Madrileño Sayings to Learn Before Traveling to Madrid

Spanish is the common language in Madrid, but their slang and colloquialisms can throw off even native Spanish speakers if they’re not from Spain. Here are some common phrases you’re sure to hear in the streets, and bars, or while meeting a local!


If there’s one expression you’ll hear a ton, it’s “Vale!” Spaniards use it for just about everything. But just know, it’s a positive form of “okay.” It can also be taken to mean “yes,”  “sure thing,” “let’s go,” “I’m on it,” or “I got it.” 

You’ll hear it in the street, at the bars, while ordering food, in basically any situation. Say “vale” with a smile, and the locals will love you!


A person who is majo (pronounced mah-ho) is a great guy (or great girl if it’s maja)! This type of person is kind, genuine, trustworthy, and usually good looking. It’s also used as an endearing term from a stranger, “Have a nice day, maja!” If someone refers to you as majo or maja, take it as a compliment.

Una Caña

A caña is basically a small portion of the bar’s draft beer and cost usually anywhere from a euro to two.

PRO TIP: Spaniards often order una caña instead of una cerveza since it’s considered the perfect size to drink beer. Whether you drink a caña or a hundred of them, you always choose the caña size since it keeps the perfect temperature.

Un Doble

Ask for un doble, and get a full-size beer, also on draft. 

¡Qué Guay!

Pronounced “Kay G-Why,” Qué Guay is a Spaniards way to say “how cool!” They will use this phrase if something is really neat, interesting, or impressive, like an awesome rooftop bar.

Un Tío / Una Tía

If you took Spanish I in High School, you may remember that tío is the Spanish word for “uncle.” But in Madrid, they use the word much like we use the word “dude,” in America (especially California). Tío can mean “guy,” “person,” or “stranger,” and is used typically when telling a story. 

Un Cava

Cava is not the same as champagne. We will repeat, cava is not the same as champagne. Although it looks and tastes just like it, cava is technically local sparkling white wine that all the locals drink. If you order champagne, it will be a sparkling white wine specifically from France, and could cost much more than nice Spanish cava. If you like champagne, and don’t care if it’s from France, order a cava!

Madrid definitely has its own slang and phrases, but there are plenty of English speakers in the city to help you find your way around in case you are not willing to practice your Spanish!

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