Probably many of you know that the Spanish for boy is niño. Most likely, you’ve already learned this word on your very first Spanish course lesson. Sounds easy to pronounce, does it? However, the common use of this version for boy in Spanish makes it a bit less unique. This word feels threadbare and is overused by a huge number of people including those not very good at Spanish. We need something more interesting. By that, we imply something less popular and known to the non-native speakers but at the same time, the word the native speakers give preference to in their everyday conversations over the widespread lexical item that we already know. This article is about how to say boy in Spanish the way most of the native speakers address their “boys” in the street, to make your time with Spanish always worthwhile.
More Than Five Words in One City!
We are referring to the Mexico City here. This fact we’ve learned from a friend we kept the company with who was originally from a western suburb of DF – short for Distrito Federal, Mexico’s analog of the North America’s DC. Being a very kind person by nature, bothered to explain to us how the one word niño had at the least 5 other alternatives actively used in her neighborhood! With that, it does not mean that niño isn‘t used by Mexicans at all. It’s just not the word used for boy in Spanish in all contexts. In this case, there are small nuances that condition which term is the most appropriate. A peculiarity that makes the DF (pronounced /day-effey/) a unique area is that this is the only known place where you can hear niño not only being used for little boy in Spanish but for a grown-up as well! So let’s get familiar with all the other options we have while in the good old Mexico.
The first one is Chamaco. Notwithstanding the fact it is included in many Spanish-learning primers, you should rather stay away from this word unless you want to sound old, at least one generation older. While Chamaco is a Mexican colloquial term for kid, it got obsolete these days. The same word is also used in casual speech for a boyfriend, though even this contextual usage got old today. Its feminine version, chamaca, is outdated as well.
The second option we have is сhavo. The things are getting more interesting here. Chavo is as Mexican as it can possibly be. In similar fashion, chava is its feminine equivalent. As a rule, chavo refers to any lad but is also used for one’s boyfriend in some circumstances. There is the novio word, which is used as a more conventional option but the chavo term got a better reputation among Mexico inhabitants at least among the youngsters. This term is in active circulation not only within the Mexico city itself but also in the rest of Central America. Indeed, owing to an ageless look that women seem to have in Mexico, chava can refer to any woman there regardless of her actual age.
Please, keep in mind that сhavo is considered a tiny bit sub-standard so when you use it you may give yourself away as an uneducated Mexican. In addition, this word has another interesting meaning as a slang for money. It is similar to such slang as dough, spondulix, and many other awesome English words. In this regard, a cool saying you can learn is no tener un chavo, which means to be penniless.
The next is Chico. Again, this one is not exactly slang. Perhaps, chico is probably the most overused word referring to a boy for non-native speakers. In fact, chico is an adjective and translates into English as tiny, small or young. Which explains well its usage for a child as a noun. However, though it may sound very common it is amazingly archaic in Mexico and has a limited use only by people of the older generations. That said, you can still hear chico often used by Spanish-speaking population of the United States referring to anyone regardless of the age, which makes it sound more like dude or buddy. As with many Spanish words, chica turns out to be a feminine version, from which we believe, the English term chick originated, though we’re not quite sure about that.
When asked “How do you say guy in Spanish?” you can give another answer: Cuate. Together with mentioned chavo and another variant, tipo, this one the most commonly used noun for boy in Spanish among the Mexico citizens. Being a colloquialism, however it is similar to buddy not only in Mexico but also in Guatemala and Honduras. Cuata, its feminine form, enjoys equal popularity as a word that means girl. Both these words can also be used as vocatives, which we would use as buddy in English when directly addressing a friend. It is also used for fraternal twins.
There are even more words for boy in Spanish tossed around in Mexico, but those are the most commonly used.