MEXICAN TRAVEL SPANISH
Spanish the way it's actually spoken in Mexico
This fun glossary is a work in progress. It’s organized alphabetically, with English and Spanish entries mixed together. The idea is that you can look for the Spanish equivalents of English travel words, and look up common Spanish words you’re likely to hear in Mexico. Let us know if you have a question or suggestion!
Adios – a bit overused by gringos, this is closer to “farewell” than “bye,” and carries the connotation that you won’t see the other person for a long time. Hasta luego (“until then”) or nos vemos (“see you”) or more common.
Agua – water. However, “agua” alone is very often shorthand for agua fresca (water, fruit, and sugar) in Mexico. Plain old water is agua natural. Soda water is agua mineral (“agua con/sin gas” is understood in Mexico, but not generally used).
Airplane – avión
Airport – aeropuerto
Ahorita – you will hear this a lot. Literally “little now,” it generally means any time except right now. Maybe in five minutes, maybe at some indeterminate day in the future. If you’ve heard that Mexicans are always saying mañana, this is what they actually say.
American (USA) – unlike much of the rest of Latin America, americano is used widely in Mexico. Norteamericano is more correct, and estadounidense is reserved for writing and formal contexts. Gringo is generally value-neutral or affectionate, although I like gavacho even more.
Amigo / amiga – friend (male/female). This is a good one to use. It would sound weird to say “my friend” this much in English, but it’s perfectly natural in Mexico.
And – y
Ándale / ándele – Folks who grew up on Speedy Gonzalez get really uncomfortable when they hear me saying this constantly to our drivers. While it can mean “hurry up,” it’s more often a general positive affirmation. Something like “right on.”
ATM – cajero (automático)
Backpack – mochila. Backpackers are mochileros.
Bar – bar. A true cantina is a very basic bar, often serving only beer and spirits. An antro is a nightclub.
Bathroom / washroom – baño is the easiest to say, and universally understood. You’ll more commonly see signs saying sanitarios, servicios, or WC. Remember that “M” is for mujeres (“women”) and “H” is for hombres (“men”). You will also see damas and caballeros (“ladies” and “gentlemen”).
Bathtub – tina de baño
Beach – playa
Bed – cama
Beer – cerveza. Chela if you want to sound cool.
Bottle – botella
Bowl – bol
Boyfriend – novio
Breakfast – desayuno. As in English, literally means “breaking the fast.”
Bus – large, intercity buses are autobuses. Small, local buses are camiones.
Can (noun) – lata or bote
Canada – Canadá
Canadian – canadiense
Car – coche or carro
Carne – meat. Can mean beef, pork, or mutton. Chicken (pollo), fish (pescado), and seafood (mariscos) are not considered meat in Mexico.
Cash – efectivo. “Cash” is often understood, as well.
Check, please – la cuenta, por favor. You can also make a writing gesture with your hand.
Cheers! – ¡Salud! (Meaning, “health,” it’s also used as “bless you” in English when someone sneezes.)
Church – iglesia, templo, parroquia
Claro – literally “clear,” this is usually translated as “of course.” It is used constantly in conversation to express understanding and/or agreement.
Coffee – café is both coffee and coffee shop. Café americano is drip or house coffee. Café de olla (“pot coffee”) is usually weak, sweet, and flavored with cinnamon and sometimes chickory or other herbs.
Cold (temperature) – frío
Credit/debit card – tarjeta (de crédito / de débito)
Cup – taza
Delicious/tasty – rico
Derecho – This word has several meanings, including “straight ahead,” “law,” and “upright/upstanding.” For our purposes, it’s most useful as “straight up” or “neat,” in the context of ordering spirits. On the rocks is “en las rocas.”
Dinner / supper – cena
Doctor – doctor, médico
Dollars, US – dólares americanos
Drink – the verb is beber or tomar. The noun “a drink,” when you’re talking about alcohol is un trago (literally, “a swallow”) or una copa (“a glass/cup”). Bebida is generic for any beverage, with or without alcohol.
Drunk – borracho / borracha (masculine/feminine). A nicer way to say it is tomado/tomada. “Buzzed” is alegre or happy (pronounced as in English).
Eat – comer, generally. Desayunar is to take breakfast, almorzar, to eat a mid-morning meal, and cenar is to dine.
English – inglés
Entrada – appetizer; entrance; ticket (to a place or event)
Excuse me – if you’re trying to get someone’s attention, it’s disculpe. If you’ve bumped into them, it’s perdón.
Ey– a rustic way of saying “yes,” very common in Jalisco.
Flight – vuelo
Fork – tenedor
Girlfriend – novia
Glass (for drinking) – vaso
Good-bye – hasta luego and nos vemos are your best options. See also “adios.”
Good morning – buenos días (use until noon)
Good afternoon – buenas tardes. Use later than you would in English, till about 7:00pm.
Good evening / good night – buenas noches. This is used as a greeting, not just when going to bed.
Güero / güera – used to refer to a light skinned man/woman, or anyone at all in a traditional market. Mexicans refer to skin tone and other physical attributes very openly, and no offense is intended.
Hangover – cruda
Hay – a weird verb that’s extremely useful. It means “there is / there are” and its conjugation doesn’t change in the present tense. (E.g., “There’s a fly in my soup.” Hay una mosca en la sopa. “Is there a bathroom?” ¿Hay baño?)
He – él
Here / there – aquí / allí (also acá and allá)
Hola – hello
Hot – if something is hot to the touch, está caliente. If it’s spicy, es picante. The easiest way to ask if something is spicy is simply ¿Pica? If you want to say it’s hot out, hace calor.
Hotel – hotel
How? – ¿cómo?
How much? – Most generally, a simple ¿cuánto? will get the job done. When talking prices, ¿cuánto es? ¿cuánto cuesta? or ¿qué precio tiene? are common.
Husband – esposo
I – yo
I am – soy
Ice – hielo
Ill / sick – enfermo / enferma (masculine / feminine)
“I’m sorry” – gringos routinely, and awkwardly, resort to “lo siento,” which is a fairly serious expression of sorrow or commiseration. Generally, when you’re apologizing for a small thing like bumping into someone, you want “disculpe” (“forgive,” in the formal). This also works for getting someone’s attention politely. If you want to get by someone, it’s “con permiso.”
Joven – young person. You can safely use this for waiters, waitresses, or anyone helping you who isn’t much older than you are.
Knife – cuchillo
Lake – lago
Large, big – grande
Left (-hand side) – izquierda
Luggage / baggage – equipaje. Checked baggage is equipaje documentado, and carry-on is equipaje de mano.
Lunch – comida. This is also the word for “food” in general.
May I? – ¿Puedo? Although ¿se puede? is a bit more colloquial.
¿Mande? – you’ll hear this daily in Mexico, and nowhere else in the world. It’s a polite and common way of saying “what?” “come again?” or “what can I do for you?” It’s literally “command me” in the formal.
Market – a traditional market is a mercado or tianguis. A supermarket is a supermercado or simply un súper. A tienda can be any small shop, including a convenience store. Abarrotes are small, family-run dry-goods shops.
Me gusta – I like it. A great way to express your appreciation for any thing. Don’t use it to express fondness for a person.
Medicine / medication – medicina / medicamento
Medium – mediano
Menu – menú or carta. Menú can also refer to a prixe fixe lunch with three to five courses.
Money – dinero
Mountain – montaña, monte. Sierra for a mountain range.
Napkin – servilleta
No – no
Now – ahora
OK – okey
Or – o
Órale – A slang word whose meaning changes with context and tone of voice. ¡Órale! with enthusiasm and positivity is something like “oh heck yeah!”
Oxxo – The name of Mexico’s ubiquitous yellow-and-red convenience stores.
Pase – Come in.
Pásele / pásale – If you go to a traditional market, you will hear all the vendors saying this. Think “step right up, take a look.”
Park (place of recreation) – parque
Partner (romantic) – pareja (regardles of gender of either person)
Partner (business) – socio / socia (masculine / feminine)
Pharmacy – farmacia
Pillow – almohada
Plate – plato
Plato fuerte – main course
Please – por favor
Pool (swimming) – alberca
Postre – dessert
Prescription – receta
Quisiera – the best way to politely express your needs and desires. “I would like…”
Receipt – ticket, nota, recibo and comprobante are all used. You don’t need a factura, which is an official fiscal receipt for write-offs in Mexico.
Restaurant – restaurante or restorán. Simple, economical eateries (often in people’s homes) are fondas, comedores, or cenadurías (for dinner).
Right (-hand side) – derecha
River – río
Room – Cuarto is the most general word, and universally understood. Your hotel room is a habitación.
Salad – ensalada. Very often just iceberg lettuce.
Salida – exit
Salsa – sauce. Any sauce, really. Hot sauce is salsa picante, or very often just chile. Diced fresh tomatoes, onions, and chiles (often called “pico de gallo” in the US) is salsa mexicana.
Señor – “sir.” Perfect for addressing older (or important) men. Gringos often overuse this with (younger) waiters. See amigo / amiga and joven, which are generally better options for service situations.
Shampoo – champú
She – ella
Sheet – sábana
Shower – regadera
Size – tamaño, talla (for clothes)
Sleep – Dormir is the verb, sueño the noun. Sueño also means “a dream.”
Small – chico
Soap – jabón
Soda / pop / soft drink – refresco
Spoon – cuchara
Street – calle
Taxi – taxi
Taxi stand – sitio (de taxis)
Thank you (very much) – (muchas) gracias
That/this/the other one – Eso / esto / aquel
Thing / thingy – cosa/cosita. A very useful word to indicate anything you don’t know the name of! Esta cosa is “this thing,” and esa cosa is “that thing.”
Ticket – boleto
Tired – cansado / cansada (masculine / feminine)
Today – hoy
Todo bien – A great way to say everything is “all good.” You will hear this as a question in restaurants ¿Todo bien? If you don’t need anything at the moment, you can reply “todo bien, gracias.“
Toilet – excusado or taza
Toilet-paper – papel de baño or papel higiénico, if you’re feeling more ambitious.
Tomorrow – mañana. Mañana also means “morning.”
Tourist/traveler/visitor – turista/viajero/visitante
Towel – toalla
Try / taste / sample – probar (verb), prueba (noun)
United States (of America) / USA – Los Estados Unidos (de América) / EUA
Vegetables – verduras. At a taco stand, con verdura means ‘with diced raw onion and cilantro’.
Volcano – volcán
Wey / güey – A vulgar way to refer to a person. You may hear it used frequently by young people. It’s best avoided unless your Spanish is quite good and you’re speaking to a very close friend.
What? – Technically, ¿qué? However, saying that when you don’t understand sounds a bit more like “huh?” ¿Cómo? sounds better. If you can pull off ¿mande? go for it!
Where? – ¿dónde?
Who? – ¿quién?
Why? – ¿por qué?
Wife – esposa
Yes – sí
Yesterday – ayer
You – stick with usted. Spanish has formal and informal ways of speaking that modern English lacks, and Mexican Spanish is particularly formal. It’s always better to err on the side of formality, in Mexico. Ustedes is the plural “you.”