You probably think you know how to greet someone in Spanish. After all, Spanish is the fourth most widely-spoken language in the world. It’s the native language of more than 450 million people, 43 million of whom reside in the USA, and the most widely taught foreign language in American schools. But this language has traveled across continents and evolved along the way, so forget what you learned in freshman year – we’re about to show you all the coolest ways to say hello in Spanish from across the Hispanic world!
1. Hola – across the Spanish-speaking world
Okay, yes, we’re starting with the basics: the one and only infamous hola. Its literal meaning is simply “hello” or “hi.” The good thing about this phrase is that it’s very neutral on the formality scale, meaning it can be used in almost every situation. Hola is used during any time of day and can be repeated back in response.
2. Pura vida – Costa Rica
Pura vida broken down translates to “pure life,” and in Costa Rica it is another way of saying “hello.” Although this is quite a casual phrase, it has very friendly connotations, so you can hear it used by everyone on the streets. An appropriate response would be to repeat pura vida back. Do note that this term is very versatile and can, for instance, be used when saying “goodbye” or replying to “How are you?” (assuming you want to answer by saying that “All is well”!)
3. Bueno – Mexico
In Spanish, bueno translates to “good,” but in this context, it is a greeting used over the phone in Mexico to mean “hello.” However, do keep in mind that this is used in a more casual scenario, when answering a call from a friend, family member or someone close to you. Bueno can then be repeated back by the caller.
4. Buenas – across the Spanish-speaking world
Buenas is a shortened form of the three phrases buenos días, buenas tardes and buenas noches. Respectively, they all mean “good morning,” “good afternoon” and “good evening.” Buenas is a lot less formal. When greeted with this phrase, you can respond by repeating it back, or by simply saying hola.
5. Épale – Venezuela
Exclusive to Venezuela, épale is a very informal way of greeting between people of all ages (from little kids all the way up to adults), meaning “Hi!” or “What’s up?” This can be used at any time of day and the response is usually the same or, much like buenas, can be hola.
6. ¿Qué tal? – across the Spanish-speaking world
While it’s familiar to most as “How are you?” ¿Qué tal? is very versatile in its meaning depending on the situation. It can be used as an informal greeting amongst friends and family, similar to the English “What’s up?”
7. Buenos días / Buenas tardes / Buenas noches – across the Spanish-speaking world
As previously mentioned earlier in the article, these phrases translate respectively to “good morning,” “good afternoon” and “good evening.” They are slightly more formal ways of greeting someone. Regardless of its literal meaning, buenos días or “good day” is used strictly in the morning – though the morning is often considered to last until 2 pm! Next, as the name implies, buenas tardes is used during the afternoon. Despite the word-for-word translation of buenas noches being “good night,” it can be used to greet someone in the evening.
8. ¿Qué onda? – across Latin America
Literally translated, ¿Qué onda? means, “What wave?” However, the closest English alternative would be “What’s up?” or perhaps, “What’s the vibe?” This is quite informal and is mainly used between friends. On certain occasions, ¿Qué onda? can be used simply as a greeting, without expecting a direct answer. In that case, when greeted with ¿Qué onda?, you can repeat it back, and add on a ¿Cómo estás? (meaning “How are you?”)
9. Quihubo / Quiubo – across Latin America
Quihubo or quiubo are both a contraction of ¿Qué hubo?, meaning figuratively, “How are you doing?” or “How’s it going?” They are informal greetings, and we only recommend using them in casual conversation between friends and family. There are many ways to respond to quihubo; in Mexico in particular, it is commonplace not to repeat this greeting back. Phrases such as ¿Qué onda? can be applied instead.
10. ¿Qué bolá? – Cuba
While many of the phrases you will see in this post can be used in a variety of Spanish-speaking countries, ¿Qué bolá? is specific to Cuba. Due to the identical pronunciation of ‘b’ and ‘v’ in Spanish, bola and vola (the original word) can be used interchangeably in this greeting. Vola comes from the word volar, meaning “to fly” – so the literal translation of ¿Qué bolá? is, therefore, “How does it fly?” However, this informal greeting is in fact an equivalent of “How’s it going?” An appropriate response would be to repeat the phrase back.
11. Habla – Peru
Literally, habla means “speak” and it is a very informal way of greeting a close friend in Peru. It is used as a replacement for “hello” and is often followed up with “How are you?” Because these two phrases are so often paired together, you can simply respond by telling the person how you are.
12. Wena – Chile
In Chile, wena is an informal greeting used among friends to say “hi” or “hello.” The same can be repeated back in response.
13. Holiii – across Latin America
Holiii is a derivative of hola. It is considered a very cute and informal greeting, a bit like “hiiii!” It is used among teenagers and young adults, and can be repeated back in response – alternatively, hola can be used as well.
14. Oye – across the Spanish-speaking world
It literally means “hear,” but in use it’s similar to the English “hey!” Not only is it used as a way to greet someone, but also as a way to grab someone’s attention. Due to its informality, oye is best applied in situations when talking to someone your age or younger. A correct way to respond would be with hola.
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