Gringo Meaning in Spanish: Why do Mexicans say Gringo?

Today, we’re talking about the word GRINGO and gringo meaning.

Why do Mexicans say Gringo?

So, you are probably here to learn gringo meaning and understand what a gringo is, where the word comes from, or why we use it to refer to English speakers? —Did you notice I said English speakers and not U.S. Americans?

The term “gringo” originated in the early 19th century in Latin America, specifically in Mexico, where it was used to refer to English-speaking foreigners, particularly Americans. Over time, it has evolved to become a general term for any foreigner.

You might have heard different theories about this, but believe me, no es lo que crees (it’s not what you think!). So, let’s find out together, shall we?

1. Why Gringo? And how to use gringo?

Para empezar, ¿de dónde viene esta palabra? (For starters, where does this word come from?) 

So, I did some journalist work and I did a couple of digital interviews… Watch the video to listen to people’s answers! You will notice that there are some similarities, but we are not REALLY sure about the origin of the word gringo

gringo meaning question on orange and blue background

Believe it or not, the word gringo is not only used to refer to people from los Estados Unidos (the United States). I think this was caused by all the stories told by our Mexican ancestors, but it is actually used to refer to any foreigner who speaks a language other than Spanish.

So, gringo could be translated, simply, as ‘foreigner’.

2. Gringo meaning in the dictionary

Gringo, according to María Fernanda’s dictionary, means: cualquier extranjero de tez blanca que no sea latino (any light-skinned foreigner who is not Latino).

Although what I said is kind of true, hay historias diferentes (there are different stories) about where and when this word was used for the first time.

Some say it comes from la música (music). Specifically, from the song “Green Grow the Lilacs Oh” or from “Green Grow the Rushes”, una canción irlandesa (an Irish song). —I had never heard this theory in my life, but it exists!

3. History says… Gringo meaning is:

Actually, the theory that has proof in history is el diccionario de Esteban de Terreros, de 1787 (the Esteban de Terreros’ dictionary, from 1787), where it is stated thagt in Málaga, Spain, they would use the word gringo to refer to all the foreigners that had an accent other than a Spanish accent.

Wait, WHAT?!

This one is actually similar to María Fernanda’s dictionary definition! ¡Ya ven, amigos! (You see, my friends!) ¡No estaba tan perdida! (I wasn’t that lost!).

4. Not just a slang: examples of gringo 

So, final verdict…

Here’s the story that is the most likely to be true: gringo comes from the word griego (Spanish word for Greek), and in the past, people would call someone griego if they spoke unintelligibly (in other words, if they spoke no Spanish).

Now, since Mexicans have the most contact with non-Spanish speakers from the U.S., it just seems like we refer to U.S. Americans as gringos because of proximity, but as you found out today, that’s not the case. Canadians are gringos too! 

And mis amigos, if you hear someone calling you or referring to someone else as gringo, do not take it as an offensive word. Actually, this just means you are un extranjero (a foreigner) and don’t get us wrong: we do NOT want you to get out! 

Let’s see some examples now!

  1. Los gringos no entienden la cultura mexicana. (The gringos do not understand Mexican culture.)
  2. Es raro ver a un gringo en este barrio. (It’s strange to see a gringo in this neighborhood.)
  3. Está claro que el gringo es el extranjero aquí. (It is clear that the gringo is the foreigner here.)
  4. Los gringos son diferentes a los nativos de este país. (Gringos are different from the natives of this country.)
  5. Es difícil acostumbrarse al estilo de vida de los gringos. (It’s hard to get used to the lifestyle of the gringos.)

¿Hay otras palabras en español (Are there in other words in Spanish) whose meaning or origin you would like to know? Then, let me know in the video’s comments below so I can prepare another special lesson just for you.

5. FREE Spanish Training to learn more about Latin America and the culture!

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