Jefe – Translation, and Meaning in English

Definition -On top of being the direct translation of ‘boss’, in informal Spanish, jefe, jefa and jefes can be used to refer to your parents. Additionally, in some contexts, this word is as a synonym of ‘mate’, ‘buddy’ or ‘mister’.

What does ‘Jefe’ mean?

  • Translation #1: In standard Spanish, ‘jefe’ is the direct translation of ‘chief’ or ‘boss’.  
  • Translation #2: In some Latin-American countries, this word is used in informal contexts as a synonym of ‘dad’.   
  • Translation #3: In informal contexts, it could mean ‘mate’, ‘buddy’ or ‘mister’

How and When to use ‘Jefe’?

  • As a synonym of ‘boss’ or ‘chief’. In regular contexts, ‘jefe’ is translated as ‘boss’ or ‘chief’. As a result, we use it to talk about authoritative figures at work or in other institutions. Keep in mind that you need to use jefa to refer to a female boss. 
  • To refer to your parents. In countries like Mexico and Venezuela, jefe can be used in informal contexts as a synonym of ‘dad’. You can also use the plural form jefes to say ‘parents’ and jefa as a synonym of ‘mom’.
  • As a synonym of ‘mister’, ‘mate’ or ‘buddy’. In informal contexts, men also use this word to talk to other grown up men whose name they don’t know. Usually this happens when buying something or receiving any kind of service. Even though the translation could be ‘mate’, ‘buddy’, using jefe in this context implies some respect from the speaker, as a result, it could also mean ‘mister’.  


Here are some examples that will help you understand how to apply ‘jefe’ correctly.

As a synonym of ‘boss’ or ‘chief’

As mentioned before, this use of jefe is very common in standard Spanish. In this case, you need to make sure that this word agrees with the number of people you’re talking about as well as their gender.

Mi jefe nunca llega temprano My boss is never early

Tengo mucho trabajo porque mi jefa no está I have a lot of work because my boss isn’t here

Escuché que los jefes van a tener una reunión, ¿sabes que está pasando? I heard that the bosses are having a meeting, do you know what’s going on?

Keep in mind that just as in English, in Spanish, it’s also very common to apply this meaning outside of the workplace to imply that a person has some authority.

Pregúntale a tu mamá, ya sabes que ella es la jefa Ask your mom, you know she’s the boss

Dinos a dónde quieres ir, hoy, tú eres el jefe Tell us where you want to go, today, you’re the boss

As a synonym of ‘parents’

In Mexico and Venezuela, it is very common to use ‘jefe’, ‘jefes’ and ‘jefa’ when talking about your or someone else’s parents. Be aware that in order to determine the meaning of these words, you need to pay attention to the context.

Salúdame a tus jefes Say hi to your parents

Jefa, ¿has visto mis llaves? Mom, have you seen my keys?

Héctor me dijo que no puede venir porque va a ayudar a su jefe Héctor told me that he can’t come because he’s going to help his dad

As a synonym of ‘mister’, ‘mate’ or ‘buddy’.

Unlike the other contexts, in this situation, ‘jefe’ is only used among men. As a result, there’s no need to use the feminine form ‘jefa’.

Jefe, ¿dónde puedo encontrar una tienda? Mate, where can I find a store?

¿Quiere que le lave su coche, jefe? Do you want me to wash your car, mister?

Who Can You Use ‘Jefe’ With?

In its regular meaning, jefe is used in all contexts to talk about an authoritative figure. However, when using it as a synonym of ‘parents’ you need to stick only to informal contexts such as friends and family. You can call your ‘dad’ jefe, but you wouldn’t use this meaning in a formal situation.

When using this word to talk to a grown-up man, you can also apply it in informal situations. Keep in mind that this meaning is only used by men to refer to a grown-up male. 

Other Ways to Say ‘Jefe’

Here are other synonyms that you can use to replace ‘’jefe’’ if needed.

  • Patrón This is also a synonym of ‘boss’ and ‘chief’, as a result, you can use it in almost the same situations that you use ‘jefe’. However, we don’t use patrón as a synonym of ‘parents’. 
  • Mamá It’s the regular way to say ‘mom’.
  • Papá It’s the regular way to say ‘dad’ .
  • Señor This is the translation of ‘mister’, so we can use it instead of ‘jefe’ when referring to a grown-up man that we don’t know.
  • Carnal ‘Carnal’ is a slang word that we can use to talk or refer to a man whose name we don’t know. This word is very popular in Mexican slang, that’s why in this article, I explain the different meanings and uses of carnal in Spanish.

Daniela Sanchez

¡Hola! Soy Daniela Sanchez, I’ve taught Spanish in Mexico to a wide array of foreigners. From students and tourists to doctors and soldiers who’ve moved and visited here over the years. During the day I’m a freelancer and marketer, while at night I’m here writing for students of the world wide web looking to learn Spanish. I hope you find what you’re looking here during your journey into Español 🙂 Read More About Me

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