In informal Spanish, ‘onda’ is a useful word with numerous slang meanings. This word can be used in different expressions that will help you become more fluent in casual conversations.
That’s why in this article, we gathered 9 slang meanings of onda in Spanish:
- Sacar de Onda: To express surprise or confusion
- ¡Qué onda!: As a casual or informal greeting
- Buena / Mala Onda: To describe a person
- Irse al Onda: Expressing that you forgot something
- Tirar la Onda: A synonym for flirting
- Agarrar la Onda: To express that you understand
- Qué buena / mala onda: Expressing your opinions about a situation
- Ser la onda: A synonym for ‘to be amazing’
- Saber qué onda: To ask ‘what’s going on?’
Although this word is quite popular in Mexican slang, some of their meanings can also be applied to other Spanish speaking countries. Go through this list and check how you can apply ‘onda’ and its expressions into your conversations.
1. To Express Surprise or Confusion – Sacar de Onda
‘Sacar de onda’ is a popular Mexican slang phrase that is used to express confusion, shock, surprise, or bewilderment. As a result, this expression could be translated as ‘to confuse’, ‘it confused me’, ‘to disconcert’. When using this expression, keep in mind the following rules:
- Conjugate using indirect objects pronouns (me, te, le, nos, les).
- Conjugate ‘sacar’ to match the person and the tense you’re referring to.
- You can mention the external thing, behavior or event that is causing this feeling on you. If the context is clear enough, you don’t need to add any additional information.
Here are some examples:
¿No te saca de onda ver a tu ex novia con otro chico?
It doesn’t confuse you to see your ex-girlfriend with another guy?
Me sacó de onda que hubiera tanta gente en la calle, ¿sabes qué pasó?
It surprised me that there were a lot of people in the street, do you know what happened?
A Jack y a mí nos sacó de onda que las personas en Latinoamérica son muy confianzudas
Jack and I were surprised that people in Latin America are so open and trusting of each other
Notice that these previous examples give a lot of information about the cause of this feeling. However, it’s also possible to only express the feeling without giving further explanations. In this case, the indirect object pronoun will change for a reflexive pronoun (me, te, se, nos, se).
Estoy con Clara, está bien, sólo se sacó de onda
I’m with Clara, she’s fine, only a little bit confused
2. As an Informal Greeting – ¡Qué onda!
‘¡Qué onda!’ is one of the slang meanings of ‘onda’ that new Spanish learners are more familiar with. ‘¡Qué onda!’ is an informal way to greet someone in Mexican Spanish. Although it’s a slang expression, it’s quite popular among young people and grown-ups. It can be translated as ‘what’s up?’, ‘hi’ or ‘how’s it going?’.
¡Qué onda, Marco! ¿Cómo has estado?
What’s up, Marco! How have you been?
Hey, ¡qué onda, tú! Hace mucho que no te veo
Hey, you! I haven’t seen you in a long time!
Among men, it’s common to use ‘qué onda’ with other slang words as a way to greet each other. Here are some examples:
¡Qué onda, wey! ¿Dónde te has metido?
What’s up, dude? Where have you been?
¡Qué onda, carnal! ¡Qué gusto verte!
How’s it going, bro! It’s so nice to see you!
Take Note: ‘Qué onda’ is a very popular Mexican greeting. However, you can also use this expression in Argentina and Chile.
Related Resource: Popular Mexican Greetings
3. To Describe a Person – Buena Onda / Mala Onda
In Mexican slang, ‘onda’ is also used to describe someone’s personality. So for instance, we use ‘buena onda’ to express that someone is cool and ‘mala onda’ will be the opposite. Therefore, depending on the adjectives you use, ‘onda’ will mean ‘cool’, ‘nice’ or ‘not cool’, ‘not nice’.
This is the phrase structure that we use for this situation. Notice that you may conjugate ‘ser’ in any tense you need. Additionally, you could use ‘muy’ and ‘super’ to intensify your sentence:
Ser [conjugated] + (muy/super) + buena / mala + onda
Amy era muy mala onda cuando nos conocimos
Amy wasn’t very nice when we met
No le pidas ayuda a Caleb, es super mala onda
Don’t ask Caleb for help, he is not very cool
La chava con la que practico español es buena onda
The girl who I practice Spanish with is cool
Soy buena onda, pero me cuesta mucho hablar con las personas
I’m nice, but it’s very difficult for me to talk with people
Take Note: Even though this use of ‘onda’ may not be very popular in other Spanish speaking countries, it’s so common in Mexico that other Spanish speakers will be able to understand you.
4. To Express That You Forgot a Thought – Irse la Onda
In Mexico and Panama, ‘irse la onda’ is used to express either that you are about to forget something or that you already forgot it. As a result, this slang phrase could be translated as ‘to lose your train of thought’ or ‘slip someone’s mind’. Here is the phrase structure that you need to use with this expression:
Se + [indirect object pronoun] + [ir conjugated] + la onda
¿De qué estábamos hablando? Se me fue la onda
What were we talking about? I lost my train of thought
Déjame seguir trabajando porque si no se me va a ir la onda
Let me keep working otherwise I’ll lose my train of thought
Zoe no me trajo mi libro de español, sabía que se le iba a ir la onda
Zoe didn’t bring me my Spanish book, I knew it would slip her mind
¡No inventes! ¡Se nos fue la onda y se nos olvidó cerrar la llave!
You have to be kidding me! We lost our train of thought and we forgot to close the tap!
When using this slang expression with ‘onda’, keep in mind:
- Conjugate ‘ir’ in any tense you need.
- The indirect object pronoun indicates who is losing his/her train of thought.
- Se doesn’t change: it’s not a reflexive or indirect object pronoun. It intensifies the action.
Related Resource: How to Use ‘Se in Spanish’
Take Note: ‘Irse la onda’ is a slang expression, as a result, you can only use it in informal conversations. If you’re in a formal situation, you will need to use the verb ‘olvidarse’.
5. As a Synonym of ‘To Flirt’ – Tirar la Onda
‘Onda’ can also be used in the slang expression ‘tirar la onda’. This phrase is used as a casual translation for ‘to hit on’ or ‘to flirt with’. Here are some countries where you can use this expression:
[Subject] + [indirect object pronoun] + [tirar conjugated] + la onda
Ese tipo me tira la onda desde hace unos días
That guy has been hitting on me for a few days
Mireya le tira la onda a todos los chavos de la oficina
Mireya flirts with all the guys in the office
Charlie le tira la onda a Vanessa, pero ella ni cuenta se da
Charlie flirts with Vanessa, but she doesn’t even notice
Take Note: Depending on the context, you may want to add another verb to your sentence. In that case, you will need to be careful when placing the indirect pronoun.
¡Mira! Esa chava está tirándote la onda!
Look! That girl is flirting with you!
Related Resource: How To Place Indirect and Direct Object Pronouns in Spanish
6. To Express that You Understand Something – Agarrar la Onda
In Mexico and Argentina, ‘agarrar la onda’ is a popular slang phrase that is used to express that someone understands something. As a result, this expression could be translated as ‘to get it’, ‘to get the idea’ or ‘to understand’.
Martín no agarra la onda que tiene que comer mejor
Martín doesn’t understand that he needs to eat better
¡Por favor, agarra la onda! Caminar sola en la noche es peligroso
Please, understand! Walking alone in the middle of the night is dangerous
Here is another phrase structure that you can use with this slang expression. Notice that in this case, you need to mention an activity:
Le + agarrar [conjugated] + la onda + [information]
El español es fácil una vez que le agarras la onda
Spanish is easy once you get the idea
¿Le agarraste la onda a la película? A mí se me hizo muy complicada
Did you understand the movie? I find it quite complicated
No + le + agarrar [conjugated] + la onda + [information]
Katherina y Tim no le agarran la onda al subjuntivo
Katherina and Tim don’t get the subjunctive
La verdad no le agarro la onda a las matemáticas
To be honest, I don’t understand mathematics
7. To Express Your Feelings About a Situation – ‘Qué buena onda’ / ‘Qué mala onda’
In Mexico, ‘qué buena onda’ and ‘qué mala onda’ can be used to express your feelings about a situation. Depending on the context, you could express happiness, sorrow, or disappointment. As a result, these expressions could be translated as ‘how cool’, ‘so cool’, ‘too bad’, ‘how bad’ or ‘uncool’. Here are some examples of how to use these expressions:
¿Te dieron el trabajo? ¡Qué buena onda!
Did you get the job? How cool!
¡Qué mala onda que perdieras tu cartera!
It’s too bad that you lost your wallet!
¿Te ganaste un viaje gratis a España? ¡Qué buena onda!
Did you win a free trip to Spain? So cool!
No sabía que te despidieron, ¡qué mala onda!
I didn’t know that you got fired. That’s too bad!
8. As a Synonym of ‘To Be Amazing’ – Ser la onda
Every time that we want to express that someone or something is amazing, we can use the informal expression ‘ser la onda’. This phrase could be either translated as ‘to be the bomb’ or ‘to be amazing’. The only rule to use is to conjugate ‘ser’ according to the person you’re talking about.
Mariana y sus amigas son la onda
Mariana and her friends are amazing
El programa que estoy viendo es la onda
The tv show that I’m watching is the bomb
Estos tenis son la onda, están super cómodos
These snickers are amazing, they’re very comfortable
Take Note: ‘Ser la onda’ is a very popular expression in Mexico. However, it’s very likely that each Spanish speaking country has their own version of this phrase. For instance, in Spain, they use ser la hostia.
9. As a Synonym of ‘What’s Going On’ – Saber qué Onda
‘Saber qué onda’ is the slang meaning of ‘onda’ that most Spanish learners don’t know about. This Mexican informal expression is used to ask for information about someone or something. Although it doesn’t have a direct translation, it’s close in meaning to ‘what’s going on’. This expression can be used in positive and negative sentences. Here are some examples:
¿Sabes qué onda con tu hermana? Se ve preocupada
Do you know what’s going on with your sister? She looks worried
No sé qué onda con mi viaje, sólo se que me cancelaron el vuelo
I don’t what’s going on with my trip, I just know they canceled my flight
La verdad, ya no sé qué onda con Mario, no ha venido a trabajar y no sé por qué
To be honest, I don’t know what’s going on with Mario, he’s hasn’t come to work and I don’t know why
In Spanish, ‘onda’ is a very rich word with many meanings that can change depending on the context and the verbs that are working with this noun. This means there are a lot of slang expressions that use it. That’s why in this article we gathered some of the most common slang uses and meanings of it. Keep in mind that these are slang phrases, so you will need to use it in informal conversations. Use these expressions with your Mexican friends…¡serás la onda! 😉