Spanish vs Mexican Spanish: Top language & culture differences

Wanna know the definitive difference between Mexican Spanish vs. Spain Spanish?

The answer might be a bit more complicated.

If you’re an English speaker, then you already know that there’s a big difference between American English and British English. Not only are the accents different, but they use different words to describe commonplace things (chips vs. crisps, anyone?).

The same is true when comparing Spanish from Spain vs. Mexico. Although Spain originally imposed the language onto Mexico in the 16th century, the language has evolved organically throughout the centuries as it has blended with Mexican culture, Mexican traditions, and the local indigenous languages throughout the centuries.

Mexico’s proximity to the United States has also deeply influenced the language, with many Spanglish terms becoming part of the local language, just as other European languages have influenced Spanish in Spain.

So, how exactly do Spanish and Mexican Spanish differ? Let’s take a look!

Table of contents

Spain vs. Mexico quick facts

Before diving in, here’s a quick overview of some of the biggest differences between these two countries:

Woman carrying the Mexican flag.

Spain Mexico
Location Southwestern Europe North America
Population 47 million 130 million
Political entity Sovereign nation Sovereign nation
Capital Madrid Mexico City
Language Spanish is the official national language, with other regional languages including Catalan, Galician, and Basque. Spanish + 63 indigenous languages
Cuisine ingredients Olive oil, saffron, garlic, tomatoes, potatoes, and a variety of seafood Corn, beans, chili peppers, tomatoes, avocados, and chocolate.
Music genre Flamenco, classical guitar, pop, and contemporary regional music Mariachi, ranchera, banda, norteño
Biggest holidays Christmas, Easter, and National Day of Spain (October 12) Día de los Muertos, Día de la Independencia, Navidad

Historical and cultural context

Both Spain and Mexico have extensive histories of colonization, conquest, and independence. You might already be familiar with the Spanish conquest of Mexico and most of the Americas, but did you know that Spain was conquered by the Romans in the 3rd century BCE and then again by the Moors in the 8th century? The latter introduced Arabic into the Iberian Peninsula, which is one of the main reasons why Spanish is different from other Romance languages.

Let’s take a closer look at the histories of these two countries:

Spanish history

Spain’s history is shaped by many dramatic conflicts and diverse cultural influences. The story begins with ancient civilizations like the Iberians and Celts, whose impacts are still visible today. The Romans then colonized the Iberian Peninsula and ruled over it for around two centuries, starting in the 3rd century BCE, during which time the peninsula was renamed Hispania. They introduced infrastructure, legal systems, and the Latin language, which formed the basis of modern Spanish culture.

After Rome’s fall, the Visigoths and later the Moors from North Africa took control, the latter enriching the region with advanced sciences, agriculture, and architectural advancements during their nearly 800-year rule. This era ended in 1492 with the Christian reconquest led by Ferdinand and Isabella, unifying the nation under Catholicism. That same year, Columbus’s voyage, backed by these monarchs, initiated Spain’s era of global exploration and empire-building, establishing it as a dominant power through its vast overseas territories.

However, Spain’s influence waned in the 17th and 18th centuries due to various internal and external challenges. The 20th century saw further turmoil, marked by the Spanish Civil War and Franco’s dictatorship. After transitioning to democracy in the late 20th century, Spain has emerged as a vibrant member of the European Union, known for its dynamic culture and regional diversity.

Mexican history

The history of Mexico is as vibrant and complex as the country itself. Before the Spanish arrival, advanced indigenous civilizations like the Olmecs, Mayans, and Aztecs thrived, developing detailed calendars, mathematics, and impressive architecture. The Aztec Empire was particularly powerful when Hernán Cortés landed in 1519. Within two years, Cortés had overthrown the empire, marking the start of three centuries of Spanish dominance.

The colonial period saw a blending of Spanish and indigenous cultures, exploitation of native peoples, and significant economic activity centered around silver mining. Spanish colonies were set up as extractive colonies, where the main goal was to extract resources from the colonies and ship them back to Spain. This caused the slow but steadily increasing demand for independence, reaching its peak in the early 19th century.

Leaders like Miguel Hidalgo and José María Morelos led Mexico to independence in 1821. The following years were marked by instability, territorial losses to the United States, and continuous internal strife. The Mexican Revolution in 1910 triggered intense social and political reforms, including land redistribution and the establishment of labor rights. The latter half of the 20th century witnessed rapid industrialization and modernization, though issues like corruption and drug-related violence posed ongoing challenges. This rich and complex history has created the Mexican culture we know and love today, with countless traditions like Mexican weddings and Día de los Muertos.

Difference in phonetics and pronunciation between Spanish from Spain and Spanish from Mexico

If you’ve watched some popular Spanish-language shows like Spain’s La Casa de Papel and Mexico’s Club de Cuervos, then you know that Spanish from Spain vs. Mexico sound very different. Here are some of the distinctive phonetic features of each dialect:

Man explaining the difference in phonetics and pronunciation between Spanish from Spain and Spanish from Mexico.

The Spanish in Spain

Spanish from Spain is heavily influenced by its European context and thus exhibits several unique phonetic and pronunciation traits that distinguish it from Spanish dialects elsewhere, particularly those in Latin America. These characteristics are deeply ingrained in the linguistic identity of Spain, and make it incredibly easy to spot a Spaniard among a group of Spanish speakers. Here are some of the most notable traits

The distinctive “Ceseo” and “Seseo”

One of the most distinctive features of Spanish from Spain is the distinction between ceceo and seseo. The ceceo involves pronouncing the “c” and the “z” before “e” or “i” as a “th” sound, similar to the “th” in “think.” This pronunciation is typical in many parts of central and northern Spain and is considered standard Castilian Spanish.

Meanwhile, seseo, which is the pronunciation of these same letters as “s,” occurs in southern Spain and Latin American Spanish. This regional variation within Spain itself adds a layer of complexity to the language.

Here are some examples of ceceo vs. seseo in Spanish:

English Spanish Ceceo pronunciation Seseo pronunciation
Five Cinco thin-co seen-co
Beer Cerveza ther-ve-tha sehr-veh-sah
Shoe Zapato tha-pah-toe sah-pah-toe
Sky Cielo thee-eh-lo see-eh-lo

The letter J

The Spanish “j” is pronounced as a strong guttural sound, similar to the “ch” in the German “Bach.” This is more pronounced in Spain than in Latin America, where the J sound is closer to the “h” in “Hello.” In Spain, this harsh, raspy “j” sound is a distinctive element of the language, particularly emphasized in words like “jamón” (ham) and “juego” (game).

The letters Ll and Y

In Spain, the pronunciation of “Ll” and “y” has traditionally varied, with some regions treating them as separate sounds while others do not. Historically, “Ll” was pronounced as a palatal lateral consonant, but in modern Castilian Spanish, it often merges with “y” to a sound similar to the English “y” in “yes.” This merging is known as “yeísmo” and is now prevalent in most parts of Spain, although some regional variations still maintain a distinct “Ll” sound.

Use of vosotros

The use of vosotros for the informal second-person plural form is a significant aspect of Castilian Spanish that isn’t found in Mexican Spanish. The conjugation and pronunciation associated with vosotros are unique to Spain and are not used in Latin America, where ustedes is used universally for both formal and informal plural forms. The presence of vosotros in the Spanish of Spain adds a distinct flavor to its spoken form.

Dropping and aspiration of consonants

Spanish speakers in Spain often drop or aspirate the final “d” in the past participle and other endings, which can make spoken language sound more fluid and less articulated than other Spanish dialects. For example, cansado might sound like cansao, and pescado like pescao. This feature is particularly prominent in southern Spain and adds to the melodic quality of the dialect.

The Spanish in Mexico

Mexican Spanish is known for its clear and distinct pronunciation, making it one of the easiest varieties of Spanish for learners. The phonetic characteristics of Mexican Spanish not only reflect the region’s linguistic history but also its cultural influences, including those from indigenous languages. Here’s a closer look at some of the unique phonetic features that define Mexican Spanish:


Unlike Spain’s distinction between the “c” (before “e” or “i”), “z,” and “s” sounds, Mexican Spanish uses seseo, meaning “c” and “z” are pronounced as an s. This makes words like casa (house) and caza (hunt) homophones, both pronounced cah-sah.

Pronunciation of X

The letter “X” can have multiple pronunciations in Mexican Spanish, reflecting historical and indigenous influences. It originally represented the “sh” sound, but it now includes a common Spanish “j” or English “h” sound in many contexts — including the country’s name. For example, Mexico used to be pronounced “Meh-she-co,” but is now pronounced “Meh-he-co.” Other words retain the traditional X pronunciation, like Xochitl (


Mexican Spanish doesn’t differentiate between “ll” and “y” sounds, a speech characteristic known as yeísmo. Both letters are pronounced as a “y” sound, so llamar (to call) and yema (yolk) start with the same pronunciation.

Nasal vowel sounds

While not as pronounced as in some Portuguese or French dialects, Mexican Spanish can exhibit a subtle nasal quality in vowel sounds, particularly when vowels are followed by nasal consonants like “m” or “n.” For example, the “a” in mano (mah-no) might carry a slight nasal quality.

Pronunciation of J and G

The “j” (and “g” before “e” or “i”) in Mexican Spanish is pronounced as a moderately strong sound similar to the “h” in “hello.” This is stronger than other dialects of Spanish, but not nearly strong enough as Spain’s Spanish. For example, jalapeño is pronounced with a strong h sound: ha-la-peh-nyoh.

Influence of indigenous languages

Mexican Spanish has incorporated a significant number of words from indigenous languages, which can influence pronunciation patterns. Words from Nahuatl and other native languages often retain their original sounds, which are then adapted into Spanish phonology. For example, chocolate derived from the Nahuatl “xocolātl” and guajolote comes from the Nahuatl “huaxolotl.”

Grammar and syntax

Although the Spanish spoken in Spain and Mexico is almost entirely mutually intelligible and follow very similar grammar rules, there are several key differences that highlight the linguistic distinctions of each region. Here are some of the most common grammar and syntax differences:

Couplde working on Spanish grammar and syntax.

Use of personal pronouns

Spain uniquely uses vosotros for informal, second-person plural, while Mexico uses ustedes for both formal and informal plural contexts. Additionally, leísmo is more prevalent in Spain, which is the phenomenon of using “le” instead of “lo” for direct male objects. This adds a layer of complexity to pronoun usage not typically found in Mexican Spanish.

Verb conjugation differences

Spanish from Spain often uses the perfect tense to describe recent past actions (he comido), whereas Mexican Spanish more frequently uses the simple past (comí) in similar contexts. Additionally, there are subtle differences in the subjunctive mood, with it being much more common in Spain. While the subjunctive is used very often in Mexico, the indicative may sometimes be used in situations where the subjunctive would be expected in Spain.

Formality and politeness

Interactions in Spain might appear more formal on the surface due to the use of pronouns and certain verb constructions. Mexican Spanish, while also polite, tends to be more straightforward and less formal in everyday speech. However, both languages use the tú vs. usted distinction to be specific and intentional about politeness levels.

Question formation

If you know how to ask questions in Spanish, then you know that certain question patterns are more formal than others. Spain tends to use more formal question patters in everyday speech (¿Qué quieres tú?) while Mexico tends to follow more informal patterns (¿Qué quieres?).

Negation patterns

Saying no in Spanish is generally very straightforward, but there are some differences in the construction of these sentences between countries. For example, both regions use double negatives (“No tengo nada”), but colloquial usage in Mexico might sometimes simplify these constructions in everyday speech.


Although it may sound like there are a lot of differences, between Spanish and Mexican Spanish, there are far more similarities between the two. Here are just a few of the most impactful ones:

  • Subject-verb-object (SVO) structure: Both Spanish from Spain and Mexican Spanish predominantly follow the SVO sentence structure, where the subject comes before the verb and the object follows the verb (Yo veo la película.).
  • Use of gendered nouns and agreement: In both dialects, nouns are gendered as masculine or feminine, and adjectives must agree in gender and number with the nouns they describe (Las casas blancas.)
  • Similar verb conjugations: The basic verb conjugations for different tenses and moods are the same in both countries. While usage preferences for certain tenses might differ, the conjugation rules themselves do not.
  • Reflexive verbs: Spanish reflexive verbs, which indicate that the subject is performing the action on itself, are extensively used in both Spain and Mexico.
  • Prepositional pronouns: The use of prepositional pronouns remains consistent across both dialects. For example, para mí, para ti, and para él are used the same way in both Spain and Mexico.

Cultural influences on language

The rich cultural histories of both Spain and Mexico deeply influence their respective languages today. From culinary traditions to musical heritage and religious practices, these cultural elements significantly enrich the local vocabulary and Spanish idioms of each country. Here’s how these influences manifest in the two dialects:

Beautiful square in Hondarribia Spain.


Spanish cuisine, with its Mediterranean roots, includes a diverse array of dishes like paella, tapas, and gazpacho. These foods have contributed terms to the Spanish language, like “tortilla” (which refers to a completely different dish in Spain than in Mexico) and jamón (ham). Phrases like ponerse las botas reflect the cultural importance of food and dining in Spanish life.

On the other hand, Mexican cuisine, recognized globally for its rich flavors and diversity, contributes extensively to the vocabulary of Mexican Spanish. Terms like tacos, enchilada, and guacamole aren’t just culinary exports but also very common in everyday language. Expressions such as estar como agua para chocolate (to be very angry, literally, “like (boiling) water for chocolate”) highlight the deep connection between food and emotion in Mexican culture.


Spain’s musical landscape is renowned for its flamenco, a genre that has influenced the language with terms like duende (a quality of passion and inspiration) and cante (singing). The traditional use of the cajón (box drum) in flamenco has also permeated Spanish slang.

In Mexico, music genres like mariachi, banda, and norteño play a big role in cultural expression. Phrases like echar un palomazo (to sing a song or have an impromptu performance) illustrate just how big music’s impact is in everyday life.


Both Spain and Mexico are predominantly Catholic countries, which means that Catholic phrases and expressions are common in everyday conversation. Phrases such as Dios mediante (God willing) and ¡Jesús! (an exclamation of surprise) are very common in both countries. Many of the holidays, like Semana Santa, also influence the linguistic and cultural landscape. It’s worth noting, though, that Mexico also has the added layer of indigenous religions, including the celebration of Día de los Muertos, that also enrich the language with unique cultural references.

Social customs

Spanish and Mexican social life are characterized by expressions like sobremesa (the time spent talking at the table after a meal), reflecting the value placed on community and leisurely dining. In Spain, terms like picaresque, originating from a genre of satirical prose, highlight a tradition of humor and social commentary. In Mexico, terms of endearment like mijo and mija (my son/daughter) are used broadly, underscoring the close familial ties that extend beyond immediate family members.

Mexican vs. Spanish words

As you can tell by now, Mexican Spanish and Spain Spanish have very different grammar and pronunciation rules, but what about vocabulary? Beyond local slang, these two Spanish dialects often use entirely different words to refer to everyday objects. Here are 50 top examples of different vocabulary in Spanish and Mexican Spanish:

Woman reading a list of Mexican vs Spanish words.

English Mexico Pronunciation IPA Spain Pronunciation IPA
Corn Elote eh-lo-teh eˈlote Maíz ma-is ˈoɾno
Tray Charola cha-roh-la ʧaˈɾola Cazuela cah-thoo-eh-lah kaˈθwela
Grass Pasto pass-toe ˈpasto Césped thess-pehd ˈθespeð
Computer Computadora com-poo-tah-doh-rah komputaˈðoɾa Ordenador or-deh-nah-door oɾðenaˈðoɾ
Cellphone Celular seh-loo-lar seluˈlaɾ Móvil mo-vill ˈmoβil
Juice Jugo who-go ˈxuɣo Zumo thoo-mo ˈθumo
Sweater Suéter soo-eh-tehr ˈsweteɾ Jersey jer-see xeɾˈsej
Potato chips Papas pah-pass ˈpapas Patatas fritas pah-tah-tass free-tass paˈtatas ˈfɾitas
Glasses Lentes lehn-tess ˈlentes Gafas gah-fass ˈɡafas
Pen Pluma ploo-ma ˈpluma Bolígrafo bo-lee-grah-foh boˈliɣɾafo
Peach Durazno doo-raz-no duˈɾazno Melocotón meh-lo-co-tohn melokoˈton
Sidewalk Banqueta bahn-keh-tah banˈketa Acera ah-seh-rah aˈθeɾa
Lawyer Abogado ah-bo-gah-doe aβoˈɣaðo Letrado leh-trah-doh leˈtɾaðo
Ice cream Helado eh-la-doh eˈlaðo Mantecado mahn-teh-cah-doe manteˈkaðo
Pineapple Piña pee-nyah ˈpiɲa Ananá ah-nah-nah anaˈna
Banana Plátano plah-tah-no ˈplatano Banana bah-nah-nah baˈnana
Suitcase Maleta ma-leh-tah maˈleta Equipaje eh-key-pah-heh ekiˈpaxe
Elevator Elevador eh-leh-vah-door eleβaˈðoɾ Ascensor ah-sehn-sohr asenˈsoɾ
Wallet Cartera car-teh-rah kaɾˈteɾa Billetero bee-yeh-teh-ro biʝeˈteɾo
Market Mercado mehr-cah-doe meɾˈkaðo Plaza plah-tha ˈplaθa
Apartment Departamento deh-par-tah-mehn-toe depaɾtaˈmento Piso pee-so ˈpiso
Bill Factura fac-too-rah fakˈtuɾa Cuenta coo-ehn-tah ˈkwenta
Coupon Cupón coo-pohn kuˈpon Vale vah-leh ˈbale
Cake Pastel pass-tell pasˈtel Tarta tar-tah ˈtaɾta
Blanket Cobija co-bee-hah koˈβixa Manta mahn-tah ˈmanta
Faucet Llave yah-veh ˈʝaβe Grifo gree-fo ˈɡɾifo
Stove Estufa ess-too-fah esˈtufa Cocina co-thee-na koˈθina
Bathtub Tina tee-nah ˈtina Bañera bah-nyeh-rah baˈɲeɾa
Pillow Almohada all-mo-ah-dah almoˈaða Cojín coh-heen koˈxin
Curtain Cortina core-tee-nah koɾˈtina Visillo vee-see-yo biˈsiʝo
Waiter Mesero meh-seh-roh meˈseɾo Camarero ca-ma-reh-ro kamaˈɾeɾo
Potato Papa pah-pah ˈpapa Patata pah-tah-tah paˈtata
Lime Limón lee-mohm liˈmon Lima lee-ma ˈlima
Broom Escoba ess-coh-bah esˈkoβa Cepillo theh-pee-yo θeˈpiʝo
Computer mouse Ratón rah-tohn raˈton Ratoncito ra-tohn-thee-toe ratonˈθito
Toothbrush Cepillo de dientes seh-pee-yo deh dee-ehn-tess seˈpiʝo ðe ˈðjentes Cepillo dental theh-pee-yo dehn-tall θeˈpiʝo ðenˈtal
To park Estacionar ess-tah-see-oh-nahr estasjoˈnaɾ Aparcar ah-par-car apaɾˈkaɾ
Frying pan Sartén sahr-ten saɾˈten Teflón teh-flohn teˈflon
Bean Frijol free-hole fɾiˈxol Judía who-dee-ah xuˈðia
Lolipop Paleta pah-leh-tah paˈleta Pirulí pee-roo-lee piɾuˈli
Napkin Servilleta sehr-vee-yeh-tah seɾβiˈʝeta Mantelito man-teh-lee-toe manteˈlito
Steering wheel Volante voh-lahn-teh boˈlante Timón tee-mohn tiˈmon
Pillowcase Funda foon-dah ˈfunda Almohadón all-mo-ah-dohn almoaˈðon
Lightbulb Foco fo-coe ˈfoko Bombilla bom-bee-ya bomˈbiʝa
Stairs Escaleras ess-cah-leh-rass eskaˈleɾas Escalinata ess-cah-lee-nah-ta eskaliˈnata
Cupboard Alacena ah-lah-seh-nah alaˈsena Armario ar-ma-ree-oh aɾˈmaɾjo
Trash can Basurero bah-soo-reh-ro basuˈɾeɾo Cubo de basura coo-boh deh bah-soo-rah ˈkuβo ðe βaˈsuɾa
Bottle Botella boh-teh-yah boˈteʝa Frasco frass-co ˈfɾasko
Shower Regadera reh-ga-deh-ra reɣaˈðeɾa Ducha doo-cha ˈduʧa
Oven Horno or-no ˈoɾno Estufa ess-too-fah esˈtufa

False friends between Spanish Spanish and Mexican Spanish

Any time you try to study a language or dialect, you have to be careful with false friends. While there are thousands of Spanish cognates — that is, words that have the same meaning and pronunciation — there are also plenty of words that sound the same but have totally different meanings. The most striking one is probably the verb coger, which means “to take” in Spain but “to have sex with” in Mexico! Although people in Mexico know the Spanish meaning of coger, it’s always startling to hear a Spaniard using it.

Here are some other examples of false friends to keep in mind:

Spanish Meaning in Mexican Spanish Meaning in Spanish Spanish
Carpeta Folder Carpet
Constipado Congested Constipated
Bizarro Brave Strange
Chocar To crash To shock
Pasta Dough or paste Money
Torta Sandwich Cake
Fábrica Factory Fabric, cloth
Colegio High school Primary school
Conductor Driver Conductor (train or music)
Embarazada Pregnant Embarrassed
Actualmente Currently Actually
Balón Sports ball Gas tank
Bomba Pump Bomb
Campo Field Countryside
Cursar To study To send
Desgracia Misfortune Disgrace
Éxito Success Exit
Gracioso Funny Graceful
Introducir To introduce (someone) To insert
Largo Long Wide
Librería Bookstore Library
Molestar To bother To molest
Oficina Office Bureau
Pretender To pretend To court
Realizar To carry out To realize
Recordar To remember To remind
Ropa Clothes Rope (in some regional dialects)
Sensible Sensitive Sensible
Sopa Soup Mess
Suburbio Residential area Slum
Vaso Glass Vase
Pie Foot Pie (pastry in some regional uses)
Cita A date or appointment A quote or citation
Actual Current Real
Compromiso Commitment Engagement
Concebir To conceive To become pregnant
Decepción Disappointment Deception
Despertar To wake up To arouse
Entrenador Trainer Coach
Excitado Excited Aroused
Lectura Reading Lecture
Particular Private Particular
Refresco Soft drink Refreshment
Soportar To tolerate To support
Último Last Latest
Vacuna Vaccine Cow
Attender To serve and assist To pay attention
Carrera University major Race
Propina Tip Bribe
Firma Signature Company

Examples of Spanish vs. Mexican Spanish

Two Berlitz students studying examples of Spanish vs. Mexican Spanish.

Carro vs. Coche

Car. Carro is used across Mexico, while coche is the standard in Spain. The term coche is also understood in Mexico, but is less common.

Mexican Spanish

  • Voy a lavar el carro este fin de semana.
  • I’m going to wash the car this weekend.

Spain Spanish

  • Mi coche nuevo es muy rápido.
  • My new car is very fast.

Chamarra vs. Chaqueta

Chamarra is used in Mexico for any jacket, especially heavier ones for cold weather. Chaqueta in Spain refers to jackets in general. Both terms are understood differently in their respective regions but serve similar functions.

Mexican Spanish

  • Necesitarás una chamarra si vamos al norte, ahí hace más frío.
  • You’ll need a jacket if we go north, it’s colder there.

Spain Spanish

  • Me compré una chaqueta ligera para el otoño.
  • I bought a light jacket for the fall.

Cuate vs. Amigo

Cuate is a colloquial term in Mexico for a friend, often implying closeness or camaraderie. Amigo is universal for both Spain and Mexico, but is more formally used.

Mexican Spanish

  • Mi cuate y yo tenemos boletos para el concierto.
  • My buddy and I have tickets to the concert.

Spain Spanish

  • Mi amigo de la infancia se mudó a Madrid.
  • My childhood friend moved to Madrid.

Güey vs. Tío

Güey or wey is a ubiquitous slang term in Mexico for a guy or dude, often used informally among friends. Tío means uncle throughout all Spanish-speaking countries, but is also used to casually refer to a friend or acquaintance in Spain.

Mexican Spanish

  • Oye, güey, ¿ya viste la nueva película?
  • Hey, dude, have you seen the new movie?

Spain Spanish

  • Tío, tienes que probar este juego nuevo.
  • Dude, you have to try this new game.

Chela vs. Caña

Chela is casual Mexican slang for a beer, usually bottled. Caña in Spain refers specifically to a small glass of draft beer. The term caña isn’t commonly used in Mexico.

Mexican Spanish

  • ¿Nos echamos una chela después del trabajo?
  • Should we grab a beer after work?

Spain Spanish

  • Nos tomamos unas cañas en la terraza del bar.
  • We had some beers on the bar’s terrace.

Fresa vs. Pijo

Fresa is used in Mexico to describe someone who is preppy or from an upper-class background, often with a negative connotation. Pijo in Spain has a similar connotation, also implying poshness or snobbery.

Mexican Spanish

  • Esa zona es conocida por ser muy fresa.
  • That area is known for being very uppity.

Spain Spanish

  • Sus amigos son algo pijos, pero simpáticos.
  • His friends are somewhat posh but nice.

Padre vs. Mola

Padre in Mexico colloquially means something fun or cool. Mola is a versatile expression in Spain for anything that’s cool or appealing. The term padre used this way is specific to Mexico.

Mexican Spanish

  • Ese concierto estuvo muy padre.
  • That concert was really great.

Spain Spanish

  • Mola ese estilo que llevas hoy.
  • That style you’re wearing today is really cool.

Lonche vs. Bocadillo

A light meal or snack. Lonche in Mexico typically refers to a lunch sandwich, derived from the word “lunch.” Bocadillo in Spain refers to a sandwich, usually made with baguette bread.

Mexican Spanish

  • Vamos a preparar unos lonches para el picnic.
  • Let’s prepare some sandwiches for the picnic.

Spain Spanish

  • Me comí un bocadillo de jamón en la cafetería.
  • I ate a ham sandwich in the cafeteria.

Apapachar vs. Mimar

To pamper or show affection through physical touch. Apapachar is a warm, affectionate term in Mexico. Mimar is used in Spain and tends to have a broader meaning of spoiling someone.

Mexican Spanish

  • Me encanta apapachar a mis sobrinos cuando los veo.
  • I love to pamper my nephews when I see them.

Spain Spanish

  • Sus abuelos lo miman demasiado.
  • His grandparents spoil him too much.

Estacionamiento vs. Aparcamiento

Parking lot or parking area. Estacionamiento is used in Mexico, while aparcamiento is used in Spain.

Mexican Spanish

  • El estacionamiento está completamente lleno.
  • The parking lot is completely full.

Spain Spanish

  • Dejé el coche en un aparcamiento subterráneo.
  • I left the car in an underground parking lot.

Cursi vs. Ñoño

Something or someone that is overly sentimental or tacky. Cursi is widely used in Mexico. Ñoño is more often used in Spain to describe something nerdy or sentimental.

Mexican Spanish

  • Esa película es demasiado cursi para mi gusto.
  • That movie is too cheesy for my taste.

Spain Spanish

  • No me gusta ese libro, es un poco ñoño.
  • I don’t like that book, it’s a bit nerdy.

Antro vs. Discoteca

Nightclub. Antro is a colloquial term in Mexico, often implying a less prestigious venue. Discoteca is used in Spain and generally denotes a mainstream nightclub.

Mexican Spanish

  • Vamos al nuevo antro que abrieron en la ciudad.
  • Let’s go to the new club they opened in town.

Spain Spanish

  • La discoteca estaba llena anoche.
  • The nightclub was packed last night.

Refresco vs. Gaseosa

Soft drink. Refresco is the term used in Mexico. Gaseosa is often used in Spain, though refresco is also understood.

Mexican Spanish

  • ¿Quieres un refresco o agua?
  • Would you like a soda or water?

Spain Spanish

  • Prefiero una gaseosa sin azúcar.
  • I prefer a light, sugar-free drink.

Escuincle vs. Chaval

Young kid or person. Escuincle is colloquial in Mexico, while chaval is commonly used in Spain.

Mexican Spanish

  • Ese escuincle siempre está jugando en la calle.
  • That kid is always playing in the street.

Spain Spanish

  • El chaval nuevo en clase es muy inteligente.
  • The new kid in class is very smart.

Papalote vs. Cometa

Kite. Papalote is the term in Mexico, while cometa is the term in Spain.

Mexican Spanish

  • Vamos a volar el papalote en el parque.
  • Let’s fly the kite in the park.

Spain Spanish

  • Mi hijo recibió un cometa por su cumpleaños.
  • My son got a kite for his birthday.

Alberca vs. Piscina

Swimming pool. Alberca is commonly used in Mexico, while piscina is the standard in Spain, although both terms are understood in both countries.

Mexican Spanish

  • La alberca de nuestro hotel está muy grande.
  • The pool at our hotel is very big.

Spain Spanish

  • La piscina de la casa de Pedro está vacía.
  • The swimming pool at Pedro’s house is empty.

Frijoles vs. Judías

Beans. Frijoles is the term used in Mexico, while judías (or sometimes alubias) is used in Spain.

Mexican Spanish

  • Los frijoles charros son mi platillo favorito.
  • Charro beans (bean stew) are my favorite dish.

Spain Spanish

  • Hoy cocinaré judías con chorizo.
  • Today I will cook beans with chorizo.

Hielera vs. Nevera portátil

Cooler, as in an insulated box used to keep items cold. Hielera is used in Mexico, and nevera portátil in Spain.

Mexican Spanish

  • Lleva la hielera a la playa para mantener las bebidas frías.
  • Take the cooler to the beach to keep the drinks cold.

Spain Spanish

  • No olvides la nevera portátil para el picnic.
  • Don’t forget the cooler for the picnic.

Cacahuate vs. Maní

Peanut. Cacahuate is commonly used in Mexico, while maní is more common in Spain.

Mexican Spanish

  • Me encantan los cacahuates como botana.
  • I love peanuts as a snack.

Spain Spanish

  • Compré maní salado para la fiesta.
  • I bought salted peanuts for the party.

Boleto vs. Entrada

Ticket, as for an event. Boleto is used in Mexico, while entrada is the term in Spain.

Mexican Spanish

  • Ya compré los boletos para el concierto.
  • I already bought the tickets for the concert.

Spain Spanish

  • ¿Cuánto cuesta la entrada al museo?
  • How much is the ticket to the museum?

Chamarra vs. Anorak

A type of heavy jacket. Chamarra is broadly used in Mexico for jackets, and anorak specifically refers to a weatherproof jacket in Spain.

Mexican Spanish

  • Usa tu chamarra porque va a hacer frío.
  • Wear your jacket because it’s going to be cold.

Spain Spanish

  • Lleva un anorak por si llueve en la montaña.
  • Take a windbreaker in case it rains in the mountains.

Pastel vs. Tarta

Cake. Pastel is the preferred term in Mexico, while tarta is commonly used in Spain.

Mexican Spanish

  • El pastel de chocolate es mi favorito.
  • Chocolate cake is my favorite.

Spain Spanish

  • Hice una tarta de manzana para el postre.
  • I made an apple pie for dessert.

Departamento vs. Piso

Apartment. Departamento is commonly used in Mexico, while piso is the term for an apartment in Spain.

Mexican Spanish

  • Vivo en un departamento en el centro de la ciudad.
  • I live in an apartment in the city center.

Spain Spanish

  • Mi piso tiene tres habitaciones.
  • My apartment has three bedrooms.

Cajuela vs. Maletero

Trunk of a car. Cajuela is used in Mexico, while maletero is used in Spain.

Mexican Spanish

  • Guarda las maletas en la cajuela del carro.
  • Put the suitcases in the car’s trunk.

Spain Spanish

  • El maletero está lleno de equipaje.
  • The trunk is full of luggage.

Claxon vs. Bocina

Horn, as in a car horn. Claxon is commonly used in Mexico, while bocina can refer to any speaker or horn in Spain.

Mexican Spanish

  • Toca el claxon para que sepan que hemos llegado.
  • Honk the horn so they know we’ve arrived.

Spain Spanish

  • Usó la bocina para alertar al otro conductor.
  • He used the horn to alert the other driver.

Abarrotes vs. Comestibles

Groceries. Abarrotes is a term commonly used in Mexico, whereas comestibles is more generic and used in Spain.

Mexican Spanish

  • Voy a la tienda de abarrotes por algunos ingredientes.
  • I’m going to the grocery store for some ingredients.

Spain Spanish

  • Compré varios comestibles para la semana.
  • I bought various groceries for the week.

Pluma vs. Bolígrafo

Pen. Pluma is commonly used in Mexico, while bolígrafo is the preferred in Spain.

Mexican Spanish

  • Necesito una pluma para firmar el documento.
  • I need a pen to sign the document.

Spain Spanish

  • Se me ha gastado la tinta del bolígrafo.
  • My pen has run out of ink.

Computadora vs. Ordenador

Computer. Computadora is used in Mexico, while ordenador is the term used in Spain.

Mexican Spanish

  • Mi computadora está muy lenta hoy.
  • My computer is very slow today.

Spain Spanish

  • He comprado un ordenador nuevo para el trabajo.
  • I’ve bought a new computer for work.

Barato vs. Cutre

Cheap. In Spain, cutre is used to describe something that’s bad quality or cheap, while barato is the common word for “cheap” all over Latin America.

Mexican Spanish

  • Encontré estos zapatos muy baratos en la tienda.
  • I found these shoes for very cheap at the store.

Spain Spanish

  • El hotel era bastante cutre, todo se veía viejo y descuidado.
  • The hotel was quite shabby, everything looked old and neglected.

Lana vs. Pasta

Money (slang). Lana is a colloquial term in Mexico, while pasta is slang for money in Spain. Both places also use dinero as the standard term for money.

Mexican Spanish

  • Necesito ganar más lana para mis gastos.
  • I neeed to earn more money for my expenses.

Spain Spanish

  • No tengo suficiente pasta para comprar un coche nuevo.
  • I don’t have enough money to buy a new car.

Chamba vs. Curro

Work or job (slang). Chamba is a casual term in Mexico, while curro is commonly used in Spain.

Mexican Spanish

  • Finalmente conseguí chamba en una empresa grande.
  • I finally got a job at a large company.

Spain Spanish

  • Estoy buscando un curro mejor pagado.
  • I’m looking for a petter-paying job.

Peda vs. Juerga

A party or drinking session. Peda is slang in Mexico for a party with alcohol, while juerga is used in Spain for a lively party or night out.

Mexican Spanish

  • Vamos a organizar una peda este fin de semana.
  • We’re going to throw a party this weekend.

Spain Spanish

  • Salimos de juerga hasta las seis de la mañana.
  • We went out partying until six in the morning.

Botana vs. Merienda

A light meal or snack. Botana is used in Mexico, while merienda is used in Spain for a light afternoon meal.

Mexican Spanish

  • Vamos a preparar unas botanas para el viaje.
  • Let’s prepare some snacks for the trip.

Spain Spanish

  • Tomamos la merienda a las cinco.
  • We have our afternoon snack at five.

Estufa vs. Cocina

Stove. Estufa is used in Mexico, while cocina in Spain can refer to both the stove and the kitchen as a whole.

Mexican Spanish

  • La estufa no está funcionando bien.
  • The stove isn’t working well.

Spain Spanish

  • Voy a calentar esta tortilla en la cocina.
  • I’m going to reheat this Spanish tortilla in the stove.

Echar la hueva vs. Tocar la guitarra

To laze around. Echar la hueva is a very casual expression in Mexico for doing nothing, while tocar la guitarra literally means to play the guitar but can colloquially mean to waste time in Spain.

Mexican Spanish

  • Me voy a quedar en casa echando la hueva todo el día.
  • I’m going to stay home and laze around all day.

Spain Spanish

  • Se pasó la tarde tocando la guitarra.
  • He spent the afternoon lazing around.

Helado vs. Mantecado

Ice cream. Helado is the general term used in Mexico, while mantecado is a specific type of ice cream popular in Spain, traditionally made from cream.

Mexican Spanish

  • Vamos a comer un helado para refrescarnos.
  • Let’s eat some ice cream to cool off.

Spain Spanish

  • Prefiero el mantecado de vainilla a cualquier otro sabor.
  • I prefer vanilla ice cream over any other flavor.

Mameluco vs. Mono

Jumpsuit or overalls. Mameluco is used in Mexico, while mono is used in Spain.

Mexican Spanish

  • Los mecánicos usan mamelucos para trabajar.
  • Mechanics use overalls to work.

Spain Spanish

  • Compré un mono nuevo para la fiesta de mañana.
  • I bought a new jumpsuit for the party.

Alcancía vs. Hucha

Piggy bank. Alcancía is commonly used in Mexico, while hucha is the term in Spain.

Mexican Spanish

  • Guardo mis ahorros en una alcancía.
  • I keep my savings in a piggy bank.

Spain Spanish

  • Tengo algo de dinero ahorrado en la hucha.
  • I have some money saved in the piggy bank.

Llanta vs. Neumático

Tire. Llanta is commonly used in Mexico, while neumático is preferred in Spain.

Mexican Spanish

  • Necesito cambiar las llantas del coche.
  • I need to change the car’s tires.

Spain Spanish

  • Revisé los neumáticos antes de salir a carretera.
  • I checked the tires before hitting the road.

Foco vs. Bombilla

Lightbulb. Foco is used in Mexico, while bombilla is the term in Spain.

Mexican Spanish

  • Se fundió el foco del baño.
  • The bathroom lightbulb burned out.

Spain Spanish

  • Voy a cambiar la bombilla de la cocina.
  • I’m going to change the kitchen lightbulb.

Popote vs. Pajita

Straw. Popote is commonly used in Mexico, while pajita is the preferred term in Spain.

Mexican Spanish

  • Por favor, pon un popote en mi bebida.
  • Please put a straw in my drink.

Spain Spanish

  • ¿Me das una pajita para el zumo?
  • Can you give me a straw for the juice?

Cochera vs. Garaje

Garage. Cochera is often used in Mexico, while garaje is the standard term in Spain.

Mexican Spanish

  • Guarda el carro en la cochera.
  • Park the car in the garage.

Spain Spanish

  • Mi garaje está lleno de herramientas.
  • My garage is full of tools.

Banqueta vs. Acera

Sidewalk. Banqueta is used in Mexico and acera is used in Spain.

Mexican Spanish

  • No camines por la banqueta rota.
  • Don’t walk on the broken sidewalk.

Spain Spanish

  • La acera está muy resbaladiza por la lluvia.
  • Meaning

Piloncillo vs. Panela

Unrefined sugar. Piloncillo is used in Mexico, while panela is known in Spain. Panela in Mexico refers to a type of white cheese.

Mexican Spanish

  • Añade piloncillo al café para darle un sabor especial.
  • Add unrefined sugar to the coffee to give it a special flavor.

Spain Spanish

  • La panela es más saludable que el azúcar blanco.
  • Panela is healthier than white sugar.

Cierre vs. Cremallera

Zipper. Cierre is often used in Mexico, while cremallera is used in Spain.

Mexican Spanish

  • El cierre de mi mochila se atascó.
  • The zipper on my backpack is stuck.

Spain Spanish

  • Necesito reparar la cremallera de mi chaqueta.
  • I need to fix the zipper on my jacket.

Sala vs. Salón

Living room. Sala is used in Mexico, while salón is often used in Spain.

Mexican Spanish

  • Vamos a redecorar la sala este fin de semana.
  • We’re going to redecorate the living room this weekend.

Spain Spanish

  • El salón tiene unas vistas hermosas al jardín.
  • The living room has beautiful views of the garden.

Hule vs. Goma

Rubber. Hule is used in Mexico, while goma is used in Spain.

Mexican Spanish

  • El hule de la ventana está roto y entra agua.
  • The window’s rubber seal is broken and water is leaking in.

Spain Spanish

  • He comprado una nueva goma para el limpiabrisas.
  • I’ve bought a new rubber for the windshield wiper.

Manejar vs. Conducir

To drive. Manejar is the standard term in Mexico, while manejar is more common in Spain, although both are understood in both countries.

Mexican Spanish

  • ¿Sabes manejar este tipo de coche?
  • Do you know how to drive this type of car?

Spain Spanish

  • Aprendí a conducir a los 18 años.
  • I learned to drive at 18 years old.

Camioneta vs. Furgoneta

Van. Camioneta or van are commonly used in Mexico, while furgoneta is used in Spain.

Mexican Spanish

  • Alquilamos una camioneta para el viaje.
  • We rented a van for the trip.

Spain Spanish

  • La furgoneta está cargada con los paquetes.
  • The van is loaded with the packages.

Tomar vs. Coger

To take. In Mexico, tomar is the verb for “to take” and also “to drink.” In Spain, coger is the verb for “to take.” However, in Latin America, coger also means to have sex, so you might get a few stares if you use this verb in Latin America.

Mexican Spanish

  • Voy a tomar un vuelo hacia Madrid.
  • I’m going to take a flight to Madrid.

Spain Spanish

  • Voy a coger el autobús para ir al centro.
  • I’m going to take the bus to go downtown.

Spanish Spanish vs. Mexican Spanish video

Sometimes, you just gotta see and hear something for it to fully click. Reading


Is it better to learn Spain Spanish or Mexican Spanish?

Whether to learn Spain Spanish or Mexican Spanish is up to your goals and context. If you plan to live in or have extensive family or business in Spain, then learning Spain Spanish might be more helpful. On the other hand, Mexican Spanish is the most common Spanish spoken in the United States and is very similar to most Latin American Spanish, so knowing it will be helpful even outside of Mexico. Those who interact more with Spanish speakers in the United States and Latin America will find Mexican Spanish much more practical.

Why is Spanish in Spain different?

Spanish in Spain is different from Spanish in Latin America mostly due to historical developments and geographic isolation. After the Spanish colonization of the Americas, the language in the New World began to evolve independently, incorporating indigenous and African languages. These local languages influenced the vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar of Spanish. In Spain, other European languages and historical events like the Reconquista influenced modern Peninsular Spanish.

What kind of Spanish is most commonly spoken?

Mexican Spanish is the most common variety of Spanish in the world, with around 130 million speakers. The United States is the second country with the most speakers, with about 57 million of them. Then, Colombia comes in third place with 52 million speakers. Spain is the fourth country with the most speakers, virtually tied with Argentina, each with around 46 million speakers.

What is the clearest dialect of Spanish?

The concept of a “clearest” dialect can be subjective and varies depending on the listener’s background. However, many consider Colombian Spanish, particularly the dialect from Bogotá, to be one of the clearest because of its careful pronunciation, relatively neutral accent, and slow pace. This reputation makes it a popular choice for Spanish learners and is often used in language teaching.

Keep exploring the many facets of Spanish

With 21 Spanish-speaking countries and over 500 million speakers worldwide, Spanish is one of the most fascinating languages out there. The difference between Spanish in Spain and Mexico is a testament to the many flavors of the language, which is packed with a unique flair in every country. Wanna learn more? Check out our guide to Mexican vs. Puerto Rican Spanish for another example of the regional variations of the language!

And if you’re still interested in learning even more about Spanish, then check out our Spanish blog! We regularly publish helpful guides on cultural and vocabulary topics, like our guide to Mexican wedding traditions and our guide to acing a job interview in Spanish.

Call Us


Find out more

Fill in the form below and we’ll contact you to discuss your learning options and answer any questions you may have.