Work in Spanish: Examples & Slang Words

Published on May 8, 2023 | Updated on December 22, 2023

In Spanish, “trabajar” means “to work” and “trabajo” means “job”, you can use both words and you will be understood.

However, Spanish native speakers use colloquial expressions or slang terms instead of using “trabajo” and “trabajar”.

For instance, In Costa Rica, when we speak with friends, we use “brete” (job) and bretear (to work) all the time, so you will probably hear “tengo que buscar brete” instead of “tengo que buscar trabajo”

In this post, we’ll explore different ways to say “work” in Spanish, from common verbs to more informal terms.

By the end, you’ll have a better understanding of how to use these words and how they can help you communicate more effectively in a professional and informal context.

Work in Spanish: Trabajo & Trabajar

To begin with, let’s explore some basic vocabulary related to work in Spanish.

“Trabajo” is the most common word for “work,” and it can refer to both employment and the physical effort required to complete a task.

Some related terms include “empleo” (employment), “ocupación” (occupation), and “labor” (labor).

These sentences will help you understand it:

SPATengo una labor que hacer
ENI have some work to do
SPAMi trabajo es ayudar a los clientes
ENMy job is to help the clients.
SPAYo estoy buscando trabajo
ENI am looking for a job
SPATengo que trabajar
ENI have to work

Work in Spanish: Chamba & Chambear

Now let’s move on to the more interesting part: slang and idiomatic expressions.

One of the most common ways to refer to work in a casual setting is “chamba.” This word is mostly used in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, and it can be both a noun and a verb.

SPAYo tengo chamba
EN I have a job
SPAVoy a chambear
ENI am going to work

Work in Spanish: Curro & Currar

Other variations of this word include “curro” (Spain).

SPADurante el día curro
ENI work during the day
SPAAhí te dan curro
ENThere you can get a job
SPATiene un montón de curro.
ENShe has a lot of work
SPAEse es su nuevo curro.
ENThat’s his new job.

“Currar” is the verb in case you want to make sentences in Spanish about the past, present and future.

SPAHe tenido que currar mucho.
ENI’ve had to work so hard
SPA¿Quieres currar en la cocina?
ENDo you want a job in the kitchen?
SPAEstoy currando
ENI am working
SPA¡No volverás a currar en tu vida!
ENYou’ll never work again in your life!

Work in Spanish: Brete & Bretear

“Bretear” is a slang term commonly used in some Latin American countries such as Nicaragua and Costa Rica. It means “to work hard”

The word comes from the noun “brete” which means a job or task that requires effort and dedication.

SPATengo que bretear
ENI have to work
SPAEstoy buscando brete
ENI am looking for a job
SPANo tengo brete
ENI am looking for a job

It is important to note that “bretear” is considered a colloquialism and may not be widely understood or used in all Spanish-speaking regions.

Work in Spanish: Jale

“Jale” is another slang term used in some Spanish-speaking countries, particularly in Mexico.

It is an informal term to refer to a job or task, similar to the English word “gig.”

For example, if someone says “tengo un jale para mañana” it means “I have a job for tomorrow.”

SPAMañana tengo que ir a mi jale temprano
ENTomorrow I have to go to my job early
SPAConseguí un jale como mesero en un restaurante
ENI got a job as a waiter in a restaurant
SPA¿Ya tienes jale para el verano?
ENDo you have a summer job yet?
SPATengo un jale nuevo en una tienda de ropa
ENI have a new job at a clothing store

Manuel Campos

Manuel Campos

I live in Costa Rica, I am an Spanish Native speaker and I am English teacher so I am sure that I will share valuable insights if you really want to learn Spanish