¡Qué risa!: Ten Spanish expressions to talk about laughing like a local

Spaniards are a happy bunch who don’t hold back on laughing or talking about times they were in stitches. These expressions should help you navigate the language that’s used in comical situations in Spain.

laughing vocaculary spain
Learn to talk in Spanish about laughing, as you may be do plenty of it while living in Spain. Photo: Nicolás Borie Williams/Pixabay

Have you ever received this text message from a Spanish friend – “ja ja ja” – and not known what they meant by it initially? This is of course the Spanish version of ‘ha ha ha’ as phonetically the j in Spanish sounds like an h in English.

But not all Spanish expressions relating to laughing are so straightforward, with everything from dying, breaking body parts and toilet habits entering the conversation during funny moments.

Here’s a variety of Spanish expressions, some ruder than others, which will help you know what to say during hilarious situations or when talking about them later on. 

¡Qué risa!

Let’s start with the basics. If you find something funny (gracioso), because it is indeed comical (hace gracia), this will make you laugh (reir) and that sound of joy that comes out of your mouth is called risa (laughter).

¡Qué risa/s!” is what Spaniards will shout out while laughing about something they’ve found very funny or when recalling it. Depending on the tone, it can also be used in an ironic way to imply that something isn’t funny at all.

Example: ¡Qué risas anoche! Hacía tiempo que no me reía tanto.

What a laugh last night! It had been a while since I laughed so much.

laugh spanish

Who doesn’t need some risas (laughter) in their life? Photo: Maia Habegger/Unsplash


Cojón, one of the most common ways to refer to a testicle in Spanish, is widely considered to be the word in Spanish with most derivative meanings. Descojonarse, which sounds a bit like it has something to do with removing one’s testicle, is a slightly vulgar but widely used way to say to crack up with laughter. You can also talk about something being descojonante, a bit like saying something is bloody hilarious. 

Example: Me descojoné cuando me contaste ese chiste!

I cracked up when you told me that joke!

Ataque de risa 

It may sound like a medical condition, but if you get un ataque de risa it means that you’re having a fit of laughter. 

Example: A veces no puedo aguantar la risa pero esta vez ha dado un ataque de risa. 

Sometimes I can’t stop myself from laughing but this time I had a fit of laughter. 

laugh spanish

Have you ever suffered ‘un ataque de risa’? Photo: Dave Moreno/Unsplash

Reírse a carcajadas 

A carcajada is the word for a loud laugh in Spanish, so if you say reírse a carcajadas it means to roar with laughter or to laugh out loud. Incidentally, young people in Spain don’t have a Spanish acronym to replace LOL (Laugh Out Loud) but do use the English version. 

Example: Cuando le ví estaba con sus amigos riéndose a carcajadas.

When I saw her she was with her friends laughing out loud. 

Troncharse de risa 

Here’s one of the most common and ‘cleanest’ ways to say that you’re laughing your head off about something. You can use troncharse by itself as a reflexive verb without de risa and it’s understood what you mean by it. Alternatively, the verb desternillarse (de risa) can be used in exactly the same way.

Example: Nos tronchamos con las historias de John. 

John’s stories have us rolling over with laughter. 

laugh spanish

Is ‘troncharse de risa’ (laughing one’s head off) the secret to a long, happy life? Photo: Ainara Oto/Unsplash

Mearse de risa

In its literal sense, this means to pee yourself laughing. And because Spaniards often verbally defecate on many things in informal speech (the prostitute, the milk, the salty sea), there’s also an even more vulgar version of this expression which is cagarse de risa (to crap oneself laughing). It’s not uncommon either to hear Spaniards say “me meo” (I’m peeing myself) when something has them in stitches. 

Example: ¡Es un cómico magnífico, nos meamos de risa!

He’s a great comedian, we peed our pants laughing!

Llorar de risa 

A milder way to say in Spanish that something cracked you up is to say that it made you cry with laughter – llorar de risa – just the same as in English. 

Example: Lloramos de risa con su disfraz de carnaval. 

He had us in tears with his carnaval costume. 

laugh spanish

Is there a friend you have who always makes you llorar de risa (cry with laughter)? Photo: Daniel Nebreda/Pixabay

Morirse de risa 

Seeing as laughter can cause all manner of bodily fluids to be metaphorically expelled during laughter, Spaniards take their assessment of funny situations one step further and may also die from laughter. The verb is morirse de risa and the adjective is muerto de risa

Example: El público estaba muerto de risa con tus chistes sobre el Brexit.

The audience was dying with laughter with your jokes about Brexit.

Partirse de risa/la caja/el pecho/el culo/la polla

To break oneself with laughter, or to crack your box, chest, bum or dick (in the same order as above), are all very common ways of saying to roll around laughing. It’s also common for Spaniards to just say “me parto” while they’re laughing at something. 

Example: ¡Cuando hablas con esa voz, me parto de risa!

When you talk with that voice, it cracks me up!  

¡Qué vacilón!

A vacilón is a person or situation which is funny and non-serious, because there’s plenty of guasa (joking around). 

A get-together with friends which leads to plenty of risas (laughs) because everyone is mucking about or clowning around (hacer el payaso) can be described as un vacilón

Example: ¡Qué vacilón en la cena de empresa! Hasta el jefe estaba haciendo breakdance.

Fun times at the company dinner! Even the boss was breakdancing.

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Spanish Word of the Day: ¡Zasca!

Here's a word which is used in Spanish to silence someone who’s done or said something wrong. 

Spanish Word of the Day: ¡Zasca!

Zasca is a word which is used to imitate the sound of a quick movement or bang, usually in the form of a punch or slap.

So although it is up to interpretation whether it mimics the sound of a blow, it works kind of like an onomatopoeia. 

The closest English equivalents are ‘Pow!’, ‘Bang!’ or ‘Boom!’. It can also sometimes be shortened to just zas.

You don’t usually use zasca as a noun in Spanish in the sense of saying ‘I heard a loud bang’.

It’s rather used as an interjection, when describing a situation, for example ‘Se dió la vuelta y …¡Zasca! Le pegó en toda la boca. (He turned round and…Pow! She punched him right in the mouth).

However, in more recent times zasca has come to be used as a ‘verbal punch’, a quick, sharp and clinical response to a comment or criticism. 

It’s what in English is often called a clapback or comeback, a bit like saying ‘Boom!’ or ‘Take that!’. 

There’a popular meme circulating the Spanish internet featuring an old-timey comic Batman slapping Robin, with the word zasca replacing what in English would often be ‘pow’, and then an accompanying comment that explains what the slap is for.

Zasca started being uttered as such in social media and forums, but it’s usage is so common now that you’ll see it used very often in Spanish newspapers and websites, with headlines such as ‘the best zascas on Spanish TV this year’ or ‘flurry of zascas for Spain’s PSOE party”.

Spanish language group FundéuRAE, a branch of Royal Spanish Academy, has therefore recognised its new usage as a noun in modern Spanish to describe this verbal comeback.

So the next time you want to highlight that someone just got ‘their arse handed to them’ with an effective comeback, remember that ¡Zasca! hits hard.


Parecía que el ladrón se iba a escapar pero de repente – ¡Zasca! – El policía le metió un porrazo.

It looked like the thief was going to get away but all of a sudden ¡Whack! The police officer hit him with his truncheon.

¡Zasca! ¿A qué duele cuando se demuestra que te equivocas?

Take that! It hurts when you’re proven wrong, doesn’t it?

Santiago Abascal se ha llevado un zasca de la hostia cuando desmontaron sus bulos sobre la inmigración.

Santiago Abascal was shot down in flames when his lies about immigration were dismantled.