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A Gringo’s Guide to Colombian Slang

Picture of Anny Wooldridge
Updated: 6 April 2017
Colombia’s main language is Spanish with slightly varying accents between regions. Although this is true, Colombian Spanish tends to be clear and easy to understand (Bogotanos have a neutral accent) which makes Colombia a great place to learn or improve your Spanish skills.

As in any country, Colombians have their own unique slang words and phrases which are used in different and specific contexts, and have different meanings to what you may expect. The following phrases are typical Colombian slang words and phrases; these can be used to improve your understanding while visiting the country.
Jardin, Colombia © Pedro Szekely / Flickr

Jardin, Colombia © Pedro Szekely / Flickr

Con mucho gusto directly translates to “with pleasure”; it is used as a gesture to thank someone and its equivalent would be “no problem” or “you’re welcome.” Colombians are generally polite individuals and reply with happiness and pleasure.
Chino or china – while this directly translates to “Chinese,” Colombians use it to refer to a boy or girl – “hola china,” for example would mean, “hey girl.”
Tinto – If you ask for a tinto in a restaurant you would receive a small Colombian coffee without milk. Colombians love coffee, which is no surprise considering it’s a big export from Colombia. While it is largely exported, Colombians still enjoy their coffee as much as people do in other countries, with many brands choosing to sell within the country instead of exporting.
Juan Valdez a Big Colombian Coffee Producer © Camilo Marino / Flickr

Juan Valdez – a big Colombian coffee producer © Camilo Marino / Flickr

Qué mas? – This is a form of introduction and translates to something similar to “What’s up?” Colombians use this as a greeting between friends.
Finca – many Colombians have or may visit a finca for the weekend or a holiday; it refers to a farm or country house away from the city.
Guaro – Aguardiente is a Colombian alcoholic beverage, usually drunk as a shot. It is sold in cartons and bottles and it’s normal at an evening social event for a bottle to be purchased and shared between a group of people. Guaro is the short, or slang word for Aguardiente. But if you drink too much Guaro you may end up with a guayabo, which means “hangover.”
Qué pena has the same meaning as the Spanish phrase “lo siento,” which means “I’m sorry,” but can also mean “excuse me.”
Chévere is a Colombian slang word which has a similar meaning to “cool” or “great.” Something or someone can be chévere.
Colombia has many slang words to describe people from its regions or other countries. If you are a gringo/gringa you are usually from the USA, but the word is sometimes used to refer to anyone who is not Colombian. If you are a Paisa you are native to the Paisa area of Colombia – for example Medellin. If someone is from Bogotá, they could be known as a Bogotano or Rolos, and if you are from the coast of Colombia, you could be referred to as a Costeño.
A La Orden – This translates as “at your service” or “can I help?” This is used frequently by waiters, restaurant staff, shop keepers or service staff as a term of thanks.
Plata directly translates to “silver,” but Colombians use plata to refer to money in general.
Gordo/Gorda – This translates literally to “fat,” but Colombians use it as a term of endearment.
Buenas is a short form of, or slang word for buenas dias, buenas noches or buenas tarde. This is a way to say ‘”hello” or “good morning/evening” and it is used as a short and easy way to welcome or say hi to an individual.
Bogota at Dawn © Fernando Garcia / Flickr

Bogotá at Dawn © Fernando Garcia / Flickr

These words are commonly used by Colombians and can be learnt to help people understand what’s happening in a conversation if any of them arises. These words are commonly used all over the country, but individual regions also have their own slang words or different ways of saying things.