Carnal – Translation and Meaning in English

In Mexico, carnal is a very popular slang word to say ‘friend’, ‘buddy’, ‘pal’ or ‘mate’. In its slang form, it’s also used as a synonym of ‘brother’. However, in standard Spanish ‘carnal’ is an adjective with multiple meanings. 

What does ‘Carnal’ mean?

  • Translation #1: It’s a Mexican slang word for ‘friend’, ‘buddy, ’pal’ or ‘mate’.
  • Translation #2: It’s also used as a slang synonym of the words ‘brother’ or ‘sister’. 
  • Translation #3: In formal and standard Spanish, ‘carnal’ may be translated as ‘by blood’. 
  • Translation #4: It’s also an adjective and it can be translated as ‘carnal’. 

How and When to use ‘Carnal’?

  • To say ‘friend’, ‘buddy’, ‘pal’ or ‘mate’. Although ‘carnal’ is a synonym of ‘friend’, young Mexicans only use this word when talking about a really close friend that they love as if they were brothers. Since this Mexican slang word is also a synonym of ‘mate’, ‘pal’, and ‘buddy’, it can also be used to name a guy that you don’t necessarily know. This meaning of carnal is highly popular among men. 
  • As a synonym of ‘brother’ or ‘sister’. In informal situations, ‘carnal’ is another way to say ‘brother’ or ‘sister’. Be aware that if you use this word to say ‘sister’, you have to use its feminine form ‘carnala’. 
  •  As a synonym of ‘by blood’. In standard Spanish, carnal is an adjective whose purpose is to express your family ties. As a result, it’s translated as ‘by blood’. Although this term is correct, you may also hear some other variations. 
  • As a synonym of ‘carnal’. In standard Spanish, this would be the direct translation of ‘carnal’. Just as in English, we use this adjective to talk about things related to the flesh or the physical body.  


Here are some useful examples that will help you understand the situations where you can use ‘carnal’. Keep in mind that the context will determine the meaning of this word. 

As a way to say ‘friend’, ‘buddy’ or ‘pal’.

Qué onda, carnal, ¿vamos a salir hoy? What’s up buddy, are we hanging out today?

Mi carnal Marco te puede ayudar con tu español My friend Marco can help you with your Spanish

Ramón adora a su novia Ramon adores his girlfriend

Here are some examples where you can use carnal to name a guy that you don’t know. 

Oye, carnal, ¿cuánto cuesta esta gorra? Hey, buddy, how much does this hat cost?

As a synonym of ‘brother’ or ‘sister’

Although this is very popular in Mexican Spanish, be aware that you only use it in very informal situations. 

Mira, te presento a mi carnal Here, this is my brother

¿No sabías que Claudia es carnala de Bernardo? Did you know that Claudia is Bernardo’s sister?

Notice that if you want to say sister ‘carnal’ becomes carnala. 

As a synonym of ‘by blood’ 

As mentioned earlier, in standard Spanish, ‘carnal’ is an adjective that we use to point out family ties. Although you may find this term in books, tv shows, and news, keep in mind that in conversational Spanish you may find other variations.  

Mario y Gustavo son primos carnales Mario and Gustavo are cousins by blood

¿No sabías que Claudia es carnala de Bernardo? Nora is my aunt, but not by blood

As a synonym of ‘carnal’

Although this would be the direct translation of ‘carnal’, we only use it in very formal situations or when talking about religion or spiritual topics. 

El amor no es lo mismo que los deseos carnales Love is not the same as carnal desires

Who Can You Use ‘Carnal’ With?

When used as a synonym of ‘friend’, ‘buddy’, ‘pal’,  ‘mate’ or ‘brother’, carnal is only appropriate in informal situations. You should also keep in mind that this word is more common among men, though some girls may also use it. 

You can use ‘carnal’ as a synonym of ‘by blood’ or ‘carnal’ in formal contexts and in this case, this word is used by both men and women. 

Other Ways to Say ‘Carnal’

Here are other synonyms that you can use to replace ‘carnal’. 

  • De sangre  This is the direct translation of ‘by blood’, as a result, we use it to talk about our family ties. 
  • Amigo This is the formal or standard term for ‘friend’, ‘buddy’ or ‘pal’. You can use it in different contexts and with different people. Unlike carnal,  ‘amigo’ doesn’t imply a close friendship.
  • Camarada ‘Camarada’ is widely used in the North of Mexico as a synonym of ‘friend’. Just as ‘carnal’ is more common among men.
  • Compa This is another popular slang word that young Mexicans use to say ‘friend’. In this article, you can learn more about the meanings of compa in Spanish
  • Cuate This Mexican word is also used as a synonym of ‘friend’. Here, you can learn more about the different uses and meanings of cuate.

Daniela Sanchez

¡Hola! Soy Daniela Sanchez, I've been studying Spanish professionally as well as teaching it in Mexico and online for over 10 years. I’ve taught Spanish to a wide array of foreigners from many backgrounds. Over the years, I've made it my mission to work hard on refining many challenging to understand grammar topics to make my students' learning experiences easier, faster and more enjoyable. Read More About Me

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