Órale: Origin, Meaning, How to Use and Respond

What Does Órale Mean

One of the words that often baffles non-Spanish speakers is the interjection “órale”. You may have heard this word on TV, in movies, and in the street, especially from people of Mexican origin. 

It is a slang term you can apply in very different contexts and to convey very different things. 

Mexicans use it to express approval or encouragement and to show discomfort or surprise. It also comes in handy when you want someone to act quickly. 

In this article, we will explain what is the meaning of órale and its origin. 

We will also show you examples of how you can put the term in practice with your Spanish-speaking friends. 

Órale Origin

“Órale” is a common Mexican slang interjection accepted by the Royal Academy of Spanish Language (RAE). As with many other languages, Mexican slang is full of cultural references and is constantly evolving. These kinds of terms often rise beyond syntax and mutate into multiple meanings and interpretations. 

Although it has been used in Mexico for years, experts have tracked down the origin of the term “órale” to Spain. It originally comes from the word “ahora” (“now” in English). With time, speakers dropped the “a” and it became “hora”. 

Since the “h” in Spanish is silent, it didn’t take long before they eradicated it too, resulting in the current “ora”. The suffix “-le” was later added to make the verb imperative and give it a sense of urgency. 

Although it is a very Mexican expression, it is also used in countries like Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, due to their geographic proximity. 

Órale Meaning and How to Use It

As we said before, the term “órale” has different uses and connotations. The Mexican Academy of Language gives three main meanings to the word “órale”: surprise, acceptance, and exhortation. 

Depending on the context of the conversation and the tone of voice of the speaker you can pinpoint the exact meaning. 

Let’s see some examples to better understand the various uses of the word “órale”.

1. As an interjection of amazement

You can use this variation of the word “órale” to show surprise or excitement. For example:

  • Wow!

A: Nuestro equipo de fútbol ganó el partido 10 a 0. / Our football team won the game 10 to 0.

B: ¡Órale! / Wow!

  • Cool

A: Al final de la carrera nos esperan con un banquete. / When we finish the race there will be a banquet for us.

B: Órale, estoy muerto de hambre. / Cool, I’m starving.

  • My goodness!

A: Murieron cien personas por el huracán. / One hundred people died because of the hurricane.

B: Órale, no sabía nada. / My goodness, I didn’t know.

2. As an indication of approval

Adopt this meaning to communicate that you agree or as a way to confirm a statement. For example:

  • Ok/Alright

A: ¿Nos encontramos el miércoles a las 11 en el café de la universidad? / Meet me on Wednesday at 11 o’clock at the university café?

B: Órale, nos vemos el miércoles. / Alright, see you Wednesday.

  • Hell yes!

A: ¿Qué tal si compro una pizza y voy a tu casa a ver una película? / How about I buy a pizza and come to your house to watch a movie?

B: ¡Órale! Voy sacando el helado del freezer. / Hell yes! I’ll get the ice cream out of the freezer.

3. As an imperative to exhort someone to act

“Órale” is an expression used to exhort, that is to incite someone to do or not to do something. For example, you can use it to hurry someone to perform an action or as a way of encouragement.

  • Come on!

A: ¿Vamos a dar una vuelta por el parque? / Let’s go for a walk in the park.

B: No, estoy muy cansada. / No, I’m too tired.

A: ¡Órale! Te hará bien el aire fresco. / Come on! The fresh air will be good for you.

  • Bring it on!

A: Te desafío: gana el que se coma más tacos. / I challenge you: the one who eats the most tacos wins.

B: ¡Órale, acepto! / Bring it on, I’m in!

  • Hurry up!

A: Estamos llegando tarde, ¡órale! / We are late, hurry up!

  • Here you go.

A: ¿Puedes prestarme el libro de biología para la clase del lunes? / Can I borrow your biology book for Monday’s class?

B: Órale, aquí tienes, pero devuélvemelo el martes sin falta. / Here you go, but give it back on Tuesday first thing.

  • Go ahead.

A: ¿Me permites decir unas palabras? / May I say a few words?

B: Órale, pero que sea corto. / Go ahead, but keep it short.

  • It’s your turn.

A: Órale, muestra tus cartas. / It’s your turn, show me your cards.

How to Respond to Órale

As we’ve seen in the examples, “órale” can be used in a large number of situations. Thus, how to be sure how to respond when someone says it to us? 

To better understand if the person is agreeing with something you said or is trying to get your attention, context is key. 

If you are not sure what to reply, analyze the situation around you and the kind of relationship you have with that person. Note that as “órale” is a slang word, it is mostly used in informal situations and between family and friends.

Despite the nuances of the different meanings, “órale” is often a positive word that means “yes”. So, when in doubt, you can always say “thank you” and you will be safe.

A: Dos burritos veganos, por favor. / Can I have two vegan burritos? 

B: Órale, en camino. / Allright, on their way.

A: Gracias. / Thank you.

If you are still feeling lost, pay attention to the tone of voice of the speaker. Does he or she sound happy or worried? Is he or she relaxed or in a hurry? Being empathetic will allow you to understand what the other person is trying to express and if you need to apologize.

A: Estoy esperando hace más de veinte minutos, ¡órale! / I’ve been waiting for more than twenty minutes, hurry up!

B: Lo siento mucho, ya estoy llegando. / I’m very sorry, I’ll be right there.


We’ve explored the different meanings of the Mexican slang expression “órale” and how to respond back. Remember, be aware of the context and pay attention to your interlocutor. Now you are ready to start practicing with other Spanish speakers. Órale, good luck!

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