Here is a list of common Colombian and Paisa expressions that you will here throughout the country as well as Medellin. Be sure to add them to your Colombian Vocabulary when communicating with the locals to get a more engaging experience with the locals.
This is a very popular way for Colombians to greet each other. Generally used as an opener and is just a local way to say “How’s it going?” as well as “What’s up?”. The best way to think of its meaning is to respond to the question as if they had had asked you “Como estas?”. When most foreigners arrive to Medellin they understand this as a literal translation which can confuse some people. But expect to hear this phrase multiple times throughout the day.
A very common slang word heard a lot from the Paisas. It is local slang for the word “amigo”. Used a lot in informal settings and when talking to close friends, expect to hear this a lot, especially while in Medellin. This is a great addition to your Paisa vocab.
Bacano / Chévere / Melo
Two very Colombian expressions that are used to represent something being cool or really good, and melo is used as street slang in the city of Medellin. Chevere you will hear all over Colombia while Bacano is mainly used by the Paisas. Commonly used as “Que bacono” or “Que chevere” when you want to emphasise something as being really cool or awesome. “Melo” is used more as street slang throughout Medellin.
Colombian culture is very festive and there is always something they they seem to celebrate so this is a very useful word to have in your vocabulary. “Rumbear” which is the Colombian verb which means “to go partying” you will hear a lot even if you are only in Colombia for a short period of time. Or the noun used to represent a party, which is “Rumba”.Be sure to invite someone to a Rumba and you will see a big smile come across their face. You will hear your colombian friends saying a lot “Vamos a la rumba”
Parche is a word that the colombians use to represent hanging out. “Oye vamos a un parche” (Hey lets go hang out). Used when people are literally just hanging out instead of doing something specific. Parchar is the verb used for when people want “to hang out”
The local word for aguardiente which is a Colombian licor made from aniseed. By far the drink of choice in antioquia. Expect to have this drink offered up to you at any party (Rumba) that you might find yourself in. A clear liquor it generally comes in 2 flavours. “Tapa azul- blue cap” which has less sugar, “Tapa rona-red cap” which has more sugar in it. Prodomitly taken in shot form from small plastic cups. The cups are then passed around for everyone to enjoy. Often also used in the diminutive “guarito” which means a little guaro. Basically its their way of saying to you hey, just have a little guaro “oye, tomate un guarito parcero” which is their way of lessing the impact by telling you to take a full shot. Next thing you know your singing all of the classic latino ballads with your new friends watching the sunrise.
A common word used to represent a large quantity of something. For example “Hay harto personas en la piscina hoy- There are a lot of people in the pool today”. Sometimes also used to say that you are fed up with someone as well “Estoy harto de ese viaja- I’m fed up/sick of this woman”
Vaina is one of those words that seems to have multiple different meanings and uses. However for the most part, we can use it as an equivalent of the words “thing or stuff”. For example “que estas haciendo?” “Estoy tratando de arreglar esta vaina” “What are you doing? I’m trying to fix this thingy”. Try to think of it as a good substitute when you don’t know the name of something or when there isn’t much value or emphasis needed on the particular object that you are talking about.
Another expression that can be used in multiple contexts and ways but try to think of it as an enthusiastic way of saying “hell yeah, lets do it, absolutely, why not, go for it, of course, all at once” It’s a great response when you want to accept an invitation to something “Parce, quieres ir a rumbear con nosotros este sabado? ¡De una! “Mate, do you want to go partying this Saturday? Hell yeah, lets do it!”
M’ijo / m’ija
M’ijo / m’ija is a contraction of the words “Mi hijo, mi hija- my son, my daughter” It is not used as a literal sense to call somebody my son but more a form of affection and endearment. Commonly used as well when joking around with friends. “Hola, que pasa m’ijo? Hello, what’s up buddy”
A big part of Colombian culture is to head out of the city on weekends and holidays to their “finca” which in english basically translates to a farm house or country house. Don’t be surprised when you find yourself inside a city on a long weekend to find it deserted, thats because the majority of the people had headed out to their Fincas to escape the city for a few days. If you ever have to chance to be invited to a Finca somewhere then don’t be shy to accept the invitation.
This is a contraction that has come from the word “fin de semana”. “Que haces este finde?- What are you doing this weekend?”.
Man / Vieja
The Colombians refer to men and women a different way than other Spanish speaking countries. Instead of the classical “hombre” and “mujer”, they use the English word “man” (however you will notice a slight difference in pronunciation. The feeling is a more informal one and maybe a better translation is we refer to a man as a “guy, dude or bloke “in English. Vieja literally translates to old woman but in reality its used to talk about a young to middle aged woman. It can also be used to refer to your girlfriend as your “viaja”
Guayabo / enguayabado
If you have discovered guaro then you will surely have use for these words. Guayabo being used to for the english word “hangover” and “estar enguayabado” is “to be hungover.” These words appear to be distinctly used inside Colombia so its better to use these while inside Colombia but you may receive some blank looks if you use these in other Spanish speaking countries.
Literally meaning to give papaya, “dar papaya” is a colombian expression that means that you are giving somebody the opportunity to take advantage of you. If you walk around late at night with your cellphone in your hand not paying attention to whats around you and you get robbed then it is said that you gave papaya. Also given as a word of warning “no des papaya” which is their way of saying be careful and don’t give people the opportunity to take advantage of you.
In colombia a “pico” is a kiss. More specifically its a kiss thats more like a peck. While a “beso” is a more traditional kiss. But they are often used to refer to the same thing. Another use is when people tend to hook up for the first time. For example, “Jennifer y Diego se dieron picos panoche en la fiesta- Jennifer and diego hooked up last night at the party”
Echar los perros
Keeping with the romantic theme “echar los perros” literally translates to throwing dogs. However the expression is used when someone is coming onto someone. “Juan me echo los perros en la finca- Juan was coming on to me in the farmhouse.”
This one actually took me several years to get the true meaning as I always understood it in the literal sense. Normally this represents being bored about something. However in Colombia it is often used to represent when somebody is sad, upset or even depressed. “Estoy aburrido porque termine con mi novia- Im a bit down at the moment because i broke up with my girlfriend.”
Estar amañado / amañarse
This would probably be the most commonly asked questions that follows “De done eres?- Where are you from?” I wouldn’t be able to count the number of times that a proud Colombian asked me “Estas amañado aca?” The question is basically asking if you feel settled and at home here in the city.
An expression used when you are absolutely and utterly exhausted. “Estoy mamado de mucho trabajo hoy- Im exhausted from too much work today.”
Hacer una vaca
An expression that is used when you want everyone to “chip in” or create a kitty to buy something. Usually used when there is a big group going to do something together so everyone puts their share of money in so that you can buy said things. The literal translation is “to make a cow” which confuses a lot of people who don’t know the true meaning. “Que hagamos una baca para comprar la comida para el asado- Let’s get a kitty going so that we can buy all of the food for the BBQ’’
¡Oigan a este/a!
A classic verbal jab used when you want to express disagreement and even go as far as to mock offence to what someone has said. I always seem to get a smile from a paisa when I use this one as it is considered very paisa so they get surprised when a foreigner uses this against something that they have just said.
“Ud nunca responde a mis mensajes” – You never respond to my messages
“Oiga a este, casi te respondo, es mas que tu no tienes paciencia”- Listen to this guy, I always respond to your messages, it’s more that you are never patient to wait a lttle bit.
“Mono and Mona” translates to a monkey however the Colombians use it to represent a blonde person. Instead the colombians use the word “mico” for a monkey. As an Australian guy, my definition of blonde is very different to the colombian definition. They more or less consider anyone with blonde blonde hair to a light brown hair a mono.
A coomon phrase that is used to represent when someone is to pay attention to something or someone. “Parame bolas cuando te doy instruciones- Pay attention to me when I give you instructions.”
Gas / guácala
Two words that are used as the equivalent to the word “gross”. If you want to show disgust for something then these are what you would use. ‘Gas’ is definitely used more by females than males however. Be careful as these words cannot be used as an adjective as in ‘’la fiesta fue gas” but more as a self-contained exclamation. ‘’Esta mañana desayune leche vencida” -This morning I had my breakfast with off milk
“Gas, yo no hubiera sido capaz de hacer esto”- Gross, I wouldn’t have been able to do that
A Colombian addition to ‘’mal o mala’’ this word is used to describe something bad or unpleasant. “La leche sabe maluca- The milk tastes bad”
This is not a word that you want to hear when a Colombian is describing you. Definitely not a compliment dude to the fact that it translates roughly to the English word ‘’tacky.’’
“Oye mira, que camiseta tan mañe- Hey check it out, what a horrible shirt.”
This is the opposite of mañe above. Used to describe when something is quite posh/flashy or stylish. “Ay, que auto tan play- Wow, what a flash car.”
Used to describe a good looking male. There is nothing sexual about the expression and other guys can use it to describe their friends. “Hoy esteman esta muy pintoso -Today that guy is looking good.”
Regelar means to give something as a present but when used in this form is generally means that something is a bargain or very cheap, or cheaper than what was to be expected.
“Cuanto te valio el vuelo a Cartagena? – How much was your flight to Cartagena?”
“Me costo 80mil pesos ida y vuelta- It costs me 80 thousand pesos return”
“Regalado- Wow, that’s so cheap.”
Street slang for the Spanish word for yes “si” this is commonly used in the barrios around the city of Medellin. Not something used is a more “educated” vocabulary and more popular with the younger generation.
“Quieres una empanada?- Do you want an empanada?”
“Sisas parce- Yes mate”
The paisa word for beer “cerveza”. Medellin has an up and coming craft beer culture. With several craft beer festivals popping up throughout the year as well as more options being offered in cafes and restaurants there are now more options than previously with just the nacional beers being offered. Be sure to try them out.
“Me regalas 4 polas por favor- I’d like 4 beers please.”
This piece of street slang has 2 very polar meanings depending on the context. Chimba can be used to represent something very good o very bad. The literal meaning translates to a vagina and is slightly vulgar but it is used in a lot of street slang.
“Que chimba la fiesta- How awesome is this party”
“Oiga la chimba que voy a pagar mas por una camisa- What the hell if you think I’m going to pay more for that shirt.”
A luca is used to represent 1000 Colombian pesos. So if something costs 20 thousand pesos you can say that it costs 20 Lucas.
“Cuanto vale una pola?- How much is a beer”
“ Vale 4 Lucas- It costs 4 thousand pesos each”
This is a common word used throughout Medellin used to represent when somebody is in a bad position or with bad luck. Basically in a position that they don’t want to be in due to the negative effects of being there. For example is somebody says to you, hey you better get some more fuel otherwise you will run out before the next town and then you are “Paila”
“Ten cuidado, deberías llenar el tanque porque la próxima bomba esta lejos. Porque sino, Paila”
A local slang word in Medellin for work.
“Hoy tuve mucho boleo- Today I had a lot of work”
As a foreigner and basic level Spanish speaker when I first arrived to Medellin I used to always order my food by translating literally from English. I used to say “Quiero tener un vaso de agaua- I’ll have a glass of water” However Ive noticed that within Colombia the expression and phrase that they use is “Me regalas un vaso de agua” The literal translation of this is “Gift me a glass of water” but it’s used when ordering anything from another person.
“Que deseas ordenar señor?- What would you like to order sir?”
“Me regalas una pizza grande y dos polas por favor- I’d like a large pizza and 2 beers please.”