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Somewhere I've heard that it could also have something to do with the expression "green go". I'm absolutely unsure about the meaning of green here (the colour of the uniforms of US soldiers?). I just heard it somewhere while traveling in South America, but I can't remember exactly. Or maybe I just dreamt it :-) D.D.

Yes, supposedly the U.S. Army, while on maneuvers in South America, was heard singing a marching song that went something like "Green goes the river", and the name stuck by association. ILVI

Wait a minute, it's coming back to me. I don't recall go as in goes the river, but as get out of here: Green, get out of here meaning Americans, go away (now where have I heard that again lately...?) :-P D.D.

Doesn´t green stand for the colour of the American money? Polyglot 15:45 Apr 21, 2003 (UTC)

The version I have heard: US soldiers were wearing green coats as uniforms. Over the time "Green Coats" became Gringo.

Confusion about this word.[edit]

The word Gringo is all too often misinterpreted by us Americans. If you read Spanish I recommend the explanation in Spanish Wikipedia. I have edited the page to reflect what it says there.

Some common misconceptions:

  • Gringo is not a term for an American. It means "someone who speaks a strange language." It is used to describe Italians and Brazilians, and the Brazilians use it to describe Spanish speakers. During the Mexican-American war and onward, it is obvious that Mexicans used the word gringo to deride their neighbors/invaders from the north, but that doesn't mean a gringo is only an American.
  • "Green go." That's an urban legend. For one, according to Spanish wikipedia, the US military didn't have green uniforms during the Mexican American War. Second, use your head people: the phrase "green go" does not make any sense.

I've read things written by people who claim the "griego" origin to be apocryphal too. But, according to Spanish wikipedia, the RAE (the authority on the Spanish language) first listed it as a synonym for griego. So if the RAE says so, I believe it. Certainly over some goofy legend about "green go", which, let's be honest people, only serves to make fun of Mexicans.

I am speaking directly from a story my grandfather told me 3 yrs ago before he passed at the age of 96. He was born in New Mexico before statehood and he recalls when the soldiers came walking through his town the people in his town called to eachother "there the green go". That IS where the term comes from. His name was Francisco Cordova.

Hope that has left things clear. -- 01:31, 13 December 2005 (UTC)

  • Not as clear as you might hope. The RAE may have first listed gringo and griego as synonyms but it doesn't now. Some may believe that the RAE is indisputable but in reality it regularly receives harsh criticism. Its current entry gives only "Etim. disc." meaning "etimología discutida" or "etymology under discussion/argument".
    I'm in Mexico right now for the fourth time making close to two years. I'm often told by locals that "gringo" refers only to Americans so being Australian I am not a gringo, even though I and other non-Americans sometmes refer to ourselves disparaginly as gringos.
    The current RAE gives 7 senses. Let me have a go at paraphrasing them:
    1. adjective. colloquial Foreigner, especially English-speaking, and in general speaker of a language that isn't Spanish. (also used as noun)
    2. adjective. colloquial Said of a language: foreign. (also used as noun)
    3. adjective. South America, Cuba, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua American. Applied to persons. (also used as noun)
    4. adjective. Uruguay English. Native of England. (also used as noun)
    5. adjective. Uruguay Russian. Native of Russia. (also used as noun)
    6. noun. m/f. Bolivia, Honduras, Nicaragua, Peru Person with blonde hair and white complexion.
    7. noun. m. colloquial Uninteligible language.
    Well there's a few surprises. It depends on the country and doesn't match my personal experience. Now let's see what the online English dictionaries give:
    • AHD: "Probably" alteration of "griego". It gives a long Word History section, something I think we should have as part of our Etym section but with its own heading to separate them.
    • Collins Word Exchange: "probably" from "griego".
    • MSN Encarta: Spanish "foreigner". It goes no further.
    • Merriam-Webster: Alteration of "griego". No wishy-washy "probablys" here.
  • Hippietrail 01:57, 13 December 2005 (UTC)
Yes, it depends on the country. In South America, australians are generally considered gringos unless you are very dark and speak very good spanish. Even a caucasian italian or french (for example) person may be called a gringo. In brazil, mexicans are gringos. It just depends on the country,

--- I agree, if you hear "gringo" in Mexico and you hear it in Argentina, the same word means two different things. I explained below what it means in Argentina. Just for curiosity I would like to know what it means in Spain (Alejonebbia 18:17, 2 September 2011 (UTC)).


I was born and raised in latin america, and my mother tongue is spanish, belive me when i tell you that the "green go" thing, is an urban legend.

Ok well im mexican, and i find this site kind of disrespectful, because when the person on the top sayed green go is a term which it should be made fun of mexicans, anyways... the real story is that gringo is an offensive slang for white people, but between spanish people the slang gringo is normal, but if an american white skinned person sayes "o0o yes im a gringo" would be considered messed up.. because is not somthing they should be proud of because is a funny word (makin fun of) americans... also gringo means someone that is not in the romance language like: (italian, spanish, french) its only for english speaking people, in latin america, not only mexico, i mean all latin america this word is used, and it can also mean for some people that gringo is an american white skinned person with no culture, example: culture= mcdonalds, burgerking, waltmart, heavy metal.. not anything that is interesting for LATINOS...

--- Yes, none of those companies or things are in Mexico!!!


I'm an Argentinian and here the word is used mostly as a synonym of "Italian" or a person with European ancestry, especially if the person is blonde, even when the person was raised and born in Argentina, it refers to their origin and color of hair. In here it's not used as an insult. People use it even as a normal nickname. For instance, El "Gringo" Heinze (Gabriel Heinze, Argentinian soccer player), just to mention one case between the many famous and ordinary people with that nickname.

Ah, and Heinze is (as the last name shows) a German last name. (Alejonebbia 18:11, 2 September 2011 (UTC))

Also in Chile a gringo is a blonde person or someone with known German or northern European ancestry, even if this person is a Chilean. At same time, it means from United States or a foreigner who speaks English or another non-Romance languague. Therefore, Evelyn Matthei (Chilean politician) could be described as "gringa", also Martin Luther King and Günter Grass. Regards. Lin linao (talk) 22:51, 16 November 2013 (UTC)

RFV discussion: September 2016–March 2017[edit]

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Rfv-sense "very cool; fashionable". Removed by an anon who claims to be Brazilian, but it seems best that it be sent to RFV. @Daniel Carrero, maybe? —Μετάknowledgediscuss/deeds 22:37, 4 September 2016 (UTC)

IIRC User:Ungoliant MMDCCLXIV is also Brazilian. Ever heard this sense? - -sche (discuss) 21:30, 6 September 2016 (UTC)
Repinging @Ungoliant MMDCCLXIVΜετάknowledgediscuss/deeds 04:59, 16 October 2016 (UTC)
This sense is very common indeed. I’ll try to find cites later today. — Ungoliant (falai) 16:56, 16 October 2016 (UTC)
Unfortunately, I was unable to find durable citations using this sense. — Ungoliant (falai) 14:41, 17 October 2016 (UTC)