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Chingar is Spanish for ‘fuck’ and is used mostly in Mexico, as well as in Central America and the U.S. You won’t hear it in Spain or Argentina. It means “fuck” in almost all the ways we use that word in English, including the combinations and compounds.

Chingar comes from a Spanish verb meaning ‘to harm’ or ‘to annoy’ and carries the same general meanings of fuck, screw, drink heavily, or mess around as we have in English. The Real Academia Española gives the following definitions for this verb:

1. tr. Importunar, molestar.
2. tr. malson. Practicar el coito.
3. tr. coloq. Beber con frecuencia vino o licores.
4. tr. Am. Cen. Cortar el rabo a un animal.
5. intr. Can. salpicar.
6. intr. Pal. tintinar.
7. intr. Arg. y Ur. Colgar desparejamente el orillo de una prenda.
8. prnl. embriagarse.
9. prnl. Can., Arg., Bol., Chile y Col. No acertar, fracasar, frustrarse, fallar.
1. loc. verb. coloq. Arg. Equivocarse, fracasar.

Common phrases in colloquial speech using this verb include the following.

• ¡Chinga tu madre! (Fuck you! Fuck off!)

• ¡No chingues! (Don’t mess around with me! Don’t fuck with me!)

Both of the above are very strong and vulgar, and best not used until and unless you are absolutely, supremely confident in your command of Spanish, and in your ability to defend yourself in a fight, since you could easily offend someone inadvertently.

Just as happens with fuck and similar curses or vulgarisms in English, chingar can be used in an adjectival form, as shown below.

• ¡Ah, chingado! (Damn it!)

• Ese chingado carro no vale una vegra. (This damned car isn’t worth shit.)

This is used as an exclamation of surprise or frustration, though stronger than the rough English equivalent. Also note that the second sentence literally translates as “this damned car isn’t worth a prick” (verga is vulgar for penis).

You will hear chingar all the time in Mexican Spanish, whether in films like Y Tú Mama También, which chronicles the misadventures of two teenage boys and an older woman. The Mexican Spanish slang is so thick in this film that people from Argentina have a hard time following some of it. But there’s lot of ‘chingar’ in all its forms to be heard.

An even more amusing example is the 1980s film, El Norte, which tells the story of two kids from Central America trying to get to the U.S. border. In one scene, a truck driver who offers them a ride advises them to sound more Mexican by using ‘chingar’ a lot, giving many amusing examples in the process. By contrast, if you watch The Motorcycle Diaries, you won’t hear it, because this film chronicles a young Ché Guevera and his friend journeying around South America.

As with all curses, be very careful when using any form of chingar. Even native speakers can cause offense, so non-natives are usually better off just avoiding them. But ‘chingar’ and many other words besides are so common that you have to know them.

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