße are more common and considered relatively harmless.
Here are some other good ones:
arschgeige — “butt violin”
evolutionsbremse — “evolutionary brake” (as in, you’re literally halting human progress)
hackfresse — “a face like ground meat”
korinthenkacker — “raisin pooper”
How do you call someone an idiot in _____?
“Idiot” may not be your idea of a vulgar insult, but when it comes to curse words in other languages, there are some pretty funny takes on this classic burn.
Portuguese: idiota; burro de merda (lit. “donkey of shit”)
German: vollidiot (“full idiot”)
Swedish: Hjulet snurrar men hamstern är död (“the wheel is spinning but the hamster is dead”)
Russian: дурак (durak)
Spanish: come mierda (“shit eater”)