STREET SLANG - Learn to speak Spanish like a true Colombian!

Colombia Street Slang - Spanish Slang in Colombia

Learn to speak Spanish like a local Colombian

If someone on the street calls you parce, should you be offended? If they offer a pola, is it a good idea to accept? What about a perrico? Speaking Spanish in Colombia for the first time can be a little disorienting – although the accent is relatively clear, the slang is seemingly endless.

When I arrived in Cali I was greeted with “¿Qué más?” and had no idea how to respond. Literally, it translates to ‘What more?’; in Colombia it means ´How are you?´

Spanish Adventure’s Camilo said Colombian lingo drew from a range of influences – even the country’s violent history of narco-trafficking. During the Pablo Escobar years, cocaine traffickers from the countryside around Medellín developed a new slang called parlache, which quickly spread to the rest of the country. “The word parce, or parcero, at the beginning (it meant) a person you were sleeping with,” he said. “After the growth of parlache, now it’s said by people all over the country – Bogotá, Cali… to mean ‘mate’ or ‘dude’.”

According to Camilo, Colombia’s position in the centre of Latin America had helped foster a rich local dialect. Mexican slang has made its way to Colombia thanks to the popular television show El Chavo del Ocho. Medellín’s love of tango means some Argentinian lunfardo words are used locally – in Antioquia it’s not unusual to hear vos instead of tu or usted, or the insult percanta.

Confusingly, some words in Colombia can have completely different meanings in other Spanish-speaking countries. In Colombia la chucha refers to a bad armpit smell, while in Chile a la chucha means something is far away.


Tinto: A dark red colour, tinto is mainly used in the Spanish-speaking world to describe red wine - vino tinto. In Colombia, a tinto is a black coffee. 

Paila: The word paila literally means frying pan, but colloquially means something like 'screwed' or 'all out of something'. If you order a coffee but the restaurant has run out, the waiter might say paila. If your friend wants to go out for dinner but you're broke, you could say "No, estoy paila". 

Vaina: Literally - 'pod' (as in beanpod). In Colombia - 'thing'. ¿Dónde está esa vaina? It can also refer to a problem or a nuisance. As in, "I left my wallet at home, ¡Qué vaina!"

Qué chimbada: Has a similar meaning to ¡Qué vaina! - it's a phrase to express your annoyance when something goes wrong, similar to 'Oh shit'.

Chimba: Cool, great. "Oh, you're going on holiday to Colombia? ¡Qué chimba!"

Bacano: A slightly less crass way of saying chimba. A friend told me he would use bacano in front of his mother, but not chimba. 

Parce / parcero: In Colombia parce or parcero both mean 'mate', 'dude' or 'bro'.

Parche: Translates literally to 'patch', but in Colombia refers to a group of friends, or the place where you usually hang out with your friends. Vamos al parche.

Parcharse: You can probably already guess what this means - hanging out with your friends. Be careful though, because it's also a slightly crass way to say kiss.