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Chulo in Spain: Are You SURE That’s Appropriate for a Grandmother?

In Latin America, the word often used to mean “cool, man!” is: “chevere!” But Latin American Spanish ain’t Spain-y Spanish, baby. Therefore, you have to do your research before you bandy about your old slang in a new country.

Here’s what happened when I asked my lovely host family in Barcelona, Spain to explain the Spain-y Spanish version of “cool, man!”

Monastery of Pedralbes in Barcelona, Spain.
The beautiful Monastery of Pedralbes in Barcelona, Spain.

“Do you know what means ‘chulo’?” asked Anna.

“No, please explain,” I said.

“It is the man who is selling the prostitutes,” said Anna innocently.

“PIMP?!” I exclaimed.

“Maybe,” said Anna. “So the word for ‘cool’ in Spain is often: “Chulo!‘”

Me at the monastery in Barcelona.
Me at the monastery in Barcelona.

“Ok, wait,” I gasped, “are you telling me that the most common word for ‘Neat! Nice! Excellent!’ in Spain is… PIMP?”

“Yes,” said Anna. “You can also say ‘chulisimo,’ ‘una chulada,’ and so on. It has many exciting forms.”

“‘Super-Pimpy?’ ‘Pimpish?’ ‘Pimpesque?'” I choked out. “Are you serious?”

“Yes,” said Anna.

“So could I use this word in front of, say, a very conservative grandmother in a fluffy pink dress?”

“Definitely,” said Anna. “But you have to be careful when using it with a person, because with a person it can mean ‘too cool’ or stuck up.”

“Pimp?!” I hollered.

The Monastery and Museum of Pedralbes in Barcelona, Spain.
Arches at the Monastery and Museum of Pedralbes.

“It doesn’t mean like that when you say it with the right context and intonation,” said Anna confidently. “In Spain, you can also say ‘guay‘ to mean ‘cool.'”


“No, ‘guay,’ pronounced like ‘way,'” corrected Anna.

I chuckled, shook my head, and said, “Guay. Gracias por explicar. El espanol de Espana es muy chulo!

Such are the joys of language.

Photo Note: All pictures in this article are from the lovely Monastery and Museum of Pedralbes in Barcelona, Spain, which has one of the largest surviving cloisters in all of Europe. It also, incidentally, was nearly empty of tourists, in calming contrast to the sights in Barcelona’s center.


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Tuesday 15th of November 2011

I love languages!

Liz C. (Koraliz)

Saturday 15th of October 2011

HAHAHAHAHAHA!!! I didn't know that 'chulo' could mean 'pimp'. But she was right, you really have to be careful with what you say to others because they might take it differently and you don't even know it.

Tina D.

Friday 7th of October 2011

Ms.Marshall, I think this is very funny. Over here (America), we would think 'chulo' as gross, illegal pimps and would be easily offended if someone called us a pimp. But since I read this article or post, 'chulo' is actually a complement and it's okay to say about a grandmother's dress! I still can't believe the word 'chulo' actually means pimp in Spain but is considered to be the word for 'cool'. So this made me wondered if a pimp in America is considered 'cool' by the Spain people?


Thursday 6th of October 2011

Ms.Marshall, I happen to know Spanish myself! When Anna taught you the word "chevere" what did you think it meant? Sometimes people think that that word is only said in Mexico, but that is a misconception because the rest of the Spanish world says the same thing. Somehow I cannot imagine you talking Spanish with an accent because you look like an Espaniola yourself, so if you go back to Spain people might confuse you with a hispanic person than an American person.


Sunday 13th of March 2011

“Chevere” Colombians are also very fond of that word. I remember using it back in Colombia when I was around 5.

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