One of my favourite countries in Latin America, this Colombian slang guide will help you fit in.
Tomorrow is the last day of my two month visa in Colombia and I’m moving on.
When I first arrived in Colombia I was very frustrated because I could not understand Colombians. Colombian slang has its own set of expressions and slang.
Lunfardo: Argentinean Slang
I wasn’t sure if it was because they were mumbling, talking quickly or a combination of the two.
Colombia is a country with a large number of inhabitants and a variety of accents throughout.
This lends itself to many types of words being adapted nationally. Below, are some of the most popular Colombian slang words, Colombian slang insults and Colombian slang greetings in general.
Essential Colombian Slang
One thing I did realize is that there is an incredible amount of expressions that I did not understand:
Listo literally means ‘ready’ but its also used if something is smart or cool or okay.
I hear this several times a day but when I first arrived I thought people were always asking me if I was ready.
With delicious aguardiente and other tasty Colombian drinks it is far too easy to become hungover.
In Mexico they call it crudo, which means raw. But the Colombian Spanish for hangover is guayabo.
Example: Este guayabo me va a matar…(EN) This hangover is going to kill me.
That’s right, this English word is used a lot in Colombia and is used to refer to a man, a boy or a child.
Example: Este man es muy buena persona (This man is a very good person).
A la orden
Colombians are extremely polite and there is a sense of formality in their speech.
Anyone serving you, from a taxi driver to a grocery store clerk will say this to you. It literally means ‘to order’ but is more similar to ‘at your service’.
I did not understand this one at all, especially when I would complain to taxi drivers that they were charging me too much and they responded with this phrase which really meant get of the cab gringa.
This is used a lot in Colombia and refers to when a person feels happy or comfortable in some place or situation.
Example: “Te veo muy amañado en la fiesta” o “te veo muy amañada en tu nueva casa” (EN) “I see you very happy at the party” or “I see you very happy in your new home”
Con mucho gusto
Another Colombian pleasantry which can be confusing. While in every other country it means ‘nice to meet you’ I started hearing it here from waitresses and other service people when I thanked them.
Caliente does not only mean hot but it also means horny in Colombian slang. I learned this the hard way when my dance partner did not realize I was saying I was hot temperature wise.
Update: A kind friend just wrote me it was because I said estoy cliente and not tengo calor. Lesson learned.
Hacer una vaca
Although this Colombian slang translates to make a cow. It is not quite far off.
The term “Hacer una vaca” or “Hagamos una vaca” refers to collecting money among several people for a specific purpose.
Colombians do it a lot to buy food, for vacations, for parties, for birthdays, etc.
Example: Hagamos una vaca para irnos de paseo el fin de semana. (En) Let’s pool our money together to go on vacation for the weekend.
If you want to fit in you need to drop ‘si’ and start using local speak.
Colombians love to marvel at beauty and bonita, hermosa, guapa and preciosa weren’t cutting it; you’ll often hear them use lindo/linda to descibe pretty things.
This can also mean “Monkey” but in Colombia is used more “mico o simio” to refer to a monkey.
Mono is used a lot to refer to a blonde person (it is said with affection), so, if you are a foreigner and blonde, you will hear a lot that they call you “Mono” or “Mona” if you are a woman.
Example: You’re in a store and they say “Que se le ofrece mono” “What can I do for you, blondie?
All ways to say something is cool although apparently chimba trumps chevre the same way awesome trumps cool.
But be careful because chimba also refers to female genitalia – although somewhat nice to see they at least appropriated it in a positive light.
It is used to refer to someone who is a very good friend, who is like a brother and who is always in the good times and bad.
In Colombia friends also become part of the family, although in Colombia they are also very friendly and they use parcero to be more friendly and to enter in confidence.
Like our shortened expressions in English ‘por favor’ is too much for many Colombians so it’s become porva. This was the only slang that annoyed me as I could not find the verb in any dictionary.
Once I mastered these I really felt like I had taken my Spanish to a new level, of course that is today but tomorrow I’ll be in Ecuador and there may be a whole new batch of expressions to learn.
This term can refer to an object, situation or action. For example: “¡Que problema con esa vaina!” or “Se dañó esa vaina…”.
The English translation is “What a problem with that thing!” or “That thing is damaged!…”
It is used a lot to ask for forgiveness or even to ask for permission to open a space for you while you pass through the crowd.
Example: you’re walking by and you bump into someone, you say, “Que pena amigo ¿te lastime?” (I’m sorry, did I hurt you?”) … or you need to pass through the crowd and say, “Que pena que pena” (Excuse me, excuse me) and they immediately know they must give you permission.
It’s such a common Colombian slang that J. Balvin and Maluma, both from Medellin, have the song Que Pena.
It is another way of referring to a woman.
In Spanish it means that the woman is old, but in Colombia it is used to refer to a woman, even if she is young.
Example: Mira esta vieja tan buena…(EN) Look at this hot girl.
One of the best things about traveling in this country is trying the food, especially Colombian desserts.
Many of which can be very sweet, so they are said to be hostigantes.
Example: Ese arroz con leche es muy hostigante. (EN) That rice pudding is very sweet.
In Latin America Chino is often described for a person coming from China. But in Colombian slang children are called “Chino” or girls “China”.
Example: Ese chino se puso a llorar otra vez. (EN) That kid started crying again.
In Spanish it also normally refers to the animal you find in the desert with 2 humps.
In Colombia the word “Camello” is used to refer to work. Example: Al fin me salió camello enseñando inglés en una universidad. (EN) I finally got a job teaching English at a university.
And actually it means hump day, makes so much more sense with Colombian slang.
It is used against someone who is very tired or insistent.
Example: Este intenso no deja de llamarme. (EN) This annoying guy keeps calling me.
Colombian Spanish Words That Aren’t So Nice
You will hear these insults in Colombian jargon on some occasions and taking into account the place where you are.
You must take everything in context to understand when you are being insulted. Sometimes it may sound ugly, but may not entirely be an insult.
Hijueputa or Jueputa
This word is typical throughout Colombia, wherever you go you will hear this word a lot, as you often hear motherf*cker in English.
In Latin America, it is more common to hear hijo de puta, but in Colombia it is adapted as hijueputa or jueputa.
Many times it is used when something goes wrong, but it is also used when you fight or want to insult someone.
Example: Noooo “hijueputa” I forgot to pay the electric bill or “Este si es mucho hijueputa”.
This Colombian slang is very common in Medellin. However, it is a Colombian word that is also used in the rest of Colombia.
Gonorrea is technically sexually transmitted infection. But in beloved Colombia it is used as an insult.
Example: Entonces que gonorrea…in many cases if you want to be much more rude, you can combine gonorrea with Hijueputa…Entonces que gonorrea hijueputa. (En) Something like, “So what, gonorrhea son of a b*tch.”
This Spanish slang is found throughout Latin America, but the meaning varies from mild to a strong insult.
In Colombia it is someone who is too slow or too dumb.
Example: Este si es mucho huevon. (En) You’re very dumb.
It is a word that is said to someone who is badly dressed, badly spoken and looks disheveled, this word is the contraction of “Compañero”.
Example: Que man tan ñero…(EN) What a scruffy man.
It refers only to the act of having sex, in other countries it is used to follar, coger, etc.
In Colombia they use culear, although it is not very nice to say. Similar to f*ck, it’s good to know but perhaps use it only amongst friends.
Sapo is said to any meddlesome person.
It sounds pretty ugly when someone calls you “Sapo”, so you know that, if someone calls you a “Sapo”, they probably don’t want you there.
Example: Que man tan sapo…(En) How nosy you are.
It is used to refer to something ridiculous, stupid or not worthwhile.
For example: ¿Está llorando por eso? Qué maricada. (EN) Are you crying about it? That’s stupid.
A “Pichurria” is something that is not worthwhile, that is insignificant.
Example: Que regalo tan pichurria o que man tan pichurria. (En) What a boring gift or That man is a piece of shit.
Colombian Slang Greetings
As a traveler I love surprising people by knowing the less formal ways to speak in Spanish.
So in Cuba, I say que bola? and in Mexico it is que pedo? instead of a more formal hola or cómo estás?
In Colombia there are several ways of greeting people that are somewhat different from other Spanish-speaking countries.
These are the Colombian Spanish greetings:
It is very common in Colombia, it is an informal form and it is used with people you already know or relatives.
Quihubo! It is an abbreviated and modified version of “Qué hubo”, which is used as a conversation starter. A
lthough when talking fast, it sounds more like a ¡Quihubo!
¿Qué más? Which basically means “What else?”, many Colombians use this one to say “Hello, how are you?
You can use this greeting in a phone call, through WhatsApp or in person.
If you add “pues” at the end, like, ¿Qué más pues? You will sound quite paisa, that is someone of Medellin.
“¡Buenas!” is the most common way of greeting when you arrive at a place in Colombia.
Buenas is an abbreviated version of Buenos dias/Buenas tardes/ Buenas noches, in Colombia you simply say “Buenas!”
It is valid for the day, the afternoon or the night. They will probably also answer back with a “Buenas!
Cómo van las cosas
This form of greeting literally means “How are things going”, it can be used through phone conversation, WhatsApp or in person.
It’s a good way to start a conversation because the same question invites you to tell several things about what has already happened.
Colombian men are people who don’t mind admiring a woman’s beauty and letting her know it very loudy.
Just as there are compliments that may not be as good, some of them make women smile, either because it is funny or because the woman is really flattered.
If you’re a woman traveling in Colombia it’s best to know what people are catcalling.
- De qué juguetería te escapaste muñeca? Which is translated into English as, “What toy did you run away from, doll?”.
- Qué hace una estrella volando tan bajito? Which translates to, “What is a star doing flying so low?”
- Quién fuera bizco para verte dos veces. Translated into English as “Who would be cross-eyed to see you twice”.
- Si eres casada, no te preocupes… No soy celoso! In English it would be something like, “If you’re married, don’t worry… I’m not jealous!”