Learning to Insult with Peruvian Slang

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I don’t know what it is about Peru that most of the words I learned were to yell or insult someone.

In Colombia the words were to describe being something great, in Ecuador it was a mixture.

Perhaps my Spanish has improved enough that I’ve moved onto shredding someone’s self-esteem like a local.

I wasn’t surprised that there were so many words to insult someone.

Some the slang comes from its indigenous roots of Quechua and Aymara but I think the real reason is that people are so expressive in Latin America.

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Whether they love you or hate you, they’re going to express it.

There doesn’t seem to be this passive aggressive mentality that we have in Canada – underneath the politeness we really think you’re a douche bag.

The following have been some of my favourite words to use, mostly because Peruvians tend to be surprised that I use them and then give me a pat on the back that I’m learning. 

Que Huevon

It seems that eggs are used quite a bit here in slang, in Ecuador huevada means bullshit and here in Peru que huevon means what a lazy ass.

Apparently the reasoning behind this is that the person in question has grown such large balls (eggs) that they can’t do anything.
 

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Pajero

The closest translation would be wanker. It’s a soft insult and doesn’t mean you are calling the other person a chronic masturbator.

Brichero/a

This is the first country that has defined a term for this but it means gringo/a hunter.  

Some locals, both men and women, are known to chase after foreigners.

Abby in Santiago, Chile calls them gringo collectors. In Cuban slang they are called jineteros.

I’ve noticed this phenomenon more in Latin America than other parts of the world but perhaps it’s because so many travelers welcome the idea of taking a Latin lover.

Poners los Cuernos

Also on the subject of love this literally means to put on the horns but really means to cheat on a partner or spouse.

Sadly enough I had to call someone out on this once, although secretly inside I was beaming because I found an opportunity to use it.

Oh and if you’re wondering about the above photo. I found it in the touristy part of Cusco and while in my bad Spanish translation I knew it meant shitty gringo cultivate ignorance I couldn’t figure out what kurtase meant.

A slightly embarrassed tour guide told me it was Quechua for tonta or silly in Spanish but I suspect it may be a bit stronger.

Join the Conversation

  1. I love learning slang terms from other Latin American countries! “Huevón” and “brichero” were new to me. “Ponerle los cuernos” is an expression that’s also used in Argentina. Wait until you get here…there’s so much slang in Argentina, you won’t know what hit you. 😉

  2. I love learning new Latin American slang! “Huevón” and “brichero” were new to me. “Ponerle los cuernos” is an expression that’s also used in Argentina. Wait until you get here…there’s so much slang used in Argentina, you won’t know what hit you! 😉

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Chile also has a multitude of slang and I´m really struggling with it right now!

  3. Steve Muench says:

    Great stuff! Are you still in Peru? I was an exchange student there 24 years ago and still have close “family” and friends in Arequipa, Lima, and Cuzco. Wonderful people, wonderful country.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I just left for Chile and wow do they top the list for most slang spoken.

  4. q macioso!! I always can use some new Spanish slang. I just joined a mens baseball team here in Honduras and definitely need to get caught up so I can dish it out too. Cheers!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I´d check first to make sure they mean the same thing, each country I go to seems to invent their own.

  5. Lisa @chickybus says:

    Great list….very funny! I’ve heard of “poner los cuernos” before and think it’s hilarious. I’ve also heard that the a man who’s being cheated on is called “el venado.” There may even be a song about it.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I must look up venado..

  6. Lindsay aka @_thetraveller_ says:

    Haha love this! I learned Pajero quite quickly. You know how I roll.. WORD!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Not surprised at all 🙂

  7. South America ME says:

    In Chile, Huevon (pronounced like Weon) a lot. It has MANY MANY different meanings here. Sometimes it means a stupid person, sometimes Friend/Mate. It can be used as an adjective (aweonado)…
    One of our Spanish teachers wrote pages of its different meanings and uses. I’ll look for it later and post it.
    Rob W

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Ahh I see weon all the time on my Facebook friends´pages and I never knew what it meant!

  8. LOL! These sound like some insults in the native language of my hometown, Sardinia. Exquisitely familiar 😛

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      There are so many I make it my priority to learn them first!

  9. great insults, now i will know when somebody is insulting me

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Well I can never keep up with whatever they are calling me!

  10. Learning the insults is when you are really becoming a local.

  11. I don’t speak any Spanish, but I do know from learning French how fun it is to learn slang and insults in a foreign language 🙂

  12. Awesome! Great collection. I hope one day I too can “shred someones confidence like a local.” 🙂

  13. Michael Figueiredo says:

    Haha! I love your Slang Series….it always makes me laugh 🙂

  14. Oscar Carrasco says:

    “Huevón” means here in Peru “idiot”, “fool”. We say “¡Qué huevón! about someone who has done a stupid thing or has done something wrong.

    Some time ago a comic character was created: el Pezweon (http://www.facebook.com/ElPezweon.pe?sk=info). It is a fish with two big testicles. Hence its name (“pez huevón”). The fish is an idiot who doesn’t react to a different situations.

    It comes from a colloquial expression, “pues, huevón”, that is added when someone demands to other person to do something or do it in a certain way: “Anda, pues huevón” “Rápido, pues huevón”. This character has been a success. But two times was rejected its register in the Peruvian patent office because the name supposedly “threatens against the moral values” (“atenta contra las buenas costumbres”).

  15. It’s always good to learn the local slang, and cursing is part of it. We had a friend in BsAs who taught us a bunch of insults the first day we met her. Always good to know and throw out to a local, especially one that’s trying to rip you off as a tourist. It typically gets a good laugh!

  16. You’re insults are quite impressive, your Spanish must be quite good! I also like the honesty more than the Canadian passive-aggressiveness as long as I’m not on the receiving end of it.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Hehe yes we are a polite but mean nation aren´t we 🙂

  17. I’ve always thought a lot about using some type of slang or insult to hurl at the locals when I’m pissed off at a situation.

    In the end, I tend to steer away from it. Among friends and people you know who are locals it’s usually funny and gets a laugh but everytime I think about saying something along those lines to someone who is trying to rip me off or whatever, in the end I tend to just say no thank you.

    It could me the Canadian in me being polite, but I try not to stoop to that level, because if i was in an english speaking country, I would likely do the same.

    Nice list though, keeping things on a lighter more humorous tone with these ones…I agree with Pete, these things come most handy if you are playing a game of futebol with local friends and need to build that part of your vocabulary 😛

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I would completely agree with you here. I would never start a fight with someone here. In fact I find being aggressive does not work at all in this culture.

      In Molleno a woman at a bookstore gave me a fake 20 soles (assume it was by accident) after being told at a Chifa restaurant it was fake I went back to the store. The lady and I basically had a stare down, me with doe eyes pleading that she give me a new bill, and her explaining she couldn´t be sure it came from me.

      I could have started yelling and threaten to call the police but in the end she believed me that I had no reason to lie and she gave me a new bill.

  18. Oh I’ll have to remember that one on my next trip — “¿Dónde están los bricheros?” ;>)

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Oh you don´t need to look for them, they find you!

  19. Handy! And also reminds me that I might not want to understand sometimes…well, we try not to incite any insults anyway. If I remember correctly in Argentine Spanish you can call someone a bulido and that could be affectionate or really insuting depending on context or tone. John and prefer to insult people in Macedonian when they piss us off – the words are the most fun!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I hope I´m not insulted often but I do occassionally get gringo, sometimes its used affectionately but more often not.

  20. Cornelius Aesop says:

    I must send this to my wife and ask her if there are any others or if she is familiar with them.

  21. Katherina says:

    jajajaj I use pajero on a daily basis… and in Spain we also use “poner los cuernos”. Loved this!

  22. This would have been useful when I got mugged in Peru last week lol!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Yeah in the case of people who rob you, you may want to say them when you are par away.

  23. The NVR Guys says:

    I love these posts. what does that say about me?

    The questions still remains, how do you call someone a chronic masturabator in Peru?

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Well I love writing them so probably the same as me.

  24. Gotta love foreign language insults! 🙂

  25. Trans-Americas Journey says:

    Ha! Our Trans-Americas Journey won’t reach Peru for another God knows how many more years, but we will bookmark this for later use!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Oh I will have most of South America done soon so consider me your resource!

  26. John in France says:

    I have a friend who drives a Pajero!!! It’s a Nissan I think? Can’t wait to abuse him!!!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I saw pajero on a truck in Chile but I checked, it means wanker here too although a bit more aggressive of a term.

  27. Wow. I love that they have a name for the gringo collectors. I need to make that popular in Santiago 🙂

  28. My 8-year-old son’s least favorite subject in school is Spanish – maybe this would help 🙂

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I remember as a kid taking French that the most popular word was seal – or phoque

  29. I’m not sure what it is about learning a new language that makes swear words one of the most popular ones to learn first. I personally like to learn them because it gives you insight into the culture, like your example of why eggs is such a popular insult in South America. =)

  30. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures says:

    I’m so going to call Lucas a brichero tonight! 😉

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I´m sure he´ll love that!

  31. Betsy Talbot says:

    So sad that we’ve already left South America and I have to wait until we get to Spain to try some of these out! This is the kind of post you can do for every country you visit as a public service to all of us who travel. 🙂

    The good news is that we are learning the lyrics to dirty Filipino songs and Polish curse words while on board the ship. All in the name of broadening our horizons, of course!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Come back and we´ll insult each other – gringa!

  32. This is quite enlightening! The only terrible word I learned in my travels was mierda, as in “buen mierda”-so,
    obviously used in the more positive slant! Perhaps I should have added a few more to my arsenal.

  33. You must visit Spain because I’m doing a terrible job of collecting slang here and I need help. Although I have learned “Que te den…” which is very rude.

  34. being able to insult like a local is how you know you belong 🙂

  35. Wow- it’s up there on the wall. Makes it very official. But yeah swear words come in very handy and I make it a point to at least know one that I can use when I’m walking alone along a foreign street.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I think you could see this in any city in any country that has tourist, some people just do not want to interact with them and sometimes I cannot blame them.

  36. Justin Hamlin says:

    LOVE IT. Finding your translations of these words versus what I have learned from a family of Colombians!

    Hope you are having fun!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      So much fun, and the people are hilarious when I use them – like who taught her how to say that?

      1. Justin Hamlin says:

        Exactly. Juliet’s family still doesn’t always remember that I understand more spanish than I speak, so they will carry on in Spanish, thinking I am none the wiser, that is, until I start laughing along with them 🙂

        Glad you are having fun!

        1. Ayngelina Author says:

          So true, it´s always easier to understand than to speak.

  37. Christy @ Technosyncratic says:

    I am so bad at learning other languages, but somehow I’ve acquired quite the vocabulary of Spanish curse words.

    Like, words bad enough to start a fight if I used them seriously. En espanol I can basically ask where the bathroom is, come up with some awful insults about your mother, and request (or suggest) a whole host of vulgar sexual favors.

    Mostly I just playfully use them with Kali, but every once in awhile someone overhears and looks AGHAST, lol.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Each time I come to a new country I test them out and I´m surprised how one word can be so common in one country but they have no idea what I´´m saying in the other.

  38. Leslie (Downtown Traveler) says:

    Wow, you know your Spanish slang! I hadn’t heard of “Brichero/a” before but it’s a useful term 🙂

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It is definitely one of my favourite things to learn. Today I learned that people in Chile tease that the instant coffee Nescafe is often called No es cafe or in English – it´s not coffee.

  39. I love that you never fail to give us lessons on Latin American slang or swear words or football insults. 😉

    Brilliant!

  40. Stephanie says:

    I definitely will take note of these for when I get to Peru. Makes you feel good to know the slang… not such a stupid gringa after all 🙂

    I just got to Buenos Aires, and I’ve already noticed that so much of the vocabulary is different, so I’m guessing the slang will be quite ‘colorful’ here.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Oh yeah the Spanish and the slang should be so interesting with a mix of European influence.

  41. Ah! The joys of swearing in a foreign language. Does “shithead” translate? Found it works well in many cultures…

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Now that one I have not asked about!

  42. Ayngelina,
    Excellent post…I’m learning so many new words from you. Looking forward to the next installment of the series.
    Jason

  43. Ever heard the story about the car Mitsubishi Pajero? Thats what it was called in large parts of the world, untill they found out Pajero ment something different in Spanish speaking countries and they give it a different name there 🙂

  44. Camden Luxford over at the Matador Network wrote a great article about her experience being called a brichera while in Peru . . . http://bit.ly/wA1qEo

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      You know I stayed in Camden’s hostel without knowing her! I wrote about it as I worked there for a month and learned what it is like to be on the other side of tourism.

  45. Have a look at the Peruvian / Swedish movie, GRINGA, shot in Cuzco and Machu Picchu, a warm and comic drama about a wannabe Brichero and his hunt for Gringa.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      That is funny. I’ll have a look.

  46. Great post. I would hesitate to trade insults with a native Peruvian in their own language, no matter how fluent I am, they will always be more fluent.

  47. Nelson Mochilero says:

    Testosterone is responsible for the stupidities in life and I’m sure that many many languages have a word/insult to “big balls”.
    Huevón = Huevos grandes = Big Eggs

    Nice post by the way!

  48. ¡aqui hay puros huevones!

  49. A lot of these apply in Guatemala too, amongst a plethora of others. They say cazagringas here for the gringohunters and shanear is apparently the verb for taking a certain type of drug, named after a backpacker at some point. Gotta love languages!

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