If we want to make a list of demonyms in Spanish and cover all the Spanish-speaking countries we could list some examples such as: Puerto Ricans are called Puertorriqueños or Boricuas, Costa Ricans are know by Costa Ricans or Ticos and the Nicaraguans are Nicaraguences or Nicas. But when Latinos refer to Americans, the list of Spanish words is a little more extensive. Is gringo the only Spanish slang word for American? Of course not!
If you want to learn how to say American in Spanish, take a look at this list and infographic that includes the standard Spanish terms as well as some Spanish slang words. Remember that you can share or pin this infographic on Facebook and Pinterest.
How to say AMERICAN in Spanish according to the Royal Spanish Academy
In Spanish, often two versions of a word or phrase exist: the formally accepted language which the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE) wants us to say, and the other is what we actually say. First, I’ll start with the correct Spanish term accepted by the RAE to translate “American.”
1. estadounidense (estadunidense)
The Diccionario Panhispánico de Dudas by RAE states that the correct name in Spanish you should use to refer to the people from the United States of America is estadounidense.
Here is the concept clarification between the demonyms americano and estadounidense. The RAE adds that the use of the name americano should be avoided to refer exclusively to the inhabitants of the United States. For some latinos, it may offend them, but for others, it is commonly accpeted. “America” (and consequently “American”) is used in English as an abbreviation of “United States of America.” Do not forget that América is the name of the whole region (North and South America) and americanos are all that live anywhere in the region.
Although it is not viewed favorably by the RAE, the word norteamericano y Norteamérica (North America) are widely used by Spanish-speakers to refer to the Americans and the United States respectively. Indeed, in Spanish Norteamérica is the sub-continent that includes the countries of Mexico, United States and Canada.
How to say AMERICAN in Spanish the colloquial way
4. gringo or gringa
This is the most common Spanish slang word used all over the Spanish-speaking countries. Contrary to what some people believe, this is in no way an insult. There are three theories of the origin of this word:
a. From griego to gringo
A variant of the word griego in reference to a language that can’t be understood, similar to the English saying “that’s Greek to me.” Etymology experts think that this theory is the least likely origin because of the number of steps that this word would have taken to morph from griego to gringo.
b. From peregringo to gringo
Wikipedia gives us the second theory: “Instead it is claimed that gringo might derive from Caló, the language of the Romani people of Spain, as a variant of peregringo” meaning peregrine, wayfarer, and stranger.
c. From “green go” to gringo
Some other folk theories indicates that gringo came from the phrase “green go.” In Brazil it is believed that it was in reference to the foreigners that took away all the green (nature) from the Amazon. In Puerto Rico, the popular story indicates that the word came from a the demanding phrase “Green, go!” from the locals that weren’t happy with the United States military government whose personnel used to wear green uniforms.
Some cool colloquial phrases in Spanish that use the word gringo are:
• andar a lo gringo (Chile): going commando
• gringo de agua dulce (Honduras): derogatory for a Hispanic white person with light colored eyes.
• hacerse el gringo (Colombia and Ecuador): synonym for hacerse el pendejo or to act stupid, like a fool or idiot
5. gabacho or gabacha
This word is used in Mexico as: a) an American citizen, b) the United States, c) any foreigner
You will hear this word in Honduras and Guatemala.
This word is commonly said in Argentina to refer to an American as well as anything related to the United States. In some parts of the neighbor country Bolivia the phrase yanqui llocalla means a relatively young person who adopts the customs and habits of Americans.
This word is used in Cuba for 1) American or 2) United States.
This word is used in Ecuador, Argentina and Uruguay.
Do you know other words in Spanish for American?
INFOGRAPHIC: How to say AMERICAN in Spanish
Check out these other Spanish Slang Word articles.