I know that expression comes from Spanish a it’s literal meaning is hand by hand. However, I often find some other meanings like:

fight; like a man to man; eye to eye.

How common is this phrase in general? Is it appropriate in a more or less formal language? I understand that the meaning depends on the context. l’d like to understand what meaning is is the most frequently used.

2 Answers 2


It is very much slang. It is most common in the Southern parts of the USA, where there are substantial Hispanic populations. It is like other slang borrowings: "Hasta la vista", "mi casa su casa", "No problemo" and so on. Like other slang expressions, it is not appropriate in a formal context.

Certainly, the fact it sounds like "man-at-man" has influenced how it is understood in English. In English, it is used to mean "close confrontation", or "head-to-head", which is rather different from its meaning in Spanish.


“mano-a-mano” is not English, though people who live in areas with a significant Hispanic population may know and use it.

The direct translation would be fighting “hand to hand”, meaning with bare fists, also known as a “fistfight”.

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