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Peruvian Slang

A Crash Course in Peruvian Slang

As you explore Peru’s rich language and culture, you’ll quickly notice that street conversation can differ from Spanish classes. 

Peru, like any other Spanish-speaking country, has its own set of vocabulary and phrases that are unique to its people and culture. Familiarizing yourself with some of these words and phrases is a good way to prepare yourself for a trip to Peru and also gain a deeper insight into the Peruvian way of life.

If you speak Spanish, you probably know that Spanish-speaking countries have different slang words and phrases. It is these little nuances that add depth to a language and reflect the complexity of the written and spoken word.

Take a look at the following common Peruvian slang words and phrases:

Al toque – Right away/Straight away

While in theory this expression means “immediately,” its meaning can be stretched to “a few hours.”

Bacán – Cool

This is a common word to use when expressing a favorable opinion of something or someone.

Chamba – Work

Directly referring to work or employment, “chamba” is often used in the expression “la chamba es chamba”, meaning “work is work.”

Chela – A beer

This is a common word that Peruvians use to refer to beer. The typical invitation you’ll hear is to go drink “un par de chelas,” (a couple beers).

Chévere – Cool/Great/Awesome

This word has basically the same meaning as “bacán” and is used to express a favorable opinion of something or someone.

Habla – Hello

You may know “habla” to mean “speak,” but Peruvians often use it as a casual greeting for an old friend. Example: “Habla, Jaime, ¿qué tal?”

Jato – House

This term is used to refer to a house or apartment. For example, if someone invites you to their jato, they are inviting you to their home.

Jamear – To Eat

This verb means to eat, derived from the English word “jam.” It’s a playful term that can be used when talking about grabbing a bite with friends.

Paja – Cool/Great/Awesome

Another alternative to “bacán” or “chévere,” this word is often used in the expression “¡qué paja!”

Pata/Pata del alma – Friend/Best friend

While “pata” can be used to refer to almost anyone, when used with a possessive, such as “mi pata,” it refers to a close friend or best friend.

¡Qué roche! – What a shame!

This expression can be used in place of the other standard Spanish phrases “¡qué pena!” and “¡qué vergüenza!” which have the same meaning.

Soroche – Altitude sickness

As the Peruvian word for altitude sickness, when traveling in the Andes, you’ll likely hear this word thrown about quite a lot. If you take the proper precautions, hopefully you won’t experience altitude sickness while traveling.

¡Ya fuiste! – The moment has passed/Missed opportunity

This expression is best used between close friends, as it is not the most sympathetic response and may even come across as rude in certain situations.

These are just a few examples of the countless slang words and phrases you’ll encounter while in Peru. 

Let’s explore Peruvian slang’s regional variations to better understand this colorful linguistic landscape.

Regional variations of Peruvian slang

Peruvian slang

Peruvian slang reflects its diverse regional cultures. Some slang words and phrases are used nationwide, while others are regional.

For instance, in Lima, Peru’s coastal capital, a jalador is a flatterer. In Cusco, the ancient Inca capital in the Andes, chancón means the same thing.

Similarly, the slang term causa, meaning friend or buddy, is more commonly used in Lima, while pata is more prevalent in other regions of the country.

These regional variations will help you understand Peruvian slang and appreciate its rich cultural diversity. 

READ ALSO: The Pisco Sour – A Peruvian Delight!

Slang in Peruvian social media and texting

Slang now thrives on social media and in texting. Peruvian slang is no exception, and many street words and phrases have made it online.

For instance, “PQ“—which stands for por qué (why)—may appear in a text or social media post. Similarly, De uno, meaning “of course” or “right away,” can be shortened to “D1.”

Peruvian slang also uses emojis and stickers from messaging apps like WhatsApp. You can better communicate with Peruvians online and offline by learning these digital slang expressions.

Peruvian slang in music and pop culture

Peruvian pop culture and music use slang, making it essential to understanding the local zeitgeist.

Slang expresses Peruvian culture and identity in Eva Ayllón and Tony Rosado’s lyrics and in Peruvian films and TV shows. You’ll learn Peruvian slang and appreciate the country’s rich culture by immersing yourself in this music and pop culture. 

Tips for learning and using Peruvian slang

  • Practice with native speakers to learn and use Peruvian slang. Whether you’re in Peru or online, talking to locals will improve your slang.
  • Watching Peruvian movies and TV shows is a great way to learn slang and culture.
  • Listen to Peruvian music to learn slang and enjoy catchy tunes.
  • Use slang in the right context. Avoid using slang in formal settings or with new acquaintances, as it may appear disrespectful.
  • Write down new slang words and phrases and review them to remember them. 

Common mistakes to avoid when using Peruvian slang

  • It’s important to use slang in your conversations, but don’t overdo it. Too much slang can make you seem insincere or try too hard to fit in.
  • Like any language, it’s important to know when to use slang. Slang can confuse or offend in the wrong context.
  • Know Peruvian slang’s regional variations and avoid mixing them. Some slang words and phrases are used nationwide, but others are region-specific. Misusing regional slang can cause confusion.
  • Don’t assume all Peruvians use the same slang, and be open to learning new words and phrases from different groups.
  • Slang words and phrases often have different pronunciations from standard Spanish. Practice slang word pronunciation to avoid sounding like a beginner.

Resources for mastering Peruvian slang

The best way to learn Peruvian slang is to practice with native speakers, but there are also many online resources.

  • WordReference: This popular online dictionary defines and gives examples of Peruvian slang.
  • Baselang: This website lists common Peruvian slang words and phrases with English translations and examples.
  • SpanishDict: This website provides Spanish learning resources, including Peruvian slang.
  • YouTube: Many channels teach Spanish slang, including Peruvian. These videos can improve your language and culture knowledge. 

Congratulations! You’ve completed your crash course in Peruvian slang! 

You should now understand the importance of slang in everyday conversations, some of the most popular slang words and phrases, regional variations, and tips for learning and using slang.

Learn the local language, whether you’re in Peru for a few days or a few weeks. Remember that learning these slang words take time, patience, and an open mind. Embracing and enjoying Peruvian slang will improve your language skills and increase your appreciation for the country’s culture and people.

Practice your Peruvian slang with confidence and enthusiasm. Who knows, your newfound language skills may impress a local!

Post Updated May 30, 2023






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