The first thing most people do when they start learning a new language is to look up the most common swear words and expressions. But did you know you could even learn a bit of grammar by swearing? Since you won’t find these in any old textbook, I’ll explain seven of the most colorful Spanish swear words and phrases, as well as give you some background on the grammar. You know — for educational purposes.
Disclaimer: I take no responsibility for any sticky situations you may find yourself in after reading this article!
Illustrations by Teresa Bellón
7 Spanish Swear Words Worth Knowing
1. Vete a freír espárragos
Literally: “Go fry asparagus”
A relatively harmless way to tell someone to “piss off.” This expression allegedly goes back to the 19th century and refers to a time when asparagus was usually boiled, not fried — how times have changed! Frying asparagus was therefore seen as a pointless activity that could keep someone occupied for quite some time. You can also say: Vete a freír churros (Go fry churros) or Vete a freír buñuelos (Go fry donuts).
Grammar point: Now you know that the imperative form of irse is vete, and when you want to order someone to go and do something, you say Vete a…!
2. Que te folle un pez
Literally: “I hope you get f—ed by a fish”
How crazy surreal is that? It means “screw you” in an extremely visual way, and it can land you in deep water (no pun intended) if used in the wrong company.
Grammar point: Now you know that phrases that start with Que te… express a wish (here, a curse!) and are always followed by the subjunctive.
3. Me cago en…
Literally: “I shit on…”
It’s said that this expression goes back to antiquity, when it was apparently common to deposit one’s excrement on one’s opponent in order to bring dishonor to them. A very common curse in Spain, the Spaniards use it with pretty much everything. If they can think of it, they can poop on it. Me cago en… la leche/la mar serena/todo lo que se menea/en tus muertos… (I poop in the milk/in the serene sea/on everything that moves/on your dead…)
Grammar point: Now you know about reflexive verbs!
4. ¿Eres tonto o…?
Literally: “Are you stupid or…?”
Ever the creative wordsmiths, Spanish speakers absolutely love — love — coming up with the most surreal constructions they can think of, especially when Spanish swear words are involved.
- ¿Eres tonto o tiras piedras a los aviones? (Are you stupid or do you throw stones at planes?)
- ¿Eres tonto o saltas muros de cristal para ver lo que hay detrás? (Are you stupid or do you jump over crystal walls to see what’s behind?)
Grammar point: Now you know about interrogative clauses. Don’t forget your inverted question marks!
5. Eres/Es más feo que…
Literally: “You are/He is uglier than…”
Another expression where you can tack almost anything to the end.
- Es más feo que El Fary comiendo limones. (He is uglier than El Fary eating lemons.)
- Es más feo que el penal de Higuaín. (He is uglier than Higuaín’s penalty kick.)
- Eres tan feo que haces llorar a las cebollas. (You are so ugly that you make onions cry.)
- Eres más feo que pegarle a un padre con un calcetín ‘sudao’. (You are uglier than hitting your own dad with a sweaty sock.)
Grammar point: Now you can make comparative sentences with Es más…que or es tan…que.
6. Te voy a dar/pegar una hostia que…
Literally: “I will give you such a slap that…”
Hostia, which translates as “host” in the holy communion, can be used as an exclamation on its own to mean “shit” or “holy shit.” Spain is a Catholic country, after all. Don’t forget, you can also say me cago en la hostia or es más feo que la hostia, if you want to really touch a nerve.
In this example, it means something like “I will give you such a slap that…” and it’s one of my favorite ways to swear in Spanish. The more creative, the better:
- Te voy a dar una hostia que te vas a morir de hambre en el aire. (I will give you such a slap that you will die of hunger in the air.)
- Te voy a dar una hostia que te dejaré la cara como un Picasso. (I will give you such a slap that I will leave your head looking like a Picasso.)
- Te voy a pegar una hostia que te van a salir los dientes de la boca como palomitas. (I will give you such a slap that your teeth will fall out of your mouth like popcorn.)
Grammar point: Now, you can understand subordinate “que” sentences better!
7. Pagafantas; bocachancla; lameculos; peinabombillas; tocapelotas, etc.
Grammar point: Welcome to the world of creative compound Spanish swear words — which there are literally hundreds of.
A pagafantas, from the verb pagar (to pay) and the Fanta drink is a man who pays for everything in the hope of starting a relationship with a woman but never gets anything back in return.
A bocachancla, from boca (mouth) and chancla (flip-flop) is a big mouth.
A lameculos, from the verb lamer (to lick) and culo (ass) is an ass kisser.
A peinabombillas, from the verb peinar (to comb) and bombillas (light bulbs) is a naïve, dumb person.
A tocapelotas, from the verb tocar (to touch) and pelotas (testicles) is a very annoying person.