What’s in a Latino Nickname?

Chato, Chuy, Chepo, Chela, Chana, Chango, Mono, Memo, Meche,  Monce, Nini, Gordo… Flaca – it’s a mouthful, I know.  En verdad, we could go on forever, pero mejor let’s get to the point.  That being, of course, the fun that are our nicknames in Spanish, better known as apodos or sobrenombres.  You know what I’m talking about.  That nickname that nobody but your family members and very, very good friends are supposed to know.  The one that always makes you cringe whenever somebody new hears you being called that!

What's in a Latino nickname?
Do you know all of these characters by their ‘apodos’?

For me, with a name like Juan, there really aren’t too many ways you could play with my name.  I think the worst nickname I ever got was Juanito.  It was annoying to me because it made me sound so young, but now como que hasta quiero for somebody to call me Juanito, LOL!  Most of my siblings, however, weren’t so lucky.  Let’s see – hopefully they don’t beat me up for this – we’ve got a Lola, a Tina, a Chuy, and a Lluni in the familia.  Not to mention the nicknames for my parents that their friends and other adult family members came up with for them.   My mom was Bocha.  My father, Chello.  Strangely enough, we were never allowed to call them by these apodos at all!

I think they were just shorter ways of saying their real names.  What was funny though, was that sometimes when we would meet one of our distant relatives for the first time, we’d always end up having to say sí, yo soy el hijo de Chello y Bocha (yes, I’m Chello and Bocha’s son).  I always got a kick out of that for some reason.  Anyhow, our nicknames for each other were a little less friendly, to say the least.

Now when I say each other, I mean my brothers, my cousins and my schoolmates.  We used to assign apodos to each other based on our physical attributes more than anything else.  The kid with the football shaped head was called Football Head; the girl with the extra long neck was Giraffe; the super thin kid was Toothpick; and desde luego the kid with a couple of extra pounds – yours truly – was just called Fat Ass!  I still hate that nickname to this day, though back then it was just another reason to come up with even meaner names for everyone else.  We won’t be discussing any of those today, jaja!

In all honesty, it was a reader who kind of got me thinking about just how creative and fun our nicknames for each other are in Spanish.  This was his original message:

Ese Juan, I once wrote an article about Chicano nicknames – with astonishing responses with whomever I’m talking to.  Our nicknames/sobrenombres are more creative than Bubba, or Yogi.  Think about it.  Guero is either real fair skinned or bien prieto.  Same for Flaco – bien gordito or super thin.  I know this guy, aquí in Dallas, that we call “Rock.”  I asked why and he told me that when he was young he could not say “verdad que sí“.  (Instead) he just said “Rock que sí“.  Thus the name stuck. – Chicano playwright, Chris Beal

It’s true!  It’s true, jajaja!  One of my favorite things to do has always been to add La or El  in front of somebody’s name just to make it more fun to talk about them.  Hence: La Lopez, La Mari, La Chupis, El Mono, El Gordo, El Robert, etc., etc., etc.  What’s your nickname?  Will you share it with us here?  It’s okay.

We won’t tell anyone!

18 thoughts on “What’s in a Latino Nickname?

  1. I have a Chuy, chata, and my grandparents we called them Mama Chayito and Papa Ben. I love this topic because it brings back memories and you made me cry!!!

    1. Hey comadre, didn’t mean to make you cry, but glad this post brought back memories to you. You actually also made me remember by maternal grandparents too – Mamatule and Papanino, que en paz descansen mis queridos abuelitos 🙂

  2. Some of the nicknames of our family and friends: Torito, El Boy, La Pimienta (por chiquita pero brava), El Mace (por maceton!), El Ratoncito (por chiquito), La Cebolla (por guera)… I could go on and on. Each of my kiddies has about 6 to 10 nicknames. My youngest has more than a dozen. My grandpa was always very creative with the apodos he gave people, as is my suegro. I remember my grandpa “bautizo” one of my pretendientes as “El Chicle”, because try as I might, no me lo podia despegar. LOL 😛

    1. Wow, those are a-mazing nicknames, Leslie! I have to say, I’ve been the Chicle too… in my younger years cuando andaba todo perdido de teenager enamorado, jajaja! Thanks for reminding me about that one. We also use Chicle to describe a kid who won’t leave their parent alone – “pues no, no puedo hacer nada sin mi chicle!” jajaja! Also, extra cool points to the nickname La Pimienta 🙂

  3. I have many apodos cada quien has a special one for me. I will share 3 my hubs me dice YaYa…mi tio calls me chiquito grande lol por sor gordita y chiquita ….mi abuelito me decia ojo de chivo cause i have big brwn eyes lol nice eh?

  4. Sure you won’t tell anybody? Promise? My childhood nickname was … “Chancla”. When I was a baby my skin was so dark that an uncle “sweetly” nicknamed like that cuz’ I was pritita color chancla, and back in the day the sandals were made of old used tire material. I know LOL LOL LOL HAHAHAH! Just wanted to share. and no.. I am not called like that anymore, I would get so mad… But there is still one or another that remembers that nickname, especially my brother.

  5. My dad is “Chango” because in Bolivia, a chango (or a changuito) is a young boy (muchachito). My mom has always been “Nena” – little girl. Funny how they ended up together.

    My aunt Aida is called “Flacuncha” (she was always skinny)… and mu uncle Jaime is “Pirulo”… I have no idea why. 🙂

  6. My brother was called Yuca because we’re from the Yucatán. Mom hated that nickname and would hang up on his friends that called asking for “Yuca”. But, when Mom opened her restaurant (37 years ago), she couldn’t think of a name and…the rest is history.

  7. I was a bit of a handful as a toddler…Always into things I wasn’t supposed to be into. My grandfather started calling me “metiche”. That morphed into Tichie….So, here I am 40 years later and my family still calls me Tichie.

  8. My sobrenombre from my primos y primas & close friends is Lala, my mami calls me Muñeca <3 but only she is allowed to call me that, and to mi a-pa its cochita. I was always gordita, I still am, that nickname hurt as a child and would cringe when he would slip and use it in public. Now I am more confident and love my whole self it doesn't bother me.

  9. My name Blanca so it goes it without saying….Blanquita, Blancucha, Blanquis, Blanca Nieves. But my favorite nickname goes to my big sister. Her birth given name is Martha Patricia. But of course she goes by Patricia or Pati. Well she also happens to be really bossy so my brothers started calling her “Patrona” and it soon became “Patrona Cagona” . She really is a Patrona Cogana!

  10. Oh man….my mom always use to call me cerotiyo….I didn’t realize what it meant till I was like 12…God at that time I hated being SalviMex because of that but then I realized…damn at least I will be able to float if there ever is a flood. So then it was all good.

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