12 Panamanian Terms You Need to Know

Panama City seen from Cerro Ancón | © DirkvdM / WikiCommons
Panama City seen from Cerro Ancón | © DirkvdM / WikiCommons
Photo of Brittney Schering
29 November 2017

Panama is a Spanish speaking country, with terms that crop up on a regular basis. Not necessarily all ‘slang,’ but most certainly all common, these are some of the words you will hear, probably every day, or wish you knew when trying to get from point A to point B (or a glass of red wine) in Panama.

Cheese and Wine | © vanessa lollipop / Flickr


(in-tone-says) – You’ll hear this often in conversation, as it is the Spanish way to say, “and so.”

Vino tinto

(vee-no teen-toe) – Despite the fact that “rojo” means red in Spanish, if you want to order a glass of red wine, you ask for “vino tinto.” One way to remember this – a trick if you will – is that red wine is tinted in color, thus, it is “tinto.” White wine, however, is “vino blanco.”


(tran-kee-luh) – Something said more often than not, “tranquila” is a kind and genuine way to say of saying, “relax,” “be calm,” and “no worries.” Think of it as the Panamanian version of “hakuna matata.”


(ah-ran-kah-say) – This verb simply means, “to party hard.”

© Courtesy of Tantalo Hotel

Buen provecho

(bwen proh-ve-cho) – Waitstaff will tell you this upon delivering your food, as will passersby who see you eating. It is the Panamanian way of saying, “Bon appétit.”


(bwen-ass) – A common greeting that is equivalent to a quick and polite “hello” in passing.


(sa-loo-doss) – A common way to say “catch ya later” or “have a good one” when parting ways, be it with friends after a meal, or strangers in an elevator.

Izquierda, derecha

(eess-kee-air-da, deh-reh-cha) – These are important when trying to direct your Uber driver or asking someone else for directions. Izquierda means left, and derecha means right.

© Nabeel Syed / Unsplash


(ho-ven) – Though the literal meaning is “young person,” this word is used to address someone or grab their attention, such as a bartender or waitstaff. It is a way to say, “Excuse me!” Be careful though, as this use of the term is considered rude and unacceptable outside of Panama.

¿Que sopa?

(keh soh-pa) – This is the Panamanian way to casually say, “what’s up?” “Sopa” is sometimes spelled “xopa.”

Dale pues

(dah-lay pwez) – This is a casual, Panamanian way to say “okay” or “go for it.”


(eddie-fee-see-oh) – this means “building” or “establishment.” Uber drivers ask “¿Que es el nombre del edificio?” when trying to find your destination. They are asking for the name of the place you are going to.

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