Growing up I learned what I now take to be mostly Mexican or Latin American cuss words. "Pendejo" for someone you have scorn for, ("asshole" in my mind), "chingar" for "to fuck", etc. Now I'm moving to Spain and it's like starting over. Watching TV I heard the word "follar" for the first time in my life (I started Spanish 30 years ago!). A "gilipollas" is someone you have scorn for. "Joder", as far as I know, seems to be only Peninsular not LatAm.

UK/US/etc Englishes differ here too, but in the main we share the same common words - fuck, shit, piss, asshole/arsehole, etc. (Sure the pronunciation of "twat" varies, and in Britain a man is more likely to be called "cunt" than a woman.) But it seems like Spanish varies a lot more, with "mierda" one of the words that seems to travel everywhere, maybe "cojones", but with words like "coger" ready to trip you up depending on country.

I just wonder why this might be, historically. Obviously the written word would have been one main factor keeping Englishes and Spanishes together across the Atlantic in the age before radio and TV, and swear words don't tend to be written that often. But that doesn't really explain why (if I'm right) the divergence seems to be much greater in Spanish.

And please share any swears that you know to be strongly regional. I don't want to sound like an English-learner in Texas saying "this bloody knob just arsed up everything!" or whatever.

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    This requires an extensive investigation, but if I were to speculate, I find it really likely that it's due to the regional peoples languages interacting with the Spanish, and that's why you get different words on each region, not just different swear words. Also the original Spanish influence depends on the provenance of the Spanish that arrived on each place.
    – user29577
    Commented Jul 23, 2021 at 13:01
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    I wonder whether this might be better on the Linguistics stack since there may be some underlying principle known to them. For instance does the same happen in Arabic, Portuguese, or Chinese to name a few languages with widespread distribution of speakers?
    – mdewey
    Commented Jul 23, 2021 at 13:21
  • I am not sure what twat means in the US but note in the north of England it is a misogynistic word for the vulva/vagina while in the south it is a variant of twit. So there can be quite local variation in English too.
    – mdewey
    Commented Jul 23, 2021 at 13:24
  • By the way, the names of fruits and vegetables vary a lot by country as well. Commented Jul 25, 2021 at 11:12
  • Mdewey, "twat" is both in America - it's a pretty harsh insult, a bit short of "cunt" but not a ton. And it has the "father" vowel, not the "bat" vowel.
    – RLG
    Commented Jul 25, 2021 at 12:04

2 Answers 2


As a native Spanish speaker I've asked this myself. There is definitely more commonality between Spanish spoken in Latin American countries than with Spain. After speaking to other native speakers from other countries I've come to the conclusion it is purely how language developed regionally combined with whatever native language existed in Latin America. Even though I don't see much native language influence ( Nahuat, Quechua, etc.) For example; pendejo is a major insult in Central America but not in Mexico. Gilipollas is used in Spain but not in Latin America ( maybe Argentina). I'm not sure if it's still the case but Spanish would like to claim they spoke "Castillian" to differentiate their Spanish from the Spanish spoken in Latin America.


As an Argentinean, I can confirm that gilipollas is never used (in response to Susana's comment). Also, I think "cojones" is only used in Spain, although everyone would understand its meaning because it's a really common word in that country. Also, "pendejo" has a completely different meaning in our country. It means that the person is young (in a disdainful way).

A somewhat related point is that English shares this radical difference between words when it comes to describing clothes.

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