The Mother of All Words – Dissecting “La Madre”

Happy Mother’s Day!

In honor of the day, honoring that most important of persons – Mom, the local newspaper here in Guanajuato published an article listing the uses of the word “madre” (mother) in Mexico. I learned a lot, and it seems to illustrate just why learning a foreign language is so difficult!

Here’s a sample:

  • Vale madres – literally this would mean “having the value of mothers” which one would think would be a good thing.  Instead it means something lacks value.
  • A todo madre – on the other hand (“todo” means total or all) is the best quality or well being.
  • Madrecita – is a term for someone who is now probably a grandmother, or perhaps a nun who never had kids.
  • Mamacita – is a hot young chic who’s not a mother yet, but likely soon will be (often used by a speaker who would like to help get her into that state…).
  • Desmadre– refers to socially unacceptable behavior.
  • Made into a verb, “desmardrar” – it means to break the natural order of things (and also to separate baby calves from their mothers).
  • Puras madres – (pure mothers) means nonsense.
Loozrboy's photo of a mother's day cake.

Best wishes for Mother’s Day. Photo by Loozrboy.

Confused yet? How about:

  • Madrota – this ought to mean “big mama,” but here in Mexico I’m told it refers to a Madam- as in one who runs a whore house
  • A “madral” – is a lot of something


Then there’s “en la madre,” “madre patria,” “madrearse,” “partirle al madre,” and “hecho la madre” all with different, and frequently contradictory, meanings. With so many expressions, with such different meanings, I’ve been told that when referring to someone’s actual mother it’s safest to say “mamá.”

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mamás, madrecitas y mamacitas out there.  And thank you to Sergio Sarmiento for his article.  Perhaps I’ll have learned how to use these terms by next Mother’s Day!


Published in Culture and People, Mexico

Share this article and leave your comments below

Meet the Author

Seasoned traveler, avid reader, over-eater, clumsy but determined hiker and wannabe Spanish-speaker.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *