I noticed that certain prayers in Spanish address María as "Madre mía".

I'm wondering whether this phrase (where it's kind of the equivalent to "oh my God") is understood to be invoking Madre de Dios, or one's own mother.

Are both possible?

1 Answer 1


According to this article, the expression refers to Virgin Mary, the Mother of God and our Mother, according to Catholic dogma.

The article says: "...aunque hay madres mías referidas a esa señora que nos ha parido, este que tanto empleamos parece tener un origen religioso que se refiere “al amparo que siempre se ha atribuido de forma especial a la Virgen”. (My translation: Although "my mother" can be used to refer to that woman who gave us birth, this expression we often use seems to have a religious origin connected with "the protection that has always been especially attributed to the Virgin.")

Mainly in the past (although some of these can also be heard nowadays), even more profoundly religious interjections were used like:

  • ¡Madre Santa!
  • ¡Madre Santísima!
  • ¡Virgen Santa!
  • ¡Madre del Cielo!

In Portuguese, there is a very usual interjection with the same origin, which is Nossa (derived from "Nossa Senhora", which means Our Lady).

  • Thanks! But since they have an article in Spanish to explain this, does it mean that regular Spanish speakers (except scholars) don't think so, or don't put much thought into it? Do you think this conclusion comes easily to an ordinary Spanish speaker?
    – Eugene
    Commented Oct 14, 2021 at 1:50
  • 1
    I understand your reasoning. I think that the origin is indeed religious but, being an interjection that uses a common noun, it has become a commonplace expression that, in the mind of many speakers, no longer carries the religious connotation it used to have. In my country, we sometimes use the interjections "Mamá" or "Mamita" to express surprise (in this case, the interjection has been more clearly desacralized).
    – Gustavson
    Commented Oct 14, 2021 at 12:07
  • "Oh, my god!" doesn't even a religious connotation in English anymore for the vast majority of people, and it has "god" right at the end! xD
    – nopaltepec
    Commented Oct 14, 2021 at 14:00

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