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Mexican Spanish (Castellano in Spanish) is the dialect of the Spanish language, as spoken in Mexicomarker.

Spanish was brought to present day Mexicomarker around 500 years ago. As a result of Mexico City's central role in the colonial administration of New Spain, the population of the city included relatively large numbers of speakers from Spainmarker. Mexico City (Tenochtitlán) had also been the capital of the Aztec Empire, and many speakers of the Aztec language Nahuatl continued to live there and in the surrounding region, outnumbering the Spanish-speakers for several generations. Consequently, Mexico City tended historically to exercise a standardizing effect over the entire country, more or less, evolving into a distinctive dialect of Spanish which incorporated a significant number of hispanicized Nahuatl words.


The territory of contemporary Mexico is not coextensive with what might be termed Mexican Spanish. Firstly, the Spanish of the Yucatán Peninsulamarker is distinct from all other forms, both in intonation and in the incorporation of Mayan words. The Spanish spoken in the areas that border Guatemalamarker resembles the variation of Central American Spanish spoken in that country, where the voseo is used. Secondly, the waves of 19th and 20th century migration from Mexico to the United Statesmarker have caused Mexican Spanish to become the most widely spoken variety of Spanish in the United Statesmarker, except in the East Coast (e.g. Miamimarker). The Spanish spoken in the Gulf Coastal areas of Veracruzmarker and Tabascomarker and in the states of Yucatanmarker and Quintana Roomarker, is also distinctive – at least at the level of vernacular speech – as the Spanish spoken there exhibits more Caribbean phonetic traits than that spoken in the remainder of Mexico.

Regarding the evolution of the Spanish spoken in Mexico, the Swedishmarker hispanist Bertil Malmberg points out that in Mexican Spanish, unlike most variations of the other Spanish-speaking countries, the vowels lose strength, while consonants are fully pronounced. Malmberg explains this by the influence of the consonant-complex Nahuatl language through bilingual speakers and place names. However, there are currently more than 50 native Mexican languages spoken throughout the country and they all contribute to the diversity of accents found all over Mexico. For instance, the tonal or "sing song" quality of some forms of Mexican Spanish derives from some of the indigenous languages such as Zapotec which, like Chinese, include tonality in their standard form.

Phonetics and phonology

A striking feature of Mexican Spanish, in the interior of the country at least, is the high rate of unstressed vowel reduction and elision, as in 'trastes' (cooking utensils/dishes). This process is most frequent when a vowel is in contact with , and is the vowel that is most frequently affected.

In the same regions – most of the interior of Mexico – syllable-final is rarely weakened; this fact, combined with frequent unstressed vowel reduction, gives the sibilant a special prominence. (Note that this situation contrasts with the situation in the coastal areas, on both the Pacificmarker and the Gulf Coastal sides, where syllable-final weakening is a sociolinguistic marker, reflecting the tension between the Mexico City norm and the historical tendency towards consonantal weakening that is so characteristic of coastal areas in Spanish America.)

Taps and trills

 and   are routinely assibilated throughout central and southern Mexico, as while in the northern states the tap and trill predominate.


Some Spanish speakers, like those from Spainmarker, pronounce final , , and as despite spelling that has the many modern Spanish words that end in 'm' (UNAM, .com). Many other dialects also pronounce all three final nasals exactly the same, whether that be as , or as . In Mexico, final and both appear, the latter occurring in words like smoking ('tuxedo').


On top of the usual fricatives for other American Spanish dialects ( , , ), Mexican Spanish also has , represented in a variety of ways. In words coming from Nahuatl (mostly place names), the usual spelling is (e.g. Xola, ). However, also represents at least 2 other pronunciations: as in México ( ), and as in anexar ( ). Many Nahuatl words where should represent have switched pronunciation (e.g., Jalapa/Xalapamarker).

In Northern Mexican Spanish, tends to be deaffricated to .

In terms of the pronunciation, the articulation in most of Mexico is , as in caja ('box'). On the southern coasts, the normal articulation is , as in most Caribbean and Pacific coast dialects throughout Latin America. In Spanish, before the conquest of Mexico, the letters and were used to represent , the former particularly with respect to Arabic names and words (for example, Jerez de la Frontera). Historical shifts have moved this articulation to the back of the mouth. The name of the country itself, México was initially spelled Méjico.


Mexican Spanish is a tuteante form of the Spanish language, voseo being confined to some parts of the state of Chiapasmarker, where the local Spanish rather belongs to the Central American region. In Chiapas, the verb forms corresponding to vos are the same as in Guatemalamarker. In other words, in the voseo, only used in some parts of the state of Chiapas, the present indicative and subjunctive have oxytone forms with monophthongal endings (cantás/-és, comés/-ás, subís/-ás), the imperative has no final /d/, there is sociolinguistic variation in the future between forms in -ás and forms in -és/-ís (the latter being the less prestigious of the alternants), and the remaining vos forms are identical to those that go with in standard Spanish.

Vosotros (Second Person Plural, in English "you all"). Vosotros is heard in some regions of Mexico and in Spain.


Several syntactic patterns that sound very 'non-standard' to the Peninsular ear are routine in Mexican Spanish. First and foremost is the more or less conventionalized ellipsis of the negative particle "no" in clauses containing the preposition "hasta" (until):

  • Será publicado hasta fines de año. (that is, 'It will not be published until the end of the year.')
  • Cierran hasta las nueve. ('They don't close until 9 o'clock.')
  • Hasta que tomé la píldora se me quitó el dolor. ('Until I took the pill, the pain did not go away.')

In each case, the sentence has the sense indicated by the English translation only if the main verb is implicitly understood as being negated.

A departure from Peninsular usage involves using interrogative "qué" in conjunction with the quantifier "tan(to)" ("Qué tan" "Qué tanto" = How):
  • ¿Qué tan graves son los daños? (Whereas in Spainmarker the question would be posed as "¿Cómo son de graves los daños?") (How serious are the damages?)
  • ¿Qué tan buen cocinero eres? (How good a cook are you?)
  • ¿Qué tanto cuesta? (As opposed to "¿Cuánto cuesta?") (How much does it cost?)

Note that phenomena relating to bilingualism are likely to be encountered among bilinguals whose primary language is not Spanish or in isolated rural regions where the syntactic influence of indigenous languages has been important historically. One of the most discussed of these phenomena is the redundant use of verbal clitics, particularly "lo", a tendency that is encountered in language contact areas throughout Latin America.

Another departure from Peninsular Spanish is that of the preference for the use of the preposition "por" instead of "durante", that in Mexico, as well as in some other regions of the Spanish Americas, is commonly used for meaning time duration o spanning. For example, whereas in Peninsular Spanish using "por" in a sentence such as Fue el presidente de la compañía 'por veinte años (He was the president of the company for twenty years) would sound odd and even incorrect —the preferred sentence being in that case Fue el presidente de la compañía durante veinte años—, that use of "por" is widely spread in Mexican Spanish, to the point of "durante" being quite uncommonly used.


Mexican Spanish retains a number of words that are considered archaic in Spain.

Also, there are a number of words widely used in Mexico which have Nahuatl, Mayan or other native origins, in particular names for flora, fauna and toponymics. Some of these words are used in most or all Spanish-speaking countries, like chocolate and aguacate (avocado), and some are only used in Mexico. An example would be guajolote, for "turkey" (although pavo is also used, as in other Spanish-speaking countries) which comes from the Nahuatl huaxōlōtl. Other examples would be papalote for "kite", from the Nahuatl pāpālōtl for "butterfly"; and jitomate for "tomato" from the Nahuatl xītomatl (see List of Spanish words of Nahuatl origin for a more complete list). Other usages that are unique to Mexican Spanish include:

  • "¿Mande?" (Roughly translated, a formal "(you) order?"; from mandar, 'to order'). Also used as an equivalent to "(beg your) pardon?"
  • The use of "¿Qué?" ("What?") on its own is sometimes considered impolite, unless it is accompanied by a verb: "¿Qué dijiste?" ("What did you say?") or "¿Qué pasó?" ("What happened?"). Otherwise "¿Cómo?" ("How?") is preferred.
  • Ahorita: Literally "right now", used to say something should happen within an indeterminate, largely context-dependent period of time.

  • Cagar: Literally "to defecate", means "to scold". "Cagado" is also used to mean "funny".
  • Chingadera [or chingado (-a) followed by what is being referred to]: any unspecified object (considered vulgar)
  • Chingar: to screw/ruin/rob/steal/fuck/work/eat (vulgar)
  • "¿Cómo (la) ves?": Literally "How do you see (it)?", means "What do you think (about something)?"
  • Bronca: Literally "aggressive woman or girl or wild female animal", commonly used amongst young people; means "fight" or "problem".
  • Güey: dude, guy, but also used as "dumbass", "jackass", "asshole", etc.
  • Pedo: Literally "fart", used for the same or when there is a problem as in "¿Qué pedo güey?" or "Hay un pedo.". It can also mean "drunk", and "estar pedo" means "to be drunk". A "peda" is a party or reunion with significant amounts of alcohol and also refers to the state of drunkenness.
  • Güero: someone with light hair and/or light skin (blond) (not considered offensive)
  • Naco from Nahuatl naca, meaning flesh or people. A boorish, uneducated person (pejorative).
  • ¿Qué tal?: Literally means "What's going on?" or "What's up?"; also "¿Qué onda?" (literally, "What's the vibe"?) is commonly used as a "What's up?"
  • Padre: Literally "father," used as an adjective to denote something being "cool", attractive, good, fun, etc.: "Esta música está muy padre." ("This music is really cool.").
  • Pinche: "Fucking", "bloody" (vulgar): "Quita tu pinche cara de aquí." ("Take your fucking face away from here.")
  • Popote: (drinking) straw
  • En un momento.
  • A swimming pool is called a alberca.


Due to the size of the country, it is natural that a variety of Mexican dialects has emerged. Some of them are clearly distinct from the other varieties (the speech of Mexico Citymarker, Yucatánmarker, Nuevo Leónmarker, Chihuahuamarker, Jaliscomarker, Veracruzmarker, Nayaritmarker, Sinaloamarker, Sonoramarker, Chiapasmarker, and the border city of Tijuanamarker, for example, are easy to discern from each other). Differences in usage and vocabulary among the regions are common and, although standard Mexican Spanish is understood by all, sometimes the differences can lead to misunderstandings. Dialects also vary depending on the education, social level and ethnic background of the speaker.

Some suffixes and prefixes

In Mexico, the -ito originally a diminutive suffix is used to form affectives to express politeness or submission (cafecito, meaning little coffee; cabecita, meaning little head; chavito; meaning Little young boy), and attach to names (Marquitos, meaning little Marcos; Juanito, meaning little Juan) denoting affection.

In Spanish, the "-ísimo" is used as a suffix to emphasize the original meaning of adjectives; it is equivalent to the Italian/Latin "issimo". For instance, the word "grande" which means literally big, can be emphasized (grandísimo) therefore meaning "very big". Unlike many Spanish-speaking countries, it is common in Mexico to emphasize the adjective twice or three times: grandísimo, meaning "very big", can be emphasized again (grandisisimo), thus meaning "very very big"; and even again (grandisisisimo), meaning "very very very big".

The suffix "-ote" is typically used in Mexico as the augmentative ending; thus making nouns bigger, larger, more powerful, etc. For example, the word "camión" by itself literally means "bus"; adding the suffix, camionsote means "big or long bus". It can be repeated just as in the case of the suffix "-ito" and "-ísimo", therefore camionsotototote means "very very very big bus".

The suffix "-uco" or "-ucho" and its feminine counterparts "-uca" and "-ucha" respectively, are used as a disparaging form of a noun; for example, the word casa, meaning "house", can be modified with that suffix (casucha) to change the word's meaning to make it more disparaging, and sometimes offensive; so the word "casucha" is often a shanty, hut or hovel. With the word madera (wood), for example, it is often used with the other suffix (-uca: maderuca) and it means rotten, ugly wood.

Other suffixes include, but are not limited to: "-azo" as on "carrazo", which refers to a very pretty car (carro) such as a Ferrari or Mercedes-Benz; "-ón", for example "narizón" someone with a large nose (nariz) or "patona", a female with large legs (patas); some others include "-udo" like in the words "narizudo" someone with a large nose (nariz), and "puntiagudo" something with many pointy edges "puntas" (commonly used "Me piqué con el nopal puntiagudo" meaning "I pricked myself with the pointy cactus"); the prefix "a-" or "-en" used with the suffix "-ado" like in "acamado" or "engentado" meaning someone that is tired of being in bed, and someone that is tired of being in crowds and with many people, respectively.

It is also common to add a ch- to form diminutives, e.g. Isabel => Chabela, José María => Chema, Cerveza (beer) => Chela, Concepción => Conchita, Sin Dientes (without teeth) => Chimuela. This is common in, but not exclusive, to Mexican Spanish.


  • Philippine Spanish has traditionally been influenced by Mexican Spanish (as the route to Spain passed through the port at Acapulcomarker)


  1. Eleanor Greet Cotton, John M. Sharp (1988) Spanish in the Americas, Volumen 2, pp.154-155, URL
  2. Lope Blanch, Juan M. (1972) En torno a las vocales caedizas del español mexicano, pp.53 a 73, Estudios sobre el español de México, editorial Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, México URL.

External links

  • Jergas de habla hispana A Spanish dictionary specializing in dialectal and colloquial variants of Spanish, featuring all Spanish-language countries including Mexico.
  • Latin American Spanish This is the universal and somewhat arbitrary name that is given to idiomatic and native expressions and to the specific vocabulary of the Spanish language in Latin America.
  • Mexican Spanish slang Several hundred words of Mexican slang and English meanings.

See also

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