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A woman reading the English-language Gringo Gazette in Baja California Sur, Mexico

A gringo (, Spanish: ['io], Portuguese: ['?u]) (male) or gringa (female) is someone considered a foreigner from the perspective of Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries in Latin America. Gringo usually refers to a foreigner, especially from the United States or Europe.[1] In English it often carries a derogatory connotation, and occasionally does so in Spanish and Portuguese. Possible other connotations may include monolingualism, a lack of understanding of Latino culture, and blond hair.[2]

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first recorded use in English comes from John Woodhouse Audubon's Western Journal of 1849-1850,[3][4] in which Audubon reports that his party was hooted and shouted at and called "Gringoes" while passing through the town of Cerro Gordo, Veracruz.[5]


The word gringo originally referred to any kind of foreigner. It was first recorded in 1787 in the Spanish Diccionario castellano con las voces de Ciencias y Artes:[6][7][a]

GRINGOS, llaman en Málaga a los extranjeros, que tienen cierta especie de acento, que los priva de una locución fácil, y natural Castellana; y en Madrid dan el mismo, y por la misma causa con particularidad a los Irlandeses. Gringos is what, in Malaga, they call foreigners who have a certain type of accent that prevents them from speaking Castilian easily and naturally; and in Madrid they give the same name, and for the same reason, in particular to the Irish.

The most likely theory is that it originates from griego ('Greek'), used in the same way as the English phrase "it's Greek to me".[8][9] Spanish is known to have used Greek as a stand-in for incomprehensibility, though now less common, such as in the phrase hablar en griego (lit. 'to speak Greek'). The 1817 Nuevo diccionario francés-español,[b] for example, gives gringo and griego as synonyms in this context:[10]

... hablar en griego, en guirigay, en gringo.
Gringo, griego: aplícase a lo que se dice o escribe sin entenderse.

... to speak in Greek, in gibberish, in gringo.
Gringo, Greek : applied to what is said or written but not understood.

This derivation requires two steps: griego > grigo, and grigo > gringo. Corominas notes that while the first change is common in Spanish (e.g. priesa to prisa), there is no perfect analogy for the second, save in Old French (Gregoire to Grigoire to Gringoire).[11] However, there are other Spanish words whose colloquial form contains an epenthetic n, such as gordiflón and gordinflón ('chubby'), and Cochinchina and Conchinchina ('South Vietnam'). It is also possible that the final form was influenced by the word jeringonza, a game like Pig Latin also used to mean "gibberish".[6]

Alternatively, it has been suggested that gringo could derive from the Caló language, the language of the Romani people of Spain, as a variant of the hypothetical *peregringo, 'peregrine', 'wayfarer', 'stranger'.[12][13]

Folk etymologies

There are several folk etymologies that purport to derive the origin of gringo from word coincidences.

Many theories date the word to the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), as a result of American troops singing a song which began with "Green grows..." such as "Green Grow the Rushes, O", "Green Grow the Lilacs", and various others.[8][14] Other theories involve locals yelling "Green, go!" at invading American soldiers (sometimes in conflicts other than the Mexican-American War), in reference to their supposedly green uniforms.[15] Another derives it from Irish "Erin go bragh" ("Ireland forever"), which served as the motto for Saint Patrick's Battalion who fought alongside the Mexican army.[16][17]

Modern usage


Gringo is only heard among Latin American immigrants or native Spaniards imitating their speech for fun or solidarity. These terms can be merely descriptive, derogatory or friendly depending on the context and situation.


The word gringo is mostly used in rural areas following the original Spanish meaning. Gringo in Argentina was used to refer to non-Spanish European immigrants who first established agricultural colonies in the country. The word was used for Swiss, German, Polish, Italian and other immigrants, but since the Italian immigrants were the larger group, the word used to be mostly linked to Italians in the lunfardo argot.[18][19] It has also found use in the intermittent exercise Gringo-Gaucho between Argentine Naval Aviation and USN aircraft carriers.


In Brazil, the word gringo means simply foreigner, and has no connection to any physical characteristics or specific countries. Unlike most Hispanic American countries, in which gringo is never used to refer to other Latin Americans, in Brazil there is no such distinction in the use of the term. Most foreign footballers in the Brazilian Championship that came from other Latin American countries are nevertheless referred as "gringos" by the sport media[20][21] and by sport fans.[22] Tourists are called gringos, and there is no differentiation in the use of the term for Latin Americans or people from other regions, like Europe.[23]

As the word has no connection to physical appearance in Brazil, black African or African American foreigners are also called gringos,[24] unlike some other countries in which the term implies fair skin. Popularly used terms for fair-skinned and blond people are generally based in specific nationalities, like "alemão" (i.e., German), "russo" (Russian) or, in some regions, "galego" (Galician)[25] which are used for both Brazilians[26][27] and foreigners[28] with such characteristics, regardless of their real ethnic origins.


In 1969, José Ángel Gutiérrez, one of the leaders of the Mexican American Youth Organization, said his and MAYO's use of the term, rather than referring to non-Latinos, referred to people or institutions with policies or attitudes that reflect racism and violence.[29]

Other uses

In Mexican cuisine, a gringa is a flour tortilla with al pastor pork meat with cheese, heated on a comal and optionally served with a salsa de chile (chilli sauce). The name is either a reference to the white flour used,[30] or its creation, when two women from the United States asked a Mexico City taquería for a Mexican dish but disliked corn tortillas.[]

See also


  1. ^ "Castilian Dictionary including the Words of the Sciences and the Arts, and their Correspondents in Three Languages: French, Latin, and Italian"
  2. ^ "New French-Spanish Dictionary"


  1. ^ "Gringo definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary". Retrieved 2019.
  2. ^ English dictionaries:
    • "gringo". Cambridge Dictionaries Online. Cambridge University. Retrieved 2014. used in Latin American countries to refer to people from the US or other English-speaking countries
    • "gringo". definition of gringo. The Free Dictionary. Retrieved 2014. Used as a sometimes disparaging term for a foreigner in Latin America, especially an American or English person.
    • "gringo". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved 2014. a foreigner in Spain or Latin America especially when of English or American origin;
    • "Gringo". Retrieved 2014. (in Latin America or Spain) a foreigner, especially one of U.S. or British descent.
    Spanish dictionaries:
    • "gringo, ga". SM Diccionarios. Retrieved 2014. Persona nacida en los Estados Unidos de América (país americano)
    • "gringo, ga". Diccionario de la lengua española. Real Academia Española. Archived from the original on 4 November 2015. Retrieved 2014. Extranjero, especialmente de habla inglesa, y en general hablante de una lengua que no sea la española; Am. Mer., Cuba, El Salv., Hond. y Nic. estadounidense.
    • "gringo - Definición -". (in Spanish). Retrieved 2018. Persona nacida en Estados Unidos, en especial la de habla inglesa.
  3. ^ Audubon, John Woodhouse; Audubon, Maria Rebecca; Hodder, Frank Heywood (20 September 2017). "Audubon's western journal, 1849-1850; being the ms. record of a trip from New York to Texas, and an overland journey through Mexico and Arizona to the gold fields of California". Cleveland, A. H. Clark. Retrieved 2017 – via Internet Archive.
  4. ^ "Gringo" From the Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved November 28, 2008.
  5. ^ Audubon, John W. (1906). Audubon's Western Journal 1849-1850, p. 100. Cleveland: Arthur H. Clark Company.
  6. ^ a b Beatriz Varela, "Ethnic Nicknames of Spanish Origin", in Rodríguez González, Félix (1996). Spanish Loanwords in the English Language: A Tendency Towards Hegemony Reversal. Walter de Gruyter. p. 143. ISBN 978-3-11-014845-9. (backup link)
  7. ^ Esteban Terreros y Pando (S.I.) (1787). Diccionario castellano con las voces de ciencias y artes y sus correspondientes en las tres lenguas francesa, latina é italiana: E-O. en la imprenta de la Viuda de Ibarra, Hijos y Compañia. p. 240.
  8. ^ a b "Etymology of Gringo". 17 April 2011. Retrieved 2017.
  9. ^ Johann Jakob von Tschudi (1847). Travels in Peru, During the Years 1838-1842: On the Coast, in the Sierra, Across the Cordilleras and the Andes, Into the Primeval Forests. D. Bogue. p. 122.
  10. ^ Antonio de Capmany y de Montpalau; Imprenta de Sancha (Madrid) (1817). Nuevo diccionario francés-español: en este van enmendados, corregidos, mejorados, y enriquecidos considerablemente los de Gattel, y Cormon. Under Hebreu and Parler: Imprenta de Sancha. pp. 448, 628.
  11. ^ Griego at Diccionario crítico etimológico de la lengua castellana, Vol. II, pag. 784 (25), Joan Corominas, Francke Verlag, Berna, 1954, ISBN 978-84-249-1361-8
  12. ^ Irving L. Allen, The Language of Ethnic Conflict: Social Organization and Lexical Culture, 1983, ISBN 0-231-05557-9, p. 129
  13. ^ Sayers, William (2009). "An Unnoticed Early Attestation ofgringo'Foreigner': Implications for its Origin". Bulletin of Spanish Studies. 86 (3): 323-330. doi:10.1080/14753820902937946.
  14. ^ Voltaire, Roberto Ponce, Red. "Origen de la palabra "gringo", por Roberto Ponce". Retrieved 2017.
  15. ^ "The Colorful Origin Stories of "Gringo"". Retrieved 2018.
  16. ^ Nikito Nipongo (2001). Perlas. LD Books. p. 24. ISBN 978-968-5270-38-0.
  17. ^ José Hernández (1925). "Martín Fierro", comentado y anotado. p. 421.
  18. ^
  19. ^ Falcón, Ricardo (2005). La Barcelona Argentina: migrantes, obreros y militantes en Rosario, 1870-1912 (in Spanish). Laborde Editor. p. 221. ISBN 978-9879459966.
  20. ^ "gringo footballers in Brazil 2015". Lance Net. Archived from the original on 11 February 2015. Retrieved 2015. The word being used for Hispanic American footballers in Brazil.
  21. ^ "gringo footballers in Brazil 2015 (ESPN)". Lance Net. Retrieved 2015. The word being used for Hispanic American footballers in Brazil.
  22. ^ "Expanded "gringo" limit in Brazilian Championship". 2014-07-28. Retrieved 2015. The word being used by a fan as a synonym of foreigner in the Brazilian Championship.
  23. ^ "turistas gringos". Terra. Archived from the original on 25 January 2016. Retrieved 2015. The word being used for European and Latin American tourists in Brazil.
  24. ^ "Cameroon gringos". Migra Mundo. Archived from the original on 2 December 2014. Retrieved 2015. Black immigrants from Cameroon play the "Copa Gringos" in Brazil.
  25. ^ "Significado de "galego"". Retrieved .
  26. ^ "Brazilian reality show celebrity nicknamed Alemão". Extra. 2015-01-25. Retrieved 2015. The word Alemão as nickname for non-German Brazilian.
  27. ^ "Brazilian footballer nicknamed Alemão". Bol. Retrieved 2015. The word Alemão as nickname for non-German Brazilian Footballer.
  28. ^ "Complexo do Alemão". Encontra Penha RJ. Retrieved 2015. The word Alemão as nickname for Polish Immigrant Leonard Kaczmarkiewicz eventually lead a whole community to be known as Complexo do Alemão(German's Complex).
  29. ^ Diehl, Kemper (26 April 2006). "STATEMENTS BY JOSE ANGEL GUTIERREZ, SAN ANTONIO EVENING NEWS, APRIL 11, 1969". Archived from the original on 17 September 2007. A person or an institution who has a certain policy or program or attitudes that reflect bigotry, racism, discord and prejudice and violence.
  30. ^ "Tacos in LA: A Complete Taco Encyclopedia of L.A." Los Angeles Magazine. July 24, 2015. Retrieved 2018.

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