Words for “Crazy” in Spanish

The English word “crazy” can be expressed by myriad words and expressions in Spanish. There are so many variations, in fact, that I’m sure entire books could be filled with the regionalisms used to express this one concept. I wish to offer a few of the more common words I’ve heard in my interactions with native speakers, the majority of which reflect Mexican usage.

1) loco: This is the most common and most universal word for “crazy” and, naturally, the one which you are safest using (not that anyone likes to be called “loco”). There is an important difference, however, between Está loco and Es loco. The former refers to a temporary condition and is probably the expression you’d use when disqualifying someone’s bad idea or ridiculous statement:

– “¿Porqué no nos compramos esa casa?” — “¡Estás loca mujer! No tenemos dinero.”

With ser, however, you mean to say that someone is an insane person:

– “Lo metimos en un manicomio (insane asylum) porque es completamente loco.”

Although I know many people for whom ser might be a more apt description, know that estar is far and away more common when describing someone’s momentary lapses of sanity.

2) deschavetado: This is a fun little word which is more used in the north of Mexico than anywhere else. It means essentially the same thing as “loco” and has its origin in the world of engineering. A “chaveta” is a metal pin or fastener which is used to hold two moving parts together (I’m not an engineer so you can read about “chavetas” here). When the “chaveta” is missing, the two pieces come apart. In Spain, the phrase “perder la chaveta” is used instead to refer to someone who’s lost it.

3) zafado: The verb zafar means “to loosen” or “untie”. It doesn’t take much imagination to see how “zafado” became a common word for “loco”. An expression you may hear, especially in Mexico, is “Se le zafó el tornillo” (The screw came loose on him or He went nuts).

4) chiflado: As best I can tell, this word is pretty universal and serves as a pretty faithful synonym for “loco”:

– “No le hagas caso a mi cuñado. Está chiflado y no sabe lo que dice.”

5) botado: I’ve heard this word used to mean “crazy” in parts of Mexico, but it apparently also means “generous”, “wealthy” and “discredited”, depending on the region. I include it because it comes with a fun and useful expression: “Se le botó la canica” which translates roughly as “He lost his marbles.”

6) desquiciado: This word, universal in application, refers to someone who went mad or who isn’t him/herself. The implication is that the person was normal until something or someone drove him/her over the edge (children, bosses, etc). The expression “Me saca de quicio” means “He/she/it drives me crazy.” Synonyms include enloquecido and desequilibrado.

7) Se le van las cabras: While not common and exclusive to Mexico, this is one of my favorite expressions to describe someone who’s lost their common sense. It literally means “The goats took off on him” and is a great one for those bosses and co-workers whose ideas make you nauseous.

I hope that you find these expressions useful and applicable only to persons other than yourself. ¡Que tengas una buena semana y hasta pronto!


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