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Published on: Vocabulary

Colombian Slang: How to Sound like a True Parcero

The Colombian Spanish is one of the most attractive and colorful dialects in Latin America and here we are going to show you some jargon that makes this language live up to its name.

Spoiler alert! Colombia is a beautiful country that you definitely should visit. The weather is nicely cool in Bogota, the capital city, and the beaches on the Pacific coast and Caribbean are a wonder. 

People in this country are warm, friendly, and like every other country in Latin America, they love sharing their culture with foreigners.

You might have also heard that Colombian Spanish is the most neutral and clean of all the Spanish languages. Truth be told, there is no independent and reliable linguistic source that can confirm that, but most foreigners and Spanish enthusiasts affirm that the “standard” Colombian dialect seen on TV and spoken by those in the capital, Bogotá, is the easiest to understand. 

In the rest of the country, even though vocabulary doesn’t differ much, it’s the intonation of the phrases and articulation of the words that might spice things a little bit up, so expect Colombia to be diverse in that matter. 

Colombian jargon is vast and is what makes this language very rich. So, get yourself a good cup of strong black coffee (Colombian, of course!) and join us to learn Spanish in a fun way.

Colombian Slang words to refer to people

Vecino/Vecina

In Colombian slang, everyone is your neighbor. The meaning is actually the same if you translate it as neighbors in towns usually have close friendships.

However, you don’t call your friends like this. The word nicely greets people into your store or when you come to a stranger’s house to ask for something. 

By the way, use “veci” to shorten the word and sound even more friendly.

  • ¡Adelante veci! ¿En qué le puedo ayudar?: Come in sir/ma’am. What can I do for you?

Parcero/Parcera

Now, we start with some real Colombian slang! 

You can basically use this word with everyone but you really mean it if you use it with your close friends. Otherwise, when employed with strangers is about creating a connection with a possible client or benefactor.

So, Colombians use it as a way to say mate, bro, bud, pal, friend, etc. 

Meaning for possible clients in street markets:

  • Parcero, venga, estamos a la orden: Mate, come here, how can I help you?

Meaning for friends:

  • Parcero, lo espero en la plaza: Bro, I’ll wait for you at the square.

Isn’t this Spanish word too long? Of course, that’s why they say “parce”.

  • Oiga, parce. Nos vamos, ¿o qué?: Hey, dude. Are we going or what?

Llave/Llavero

Colombian Spanish words that literally mean key and key chain, respectively. These slang words are not used by everyone because they are also considered low class. 

These are used to describe a close friend or a group of friends. 

Young people would use these terms to sound cooler or that’s what they think.

  • Venga llave, ayúdeme a empujar el carro: Please, dude, help me push the car.
  • Ese ya no está en mi llavero: That one is no longer my friend.

Chino/China

If you’ve been to Colombia, you’d know they don’t talk about nationality as it would be in English.   Well, native speakers from outside of Colombia would also think they refer to the nationality. 

It’s actually used for children and friends. 

  • ¿Qué hubo chino? ¿Nos vemos o qué?: What’s up man? Are we meeting?

However, if someone says “chinazo”, it’s because that person is talking to a cool guy. 

  • Venga chinazo y le cuento: Come bro, I have to tell you something.

Mono/Mona

Used by Colombians to talk about blond people. The English word would be monkey if you look it up in the dictionary. A good example of Colombian slang words that make no sense if you translate them.

Not to be confused with the way this word is used in Spain because it means pretty there. 

In Spanish, the literal meaning of mono is would be “monkey”, yes. but if you want to say monkey in Colombian Spanish, you say mico. Also, if you have a monkey on your back, it’s something like back pain.

  • No sé por qué tengo ese mico en la espalda: I don’t know why I have this back pain.

In Colombia, when someone says mono is about a person who is blond. 

  • Mi hermana es mona: My sister is blond.

¿Qué más?/¿Quihubo?

Like every person in Latin America when they go to Colombia, you will think they’re asking for something else you’re supposed to say or provide. Nope, they’re just asking you how you are.

For these Colombian slang words, the first one is commonly used by people in general. The second one is considered to be a little bit low class.

  • ¿Qué más? ¿Cómo vas?: What’s up? How are you?

If you don’t know which to use to speak like a local, be alert on the one people express the most in the place of Colombia you’re visiting.

Man/Vieja

In Colombian slang, you don’t call people “hombre” or “mujer”. They “colombianized” the word “man” with their intonation so it’s used to refer to a guy and, on the other hand, an old woman which is “vieja” is used to refer to girls or women.

However, when a woman is actually old, don’t call her “vieja”. That’s rude! Use “abuelita” instead.

  • Ese man se ve raro: That guy looks weird.
  • La vieja esa ni me miró: The girl didn’t even look at me.

Los Tombos

Spanish slang meaning “the Police” when given in the plural form and police officer when in the singular form (tombo).

Made in Colombia? Not quite. This Spanish word means the same thing in Bolivia, Costa Rica, and Venezuela. 

Sapo/Sapa

The whole meaning of sapo is meant for those people you don’t like but who are trying to listen to your conversations or with those who gave you away to the police or the authorities.

In Spanish, sapo is not actually vulgar but it’s among the slang words and phrases in Colombia that are employed to show your anger and sapo is, of course, pretty rude.

  • Este gonorrea es muy sapo, ábrase: This sucker is a snitch, get lost! 

Perro

In Colombia, it’s used to call friends or foes with a slight difference. Something like everything we have covered during this Spanish slang course.

Spanish-speaking folks in Colombia will give you the diminutive if you’re a friend:

  • ¡Estoy a la orden perrito!: Whatever you need bro!

But, the original Spanish word means you’re not a friend:

  • Oiga, perro, ¿su mamá sabe coser?:  Hey, you. Does your mom know how to sew?

The previous expression is a popular Colombian warning. It means you need to stop what you’re doing or you’re getting stabbed. If you ever listen to this, don’t say yes, just walk away.

Marica

This Spanish term is very common and it’s not that complicated to understand.

Meaning coward:

  • ¡No sea marica y salte!: Don’t be a pussy and jump!

Meaning gay:

  • Ese viejo es como marica: That man is gay.

Colombian slang words used to describe food and drinking

Deli

It may not be considered to be among the slang words used in Colombia but you will certainly get lost if you listen to it with little context.

It is not short for “delicatessen” but for “delicioso” when you are talking about food. If you use it twice, you are saying you loved it.

  • La sopa estaba deli deli: The soup was delicious.

Guaro

Among slang terms you should be using in Spanish when visiting Colombia, this is an important one. 

Used to describe strong and cheap alcohol also called aguardiente. This is what you drink when you want to get wasted quickly.

  • ¡Hágale al guaro! ¿Tiene miedo?: Have some hooch! Are you scared?

Estar prendido

It literally means to be lit in English but it’s just a way to say that you’re drunk. In the Spanish-speaking world, the expression is very common.

  • Me voy a la casa, estoy prendido: I’m going home, I’m drunk.

Polas

This Colombian word has some history attached to it. La Pola is how people called a heroine who helped in the Colombian independence.

A hundred years later, Bavaria Brewery launched a beer with the famous name to commercially fight “chicha”; a homemade alcoholic drink (some people say the beer company wanted to ruin the competition).

It now belongs to the slang terms as it became so popular that people started calling beer like that ever after.

Speak like a Colombian and ask for a pola!

  • ¿Vamos por unas polas?: Do you want to have a beer?

Jincho/Jincha

Its Spanish literal meaning is wasted.

Alright, this is the next level after you are “prendido”. “Estar jincho” is for the moment in which people have drunk so much, they won’t remember anything the next morning.

Besides, these slang terms also refer to the bad smell those people have when in that state

  • Está jincha de tanto guaro: She’s drunk, she had too much booze.

Colombian Slang words used to describe things, moods and situations

Cartagena, Colombia

Tenaz

It literally translates to “tenacious” or “persistent”. Even though it has many meanings, it’s a popular Colombian slang for difficult or hard.

Depending on the context, its meaning can be understood for “challenging”:

  • Es un chino tenaz: That boy is a piece of work.

Or it could also be used as a sympathetic expression:

  1. Que llegué tarde y me cancelaron el examen: I was late and they cancelled my test.
  2. Naa, tenaz: That sucks.

El Parche/Desparchado

Slang terms in Spanish for your group of friends and boring respectively. Once in Colombia, you’ll know how often these words are mentioned. It’s like breathing!

Parche is how you call the group of people you hang out with and you can say you are “parchando”. Remember, this one is only for Colombian Spanish.

  • Ando con el parche en el chuzo que le dije: I’m at the bar I told you about with the homies.

On the contrary, desparchado, is the word used if you’re bored.

  1. ¿Qué hace? ¿Está ocupado?: What are you doing? Are you busy?
  2. Nada, desparchado: Nope, nothing. I’m bored.

Vaina

Are you in the Paisa region and you’re looking for words but you just can’t find them? This word can be used as a way of saying almost anything by just slightly changing the intonation.

  • Greet with affection:
¿Cómo está la vaina?: How’s it going?
  • Demand for clarification:
Acláreme una vaina: Explain yourself better
  • Looking for a fight:
¿Cuál es tu vaina?: What’s your problem?
  • Something stinks
¡Cómo huele esa vaina!: That stinks!
  • Something smells delicious:
¡Cómo huele esa vaina!: That smells good!
  • Something good: 
¡Qué vaina tan buena!: That’s so good!
  • Something that is not good:
¡Qué vaina tan mala!: That sucks!
  • Displeased due to some action:
A mí no me vengas con vainas: Don’t bullshit me.
  • To refer to a thing: 
Pásame esa vaina, por favor: Give me that, please.
  • No way!:
Ni de vaina.

No Dar Papaya

It’s very common to listen to this phrase when you put your bike on the sidewalk without a chain or you’re talking on the phone while walking on the street. It’s meant to be a warning so, when someone says this, be careful, Colombians know what they’re saying.

Papaya, although it’s also used to talk about the fruit, it means easy as well. That means that dar papaya or “giving papaya” is you providing a very possible opportunity to be taken advantage of.

This one is pretty hard to translate.

  • Guarde ese teléfono, no dé papaya: Put that phone away, you’re asking for it.
  • Tengo mis papeles al día para no dar papaya: My papers are in order, I’m cautious.

Bacano

If someone says bacano, know that it is related to a really cool situation or person in Spanish. A word English speakers learn really quickly is “chévere” which is a synonym.

The literal translation in the dictionary works this time (if the word is there, of course).

  • Estaba bacano el toque, parcero: The party was great, dude. 

Juicioso/Juiciosa

Describe people who perform their tasks without having the need to be told over and over. Also, for a person who behaves well.

When someone says this in Colombia, it’s like giving you a warning. It means you have to behave or there will be consequences

  • Juiciosos con la abuela, niños: Be nice to your grandma, kids.

¡Qué pena!

Some say it isn’t slang. The literal translation would be “what a pity” and people in Colombia would say it means you’re ashamed because of an embarrassing situation.

 In Spanish, the term is generally that; something someone says when blushing. Along with this one, the expression trágame tierra is also very common.  Trágame tierra is Spanish for “I want to die”(out of shame, of course.)

However, in Colombia, it’s like saying “I’m sorry!” or “Excuse me!” And, in addition to these meanings, locals use it as a filler. Whenever someone says anything to a stranger or is trying to get your attention, the term is going to be adopted.

In Bogota, people tend to be very polite when talking. So, even when they are discussing, you’ll listen to the phrase quite a lot.

  • Qué pena con usted pero no pude llegar temprano: I’m sorry but I couldn’t arrive on time.

Me regalas…

My friends in Colombia have told me about the awkward situation when they’re outside of the country and ask for products in a store. People from other Spanish speaking countries will ask for things differently as in the way Colombians do it.

So, when buying something, a Colombian would always ask for things as a gift but it’s not the case.

By the way, it is also very common that Colombians use diminutives when asking for things or when someone offers you something. That is adding -ito/cito (for masculine) or -ita/cita (for feminine) at the end of the words so it sounds nicer (or so they say). 

So, even if you ask for anything in a store or restaurant, don’t forget the diminutive!

  • ¿Me puede regalar una botellita de agua?: Can I get a bottle of water?
  • Una bebecita: A baby
  • Un barquito: A boat
  • Despacito: Slowly

Parar Bolas

This Colombian slang phrase means “listen to me”. When someone says párame bolas, it’s because they’re already annoyed with your behavior. 

Translation won’t help you here. In English, it would literally mean “to stand balls” or “to stop balls” which is completely unrelated. We’re not even talking about balls!

Never express it with people you owe respect to because it’s far from polite. Even when they’re not paying attention to what you’re saying.

If you want the attention of your teacher, strangers, or older people, use “présteme atención”.

  • Parce, páreme bolas que le estoy hablando: Dude, pay attention, I’m talking to you. 

Harto/Harta

If something says you want more, that’s the slang word harto. In Colombia, the meaning is like “a lot of” when asking for something or just expressing a quantity.

  • ¡Literal! hablar harto paisa con las chinas funciona una chimba para conquistar: It’s literal! speaking paisa with the girls works every time when flirting.

You’ll listen to this Spanish word every day. It’s curious that it is not commonly used in Colombia with its actual meaning which is “fed up”.

Instead, Colombians would express that they can’t take it anymore with a variable of the word that doesn’t exist; “jarto” which also means you’ve drunk too much.

  • Tengo harta plata para el viaje: I’ve got a lot of money for the trip.
  • Le di duro al aguardiente, ya estoy jarto: I went hard on the booze, I already had too much.

Hacer unas vueltas

Colombian slang meaning you have to run some errands. .

  • Tengo que hacer unas vueltas y listo: I have some errands to run and I’m ready.

Guayabo

Spanish slang used in other countries near Colombia as well. It means Hangover.

No, it’s not the tree that provides us with “guayabas” (guava) but the bad feeling in your body after a long night of drinking. 

Do not confuse it with “guayabera” that is the traditional Cuban shirt or the lady who sells “guayabas”. 

  • ¡Uish! Parce, el guayabo me está matando: Man! The hangover is killing me.

The first exclamation word in the previous sentence is very common in Colombia. You’ll find Spanish has several of these. This one specifically means you’re expressing distress or empathy.

Tusa

Slang that exists only in Colombia or so it was until the Karol G & Nicki Minaj’s song “Tusa” kicked in. If you look it up with English lyrics, you’ll find some good slang in context. 

It means heartbreak and no other word in Colombia better says you’re having a bad time due to a hard breakup.

Now is when you think that these terms are just invented for this blog and Colombians can’t possibly be using the word “cob” to describe the way you feel, but that is not the case.

  • Bebamos para matar la tusa, chimba de idea, literal: Drinking to mend the broken hearts it’s never a good idea.

Lucas y Palos

In Colombian slang as in many Latin American countries, people use words for thousands and millions when referring to money.

In this case, we could use the word “grand”  to replace “lucas” and “rocks” to replace “palos”.

  • Llave, présteme dos luquitas que es para almorzar: Bro, lend me two grands to buy my lunch.

“Luquitas” is the diminutive for “lucas”. Two thousand Colombian pesos is a little bit more than a bus fare which is nothing compared to 2 thousand dollars.

Berraco/Berraca

There are two ways in which you can use this slang term. Meaning someone is angry:

  • Se emberracó cuando recibió la noticia: She got mad when she heard the news.

Meaning “hard situation”:

  • Hay un sol del berraco: The sun is burning

¡De Una!

Spanish slang meaning Sure! or Absolutely!

A short and happy Colombian way to accept invitations.

  1. ¿Quieres más pollo?: Do you want more chicken?
  2. ¡De una!: Sure!

Por si las Moscas

Spanish slang meaning just in case.

Someone says por si las moscas when being cautious by acting in a certain way. Some other countries in Latin America also make use of this phrase as por si acaso with no difference in meaning.

  • Lleva más pan colombiano por si las moscas: Bring more Colombian bread just in case.
  • Por si las moscas, ella es la encargada de la comida, ¿listo?: Just in case, she’s in charge of the food, understood?

Chuspa

Colombian Slang meaning plastic Bag

Its usage is limited to some places in the Paisa region. However, as it is the result of the influence of the Quechua language, it could be heard in some other countries like Perú, Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile.

  • Coja una chuspa para meter todo: Pick a bag to put everything.

Paila

Colombian slang meaning a lost cause

One of the favorites for Colombians! No matter the social status or level of education, everyone says this word. It expresses that nothing else can be done about something or that a situation can’t be helped.

“Frying pan” which is the literal translation for the Colombian slang word wasn’t going to give you a clue of its usage.

  • Se le cae el helado y paila porque no tengo más dinero: Drop the ice cream and you’re screwed because I don’t have any more money. 
  • No estudié para el examen y paila, lo perdí: I didn’t study for the test, of course, I failed.

Estar Tragado/a

If someone says this, it means the person is crazy in love. The meaning is not the same if you translate the phrase as it would be “I’m swallowed”

You already knew it was going to be like this when you decided to learn Spanish, don’t complain!

  • Estoy tragado de ese china, es una belleza: I’m in love with that girl, she’s beautiful.

¡Ábrase!

Colombian slang meaning: move!, go ahead! or to leave.

Another word with different meanings and no sense if you translate. In English, it means “open yourself”. The word is commonly used by young people and is not chévere.

  • ¿Quiere que me vaya? Pues me abro: Do you want me to leave? I leave then.
  • ¡Ábrase! Deje pasar: Move! Let others pass.

However, if you’re mad at someone and you’re looking for a fight:

  • ¡Ábrase, ñero! ¿Tiene miedo?: Go ahead, motherfucker! Are you afraid?

“Ñero” is a very common Colombian slang word that is used to describe those people who adopt gangster-like attitudes or people involved in crime.

Gonorrea

It doesn’t actually have one meaning in English. Colombians employ the term to insult people and it is a very strong word for them.

Chimba

It says things are good, bad or you’re just referring to the penis. If you’re to say something with this word in Colombia, listen first. 

Chimba could also be a synonym of chévere.

As an insult:

  • ¿Qué le pasa, care chimba?: What’s your problem, dickface?

Meaning something really cool:

  • Parce, ese man es una chimba de amigo: Dude, that guy is a good friend.

Meaning something really bad:Chimba de equipo tengo: My team sucks.

Fair warning regarding some Clombian Slang Words

People in Colombia use a lot of slang in spite of the rumors of them having a neutral Spanish language. The words aforementioned are what locals employ the most. However, there is always more to add to the dictionary when it comes to slang within a country.

Remember that context matters and it’s very important to know exactly when to use what in the Spanish language to avoid misunderstandings and awkward moments. A word of advice, don’t use slang language freely, just do as people around you do.

Carnaval de Barranquilla, Colombia

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