Mariposa – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Are you looking for words that can describe a gay man in Spanish?

You could say mariposa, a term that can also be woven into English if you're in a Spanish-speaking community in the United States. Keep reading to learn more.


Mariposa is the Spanish word for for butterfly. It can also be a female name, or a nickname to describe a beautiful a girl or woman.

Mariposa is a common derogatory slang term for a gay man. As with other slurs for gay and lesbian people, some take pride in "reclaiming" mariposa.

Spanish is a gendered language, and mariposa is a feminine noun, which takes the feminine article "la". An alternative masculine form, mariposo, is also sometimes in use. In this case, the masculine article "un" precedes it.

Example Usage

Are you not sure how to use mariposa in a sentence? This is likely because, as a Spanish word, it is rarely used in English. However, you may see some Spanish speakers in the United States incorporate the word mariposa into English. For example:

  • Oh, Carlo is such a mariposa!
  • Get away from me, mariposa! I don't like your kind!
  • You bet! I'm a mariposa and I'm proud!


The United States is home to the second largest population of Spanish speakers in the world, with only Mexico having a higher number. A total of 13 percent of the US population speaks Spanish as a native language, and most of these are bilingual.

It is no surprise, then, that Spanish words — including slurs — sometimes find their way into the English language. The slur mariposa, which is an insulting way to refer to a gay man, is one example.

Mariposa, which means "butterfly", may have originated as an offensive word for gay men owing to butterflies’ flamboyant or feminine qualities. The term may also be related to perceptions that gay men flutter, like butterflies, "from flower to flower".

Mariposa was first defined as meaning gay man on Urban Dictionary in 2019. The alternate but related term mariposo, the masculinized version of mariposa, was defined as meaning gay man on the platform much earlier, in 2013.

It is important to note that the word mariposa is typically used in the Spanish language. However, some may choose to add it to sentences that are otherwise spoken in English.

Anyone who is considering using the term mariposa should be aware that it is primarily used as a slur.

Words Similar to Mariposa

The Spanish language features many words with similar meanings as mariposa. Among them are:

  • Argolla — feminine man.
  • Amapolo — gay man.
  • Cabro — gay man.
  • Cola — feminine and flamoyant gay man.

Words Opposite to Mariposa

If you are looking for a more inclusive and less offensive way to say "mariposa" in Spanish, you could simply opt to say "homosexual" (pronounced with a Spanish accent), or "gay" — a term that has spread all over the world.

What Is the Correct Word?

The correct word is mariposa. It means "butterfly" in Spanish, and is also a common insult directed at gay men.

Ways People May Say Mariposa Incorrectly

Those who initially become aware of the fact that the slang term mariposa is often used to describe gay men in Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America, among Spanish speakers in the United States, and in Spain, may assume that it has a positive connotation.

This is largely incorrect; mariposa has long been a slur. Some gay men may claim the term, but you would not be wise to call someone a mariposa unless that person has already describe himself as such or unless you intend to insult the person.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Mariposa

You might use mariposa if you intend to insult a gay man, or if you want to insult a straight man by insinuating that he is gay. You could also consider the masculine version, mariposo.

You might also use the word mariposa to describe a gay man who has already called himself a mariposa.

In addition, be aware that mariposa can also be a cute nickname for a girl, akin to "sweetheart" or "honey".

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