The Meaning of No Bueno: What It Is and How To Use It

This article will provide all of the information you need on the phrase no bueno, including its definition, word origin, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What is the definition of no bueno?

No bueno is a Spanish phrase that means “no good” or “not good.” However, while this expression uses Spanish words, it is an American phrase. Urban Dictionary states that while no bueno technically translated to no good, native Spanish speakers will not actually use this term as it is not grammatically correct. If this phrase is used with a native Spanish speaker, they will know that the person speaking does not speak Spanish. No bueno would also be only used to describe masculine nouns, whereas feminine nouns would use no buena. There is a proper way to say “no good” or “not good” in Spanish, and it is “no está bien.”  Here, the verb estar meaning “to be” is in the third person conjugation, referring to “it.”

Many Americans use Spanish phrases in everyday English language speech, melding with English sometimes in the same sentence. While some may throw in words like por favor to mean please, gracias to mean thank you, chica to mean girl, or adiós to mean goodbye, there are a plethora of colloquial Spanish phrases that Americans use as well.

According to Q Costa Rica, below are a few of the most common Spanish words that American English-speakers used, alongside their definitions. This shows the impact of Latin culture on the United States – over 41 million people spoke Spanish in the United States in 2017.

·      Fiesta – Spanish for party, this phrase in English means festival or celebration indicative of a special occasion.

·      Siesta – Spanish for nap, in English it means roughly the same thing. However, it can also just be used to mean rest and doesn’t always have to mean a nap.

·      Barrio – Spanish for neighborhood, in English, this word specifically refers to a Spanish-speaking jurisdiction of a town or city in the United States, especially in the southwest.

·      Patio – This is an extremely common word in English. Its technical translation is courtyard, but many English speakers also use it to refer to a porch or a flat slab of concrete on the back of a house.

·      Cafeteria – Another word that has the same meaning in Spanish, a cafeteria is either a hall in a school where students or served lunch, or can mean a restaurant like a diner where customers can be served coffee at a counter but food at a table.

·      Gusto – While its direct translation from Spanish means taste, in English, speakers use it to mean enthusiasm or appreciation.

·      Político – With a similar root to Latin politic and Greek politikós, this word is used as a slang term to refer to people in politics, or political things.

·      Aficionado – Like its Spanish counterpart, people use this in English to mean someone who is very into a certain activity but is not a professional in it.

·      Macho – This word also means the same in Spanish as it does in English, which is someone who tries to be or is very masculine.

·      Sierra – In Spanish, this word means saw, but in English it means a type of mountain range and is the name of many mountain ranges, like the Sierra Nevadas.

·      Mi Casa Es Su Casa – English uses this phrase to mean the direct translation from Spanish, “my home is your home.” It is a kind expression used to welcome someone else into one’s home.

·      Chili Con Carne – A common dish, the direct translation from Spanish is chili with meat. While this dish originated from Spanish speaking countries, it has been modified and adjusted throughout the United States to have a plethora of different flavor palates.

·      Hasta La Vista, Baby – This phrase was popularized by Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2, and means “see you later, baby.” This Spanish phrase is commonly quoted from the film.

What is the origin of the phrase no bueno?

Bueno is originally of Latin origin. According to Spanish Etym, it comes from the eleventh century and stems from the Latin word bonus, or old Latin duenos. Over time, the d sound in Old Latin shifted to a b sound in Latin. Duonos meaning “good” became bonus, as duellum meaning “war” became bellum. Many other words come from this root, meaning good. In French, bonne means good. In Italian, bene means good. Many of the romance languages like French, Portuguese, and Italian, use the same Latin root for words meaning or related to goodness. Also in the three languages, a good welcome is benvenuto in Italian, bienvenidos in Spanish, and bienvenue in French. Es bueno!

How can no bueno be used in a sentence?

No bueno is a fairly casual phrase to be used between friends or acquaintances. There are many circumstances in which no bueno can be appropriate when discussing things that are not do good. Three different examples are below.

John and Missy, friends from college, are catching up over coffee.

Missy: I heard you started working at that ad agency nearby, that’s awesome!

John: I did, but unfortunately they had to lay me off due to downsizing only a couple months in.

Missy: Ugh, that’s no bueno. I’m so sorry!

John: It’s all good, I found another job pretty quickly.

Clarissa and Andie were just released to lunch from school. They get to the cafeteria and see that the lunch of the day is meat mash surprise. Clarissa scrunches her nose.

Clarissa: That lunch option looks no bueno. Want to go off campus instead?

Andie: Absolutely. I do not want to know what the surprise is.

What are synonyms of the phrase no bueno?

No bueno in its simplest terms means bad. Below are a few synonyms for bad from Thesaurus, alongside their definitions from Oxford Languages.

·      Crummy – Informal, meaning dirty, poor quality, or unpleasant.

·      Lousy – Meaning gross, poor, or bad.

·      Poor – Meaning worse than expected or is usual.

·      Rough – Informal, meaning difficult or unpleasant.

·      Downer – Something depressing or dispiriting.

·      Bad news – Something that is unpleasant or unlucky.

·      Icky – Meaning nasty or unpleasant.

·      Substandard – Meaning below the usual or required quality.

·      Unsatisfactory – Meaning unacceptable, poor quality, or not good.

In short, no bueno is an American phrase using Spanish words to mean no good. It is a casual phrase to be used between friends when something is not good.