10 Spanish words that every foreigner should know

There are a few words that you just need to know in Spanish. And no, we aren’t talking about the basics you need to order a beer or to get lucky after a night of tapas. Here are our top ten words you need to learn to really get under the skin of Spanish culture. Who knows, you might even find a use for them back home.

1. Guiri

If you are a foreigner (especially a blonde-haired, blue-eyed kind of foreigner), you will need to get used to this word. A catch-all term for all tourists who do not look Spanish, it can be used affectionately or disparagingly and is often a byword for ‘someone who might actually buy some of these I HEART BCN T-shirts/fake drugs/stunningly ugly keyrings’.  If you are the only foreigner in a friendship group, you may well be referred to simply as ‘guiri’.  In a nice way.

2. Timo

One of the most Spanish of words, the ‘timo‘ (rip-off) is among the few remaining driving factors of the Spanish economy. Tourists are a prime target, but locals are by no means immune, and much time and shouting is devoted to bewailing the latest timo that may have been suffered. The shame of suffering a timo has long been part of the national psyche, with Spanish people often so determined to avoid being ripped off that entire days are spent arguing over just who got the cheapest deal on anything and was therefore the least cheated.

3. Tio

No, it isn’t a name, a national tic or an exclamation. Tio (and its feminine equivalent tia) is a generic (and very annoying) equivalent of the English ‘mate’ or Gangster rap ‘bro’.  Use it for your friends, don’t use it for your bank manager.

4. Listillo

Deeply connected with timo (number 2). The listillo is the guy that insists he gets everything cheaper than you, knows everything about everything and is immensely irritating as a result.

5. Ligar

‘Hooking up’. Need we say more?

6. Pringado

The opposite of listillo but equally annoying. This guy is a loser – everything he does goes wrong, he is regularly the victim of a timo and bad luck is his best friend. The pringado is the man who buys drinks for every girl in the club but only ever goes home with a greasy kebab.

7. Chungo

We used to live in a Barcelona neighbourhood that could be described as chungo. It isn’t as cool as it sounds. There were needles, blood, dog poo, a band of neighbourhood criminals and a man who used to wait at our front door shouting ‘SECRET POLICE’ every time we walked in or out of the building. That, my friends, is chungo.  Although on the plus side, you could sit on the balcon with a glass of wine and watch the real-life Spanish version of Cops.

8. Cutre

This word has two meanings. Cutre can be used to describe something of low quality or a miserly person. It can also be used to describe a type of bar that is among the greatest wonders of humanity: the cutre bar. These bars are local, workaday places and easily identifiable by the slot machines, moustachioed waiters and photo menus. Some are good, some are not. Try your luck (or check out our tips – we feature the best we come across here).

9. Litrona

The cheapest solution to Spain’s economic woes: 1 litre of beer for about a Euro. Found in any reputable (or disreputable, come to think  of it) corner shop.

10. Gillipollas

The single best insult in Spanish, translating more or less to ‘silly willy’.  But ruder.  Use at your peril.


  1. Benedict

    I really love to visit Spain buh the problem is that i don’t know Spanish that convincing. I hope one day I’ll be there and see the beauty of the country.

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