Learn Latin American and Spanish Slang with Whee Institute

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Want to know more about Latin America and Spain? Learn some of the funniest and popular words of Latin American and Spanish slang with Whee!
Spanish slang

Spanish is spoken by approximately 500 million people (with that number growing every second) including native and non-native speakers; it also gives you access to over 20 amazing countries and cultures, as well as other nations like the United States that have something like 33 million Spanish speakers nowadays. So, it’s safe to say that learning Spanish it’s a major plus and it’s also tons of fun!

While textbooks are always useful, it is by interacting with locals and knowing the slang that you truly understand a language, its variations, its dialects, and its people.  In the Spanish universe, slang is a very important part to express (in fact, knowing slang is essential to become fluent in pretty much any language). People may tend to think that Spanish is hard, but more than its difficulty, the challenge lies in the fact that it has numerous variations between every country where it’s spoken. In the case of Latin American and Spanish slang, you’ll find how fluid, diverse, and fun our language is because the same word can have different pronunciations and meanings depending on the country. In addition, learning the slang will also help you learn about local history, create a sense of belonging, and evoke emotions (which is something Spanish is also known for).

In no particular order, we have selected some of the most frequently-used slang words and expressions of the countries where Spanish is spoken. We made a comparison between their literal meaning (some of them don’t mean anything literally) and their slang meaning so you can understand better how slang changes a language to make it more understandable, emphatic, and fun.

So, buckle your seat belt, we are about to embark on Whee Institute’s dictionary of Latin American and Spanish slang!

Argentina

Argentinians have a big European influence, specifically Italian, which is different from most Latin American countries that have a strong Spanish influence. Therefore, their words, expressions, and slang are greatly based on Lunfardo – an Argentinian dialect created as a mix of Italian and Spanish. Beware, they talk fast!

SlangLiteral translation to EnglishSlang meaningExample
Ché, boludoHey, big balledHey, hey dude,
hey man
Ché boludo, ¿qué hacés?
(Hey man, what are you up to?)
Chabón/aDoesn’t mean anythingGuy, girl,
chick, dude
Ché boludo, ¿viste la chabona en el concierto?
(Hey dude, did you saw the girl at the concert?) 
Re copado/aSuper cuppedSomething or someone super cool or awesome¡Ese pibe es re copado!
(That dude is super cool!)
QuilomboDoesn’t mean anythingMess, disaster¡Qué quilombo fue la fiesta de anoche!
(What a mess was the party last night!)
¿Me estás cargando?Are you carrying me?Are you kidding me?
Are you serious?
Vos, ¿me estás cargando? No era en serio…
(Are you kidding me? It wasn’t serious…)

Bolivia

Bolivians, just as Peruvians, have a strong influence from Incas (who spoke Quechua and Spanish), so it’s normal to find words, expressions, and slang that have these mixed roots. Bolivians talk rather slowly compared to Argentinians or Chileans, which makes them easier to understand.

SlangLiteral translation to EnglishSlang meaningExample
Anda a moler aguaGo grind waterScrew you!¡Anda a moler agua! No me engañes más.
(Screw you! Don’t fool me anymore)
ChacarseChaseSkipping something¡Nos chacamos de la cita médica!
(We skipped the doctor’s appointment!) 
ChangoDoesn’t mean anything Young peopleTodos ustedes son changos
(You are all young)
Estar yemaBeing yolkTotally wasted
or super wasted
Ayer estuve bien yema.
(Yesterday I was super wasted)
PaparupaDoesn’t mean anythingWhen somebody is talking nonsenseLo que dice ella es paparupa.
(She’s saying nonsense)

Chile

Chilean Spanish is considered one of the hardest ones to grasp, even for Latin Americans; they talk super fast and have a lot of contractions and regionalisms, for example, they don’t usually pronounce the “s”. Hopefully, their slang will help you understand them better, as well as their amazing culture!

SlangLiteral translation to EnglishSlang meaningExample
CaletaDoesn’t mean anythingA lot, much or manyHay una caleta de frutas.
(There are a lot of fruits)
Cuico/aDoesn’t mean anythingWealthy or rich personaElla es una cuica.
(She is rich)
Hueon or weonDoesn’t mean anything Lots of meanings, but it’s generally used to refer to a
person in an informal way or as a swear word
(dude, guy, girl, dumbass, fool, etc…)
EL weon viene para acá.
(The guy is coming)
LoloDoesn’t mean anythingTeenagerTú eres un lolo.
(You are a teenager)
La firmeThe firmThe truthMaría estádiciendo la firme.
(María is telling the truth)

Colombia

In contrast, Colombian Spanish, especially the one from the Capital, it’s considered one of the easiest to understand and learn. Colombians have a fairly neutral accent, they talk slow and usually pronounce every single letter in a word; also, they are super nice, so they’ll probably help you out with your Spanish.

SlangLiteral translation to EnglishSlang meaningExample
Que oso / Que boletaWhat a bear / What a ticketWhen someone or
something is embarrassing
(what a shame!)
!Ay, que boleta cuando me caí en el escenario!
(Ay, I what a shame when I felt on the stage)  
No dar papayaDon´t give papayaDon’t show yourself more than necessary.
Also, don’t show your wealth in public to avoid getting robbed.
No des papaya si sales por ahí.
(Be careful if you are going out there)
El parche / El comboThe patch / The comboGroup of friends, 
the gang
Me voy a ver con el parche.
(I’m going to see my friends)
Hacer vacaTo make cowTo pool together
money or to
buy something
as a group
Hagamos una vaca para el picnic.
(Let’s pool together money to do the picnic)
Parar bolasStop ballsTo pay attention
to someone or
something
Juana no le estaba parando bolas a Marco.
(Juana was not paying attention to Marco)

Costa Rica

Costa Ricans are super friendly and welcoming and their Spanish is not difficult to understand. Their accent is somehow similar to their neighboring countries like Nicaragua and it’s considered a “Caribbean Spanish”; many Costa Ricans speak English too, so they will be able to help you out with your slang.

SlangLiteral translation to EnglishSlang meaningExample
¡Qué chiva!What a female goat!Awesome, cool¡Qué chiva este regalo!
(This present is awesome!)
Pura vidaPure lifeThe Costa Rican version
of “aloha”. It’s used for greetings, goodbyes, gratitude, etc…
Chao, ¡pura vida!
(Bye, pura vida!)
MaeThere is, there areDude, guyMae, ven aquí.
(Dude, come here)
GomaRubberHangover¡Tengo una goma!
(I’ve such a hangover!)
JupaFearHead¿Qué pasa con mi jupa?
(What’s going on with my head?)

Cuba

Cuban accent is very distinct among the Caribbean Spanish. In general, they don’t pronounce the consonants that much; just as Puerto Ricans, they turn the “R”s into “L”s, and like Chileans, they tend to not pronounce the “S”s. Many of these traits are actually similar to those in the Canary Islands or Andalucía.

SlangLiteral translation to EnglishSlang meaningExample
Acere, ¿qué bolá?Sour, what a ball?Hey buddy,
what’s up?,
Hey dude,
what’s going on?
Acere, ¿que bolá? ¡Vamos!
(Hey buddy, what’s up? Let’s go!)
Guarachar /guarachaDoesn’t mean anythingPartying/ party¡Vamos a una guaracha hoy!
(Let’s go to a party tonight! 
YumaDoesn’t mean anythingAny foreigner (non native Cubans)Mira, ese es yuma.
(Look, he is a foreigner)
Tirar un caboThrow a cableHelping someone, give a handLe voy a tirar un cabo.
(I’m going to help him)
Buscar balasTo look for bulletsWhen someone is
out of money and needs to find a way to get some
Voy a buscar balas la próxima semana.
(I’m going to work next week to get some money)
Photograph by Pixabay

Dominican Republic

Dominican Spanish is a great and clear mix of European Spanish and indigenous languages. Their accent is full of “Dominicanismos” that you’ll only understand if you interact with locals and native speakers. The slang is commonly used among conversations and they also talk very fast, so keep your ear active!

SlangLiteral translation to EnglishSlang meaningExample
VainaSheathIt has tons of uses, it can refer to something
unknown, to things in
general, an unpleasant situation, to look down
on someone or to be indifferent
Deja esa vaina ahí.
(Leave that thing there)

¡Qué vaina!
(What a shame!)
ChinChinA little bit of somethingDame un chin de esa cerveza.
(Give me bit of that beer)
DisparateFollySomething useless
or that’s nonsense, absurd
Pero qué disparate dices!
(You are saying nonsense!)
AlebrestadoCelebratedExcited for something
in particular
¡Estoy alebrestado de estar aquí!
(I’m so excited to be here!)
ChuloDoesn’t mean anythingCute or cool¡Ay, qué chulo eres!
(Ay, you are so cool!)

Ecuador

Although the slang and accent can differ from region to region (like most countries in this world), the Ecuadorian Spanish is a blend of Kiwicha (the national indigenous language), Spanish, and other foreign words. Good thing, they don’t talk as fast as Chileans or Dominicans, so you can relax a bit your ear and understand words easier.

SlangLiteral translation to EnglishSlang meaningExample
PilasBatteriesWarn someone
about something (pay attention, watch out, look sharp, etc…)
El trabajo es para mañana, así que pilas.
(The work is due tomorrow, so focus)
¿La plena?The fullExpress amazement
about something (like saying really? seriously?)
María: Quiero ir a bailar.
Julio: ¿La plena?
(María: I want to go dancing.
Julio: Really?)
CojudoDoesn’t mean anythingStupid or silly person¡Que cojudo eres!
(You are so silly!)
ChumarSuckGet wasted¡Me voy a chumar hoy!
(I’m going to get wasted today!)
¡Qué bestia!What a beast!Express how crazy or
wild something is
Que bestia lo que pasó ayer!
(So crazy what happened yesterday!)

El Salvador

Another “Central American accent” that’s fun to learn and even has its own name: Caliche (a mix of Spanish and Salvadoran slang). As Argentinians, they use “vos” for verb conjugation instead of “tú” and they also fusion words. Salvadoran Spanish and slang also have an important roof on indigenous languages, mostly Nahuatl (known as Aztec).

SlangLiteral translation to EnglishSlang meaningExample
AgujaNeedleReady, prepared, focusedEstoy aguja para la carrera.
(I’m ready for the race)
BabosoSlimyDumb¡No seas tan baboso!
(Don’t be so dumb!)
BichoBugChildren, young peopleEsos son bichos.
(They are young)
BoladoDoesn’t mean anythingThings in general¿Me pasas ese bolado porfa?
(Can you pass me that thing please?)
Está yucaIs yuccaSomething hardEl examen está muy yuca.
(The exam is very hard)

Guatemala

Guatemalans don’t speak that fast, they speak clearly and their accent is similar to Mexican in vocabulary and intonation. They have words and expressions that come from the Mayan or other native dialects and that are still popular nowadays. Guatemalans use “vos” and “usted” a lot, not so much “tú” which is also important when learning the slang.

SlangLiteral translation to EnglishSlang meaningExample
BochincheDoesn’t mean anythingChaos, disorderEn la fiesta se armó un bochinche.
(There was chaos in the party)
Chilero(a)ChileanNice, cool, goodEsa película es bien chilera.
(That movie is really cool)
PistoRatatouilleMoney, cash¿Tienes pisto?
(Do you have cash?)
ChivasDoesn’t mean anythingStuff or things someone ownsPor favor organiza tus chivas.
(Please, organize your stuff)
BoquitasMouthSnacks, appetizersComamos unas boquitas.
(Let’s have some snacks)

Honduras

Honduran slang is also called Caliche, like in El Salvador, and even their accent and expressions are somewhat similar. They also drop the “S”s at the end of words and speak rather fast. Whenever talking to an Honduran person, you do have to listen carefully to fully understand what they mean, even if it’s slang.

SlangLiteral translation to EnglishSlang meaningExample
AleroEavesClose friend, best mateÉl es mi alero.
(He’s my best mate)
BirriaApologyBeer¿Quieres una birria?
(Do you want a beer?)
ChastaDoesn’t mean anythingObjects of poor qualityEste celular es chasta.
(This phone is pretty bad)
ChequeDoesn’t mean anythingStuff or things someone owns¡Cheque! Vamos.
(Ok, let’s go!)
PajaCheckOkay, alrightMaría está hablando paja.
(María is lying)

Mexico

Mexican is perhaps the most recognized Spanish accent in the world, as well as their slang, which is commonly portrayed in movies, books and series. However, you’ll only truly learn their most popular words and expressions if you immerse in the culture and talk with locals and natives. Mexicans speak like Colombians, rather slow and with a clear pronunciation.

SlangLiteral translation to EnglishSlang meaningExample
Chido and padreEavesSomething cool, awesome, nice or entertainingEsta música es bien chida /está bien padre..
(This music is so cool!)
NetaApologyReally? Seriously?¿Neta vienes al almuerzo hoy?
(Are you really coming to lunch today?)
NacoDoesn’t mean anythingSomeone tackyÉl es muy naco.
(He’s so tacky)
¿Qué pedo?What fart?What’s up?¿Qué pedo guey?
(What’s up mate?)
¡Órale!Doesn’t mean anythingUsed to express excitement, shock, surprise o agreement¡Órale, vamos!
(Alright, let’s go!)

Nicaragua

Nicaraguans speak as if they are singing and they use slang all the time (they swear quite a lot as well haha). Their Spanish is often referred to as Nicañol and they also have their own form of English called Creole English. As other Central American countries, they cut off word endings that have an “S”, so keep your ear active, more sowith slang.

SlangLiteral translation to EnglishSlang meaningExample
A todo mamónTo all mamonSuper fast, speedyEse bus va a todo mamón!
(That bus is going super fast!)
TapudoDoesn’t mean anythingSomeone that talks too muchEres muy tapudo.
(You talk too much)
El cumicheDoesn’t mean anythingThe youngest oneMario es el cumiche del grupo.
(Mario is the youngest one in the group)
Andar en la ruta 11Walking/going through the 11th streetWalk¿Vas a andar en la ruta 11?
(Are you walking?)
TuaniDoesn’t mean anythingSomething cool¡Tu reloj es tuani!
(Your watch is cool!)
Photograph by Isabela Kronemberger on Unsplash

Panamá

Panamanians speak “Caribbean Spanish, as spoken in the north part of Colombia and Venezuela, so they share some words and linguistic expressions that are written the same way but could actually mean a very different thing in slang terms. Thanks to the Panama Canal, which is one of the biggest ports in the region, the Panamanian Spanish also has an English influence.

SlangLiteral translation to EnglishSlang meaningExample
¿Qué sopá?What soup?What’s up?
What’s going on?
Hey, ¿qué sopá loco?
(Hey, what’s up man?)
ChuletaPorkchopUsed to express disappointment or surprise, like saying damn!¡Chuleta! Ya es tarde.
(Damn, it’s so late now)
PaloStickOne dollar¿Tienes un palo?
(Do you have one dollar?)
OffiDoesn’t mean anythingOk, cool, yes-¿Puedo salir?
– Offi.
(-Can I go out?
-Sure)
Arroz con mangoRice with mangoA big fight, problem or conflictHoy se armó un arroz con mango en la oficina
(There was a huge fight at the office today)

Paraguay

Paraguayans are bilingual because they speak Spanish and Guaraní, which is the official indigenous language. As some countries in Central America, the mix of the two dialects is called Jopará and it’s used in everyday conversations. Paraguayans also use the “vos” instead of “tú” and speak rather fast as Argentinians or Uruguayans.

SlangLiteral translation to EnglishSlang meaningExample
TranquilopaDoesn’t mean anythingEverything is ok! / Don’t worry!-Estoy asustado
-¡Tranquilopa!
(- I’m afraid.
– Everything is ok!)
HakuDoesn’t mean anythingHot weather¡Chuleta! Ya es ¡Haku! Hoy está caliente.
(It’s a hot day!)
Guapo /guapaHandsomeHard working person¡Ella es muy guapa!
(She’s a hard worker!)
PureteDoesn’t mean anythingIt’s cool! / No problem!-Estoy muy ocupada, lo siento.
– ¡Purete!
(- I’m really busy, sorry.
– No problem!)
Chera’aDoesn’t mean anythingMy friendTodo está bien, chera’a.
(Everything is ok, my friend)

Peru

Peruvian Spanish has an important influence on Quechua and European Spanish, just as Bolivia. In addition, like in Colombia or Ecuador, they use “ustedes” instead of “vosotros” and speak more clearly and slower, with a rather “neutral” accent (although this can be questioned by some). Peruvians are super nice people and they’ll help you with your slang!

SlangLiteral translation to EnglishSlang meaningExample
Al toqueTo the touchRight now¡Vámonos al toque!
(Let’s go right now!)
¡A su madre! (¡Asu!)To his/her mother!Expression of surprise¡A su madre! No vi la piedra y me caí.
(Damn! I didn’t see the rock and I fell)
ChambaDoesn’t mean anythingWork, employment, jobMe voy a mi chamba.
(I’m going to my job)
HuascaDoesn’t mean anythingDrunkEn la fiesta de ayer estuve bien huasca.
(At the party yesterday I was super drunk)
PataPawGuy, friend, pal, buddy, dude, etc…Luis es mi pata.
(Luis is my friend)

Puerto Rico

Puerto Ricans are super festive people and this is expressed through the slang. Remember that they are still a U.S. territory, so they have both English and Spanish as official languages; therefore, their words and expressions are a mix between Anglicisms and Spanish words (Spanglish). Puerto Ricans speak fast, don’t pronounce the “S”s and replace the R”s with “L”s.

SlangLiteral translation to EnglishSlang meaningExample
¡Ay bendito!Oh blessed!Oh my god!¡Ay bendito! Mila esa playa.
(Oh my god! Look at that beach)
MameyDoesn’t mean anythingSomething easy, “easy peasy”Esto es mamey.
(This is easy peasy)
TapónPlugTrafficAyel hubo mucho tapón y llegué talde.
(There was a lot of traffic yesterday and I arrived late)
BochincheDoesn’t mean anythingGossipAlguien me dijo un bochinche tuyo.
(Someone told me a gossip about you)
PerrearDoggingTo dance widely like there’s  no tomorrowVamos a peleal esta noche.
(Let’s go dancing tonight)

Spain

The “original Spanish”, often referred to as Castilian Spanish, is very different from the one spoken across Latin America; even if they understand each other, their accent, pronunciation and expressions are quite different. You’ll have tons of fun learning their slang and keep in mind that this is the land of “vosotros”, so don’t use “ustedes”.

SlangLiteral translation to EnglishSlang meaningExample
ValeOkOk, sure, alrightVale, entiendo.
(Ok, I understand)
ChavalKidKids or young people in generalMi hermano es un chaval.
(My brother is a kid)
GuayCoolSomething or someone cool¡Qué guay está la playa!
(The beach is so cool!)
¡Ostia tío!Uncle ostiaKids or young people in general¡Ostia tío! Mira como juega ese chaval.
(Holy mother of god! Look how that kid plays)
Mola/ molarCoolTo be cool / Want or like something¡Ella mola!
(She’s cool!)

Uruguay

Uruguayan Spanish, also known as Rioplatense Spanish, is somewhat similar to Argentinians in the way they speak and express, although the majority of their slang is specifically  of the country itself.  They also use “vos” and pronounce the “LL” or “Y” harder, which ends up sounding like “sh”.

SlangLiteral translation to EnglishSlang meaningExample
Muy saladoSaltyUsed in two opposite situations depending on the context, it can mean: though, big, awesome, amazingCamilo tiene un carro muy salado.
(Camilo has a very big car).
ApichonarseHuddleBeing ill or sadHoy estoy apichonada.
(I’m not feeling well today)
AstillaSplinterMore or lessLa reunión estuvo astilla.
(The meeting was not that good)
GauchoDoesn’t mean anythingA friend whom you trust dearlySos un gaucho, gracias por acompañarme.
(You are a trusty friend, thanks for coming with me)
JorobarTeaseTo be annoying¡Deja de jorobarme!
(Stop being annoying!)

Venezuela

Venezuelans have a distinctive accent and some of their slang is also spoken by Colombians. They talk faster, but not as fast as Chileans or Domincians, so you’’ll be ok understanding a conversation between locals. As most of Latin Americans, Venezuelans are masters of expressing feelings and emotions with different levels of intensity, which is one of the reasons why slang is so useful.

SlangLiteral translation to EnglishSlang meaningExample
ChamoKidBro, buddy, dude¡Chamo! ¿Cómo estás?
(Hey bro! What’s up?)
CorotosDoesn’t mean anythingStuff, physical and tangible things in generalAntes de dormir, recoge tus corotos.
(Before going to sleep, pick up your stuff)
LadillaCrabSomeone or something that’s annoying¡No sean ladilla!
(Don’t be annoying!)
MamarrachoMessSomeone or something that’s ridiculous or weirdMira ese mamarracho de juguete.
(Look that weird toy)
BurdaCoarseA lot or reallyJuana tiene burda de películas.
(Juana has a lot of movies)

We hope you enjoy learning and knowing about Latin American and Spanish slang and that you are ready to use it whenever you visit these amazing countries, interact with natives, and even in your Spanish online lessons. Remember that if you want to remain current and communicate throughout different regions in a particular country, slang will help you to understand the variations and dialects. And, in a huge and diverse region like Latin America + Spain, it will definitely be a huge plus!

If you want to learn more about slang, check our article Colombian Slang: Fun Words and Expressions. If you are interested to know more about our Spanish lessons, don’t forget to visit our website www.wheeinsitute.com.

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