Your Guide to Colombian Spanish

Your Guide to Colombian Spanish

If “parce”, “bacano”, and “quiubo” resonate in your mind, you might have heard Colombian Spanish. If not, then you’re about to find out what these words mean, and more!

Colombia is a vibrant and diverse country with mesmerizing places to visit and enjoy, and the country with the most Spanish speakers, after Mexico. Colombia also has a fairly clear and easy Spanish accent to learn and understand but, being a multicultural country, it also has a large variety of regional dialects and accents.

While this may seem intimidating for a Spanish learner, learning about these dialects’ grammar, phonetics, and culture from Trufluency’s Colombian Spanish guide will help you to ace them! Some Colombian accents may indeed be more difficult to understand than others, but we can assure you that it’s worthwhile learning if you are going to travel (or settle) in the country for just a few weeks or – why not – permanently? So, let’s start your guide to Columbian Spanish!

Colombian Spanish Grammar

The use of Spanish pronouns Usted, , and Vos

Colombians use the pronouns usted, , and vos in a very particular way. Regardless of the formality and depending on the region they live in, Colombians will speak directly to a person using any of these pronouns depending on the region they live in.

Usted (what the majority prefer to use)

Spanish speakers from the Andean region of Colombia -the largest of the country- use usted all the time to address the second person singular. Colombians use usted regardless of the situations of formality and closeness they have to people. While visiting Colombia’s Andean region you’ll hear people call usted to their friends, spouses, parents, children, pets, coworkers, bosses, and pretty much everyone. And if you’re a stranger to them, they’ll still use usted with you.

This has nothing to do with whether they are being formal or informal in their conversation, it’s simply their preference. As a matter of fact, it’s so common that it’s probably the only word you’ll hear for “you” there. In this sense, there’s no point in switching over to because you’re more comfortable with someone, as it happens with Spanish in the rest of the world.

(what Costeños prefer to say)

The tuteo – or the use of to address someone in the singular form as the general rule – is common in the Caribbean Coast of Colombia. People from La Costa (how Colombians call the Coast) will use with a very high frequency.

However, Costeños do follow the Spanish rule of using usted when the context is formal or unfamiliar. So, if you are not close to them, they’ll address you with usted until you create a bond with each other.

Vos (the favorite pronoun of Southwest Colombia)

Colombians from the regions Paisa and Valle del Cauca and, overall, from the Southwest of the country, use vos instead of and usted. This is called voseo and lies somewhere between informal and formal speech. Many countries in Latin America use it. Some examples are Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, Bolivia, Venezuela, etcetera. Keep in mind that vos is considered a bit less formal than usted yet a bit more formal than . You can check the vos conjugation here.

How does the Colombian accent sound?

In Colombia, you’ll hear different accents. Colombia is divided into six natural regions; Andean, Caribbean, Pacific, Orinoco, Amazon, and Insular. Each region contains many linguistic quirks as well as slang. We’ll explain the Standard Colombian Spanish accent and then we’ll make a distinction on the regional particularities.

Seseo

Just like other Latin American Spanish variants, Colombians pronounce C before E and I like an S. This widely common pronunciation is called seseo. Therefore, the following pair of words sound the same in Colombian Spanish: cocer / coser and abrazar / abrasar.

Yeísmo

The act of Spanish speakers pronouncing both the LL and Y with the same Y sound is called yeísmo. Most Colombians DO NOT have it. They make a perfect distinction between the LL and the Y. Thus, they distinguish the LL sound from a regular Y sound. Non-yeísmo speakers from Colombia make a hard “Je” sound when pronouncing LL and a soft “ye” sound when pronouncing Y. Therefore, most Colombians will make a noticeable difference between cayó (fell) and calló (he shut up).

But, why does this matter? Because it’ll help you spell words in a better way. You won’t only spell more easily in Colombia but also in parts of Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru. Nevertheless, there has indeed been a recent tendency toward using yeísmo among the youngest population of the capital city, Bogotá.

Aspirated K

In the Andean region of Colombia, people aspire the letter K before all vowels [kʰ]. Therefore, the way people pronounce K in Colombia is the same as we do in English, in the posterior part of the mouth. You can see an anatomic representation of this pronunciation here.

Pronunciation of J

The pronunciation of J can be pharyngeal (pronounced with the pharynx) or glottal (pronounced with the glottis). Phonetics represents these sounds with the symbols ⟨ħ⟩ and [h], respectively. On the one hand, the pharyngeal J is articulated with the tongue root against the back of the throat. On the other hand, the glottal J is articulated as an aspiration in the English word “ham”.

A regional accent worth the mention is the one of Nariño, where they pronounce J as a velar sound. In other words, with the back of the tongue (the dorsum) at the soft palate.

Pronunciation of N

The N is alveolar in most of the country. However, in the Caribbean region of Colombia (where costeños are from), people pronounce the N as NG.

Pronunciation of S

In the Región Caribe and Los Llanos of Colombia, the pronunciation of the S is aspired. This rule is valid for an S between two vowels or at the end of words. You can hear this S sound in the rest of the Spanish-speaking Caribbean countries, Chile, Argentina, and South Spain. For example, beso and somos.

However, in places like Bogotá, Altiplano Cundiboyacense, Valle del Cauca, Región Paisa, and Santander the S aspiration between vowels is perceived as informal. However, the final S is always clear (not aspired). For example, nosotras and necesitas.

In some places of the Paisa region and Altiplano Cundiboyacense, and the Andean zone of Nariño, the S is apical. Simply put, this means that people pronounce it with the tip of the tongue, either behind the front teeth or against the alveoli. Thus, this sounds reminds us of an SH sound.

In the rest of the country, the S is pronounced as a Spanish Z when it’s between two vowels or at the beginning of words. For example: Ay, ¡eso sí jamás!

Pronunciation of RR and R

The RR and R sounds are the same as in Standard Spanish. Nevertheless, in Nariño and Altiplano Cundiboyacense, people “drag” the R and make it almost a Z. This happens when the R is in the middle as well as at the end of the word. This process is called asibilation (yes, with a B), and consists of the transformation of a non-sibilant sound into a sibilant. The asibilated R sounds like something between an S and a Z. For example: “Comer para mi es un placer.” (KOMEHS PASA MI ES OON PLAHCES).

On the other hand, Costeños pronounce the Rs in the final syllables as an L. Hence, sal and alcalde sound like “sar” and “arcarde”. When the L is in letter groups LD, LG, and LM, transform it into a D. Therefore, falda and espalda become “fadda” and “espadda”.

Final deletion of D

Colombian Spanish speakers often delete the final D of words, however, it is an uneducated way of speech. Example: verdá instead of verdad.

Notice that when the D’s are in words conjugated in progressive tenses (English -ing form) they are carefully pronounced as they would normally be. For example: Estaba durmiendo (I was sleeping), Estoy caminando (I am walking).

Vowels

Colombian Spanish has the same vowels as Standard Spanish, two closed vowels (I and U), two mid vowels (E, O), and an open vowel (A). However, in the different regions of the country, these vowels may be longer, shorter, or include some brief stops without affecting the words’ meaning. Please notice that the pronunciation below comes from a transcription using the symbols of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), which you can review here.

 

Standard Spanish (Spain) Standard Spanish (IPA) Bogota Spanish Paisa Spanish Coastal Columbian Spanish
casa ˈkasa ˈkʰäzɐ ˈkʰäs̺a̠ ˈkäsa
lento ˈlento ˈlen̪t̪ʊ / ˈlen̪t̪ ˈlẽ̞n̪t̪o ˈlento
leopardo leoˈparðo lɪoˈpärðʊ leoˈpärðo leoˈpardo / leoˈpado
peligro peˈliɣɾo peˈliɣro peˈliɡro peˈliɡɾo
almacén almaˈθen almɐˈsɛn / almɐˈzɛn almaˈs̺en almaˈseŋ
estable esˈtaβle esˈt̪äβlɪ / esˈt̪äβl/td> esˈt̪äβle ehˈtable
Bogotá boɣoˈta boɣoˈt̪a / boɣʊˈt̪ä boɡoˈt̪ä bogoˈtä

Regional accents of Colombia

In Colombia, some multiple dialects and accents stray to a lesser or greater extent from Standard Spanish grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation. Here’s a list of the different regional accents of Colombia. So, be sure to explore these regions when you travel to Colombia, or while making a fun visit to YouTube!

Rolo or Bogotano

You can hear this accent in the country’s capital, Bogotá, and its surroundings. Their speech uses usted and shows a lot of politeness and formality. Thus, it is normal to hear people say things like ¿Podría por favor abrir la ventana? (Would/May you please open the window).

Unlike Costeños, they pronounce all letters, including Ss and Ds at the final syllable of words. However, they do add a little more stress at the end of words, and occasionally have a rising intonation at the end of sentences. The Rolo accent is very clear, therefore, it’s the preferred accent on national TV and radio. You can listen to the Bogotano accent in these interviews of singers Fonseca (the guy with short hair) and Ilona.

Paisa

This way of speaking comes from the area of Antioquia, where the nearest city is Medellín. Colombians speak Paisa in the departments of Antioquia, Caldas, Risaralda, and Quindío. Paisas have many regional and local expressions that are opaque even to other Colombians. Among the most notable features of the Paisa dialect are the voseo and their phrasal intonation or cantaíto/cantadito (singsong). They drag out the end of sentences in a peculiar tonal rise and fall. Besides, they pronounce S as a whispered SH.

In this video, you can hear Violeta, a local Spanish teacher, speak the Paisa dialect. If you enjoy memes and viral videos, then you’ll certainly have a sadistic pleasure time listening to Doña Gloria cursing everybody for taking her on a trip to heights in metro cable. The Paisa accent may not always be pretty.

Valluno or Caleño

You can hear it in the area of Valle del Cauca, located in southern Colombia, where the nearest major city is Cali. They use the vos form and they have a particular way to conjugate verbs. For instance, they say vení instead of ven (come here). You can learn this conjugation by watching the mafia-based soap opera/drama El Cartel de Los Sapos (“The Snitches’ Cartel”).

The Caleño dialect uses voseo and often changes intervocalic S sounds for an H sound. This is known as jejeo (HEH-HEH-OH). For instance, a Valluno pronounces necesitar as NEH-HEH-SEE-TAR and Los hombres as LOH-HOM-BRES. Besides, when an N is at the end of a sentence, Vallunos change it to an M. For example, Voy a comprar pan. Here, the “pan” is pronounced as “pam”. If you prefer dancing instead of sitting in front of your laptop, you may also learn that Cali is the home of the Salsa Caleña, a treasure of the local culture. In this video, filmmakers ask people from Cali why they are so good at dancing salsa.

Pastuso or Andino

It comes from the Southwest region of Colombia, where the major city is Pasto, located in the department of Nariño. Pastuso dialect has a strong indigenous influence, so they adopted many words from the Quechua language. Namely, achachay for cold, cuiche for rainbow, and guato for small. The R is similar to the one in Chile, assibilated, or a hissing sound. The S, on its part, is never omitted but vowels may be weakened to emphasize consonants. This adorable video shows an Andean male proud of his Pastuso accent.

Costeño or Caribeño

The Costeño accent is from the Northern Coastal area of Colombia, near the Caribbean. It’s the least comprehensible for foreigners. Why? Because Costeño is heavy on local slang, people speak it impressively quickly, and many words are half-pronounced. Costeños realize final N words as velar (or the NG in sing). Plus, they aspire the Ss at the end of syllables, making them sound like a weak English H. Thus, costa and más o menos sound like “cojta” or “majomenoj” in Costeño Spanish. Besides, Caribeños skip the D in words ending in -ado. For instance, you’ll hear “pesca’o” instead of pescado (fish) or “pela’o” instead of pelado (slang for boy or guy). There’s a popular girl on social media called “Martina La Peligrosa” that teaches the Costeño accent from Córdoba, Colombia.

Chocoano or Pacífico

The Pacific region of Colombia is home to a great diversity of ethnic groups that converge on the Chocoano dialect. Its name comes from the department of Chocó, on the Pacific coast. This accent reflects African influence in terms of intonation and rhythm. Similar to the Costeño dialect, Chocoano speakers omit the syllable-final S or debuccalize it and pronounce it as H. Thus, you’ll hear “e’to señore” instead of estos señores. You can also hear this dialect in the speech of Afro-Colombians living in the departments of Cauca and Valle del Cauca. Have a quick listen to some local residents that participated in a documentary about the Pacific region.

Isleño or Insular

It’s the accent from the Colombian islands located in the Caribbean; San Andrés, Providencia, and Santa Catalina. This dialect is a mixture of Caribbean Spanish (Costeño) and British English. Hence, their R is the English R. Besides, they aspire S a little bit. Thus, words, like invierno becomes [imˈbjeɹno]; and escarlata (scarlet) becomes [ehkaɹˈlata]. You could say this dialect is also similar to Nicaraguan Spanish due to the proximity of the Colombian islands to this country. Additionally, Isleños also speak Caribbean English and a type of Creole that mixes English, Spanish, Kwa, and Igbo. This gentleman from San Andrés talks proudly about the use of these languages in the region.

Cundiboyacense

It is spoken in the departments of of Cundinamarca and Boyacá, also known as Altiplano Cundiboyacense [altiˈplano kundiβoʝaˈsense]. In English, Cundiboyacense High Plateau. The main characteristic of this dialect is the use of the word sumercé, which is a shorter way of saying su merced. The literal meaning of this word or phrase (if told separately) is “your grace”. This is a term that dates back from colonial times and it conveys courtesy and respect. Nowadays, Colombia doesn’t use the Spain Spanish noun vosotros but people kept using su merced. You can listen to a lady speaking the Cundiboyacense dialect at minute 2:00 of this video.

Opita, Tolimense, or Huilense

This dialect is spoken in the departments of Tolima and Huila, located in the Central and Southern parts of the Magdalena River Valley. It has a slow tempo and unique intonation. Opita speakers use the pronoun usted and, in the rural areas, add the letter V to it and say vusted. They also change common hiatuses and diphthongs of Spanish. For instance, the combinations /ea/ become /ia/ and /eo/ become /ie/. In this way, we have that Opita speakers change the word pelear (to fight) for “peliar” and peor (worse) for “pior”.

Santandereano

It is spoken in the Northeastern part of the country that borders Venezuela, the Santander, and Norte de Santander departments. The most common feature of this dialect is the dominance of usted in both formal and informal contexts. Therefore, in this region, it is pretty rare to hear the pronoun . They also practice yeísmo, so words like calló and arrollo sound like “cayó” and “arroyo” in this region. The prosody of their speech features staccato, which makes the accent sound angry or rough.

Llanero

The Llanero dialect is spoken in the Eastern Plains of the country throughout the Meta, Casanare, Arauca, and Vichada departments. The most relevant feature of this dialect is that it suppresses the final S of plural phrases, making it sound like a soft /h/. For example, a Llanero that reads Los padrinos will say “lo[h] padrino”. Colombian Llanero tends to compose words such as pativoltiao. This stems from the combination pata (leg) + volteado (flipped).

Amazónico

Just like its name suggests, it’s the dialect of the Amazonian region of Colombia. You can hear it in the jungles of the Southwest of the country: Caquetá, Vaupés, Amazonas, Guaviare, Guainía. Amazónico dialect speakers turn the J into a voiceless bilabial fricative, or F sound. We represent this sound by /ɸ/, according to the IPA. This change takes place especially when the J is next to /u/. Therefore, Los fríos de San Juan become “Los fríos de Sän Fan”. They also omit some vowels, so Nos vemos el jueves becomes “Nos vemos el feevs”. Additionally, they make Spanish vowels longer than usual, which doesn’t affect words’ meaning. At the minute 3:00 of this video you listen to an indigenous speak the Amazónico dialect.

Colombian words, phrases, and slang

Otherwise known as colombianismos, there are plenty of them:

A la orden

Meaning: At your service

No matter where you are, when you enter a store in Colombia (no matter which one), employees will tell you a la orden before and after your service or purchase. The key to understanding this Colombian Spanish expression is the following:

If it’s a question: It means that the store’s staff is ready to help you.
If it’s exclamatory: It means that the store’s staff was happy to serve you and it’s letting you know that they will happily do it again if you ever come back.

Thus, a la orden is just another way to say:

Can I help you?
Are you being helped?
Thanks for your time here!

…and so on!

A lo bien

Colombian Spanish meaning:
For real
Really
Hell, yeah!

For example, Le aseguro que eso es de buena calidad, ¡a lo bien! (I can assure you that is of good quality, for real!)

¡Ábrase!

Literal meaning: Open (yourself) up
Colombian Spanish meaning: To leave, scatter, get out.

Since it’s a pronominal verb, we conjugate it with the reflexive pronouns (me, te, se). Therefore, you can say…

Me abro de aquí. (I’m leaving.)
¡Ábrase! (Get out!/Leave!)

Bacano(a)

Colombian Spanish meaning: Cool, nice.

We use it to describe ideas, objects, and situations. Here are a couple of examples:

¡Qué moto tan bacana! (What a cool motorcycle!)

Sería muy bacano ir a comer pizza esta noche. (It’ll be very cool/nice to go out to eat pizza tonight.)

Buenas

Literal meaning: Good (female, plural)
Colombian Spanish meaning: Hiya, Howdy, Hello.

If you’ve been studying Spanish, you’ll know that all greetings start with Buenas or Buenos. For instance, Buenos días, Buenas tardes, Buenas noches. Then, Buenas is a short form – popular in Colombia and in the rest of Latin America – to greet someone.

Cachivaches

Colombian Spanish meaning: Junk, trash, useless stuff

For example; Tengo muchos cachivaches en mi garage, tengo que limpiarlo. (I have a lot of junk in my garage, I need to clean it.)

Camellar/Camello

Literal meaning: To camel.
Colombian Spanish meaning: To work, work (noun)

Colombians use this word when their work implies a lot of effort, time, and dedication. For example:

Hoy me toca camellar desde temprano. (Today I have to work early.)

Gracias a Dios todavía tengo camello. (Thank God I still have a job.)

Chévere

Meaning: Cool

Chévere is a popular word for “cool” that is heard in Colombia and Venezuela. Some examples are:

El parque de diversiones es muy chévere. (The amusement park is very cool.)

La idea me parece chévere. (I like the idea/ The idea seems cool to me.)

Vamos a encontrarnos en el centro comercial a las 3:00 p.m. (We’ll meet each other at the mall at 3:00 p.m.)
Chévere. (Cool)

Chimba

Colombian Spanish meaning: Chimba can stand for

Sexual organs.
Fortune strike
Good, nice, beautiful.
Bad.

Examples:

¡Colombia es una chimba! (Colombia is the best!)
Uy, casi estrello el carro del cucho. Me salvé de chimba. (Oops, I almost crash my father’s car, I saved myself by chance.)

Chino(a)

Literal meaning: Chinese
Colombian Spanish meaning: Child

Mis chinos son muy estudiosos. (My children are good students.)

Chuspa

Colombian Spanish meaning: Plastic bag

¿Me puede dar dos chuspas, por favor? (Could you give me two plastic bags, please?)

Chuzo

Meaning: Dive bar, local store

Example: Si no me da un descuento, voy a decirle a todo el mundo que este es el peor chuzo de la ciudad. (If you don’t give me a discount, I’ll tell everybody that this is the worst store in town.)

Cobrar vacuna

Literal meaning: To charge for a vaccine
Colombian Spanish meaning: Gang extortion.

While this is not what a Colombia-born person would like us to write about, it is true that organized crime has a big influence on the country. Not all organizations are big though; cartel-related activities exist on all scales. The term cobrar vacuna stems from the tendency of small gangs to charge business owners for “protection”.

Examples:

Aparta dinero para cuando vengan a cobrar vacuna. (Set aside money for when they come to collect the extortion.)

¿Aquí cobran vacuna? – Do the gangs extort here?

Cuca

Colombian Spanish meaning: Something positive or really cool; female genitalia

Esa rumba estuvo bien cuca. (That party was cool as hell).

Cucho(a)

Colombian Spanish meaning: Parents

Example: Claro, nada mas déjame preguntarle a los cuchos a ver. (Sure, let me just ask my parents just to be sure.)

Culear

Meaning: The act of having sex

Sometimes you can see it written as culiar. Example: Vamos a culear, preciosa. (Let’s go have sex, gorgeous.)

Dar papaya

Colombian Spanish meaning: To put yourself in a position where people can easily take advantage of you.

Example: No vayas a dar papaya. (Do not become an easy prey.)

Desparche

Colombian Spanish Meaning: Not to have a plan to hang out with your friends or with anybody.

Check out this dialogue:

– ¿Para dónde vamos hoy pues? (Where are we going today, then?)
No, con este desparche, no hay para dónde ir. (No, with this lack of plans, I don’t know where to go.)

Estar moscas

Literal meaning: To be a fly
Colombian Spanish meaning: To be alert

Más adelante hay que estar moscas, no andes dando papaya por ahí así. (We have to be to be alert up ahead, don’t go around unaware.)

Estar prendido

Literal meaning: To be lit
Colombian Spanish meaning: To be drunk

Me voy a la casa, estoy prendido. (I’m going home, I’m drunk).

Gonorrea

Literal meaning: Gonorrhea
Colombian Spanish meaning: A term to insult people

¡Qué gonorrea! Perdimos. (Fuck! We lost.)
¿Qué me mira, gonorrea? (What are you looking at, motherfucker?)
No bote el aguardiente, gonorrea. (Hey, don’t spill the booze, asshole.)

Guaro

Meaning: A strong and cheap alcohol called aguardiente.

A guaro is the kind of cheap drink that gets you drunk quickly.

¡Hágale al guaro! ¿Tiene miedo? (Have some hooch! Are you scared?)

Guayabo

Literal meaning: Guava fruit/harvest
Colombian Spanish meaning: Hangover

Está cansado del guayabo. (He’s tired because of his hangover.)

Hacéme un catorce, Haceme un dos

Colombian Spanish meaning: Make me a favor

María, ¿me puede hacer el dos/catorce con la computadora? (María, can you do me a favor?)

Hacer una vaca

Literal Meaning: To make a cow

Colombian Spanish meaning: To gather money, put money together.

Example: Hagamos una vaca para comprar aguardiente. (Let’s gather money to buy aguardiente.)

Hacer una vuelta

Literal meaning: To do a loop
Colombian Spanish meaning: To run an errand

Claro, voy para allá, déjame hacer una vuelta primero. (Sure, I’ll go therein a second, let me do this first.)

Hijueputa or Hijo de puta

Meaning: Son of a bitch

Colombians are famous for using the abridged form hijueputa, and it can be included in basically every sentence you can think of. Colombians use it to express excitement, to insult someone, and as an innocent sentence filler. You can also hear its short form, jueputa, in Colombia. Some examples are:

¡Qué casa tan hijueputa! (What an amazing house!)
¡Ay (hi)jueputa, cómo duele! (Son of a bitch, how it hurts!)

Huevón

Meaning: Someone dumb or clueless, stupid, or foolish

¡No sea huevón! Pelee por lo que es suyo. (Don’t be foolish! Fight for what is yours.)

Ir a vitrinear

Meaning: To go window-shopping

¿Qué hiciste el domingo? (What did you do on Sunday?)
Pues, simplemente fui a vitrinear con mi esposa al centro comercial. (Well, I simply went window-shopping at the mall with my wife.)

Jincho(a)

Meaning: Wasted

No le hables en este momento, anda medio jincho. (Don’t talk to him right now, he’s kind of wasted.)

Juicioso(a)

Colombian Spanish meaning: A well-behaved person

Juiciosos con la abuela, niños. (Be nice to your grandma, kids.)

Llave

Literal meaning: Key

Colombian Spanish meaning: Friend, dude

¿Cómo está, llave? (How are you, dude?)

Lucas

Colombian Spanish meaning: Colombian pesos

Solo tengo 20.000 lucas (I only have 20,000 Colombian pesos.)

Mono(a)

Literal meaning: Monkey
Colombian Spanish meaning: Blond(e)

In Colombia, mono(a) does not only stand for “monkey” but for a blond person as well. In Spain, on the contrary, it means “pretty”.

Mi hermana es mona. (My sister is blond.)

Ñero

Colombian Spanish meaning: It derives from compañero(a) and it means “streetkid” or “gangsta”.

Example: Ese ñero se pegó el chicle detrás de la oreja. (That ñero stuck his gum behind his ear.)

Ome

Colombian Spanish meaning: Man, and it is used to express an emotion about a male.

¿Si me puedes prestar plata? (Can you borrow me that money?)
Ome, ¡ya te dije que no! (Man, I told you no!)

Paila

Colombian Spanish meaning: A lost cause

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.)

Parar bolas

Literal meaning: To catch balls
Colombian Spanish meaning: To listen/ pay attention

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

Parcero(a)

Colombian Spanish meaning: Mate, bro, bud, pal, friend.

You can use it with close friends or with a possible client or benefactor in order to create a familiar connection. Parce is the short form of this word.

¿Parcero, venga, estamos a la orden? (Mate, come here, how can I help you?)
Parcero, lo espero en la plaza. (Bro, I’ll wait for you at the square.
¿Oiga, parce. Nos vamos, ¿o qué? (Hey, dude. Are we going or what?)

Parche

Literal meaning: Patch

Colombian Spanish meaning: A group of people you hang out with, homies.

Ando con el parche en el chuzo que le dije. (I’m with the homies at the place I told you about.)

Pecueca

Colombian Spanish meaning: Foot odor or a general bad smell.

Uy, aquí lo que huele es a pecueca, vámonos pero ya. (Damn, it smells like feet in here, let’s go now.)

Pichurria

Colombian Spanish meaning: A dangerous, criminal, ugly, or bad person.

Example: Ese tipo es una pichurria. (That guy is dangerous.)

Pillo

Meaning: Untrustworthy, rascal, bad influence.

Example: Ese Jairo es un pillo, deja de andar con él. (That Jairo is a rascal, stop hanging out with him.)

Por si las moscas

Meaning: Just in case

Example: Llevaremos nuestros paraguas por si las moscas. (We’ll take our umbrellas just in case.)

Por’fa

Meaning: The contraction of por favor.

It is used throughout Latin America. For example: Pasame la botella de ketchup, por’fa. (Hand me the ketchup bottle, please.)

Pues

Colombian Spanish meaning: Well, then

For example: ¿Y pues… qué vas a hacer mañana? (And well… what are we doing tomorrow.)

¡Qué maricada!

Literal meaning: What a faggotry!
Colombian Spanish meaning: Triviality, foolishness, rubbish, insignificant thing, something of little value or unnecessary.

For example:

Papá, quiero un carro de color rosado. (Dad, I want a pink car.)
¡Qué maricada! Mejor te compro un carro de un color más serio. (What foolishness! I better buy you a car of a more serious color.)

¿Qué más?

Literal meaning: What else?
Colombian Spanish meaning: What’s up?/How’s it going?

Example: ¡Hola! ¿Qué más? (Hello, how’s it going?)

¡Qué pecao/pecado!

Literal meaning: What a sin!

Colombian Spanish meaning: What a pity!, What a shame!

For instance, ¡Qué pecao de Mario que trabaja tanto! (What a shame with Mario, he works so much!)

¿Qué hubo?/¿Quiubo?

Colombian Spanish meaning: What’s up?/What’s been going on?

As in, ¡Quiubo, Juan! (Hey Juan! What’s up?)

Sapo(a)

Literal meaning: Frog
Colombian Spanish meaning: Despicable person, snitch.

For instance, ¡Este gonorrea es muy sapo, ábrase! (This sucker is a snitch, get lost!)

Te caigo

Literal meaning: I fall on you.
Colombian Spanish meaning: I’ll drop by your current location

For example, Claro, avísame cuando salgas de la casa y te caigo por la plaza. (Sure, let me know when you’re on your way and I’ll reach you at the plaza.)

Tirar caja

Literal meaning: To throw a box
Colombian Spanish meaning: To laugh (Exclusive to Medellín)

Example: Te vi tirando caja con Alejandra a la hora del almuerzo. (I saw you laughing with Alejandra at lunch time,)

Todo bien

Meaning: All good

You can use it as a question or affirmation.

For instance, ¿Qué más? ¿Todo bien? Si, todo bien. (How are you? Is everything good? Yes, everything’s good.)

Tombos

Meaning: Police officers

Example: Al final llegaron los tombos a dispersar a la gente y pues se acabó la fiesta. (At the end, cops arrived and started dispersing the crowds, and well, the party was over.)

Vaina

Literal meaning:
Colombian Spanish meaning: A broad term for “thing”.

Example: Hazme el favor y pásame esa vaina. (Give me that thing, please.)
¿Si vamos a ir a la vaina de María? (Are we going to María’s party thing?)

Vieja

Literal meaning: Old female
Colombian Spanish meaning: Woman, girl, chick

Example: A mí las viejas que más me gustan son las treintañeras. (The women I like the most are the ones in their thirties.)

Zunga

Colombian Spanish meaning: A derogatory label for a promiscuous woman

Example: No sé si deberías salir con ella, dicen que es una zunga. (I don’t know if you should date her, they say she’s easy.)

Use What You Learn!

Colombian jargon is vast, fun, and a true reflection of Colombia’s culture. Intonation and articulation of phrases spice things up a little bit and catch both your ear’s attention and people’s affection.

Do you feel ready to start talking like a true parcero now? The best way to get used to the accent is by jumping right into it! So, go ahead and book a lesson with one of our accent coaches! Sign up for a trial lesson and practice what you learn with us.

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