I've tried "argot" and "jerga" and no one seems to understand me. "Modismo" also doesn't count because that seems to be used more for sayings like "An apple a day..."

For example:

  • Oye, cuando yo escucho mis grabaciones yo puedo entender cada palabra, pero hay algunas personas, incluido tú, a quien casi nunca entiendo.
  • A lo mejor es porque estás hablando _________.
  • ¿Coloquialismo?
    – fedorqui
    Mar 17, 2017 at 10:54
  • I'll try that. Also, is there another word that might also have a vulgar connotation but not necessarily a curse word per say? Mar 17, 2017 at 10:58
  • I wouldn't know, since I speak Spanish from Spain. Note by the way that jerga in Mexico has the meaning of _ Trapo de cocina o de limpieza en general_!! Finally, to get a clearer question, could you provide a couple of examples on where you would use the word?
    – fedorqui
    Mar 17, 2017 at 11:01
  • Oye, cuando yo escucho mis grabaciones yo puedo entender cada palabra, pero hay algunas personas, incluyo tu, quien entiendo casi nunca. A lo mejor es porque estas hablando _________. A propósito, bas se deletrea con v... Mar 17, 2017 at 11:15

2 Answers 2


Spanish, being such a vocabulary and synonym rich language, you'll find at least three or four different terms that adequately convey the broad meaning of almost concept that you wish to articulate, however most of the time, there are subtle nuances and implied meanings (connotations) when using different words for the same concept.. Add regionalisms to the mix, and using the "right" word becomes a fun task to say the least.

This is a good example: since Jerga certainly conveys the meaning of slang it is nonetheless a very neutral, "internationalized - standard" word that most people with at least a high-school level vocabulary will understand both in Spain, and Hispanic America. It does, however sound a little "off" in everyday speech.

A more accurate term in common use for 'slang' in México is Caló (There even used to be a rap band named exactly that! Caló: El Cubo even though the vocalist can rap, the rest of the act is embarrassingly kitsch.)

Coloquial is also a good, standard term for 'slang'. However,Jerga , Caló, and Coloquial are hardly ever used outside formal linguistic studies.

Most Mexican Spanish speakers will qualify speech as "corriente" (cheap) as in "su forma de hablar es muy corriente / it is a very cheap way of talking". Mexico City favors the more insular Guarro but that has a heavy rudeness connotation. Lately, "naco" has also been used to describe slang, though that has a connotation of ignorance and unsophistication, (usaste una frase muy naca / you used a very kitsch phrase).

Its probably worth mentioning that at least in Mexico, the very word "Slang" is well understood with the same meaning as in English as a kind of "loan word". That may not hold true in Central America or Spain, though.

In conclusion, be safe and use "Coloquial", or even "Slang". Or have some fun and try your luck with Naco, its probably not any worse than whatever actual slang you may be pointing out =)

  • 1
    I upvoted this answer, which I thought was excellent and very helpful except I want to warn readers that in my opinion, people could take offense with naco. hlecuanda, I'm not sure if you took into account that when a foreigner says a word like naco it might come across differently than when someone who was obviously born and raised in Mexico says it. // I think you could strengthen your answer by giving some guidance about how to pronounce slang in Spanish. My guess is "eslang" with the S sounding like a Z -- is that right? Similar to snob = esnob? Dec 10, 2017 at 4:59
  • You have a good point. And yes eslang or slang will be equally understood just about anywhere. About warning on the use of lang with people you don't know: I feel common sense is the best guide when choosing when to use any language's 100 shades of rude, where context, and non-verbal cues make all the difference! The same slang Guey if said in jest and good spirits will have the same meaning as dude whereas if uttered with a frown or a menacing demeanor, will convey something like nitwit or idiot. I'd keep my slang when in trough a tough neighborhood, for example.
    – hlecuanda
    Dec 10, 2017 at 20:03
  • OTOH, Culturally, We, Mexicans, are immensely welcoming of foreigners and will go out of our way to understand and befriend them, and acts of kindness that may be considered extraordinary elsewhere, are thought of as "the least we can do" for our guests.. As long as you are ok with a laugh or two at your expense, you will find people from all walks of life that don't speak a word of english trying their best to understand what have to say. Again, use common sense (YMMV in some communities). Check out Connan O'brien's "Made in Mexico" episodes and you'll see what I mean. goo.gl/attYqH
    – hlecuanda
    Dec 10, 2017 at 20:22
  • I'll take a look at the videos you recommended. I couldn't agree more about your cultural comment. I thought of a possible analogy for naco -- "nigger/nigga", where context can flip the meaning and the emotional reaction 180 degrees. Is that too strong a statement? Dec 10, 2017 at 21:26
  • i'm gonna say yes, its a little out of proportion. Naco is more like kitsch or the british chav, while demeaning and pointing out lack of sophistication or finesse in someone; it has nowhere near the racial slur connotations that Nigga/Nigger has in english. That may be the case because most discrimination in mexico is income-based and we've been a diverse population since the XVI Century. (Again YMMV in some indigenous communities). A better analogy would be perhaps Dork which is very different coming from a brother or sister rather than an angry Yankees fan upset at the game.
    – hlecuanda
    Dec 13, 2017 at 19:38

Jerga is the word I always heard and used while living in Mexico.

If people don't understand you, maybe your pronunciation is off a bit? Forvo might be of help in that case.

  • Very much so, and forvo is a great help. Mar 17, 2017 at 11:17
  • 1
    You may have also experienced that most mexicans -generally- will go out of their way to try and make sense of even the most contrived pronunciation, by asking if you meant one thing or the other. Its hard to not be understood by being a little "off" in pronunciation unless you're speaking actual greek . Jerga is good, but too formal in everyday non-academic speech, though.
    – hlecuanda
    Mar 18, 2017 at 12:20
  • I agree. Also, jerga is an extremely common word for a ubiquitous household object, and people will have a hard time not thinking of that other meaning if they hear the word. (It's the damp cloth or rag used to clean the floor -- similar to what's used in the US, the sponge mop. What I mean is, the mechanics are slightly different, but the purpose is the same as mopping the floor ("pasar jerga"). Jul 6, 2018 at 4:45

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