20 common nicknames in Spanish

by Alison Maciejewski Cortez
February 17, 2021
friends laughing at common spanish nicknames

We all know the best way to learn Spanish is to get immersed in the language. Whether it’s a holiday in Spain, a semester in Mexico, or a year in Colombia, most of us Lingoda bloggers have spent time living abroad. We love to share our experiences and encourage our readers to do the same. We’ve covered where to study abroad to learn Spanish and how to communicate with your host family. Another aspect of living in a Spanish-speaking country is picking up on nicknames. Spanish names and nicknames are different from in English. Knowing this name-related information will help you fit in when you go abroad to practise Spanish. 

How common are nicknames in Spanish?

Apodos (nicknames) in Spanish are more common than in English. Sure, we have some typical nicknames in English (Bob for Robert or Sam for Samantha) but most people go by their actual name. In Spanish-speaking countries, using an apodo is extremely common. You can go years in Mexico without knowing your friend’s legal name in Spanish.

Spanish nicknames for girls

Not everything you learn when you study abroad in a Spanish-speaking country is academics. It doesn’t have to be Spanish linguistics discussions day and night. Socialising is just as important as time spent in a classroom. It’s a cool cultural lesson to learn Spanish nicknames. For girls, the typical Spanish nickname is just the first few letters. 

  1. Verónica > Vero
  2. Carolina > Caro

In some cases, the first and middle name are combined. In others, random parts are used or even a whole new Spanish nickname. We even add endings to create a nickname of the nickname! 

  1. Maria Isabel > Marisel
  2. Isabel > Chavela
  3. Guadalupe > Lupe > Lupita

Spanish nicknames for boys

In the 2012 film No about Chile, Gael García Bernal works in a marketing firm for Luis “Lucho” Guzmán. This film is one of our top 3 movies to learn Spanish from. Watch the other two on the list for more examples of Spanish nicknames for boys. 

  1. Roberto > Beto
  2. Francisco > Pancho
  3. Jesús > Chuy/Chucho
  4. Ignacio > Nacho
  5. Jose Luis > Pepe
  6. Armando > Mando
  7. Lorenzo > Lencho

Ethnolinguists, academics who study language and culture, suggest that Spanish nicknames come from a desire to use common names instead of the Catholic biblical names given by parents and colonisers. Do you see how this fits? 

Neutral nicknames for any gender

Not only does the LGBT community come up with Spanish slang, but also unisex nicknames. These are good for non-binary and gender non-conforming people. In most cases though, unisex nicknames without designating male or female have been common for centuries.

  1. Samantha/Samuel > Sam
  2. Daniela/Daniel > Dani
  3. Antonieta/Antonio > Toni
  4. Alexa/Alejandra/Alejandro > Ale/ Alex
  5. Gael
  6. Paz
  7. Paula/Paulo > Pau

Listen for unisex nicknames in Pedro Almodóvar films. In his 1988 classic Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown) the lead is nicknamed Pepa (short for José/Josefa).

Spanish nicknames that are phasing out

One final type of nickname should be mentioned to help you to avoid awkward social situations. In the past, it was common to hear Spanish nicknames based on physical characteristics. In some cases these nicknames refer to light or dark skin colour (blanca, güero, morena/negrito), being thin or fat (flaco, gordo, panzón), or having bigger or smaller eyes (ojón, chino). This kind of nickname in Spanish often has a negative connotation. On social media, Latin American people have addressed how nicknames like these contribute to low self-esteem, bullying, and racism. 

Though physical nicknames are phasing out by generation, do not be surprised to hear them. In older couples you may hear a woman call her husband Gordo (“Fatty”) or a man call his wife Vieja (“Old Woman”). As times go on, creating nicknames rooted in teasing becomes less appropriate. 

Typical female, male, and unisex nicknames like those mentioned earlier in this post are lasting and quite normal in Spanish. Now that you are familiar with common Spanish nicknames, you will be able to recognize them and learn people’s names faster. It could even help you survive your first date in Spanish. Can you think of anybody you know with a Spanish nickname?

Forgot about your New Year’s resolution to learn Spanish? Register for a 7-day free trial with Lingoda today. 

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