Saturday, February 20, 2010

Qué onda güey

To be honest, I can't believe I haven't posted about this a long time ago.

If you spend any significant amount of time in México socializing with the people, or even here in the US, this is a phrase you can't escape from.  It's virtually a staple of Méxican spanish.

When I go to Mexico, I spend 3-5 days in las calles (the streets) and bares (bars) talking with anyone and everyone.  And talking to the taxistas (cab drivers) is just as fun, if not more so.  But most of the language they teach me belongs on my other blog.  But I digress.  Getting back to the subject at hand, walking up and down the streets of Tijuana, I can't walk two steps without hearing these words, especially "güey".

Let's start with  "Qué onda".  It means "what's up?".  "Güey" means dude, and you will likely see it written as buey as well.  The real definition of "güey" is Ox, as in the animal.  "Qué onda"  literally is "what wave?".  Best to just remember it as "what's up".  Both of these are very informal, but very common as well. 

 "Qué onda" is pretty straight-forward, I only have one other thing to add about the expression.   A few hand gestures and a change in the tone of your voice and "Qué onda güey" goes from "what's up" to "You got a problem dude?". 

OK, so now let's talk about "güey".  

So, who uses  the word "güey"?  This one's easy, everybody.  Guys say it to guys, girls say it to girls, and guys say it to girls. Literally everyone uses this term, regardless of age.

How else can we use the word "güey"?  Here's a couple of examples...

Qué pasa güey , qué haces güey, cómo estás güey, llamame güey.

I think you get the picture.  You can use it in the same manner as you would "dude"  in English.   

 Now, while it's true a montón (ton) of people use the word "güey", not everybody likes it.  My maestra is one of those people, and quite surprisingly, she's only 23.  So, like always, exercise a bit of caution.

Well, that's it.  Use the words "Qué onda güey", and you are going to sound "muy Méxicano".

¡Hasta la próxima!


  1. Hi Rodney, I'm liking this blog more than most I've seen. It's pretty fun and informative to hear the perspective of American people regarding our speaking slangs and beyond.

    I'd like to add up to your topic here. It's really true all you say about the expression and specifically what you say about being cautious on how you use it. Although it's true that most people regardless of the age understand it here (México), it's not very liked by people from 40-50 years and above, this probably is because of the date this expression started as before it meant Ox just like you mention.

    Another graphy for the expression can be "Que onda wey", which is actually very used here in Guadalajara. It comes from americanizing the expression to a certain extent.

    I'll check out your blog every so often to see what else you've got yourself into.

    Good luck
    Vidal Ortiz

  2. Mmhhh, BTW, if you have any suggestions regarding my English, they're very welcome, as I'm still learning.

  3. AlphaPhoenix, thanks a lot for your comments.

    I really want to become familar with Mexico, it's people and the culture. I plan on retiring somewhere in Mexico one day, and I want to be more than just another ingorant gringo in Mexico. Plus I just find the history and culture Mexico interesting in general.

    And I'll be glad to help you with your English!

  4. Thanks for the offer, I'll take you up on that LOL.

    Anyway I'm happy about your intentions of becoming more culturally open, I believe people should always keep their acceptance open to other cultures, specially Mexico -US being so close to each other.

    If you have any question I can help you with, I'll be glad to help too.

  5. If you're not hispanic, I would be careful about who you use that word around...

  6. Awww por que no? I may use it anygüey :)
    BTW: I've enjoyed you explaination. Saludos !

  7. When speaking to someone you don't know, he or she will take offense if you call them güey. Yes, it means "dude," but it also means jerk.

  8. Mira gabacho, se te olvido mencionar la cognotacion de la palabra guey de la manera mas negativa que puede haber, por lo consiguiente cuando tu novia te ....
    Hace guey... con alguien mas..
    Te hace de chivo los tamales..
    simplemente te pone los cuernos....
    Deja que alguien mas pedalee tu bicicleta...

  9. In Spain, guay is used in a completely different way! In Spain, it's used as a way to say "cool" or "rad." So you could only imagine how silly I looked when I used it!!

    1. guay and guey are pronounced totally differently, hence the different meanings

  10. here in the San francisco bay area you hear guey being used, and Vato.

  11. Very very interesting, as I already know some Spanish, and I learn super quickly!! Thank for all the info..mexico ?? Sounds like a plan!!