There’s a Mexican restaurant close to my house that I’ve driven by on several occasions, but it wasn’t the food that really intrigued me, it was the name of the restaurant (pictured above). Let me explain why.
You see, Mexicans don’t really give their restaurants willy-nilly names, they’re typically named after the owner or a family member, the city or state the owner is from, or the style of cooking they use.
Some examples of restaurant names might be Don Pepe, El Michoacan or La Oaxaquena. But the name of this place is TaCO’N’ Madre, which immediately set off my Mexican Spanish “Spidey senses” because it didn’t meet any of that criteria.
Knowing that Mexicans are experts at word play, especially the double entendres and the famous Mexican albur, I knew the name was more than it seemed. For weeks the name of this restaurant sat in the back of my mind as I tried to decipher exactly what it meant.
Of course I could have just gone back, bought a couple of tacos and asked, but where’s the fun in that?
And then one day it hit me.
The ‘Ta’ is short for “está”, and once I realized that, deciphering the entire phrase was easy. By the way, it’s pretty common to here “ta” for está, so don’t be surprised when this pops up in conversation somewhere. And this isn’t just limited to Mexican Spanish.
TaCO’N Madre is actually “Está con madre”, with the “está con” cleverly hidden as TaCO’N. It’s a Mexican Spanish expression meaning something is really good or awesome.
And that mis amigos, brings me the topic of today’s post, the many meanings of the word madre in Mexico.
If by some chance you don’t know, the word madre in Spanish means mother. But in Mexican Spanish the word madre has somehow taken a life of it’s own. In this article we’ll take an up close and personal look at 8 ways this word is used in Mexican Spanish.
And remember, this is Mexican Spanish, so these words and phrases could mean something completely different or make no sense at all in other Spanish dialects.
Disclaimer: This article has some explicit language, so if you’re the sensitive type, now is your chance to bail out.
If you’re still reading at this point, let’s get started!
And for the record, while using madre in some contexts won’t be considered that vulgar (depending on who you ask), it’s best to not use them in polite company. Save it for your friends and informal situations where it’s more likely to be appropriate. As I like to say, “know your audience”.
1. To say you don’t care
Me vale madres
Okay, this is a little stronger than “I don’t care”. It’s more along the lines of “I don’t give a damn”.
Me vale madres lo que dice mi ex-novia.
I don’t give a damn what my ex-girlfriend says
If you want to tone it down, just say “me vale“.
2. To say you’re going to kick someone’s ass
This is where things get interesting. There are three expressions you can use.
Madrear, Dar en la madre and Partir la madre
Let’s start with Madrear.
Yes, the word madre has been given it’s own verb form. You conjugate it like you would any other verb.
Bájale de huevos o te voy a madrear
Calm the hell down or I’m going to beat your ass
Bájale de huevos is an expression in it’s own right which we won’t get into today, but the way it’s used in this context is very aggressive and I don’t recommend using it unless you purposely want to escalate things up a few notches.
Dar en la madre
Eduardo y José llegaron a madrazos y Eduardo le dio en la madre a José
Eduardo y José started fighting and Eduardo kicked Jose’s ass
Madrazos is another word derived from mother. It’s a punch or a blow of some type. But a madrazo is not just any old punch, it’s a really hard hit. One that might put you on your ass.
If you’re looking for an equivalent in standard Spanish, a golpazo is the word you want.
Next we have partir la madre.
Partir means to split or break, but let’s not even attempt to translate this literally.
Si no dejas mi hermana en paz, te voy a partir la madre.
If you don’t leave my sister alone I’m going to kick your ass.
3. As a synonym for the word ‘cosa’
Standard Spanish word for ‘thing’ is cosa. A similar informal Spanish word would be ‘vaina‘, which is used heavily in the Caribbean (think Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic) and some parts of South America, like Colombia and Venezuela.
¿Cómo se llama esa madre?
What’s that thing called?
Pásame esa madre ahí
Pass me that thing over there
4. To say something or someone is totally awesome or cool
A toda madre is the expression you’ll want here.
Este blog está a toda madre
This blog is awesome
Well, I think it is. Here are a few more examples:
La fiesta estuvo a toda madre
The party was awesome
¿Conoces María? Es una persona a toda madre
Do you know María? She’s a really cool person
5. To be fed up
Estar hasta a la madre is the complete expression to say that you’re fed up with something or someone.
Estoy hasta la madre con ese niño
I’m fed up with that child
Estoy hasta la madre con mi trabajo. Quieren que trabaje hasta a las 10pm todos los días.
I’m sick of my job. They want me to work until 10pm everyday.
6. To say something or someone is a disaster
Mi cuarto es un desmadre, voy a limpiarlo este fin de semana
My room is damn disaster, I’m going to clean it up this weekend
Tu primo es un desmadre, siempre está metido en problemas
Your cousin is a disaster, he’s always in trouble
7. To mean a very emphatic no
¿Vas a la fiesta de Juan? Ni madres, ese wey me choca.
Are you going to Juan’s party? Hell no, I can’t stand that guy
Ni madres, yo no voy a hacer eso
Hell no, I’m not doing that
And for those of you with the overwhelming desire to say “it’s not “wey“, it’s “güey“, technically that’s true and it’s good to know.
However, “wey” is the version you’re going to find written in Facebook comments and Whatsapp chats everywhere.
But I digress, let’s get back to the word madre.
8. As an insult
It’s hard to find an insult stronger than one that has the word madre in it Mexican Spanish, so keep that in mind.
Chinga tu madre
Vete a la madre
Fuck off/Go to hell
The translation of our second phrase may be up to some debate on exactly how strong it is, but rest assured it’s not for polite company,
And that’s it!
The word madre has many more meanings and expressions, so maybe one day I’ll write about a few more of them. In the meantime, feel free to share your favorite expressions with madre in the comments or if you need a translation of an expression with madre feel free to ask!
Saludos y hasta la próxima