Whether it’s a short visit or an international move, knowing the ins and outs of local life is important while traveling. Everything from street slang to most common greetings, these Colombian expressions will help you get around like a local and meld with the culture.
Colombians are not lacking in vocabulary seeing as these pretty much ALL translate to some variation of the English phrase: What’s up?
¿Qué más (pues)?
¿Quiubo pues m’ijo?
¿Bien o no?
¿Bien o qué?
¿Qué más parce?
¿Qué tal parcero(a)?
¿Qué más socio(a)?
Pelado(a) – a typical young person
Culicagado – brat, or more commonly used to refer to kids in general
Parce – dude, buddy, pal, mate
Parcero(a) – masculine/feminine specification of parce
Vieja – an informal term for a woman, e.g. girl or chick
**as a slang term this does not indicate older age
Man – an informal term for a man, typically one you don’t know well, e.g. dude or guy
Huevon – Idiot, stupid
Dar papaya – put yourself at risk or ‘be asking for it’
¡Pilas! – to draw someone’s attention to something
Me da pena – (something) embarrasses/ashames me
¡Qué pena! – I’m sorry! / What a shame!
Qué pena contigo/ con usted – I’m sorry, usually expressing empathy or regret
Finca – a country house
**direct translation is ‘farm’ but more often refers to a house outside the city
¡Qué nota! – Cool!
Bacano(a) – Cool, the adjective
Parchar/ el parche – to hang out/ a group hangout or ‘crew’
Conchudo – to be a freeloader or cheapskate
Mamar gallo – to joke around or ‘pull someone’s leg’
Guaro – Colloquial name for the typical anise Antioquian liquor “aguardiente”
Echar los perros – to flirt with or ‘hit on someone’
Rumbear/ la rumba – to go out partying/ the party
Estoy enguayabado(a)/ tener guayabo – I’m hungover/ to be hungover
¡Qué pereza! – to say that something is boring or unpleasant to do
Maluco(a) – bad or unpleasant in some way
¡Gas!/ ¡Guácala! – Gross!
Photo: Hubert Gajewski
So whether you are at the level of ‘me da pena’ when you speak Spanish or you are pro enough to ‘mamar gallo’ with your ‘parceros’ it’s always helpful to learn the local jargon to maximize your Colombian experience.