Mi Spanglish Dictionary

Someone, suggested that I create a Spanish/Spanglish glossary for my readers, especially as I’m putting in order my writing and organizing my dad’s stories. I consulted with my editor and tech team, also known as my daughter Daniella about this and we agreed that  it made sense. Although I write as if everyone will understand me, the suggestion reminded me that not everyone speaks or reads spanish or spanglish. Some posts will have more spanish words or  popular phrases woven in. Some of those words will probably be recognized only by people from my SoCal region, aka my homies. 

I have to make a disclaimer, see if you can follow. I think in English, but will easily and comfortably slip into a volley of English to Spanish and back to English  depending on who I’m talking with. However, In serious Spanish conversations, like when I cannot resort to English because I’ll confuse the “only in Spanish” speaker, a fuerzas I must slow down. My english thinking mind must translate and put the words in correct order before they’re launched.

My Mexican-American Voice

My dilemma is that I like to write in my “take it easy” Mexican American tone. Therefore I skip the accents in the proper places and I use the tweaked spanglish words, like carro for car instead of the more proper automobil. I learned to read and write on my own, self taught, hay si muy muy. I thought that was a  pretty good accomplishment. By the time I had to earn my credits for a foreign language in high school, I chose spanish because you see, I already ready knew it all. Then a few decades later, after we raised our kids,  I enrolled into an advanced Spanish course. Hijole! That’s where I faced the tilde (accent) head on! A nightmare, trapped in a textbook of tilde lessons, the cannonball tildes fired at me in class, and out! My Spanglish self went to hide away. I’m still quite afraid of the tilde, especially when I consider that I will have to face her again. I mean a tilde can change the meaning of a word aside from the pronunciation of it. I would ask the serious Spanish speakers and readers,  tengan misericordia on me. 

A Brief Phonics Lesson

Don’t worry, we won’t get into the particulars of the tilde and conjugating verbs.

A, E, I, O, and U sound like: ah, eh, ee, oh, oo (there are no long and short variations like in english, the E makes a short e sound and the I makes the long ee sound.)

H is always silent.

2 ll’s together sound like this “Ye” with a short ‘e’ sound.

The ñ sounds like “enye” with a short ‘e’ sound.

Y” sounds like “ee”.

Estoy segura, that there are more rules I’m missing. With all that said and in consideration of the non-speaking Spanglish person, I hope this limited glossary will enlighten you a bit. Here’s an introductory list of some words you might see in my posts.  It’ll most likely grow as I continue to loosen my tongue.

Mexican American Girl’s Official Spanglish Dictionary:

Abuela/o-grandmother/father- It might be the official title, but my grandkids call me Ama

Acuerdense– remember


Ahora mismo-Right now or This very moment

Al Ratito– In a little while

Al Menos– At least

Ama– mom

Apa– dad 

Amonos– lets go


Apurate- Hurry

Andale– come on

Andale! – On target, or Bulls Eye


Asi es– That’s right

Asi nomas– just like that

avergonzada- embarrassed


Basta– enough

Bien– fine or very

Bien bonito/a– very pretty

Buena onda– good vibe

Bueno– hello (when answering the telephone)

Buenos dias– Good morning

Buenas tardes– good afternoon

Cabezon-Big head, or stubborn

Callate la boca– Shut your mouth

calladito/a– still and silent

Caldito– a little soup

Caldo de res– Beef soup

Caldo de pollo– Chicken soup

Calmate– calm down

Calsones– underwear


Carne Asada– beef for grilling

Carne para asar– meat for grilling

carnal/a– brother or sister. Also used to greet a friend


Casi nada– almost nothing

Chale– no

Chancla– sandal or flip-flop

Chapparro– short in stature

Chamaco/o kid

Chicali– Nickname for Mexicali, a city in Baja California MEX- (We went to Mexicali almost every weekend, amongst us kids cutting one out a syllable was way cool)

Chino/a– person with curly hair

Chonies– underwear


Como dice el dicho– as the saying goes

Como dicen por hay– I’ve heard it said

Confleis– cereal

Corajudo/a– quick tempered person

Culeca/o very proud

Deveras? Really?

De Repente– all of a sudden

Dicho– Saying

Dios te bendiga– God bless you

Disculpa- sorry 


Don– used respectfully for an older man. Don Manuel Zepeda (long o sound)

Doña- Casual, but respectfully used for women, married or older. My ama was Doña Chuy. 

Dramatico– Dramatic


Echale ganas– Give it all you got.


El Pasado– The Past

Enchilado-red hot angry

Enchiloso– hot/spicy

Entrale!– Go for it!

Esperate– hold on or wait

Escandalo– scandal

Estoy– I am

Exagerada– Exaggerate 

Feliz Cumpleanos– Happy Birthday

Feria- money

Fiesta– party

Fijate– look or notice

fijense-look or notice

Fil- Field

Flaco/a– a thin/skinny person


Frijoles– beans

Frijoles refritos-refried beans

Fuerza– force

Gracias a Dios– Thank God

Gringo-A white American of European decent


Gordo/a– fat

Guacamole– avocado dip. 

Guapo/a-good looking

Guerro/a-light skin tone person.  

Hace mucho tiempo– A long time ago




Hermana/o sister or brother

Hermanos-siblings or brothers

Hijole!– Yikes! Or Man! 

Huevos– eggs

ito/a– ending a noun with ito/a will make it a little person, place or thing. 

Jale- job or work

Jefe-boss, also used to speak about your father

Justo– just

Kernitos- This was gibberish that my sister Patty and I created to address a sweet baby.

Listo– Ready



Mal agradecido– ungrateful

Malcreado– rude


Mas– more

Mechudo/a-messy long hair


Mira nomas! – Would you look at that!

Mina-Mine as in Mining

Misericordia– Mercy

Mochate– kick back or share what you have. 

Mocosa– snotty kid

Mosca muerta– Someone pretending to be innocent and shy

Mucho– much or a lot

Mugrosa/o– filthy

Muy– Very

Muy muy– very very.  Usually we use this when someone is trying to be extraordinary. Mostly showing off. For example, someone drives by in a beautiful fancy car, someone else will perceive it as being a show off, so they’ll say “que muy muy”  

Nel– nope

Necio– stubborn

Nieta/o- granddaughter/son

No manches– don’t mess with me or You’ve gotta be kidding!

Novela- soap opera


Orita– could mean right now or in a minute. I would tell my Apa “Orita vengo” meaning I’ll be back in a minute. But he would say “Orita te vas” meaning you’re leaving right now.

Paisa– someone from your country or region

Pansa- belly

Panson- big belly


Papitas– Potato chips

Patron– Boss

Pero– But

Pero como? How in the world?

Piedad– Mercy

Plebe– a kid


Pobrecito– Poor thing

Pollo– chicken


Poquito– a little bit

Prieto– dark skin

Prima/o -cousin


Que?– What?

Que onda?– What’s up


Quinceañera– 15 year old, also a big celebration for a 15 year old girl

Reconozco– I recognize or realize

Rollo– issue or story- Everybody has a rollo to unload

Sacate de aqui– get out of here

Sal– salt

Segura/o– sure

Seriamente– very seriously 


Simon– yup

Sinverguenza– without shame

Suegra– Mother in law

Suegro– Father in law

Tele– Television


Ten/Tengan– have

Tercer Edad– elderly

Tia/o– aunt or uncle

Tilde- accent mark

Transa-hustled or hustler

Troque o Troke– truck

Tu-You when addressing a peer

Ubicate– get your bearings, get situated

Usted- When addressing a stranger or older person

Verguenza– shame

Viejo/a– old

Viaje– a trip

Wacala!– yuk

Ya se– I know

Yo– me


As I wrote this post, I felt like I was in class again, I’m shaking off that tilde for now. This will be a growing list, if you have a Spanglish word or dicho to suggest, share it, porfa, we can add to the list and help our non splanglish readers!

Do you speak Spanglish?

I started this blog by looking for the “formal dictionary” definition of my very dear practice of Spanglish. Although Mexican-Americans have similar experiences and each family has its personal touch, most assuredly Spanglish is in their mix. Some families choose to drop the whole Mexican culture and embrace American ways forgetting that it’s OK to be American with languages and traditions from their roots; it is the American way after all. Other families hold on rigidly to the language and culture of the “old country”, perhaps because it is easier to practice what they already know. A concern I’ve had is when families stick to “their own” ignoring the fact that “American” is now part of their experience. Then, there are families like ours; keeping the old, speaking in Spanish often, keeping alive some traditions and holding fast to some of the “old fashion” standards, all the while tentatively reaching out to explore what the good ole U.S.A offered. 

Spanglish Mug

What in America is Spanglish?  It is what it sounds like, a combination of Spanish and English, dashes and pinches of retreaded words all mixed together so well it forms its own category in the language world; Spanglish. Here’s what a typical conversation with my older sister would sound like while we watched T.V. in the living room (since it’s hard for me to believe I actually have an accent, I hope you can hear us talking, see if you can follow along)

Patty: Man! Tengo hambre.  Will you make me sangwich

Me: Orita no, I don’t want to get up. Estoy bien agusto. You always make me do it.

Patty: Andale! Please. You make them so good, con jalapenos

Me: Not right now. Tengo flojera. You make us one

Patty: Pero, you make the best, andale. Hurry, there’s a commercial, you can do it, bien rapido

Me: I can’t. Se acabo el pan.

In my experience, I’ve learned that not all Mexican Americans speak Spanish, a lot depends what generation they fall under, first, second, third or more. However, I think it’s safe to say that most will speak a little Spanglish if they’ve lived in the barrio or around it. Somehow  that Mexican culture mingled into their lives also.

En mi casa, our early days were only in Spanish. My dads Jefe had rented out to him a  house out in the middle of nowhere, since he was the farmhand doing the irrigation and taking care of the boss’ fields it was perfect for mom to adjust to her new life. My older siblings hadn’t been immersed into English or American life so Spanish was the only language. Then, when they were immersed into American ways because of school, they repelled that immersion, preferring the comfort of Spanish at home. Three years later, and two more kids (me and my little brother, made eight kids in all), my dad decided to move us into town. We went to the projects.  

Here, in very close proximity with the neighbors I heard the “foreign” language of English. By now I was even hearing English from my older siblings. An English word, then a Spanish phrase.  Still I found myself shocked when my first best friend; Li’l Debbie, did not speak Spanish, she certainly looked like she should! I think she was a fourth generation Mexican-American (maybe she was just American and not hyphenated?) Li’l Debbie became my first unofficial English teacher. Playing with her and creating Spanglish along the way prepared me for kindergarten and English.

With all this 2nd language coming into our home, Mom had to officially establish an unspoken rule. En mi casa, se habla Español! While we were out in the community, we spoke in English and Spanglish, but when we got home, we spoke in Spanish, Mom didn’t know how to speak English and as we grew and our English improved, she found less and less need to embrace the English language. Instead she took a translator to her every appointment. There was one word that mom used in English. As our voices rose in the house and around the table, and she was hearing too much Spanglish, we would suddenly hear a very loud, “SHAT AP!” And we did.

Speaking in Spanish covers so much more than words. Speaking Spanish reaches out to those Mexican traditions that I am so thankful for. Embracing English along the way paved the way for my appreciation of my country and I can rock my Mexican-Americanness in Spanglish.

I usually tell people that I am bilingual, but as I’ve written this, I wonder if I qualify for trilingual, Porque, pues, you see, it’s like this, poquito Spanish and some English and a mixture that is only captured by a fellow Spanglisher.  

spanglish blog quote
A Trilingual Spanglisher