How to describe crazy people in Spanish…

Crazy people are everywhere. At work. At school. At home. They, in fact, seem to make up the majority of the population and, most certainly, are the most common type of individual that you or I will meet on a daily basis. This is why most languages have at least a dozen expressions for the nutjobs that inhabit our lives and Spanish is no exception. In fact, I suspect that Spanish would win any “what do you call a whackjob” competition, as there are a ton of words for “crazy” besides the ubiquitous loco which everyone knows. In fact, an internet search turns up 171 Spanish synonyms! I’ve collected a handful of these words and expressions, some of which are universal and a few of which are specific to Mexico, a fantastic country which, at the same time, has no shortage of locos.

Estás loco de remate:  The word remate means “end” or “conclusion.” When preceded by the preposition “de”, it means “completely” or “totally.” This is how one says that someone is totally crazy. Adding de remate adds a touch of finality and insinuates that the person is a lost cause. I keep this phrase handy to describe co-workers and siblings, as well as the occasional driver which passes me on a double line at 90 MPH.

Estás chiflado: The word chiflado is a noun and an adjective and, as such, can be made masculine or feminine. The looney women in your life would be las chifladas. The closest English translations would be “nutty” or “whacky.” The word has been used to describe the immortal but insane Don Quixote as well as the Three Stooges, which are known in Spanish as “Los tres chiflados.”

Estás rayado: This expression is a little less common than the preceding two and translates literally as “you’re scratched” or “you’re grated.” While in English these translations don’t carry the implication of insanity, I simply imagine someone with a scratched or grated brain and the Spanish meaning is etched into my memory.

Estás mamado: This one is a little more nuanced as in a few countries it means “muscular.” This is true in Mexico and derives from the verb mamar, which means “to suckle.” A person who is mamado/a has been metaphorically nursed to a state of great bulk. Elsewhere, however, this phrase means “drunk” and sometimes refers to the temporary state of insanity which intoxicated people typically achieve. In Puerto Rico, however, this word (pronounced “mamao”) is equivalent to torpe, estúpido and tonto, regardless of whether the person is inebriated or not. In all instances, it is considered somewhat vulgar and is preferably avoided around mothers and chiflados of the pious sort.

Estás para el manicomio: This phrase is fairly straightforward and translates as “you’re all set for the insane asylum.”

Estás zafado: The word zafado means “loose” and you may occasionally hear the expression se te zafó el tornillo, which means that one of your screws came loose. This is a relatively common expression in the northern reaches of Mexico, where I accumulated most of my Spanish knowledge. The related expression te falta un tornillo simply means that you’re missing a screw.

Estás deschavetado: The word chaveta means “head” and is a colloquial substitute for cabeza. To be deschavetado/a is to be without your head or, as we say in English, to have lost your mind. It is also to common to say “Perdiste la chaveta.”

Estás alocado: Alocado/a is a close relative of loco/a and derives from the same root. Both words are interchangeable but, if you want to sound particularly fluent, use alocado/a to describe the crazy ideas that people sometimes have, referred to as ideas alocadas.

Estás demente: The word demente serves both the masculine and feminine genders and is the same as the English “demented” or the more common “deranged.”

Se le botó la canica: The word canica means “marble” and, in English, we have the expression “to lose one’s marbles” (note that we use the plural, whereas Spanish uses the singular canica). The Spanish version, however, has an interesting origin and refers to the marbles that were once used in bottles to seal carbonated drinks (if this topic interests you, click here… turns out Japanese sodas still use marbles today). Whenever the insulating marble was dislodged, the carbonated gas in the bottle would become agitated and explode. The phrase se le botó la canica now refers metaphorically to a person who has flipped his/her lid or gone off the deep end… a person whose marble is out of place.

Se te van las cabras: This colorful phrase is especially common in Mexico and means that your goats took off on you. The expression hearkens to pastoral times and refers to momentary lapses in judgement. If you forget your child’s name, say something stupid to your mother-in-law or put the detergent in the fridge, you can excuse your momentary locura by saying “Se me fueron las cabras.”

Chalado: I haven’t heard this one much in real life, but this is presumably because this word is used mostly in Spain. It is apparently a synonym of disparatado, a more universally-used word which describes someone who says pure absurdities. Perhaps those of you familiar with the Castilian dialect can comment as to the use and frequency of chalado in the land of Quixote.

Tienes problemas en la azotea: An azotea is a rooftop terrace and, in this instance, the word is an analogy for one’s head. To have problems in the azotea is to have issues upstairs, such as we occasionally say in English.

Desequilibrado / desnivelado: These words translate as “unbalanced” or “uneven” and, in addition to their literal meanings, refer to people who are just a little off. While not as colorful as some of the other words and expressions in this list, I provide them because they are universally used.

Me chiflaste el moño: This one comes from the far southern reaches of South America or, as the region is known in Spanish, the Cono Sur. A moño is a “hairbun” and this expression is an allusion to one’s hair becoming undone. To say “me chiflaste el moño” is to say that “you went crazy on me.” It has a secondary meaning and is sometimes used like the Mexican phrase como se me pegue la gana (“whatever I feel like”). If you say “Esta noche voy al cine o me quedo en casa, como me chifle el moño,” you’re essentially saying that you’ll do whatever you feel like in the moment. Incidentally, this expression is wholly unknown north of Argentina, but it’s worth adding to your repertoire should you ever meet a crazy and/or undecisive person from that country.

One last note: There is a distinct difference between eres loco and estás loco. Unless the person is completely, hopelessly, permanently and by definition insane, then you should use estar. The use of “ser” implies an inherent characteristic, whereas estar allows for the possibility, however slim, that the person you’re describing is occasionally coherent. I too am tempted to use ser, especially in reference to my workplace, but linguistic conventions generally preclude this.

I hope these terms are useful for describing all the whack-a-doodles in your life. If you know any which aren’t listed here, add them to the comments section! … ¡Hasta pronto!

1 comment on How to describe crazy people in Spanish…

  1. These are great. Enjoyed reading through them.

    As a crazy person myself, I have a couple regional
    ones I can add which people have thrown my way
    in real conversation.
    Of Spanish origin – as in Spain, as in the Old World:
    Eres (yes eres) mas raro (or was it loco?) que pavo (or was it pato?) con
    botas.
    And from Chile:
    Estas mas loco que mono con Gillete.

    O, and did you know that yo mama’s so crazy she set
    up a Gmail account just so she could eat the spam.

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