Spanish Nicknames in the Mexican Culture

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You can go a long time in Mexico without knowing your good friend’s legal name. Most of the commonly used names in Mexico as well as other Latin American countries and Spain have assigned nicknames. Those immersed in the culture will know the actual name of the person based on the nickname they use. These nicknames are not as obvious to outsiders as Bob is to Bobby, and many times sound nothing like the actual name. Other times the nickname goes so far back in history that few people even know why you would be called that particular nickname. Men named Jesus are often called Chuy.

One of the most popular nicknames would be Pepe. Anyone named Jose, although if they use two names together such as Jose Luis they might use the nickname for Luis, will be called Pepe by many of their peers. Yes, Jose sounds nothing like Pepe. The only explanation I have been given is that Joseph (Jose) in the Bible is the padre p____ of the Baby Jesus, being abbreviated to him being called P.P. or Pepe in Spanish. If this is true, it seems hard to believe.

Men named Francisco are called Paco. Those named Luis are called Huicho. Those named Salvador are called Chava (which in slang means girl?). Boys named Ignacio are called Nacho.

The list could go on forever.

Spanish Nicknames for girls

Females have many nicknames too. Isabel is called Chavela. Rocio is called Chio. Rosario is called Chayo. Girls named Eugenia are called Maru. Feminized masculine names follow the same nickname pattern but with feminine endings. Francisca/Francesca would be called Pancha or Paca. Josefa would be Pepa.

Non-politically Correct Spanish Nicknames

Many nicknames for people also come from the way they look. This is fairly accepted in Mexican culture, although in other cultures it would be considered rude. Even if someone is no longer overweight, but they were as a child, they might be called ‘gordo’ or ‘gorda.’ A dark-skinned person might be called ‘negro’ (meaning the color black-this does not have the same cultural context as it would in the United States), however not as commonly as people are called ‘guero.’ Guero means light-skinned but many times, someone trying to get your attention might call you guero just for that reason. ‘Joven,’ or youngster, is another one of these nicknames, used to flatter someone that you don’t know well.

Sobrenombres and Apodos

There is a difference between a nickname or ‘sobrenombre’ and an ‘apodo’ or nickname used to make fun. This can be determined most of the time using the intention of the speaker. In order to be polite, it would be best to refer to the person with a formal title such as Señor/(a) or by the name they use when they introduce themselves to you.