The technical definition of fregar is to “wash” or to “scrub.” A wash basin, in fact, is commonly called a fregadero. Like many Spanish words, however, this one carries different meanings depending upon where it is used. Throughout much of Latin America, it serves as a synonym of molestar, which means “to annoy” or “to pester.” In Mexico the word has even deeper nuances- it is often used as euphemism for chingar, the country’s most beloved swear word. Thus, “estoy fregado” can mean “I’m screwed,” whereas its stronger counterpart, “Estoy chingado,” means “I’m f–ked.” Along with this word comes a variety of derivatives, many of which have parallels in the world of chingar:
“fregadera” = “chingadera” = either an unjust action (something which we would call B.S. in English) or simply a piece of crap, often in reference to useless or malfunctioning objects.
“fregón” = “chingón” = The shit, as we say in English. In other words, someone who is the absolute best at something. Ironically, “fregón” is often used to mean the exact opposite as well, in the same way that we might say shithead to describe someone who is a real pest.
“Se fregó” = “se chingó” = “se rompió” (the polite form) = It crapped out or It broke. This can be used in reference to anything that suddenly quits working.
And how about all the uses of fregada, which corresponds to chingada ???
“Se va a llevar la fregada lo que he levantado con tanto esfuerzo durante tantos años.” = I’m about to be screwed out of everything I’ve built up for so many years!
“Mi amigo vive hasta la quinta fregada” = My friend lives in the fifth f–k (far away).
“¡A la fregada!” = Dammit!
While fregar universally carries meanings beyond its dictionary definition, Mexicans take the gold medal for the hundreds of ways they can spin it. It really isn’t that different than what we do in English with words like “to screw” (this can mean to tighten a bolt, to have bad luck, to be taken advantage of, to have intercourse, etc.) or even more powerful swear words. In polite company, you probably won’t use fregar and you certainly won’t use chingar. That said, if you find yourself in the company of some Mexican cuates, have fun experimenting!