Are You a Gringo, Gabacho or Guiri? (For Tourists)
Get ready to uncover the meaning and origin of gringo, gabacho, and guiri! These Spanish slang words are essential for any tourist to learn. While they all mean “foreigner” in Spanish, they also have other definitions.
This post breaks down each of these terms so that you’ll be able to easily tell them apart!
Every country uses its own unique lingo. This guide provides resources to slang terms from across Latin America to help you prepare for your trip!
What Does ‘Gringo’ Mean?
Even if you don’t speak Spanish, chances are you’ve heard the word gringo. It’s clearly a Spanish word, but what exactly is a gringo? Does it have a different meaning than gringa?
Gringo has no single definition! The most popular gringo translation in English is “foreigner.” The foreigner could be from anywhere! In fact, even Latinos are sometimes called gringo if they don’t speak Spanish.
To describe women, you need to change the –o ending to an –a. You make it plural by adding –s.
Plural: gringos, gringas
Is Gringo a Slur?
The less common use of the word gringo is as an insult. For example, if you’re acting rudely in a Spanish-speaking country, you might be called gringo as a result. However, this definition is uncommon. Most likely, if someone calls you a gringo, they’re not actually trying to insult you!
Origin and History
The most common theory about the origin of gringo is that it originated from the Spanish word for “Greek”—griego.
A common figurative expression for someone speaking incomprehensibly or with a heavy accent is to say “they are speaking Greek” or está hablando griego. Eventually, this phrase got shortened down to just one word — griego! Over time, griego became gringo and the term spread.
Dive deeper into this term with our guide, What’s the meaning of gringo?
What Does ‘Gabacho’ Mean?
Just like the other terms in this guide, gabacho is not easily defined! This interesting term has multiple definitions and uses.
Let’s take a look!
Gabacho is a word that commonly describes foreigners of different origins. In Spain, it specifically refers to someone French in a negative light. In other countries, however, gabacho takes on a meaning similar to guiri.
For example, Mexicans often use the word to describe visitors from the U.S. in a derogatory manner. El gabacho can even mean the United States itself!
Outside of the United States and Mexico, you won’t hear Spanish speakers using this term. It’s much less common than gringo.
Check out the RAE definition of gabacho to learn more about this fascinating word!
History and Origin
Gabacho comes from the Catalan word “gavatx” which translates to “foreigner.” Catalan is a Romance language spoken in regions in Spain and France.
What Does ‘Guiri’ Mean?
Guiri is yet another “g” word in Spanish to describe foreigners!
Let’s learn a bit more about this word!
Guiri is a colloquial Spanish word that Spaniards use to talk about foreign tourists.
Spaniards mainly use guiri to describe fair-skinned foreigners. However, guiri is not necessarily an insult. While some Spaniards use it to make fun of annoying tourists, most simply use it as a neutral description.
Origin and History
This word traces back to the 19th century Carlist Wars. It comes from the Basque term “guiristino.” This was their pronunciation of the name of their enemies, the Cristinos. This term was eventually shortened to guiri.
What Does Guero Mean?
Guero is a Mexican term for “foreigner” in Spanish. Let’s unpack it!
Guero in English translates as a person with fair hair and skin. It’s a general term that Mexicans use to describe foreigners that fit this look.
Here are the variations you might come across!
Male: el guero
Female: la guera
Plural: los gueros, las gueras
Affectionate: guerito, guerita
History and Origin
The Mexican word guero ultimately originates from the Spanish word huero for empty. The word huero comes from the phrase huevo huero “an empty egg that was lost during incubation.”
The phrase huevo huero became associated with a sick person. This association went on to also include the color white, thus creating the meaning of guero today.
More Spanish Slang Words for “Foreigner”
There are dozens of ways to say “foreigner” in Spanish! Here are a few more options.
- afuereño/a – Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Dominican Republic
Learn Slang to Build Fluency
Learning slang words is crucial for Spanish fluency. People love to use slang and abbreviations when communicating. Learning these terms can make all the difference in your conversations!
Slang like ponerse las pilas (put batteries on) or hablar hasta por los codos (to talk through the elbows) are confusing phrases without context! Ponerse las pilas isn’t a way to ask for new batteries! It actually means to “get cracking.” Similarly, hablar por los codos actually means “to be a chatterbox.”
Ready to level up your slang game? Check out these amazing guides to Spanish slang from all over the globe:
- 20 Mexican Slang Words You Need to Know Before You Travel
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- All You Need to Know About Argentine Spanish
Speak Spanish on Your Trip to a Spanish-Speaking Country
Learning Spanish slang like gringo or gabacho enables you to talk to more people across the globe! According to CNN, 41 million native Spanish speakers in the U.S. speak Spanish in their homes. Plus, there are over 20 Spanish-speaking countries to explore around the globe!
Prepare for your adventures abroad by taking a free trial class at Homeschool Spanish Academy! Our certified, native-speaking teachers are here to help you level up your fluency with travel-related vocabulary and country-specific slang. Check out our unique programs and affordable prices and get ready to start speaking Spanish in your first class!
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