Glossary

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This article is a glossary of generic Chilean spanish words and expressions. For specialised glossaries in this wiki, see the glossaries category page. There is a separate abbreviations article, which includes acronyms.

A couple of books which list Chilean spanish words and expressions are

  • "How to Survive in the Chilean Jungle" by John Brennan and Alvaro Toboad
  • "Chilenismos", by Daniel Joelson, published by Hippocrene Books, Inc. of New York

As of October 2011, the vast majority of the content of this page was contributed by allchile forum member "Patagoniax", who has formerly taught English and Spanish.

Words[edit]

Additional money-related words can be found at Money-related glossary.

boleta
an informal receipt, usually adequate to claim a business expense; a more formal receipt is a "factura". A more comprehensive comparison is at Money-related glossary.
cachar (verb), cachi (noun; vulgar)
The story goes that "cachar" came from 19th century Chilean exposure to the English, who supplied technical assistance to Chilean railroads and other evolving industries. And so cachar presumably came from the English verb "to catch". It developed Chilean connotations and in the 21st century it is perhaps most commonly heard with conjugation that is not standard Spanish: ¿Cachai? This roughly means, "do you understand?" "did you catch that?" "did you follow that?" "can you dig it?" "did you observe that?" - etc. In this case the normal second-person-familiar present-tense conjugation which would be "cachas" is replaced by the non-standard but very Chilean "-ai" ending. This -ai form is also commonly heard in ¿Cómo estai?", which is essentially a slang, nonstandard and low-brow Chilean way to say ¿Cómo estás?" or "how the hell are you?". Cachar can be conjugated as a normal -ar verb: cacho, cachas, cacha, cachamos... etc... all the way through the past-perfect subjunctive: si yo hubiera cachado... and so on.
Cachar can also mean "do you know?" or even implicitly "do you the location of?" such as "¿cachai el hiper X?" = do you know the X supermarket? The response for ¿cachai? would be "sí, cacho" or "no cacho". See also "ubicarse".
Be careful with the context for using "cachar". In both Chile and Peru, since it can also mean the f-word. The expression "Cáchate esto" can be innocent enough, and mean just "get a good look at this". But ¿Cachaste esa mina? can mean "did you observe that young lady?" or "did you have carnal relations with that little bitch?" - depending on your audience and environment. Be warned: used as a noun, "una cacha" can refer to an interlude of fornication, and when coupled with various adjectives, can signify variants of copulation which would not normally be discussed in polite mixed company.
chalas
flip-flops (US), sandals/thongs (Australia)
chamullo, chamuyo (noun); chamullar, chamuyar (verb)
In Chile, Perú, and some other cultures, there is a tendency to "make something up" when a person does not have knowledge of a topic. This can be as simple as asking a passer-by for the distance to the next town or where to find some product. A wild and uninformed guess, given with the air of authority, would be "chamullo" - or what is known in North America as "just bullshit" or possibly a totally but unadmittedly speculative "wild-arse guess". The Diccionario de la Real Academia Española defines "chamullo" in Chile as (1) "speech with the purpose of impressing or convincing" and (2) "action of doubtful morality or legality".
The verb form, "He was bullshitting" would be "Él chumullaba" or "Estaba chamullando." A chamullo can be nothing more nor less than a deliberate lie/falsehood/misrepresentation. Or a used-car sales pitch.
Both within and outside of Chile, "chamullar" can be just "talking nonsense" when that nonsense is understood by the listener to be just rubbish. In some places (including Argentina), "chatting up" or "sweet talking" a member of the opposite sex can be called chamullo (or chamullando, in the present progressive tense). Some other formal dictionary definitions of "chamullo" include "cock and bull story" and simply "lying."
claro
Literally, claro means 'clear'. In Chile, it implies agreement with the speaker, like "of course". The expression "claro que sí " means "clearly yes", well of course, naturally.
condoro (noun)
A serious mistake or 'faux pas', often a scandalous utterance in public that is apparently done in error rather than deliberately (although it may in fact have been done on purpose). "Condoro" was the name of a television "humour" program in Chile many years ago Today it is considered almost respectable to see the word in print in almost-mainstream media such as La Cuarta. But since condoro is believed to stem from somewhat scatological jail-talk foundations, some discretion may be in order.
copuchento
gossip
cuica
posh
cuotas
multiple payments
descriteriado
Depends on the context but can refer to someone whose behaviour is outside of expected norms or "acceptable criteria." It can sometimes be almost capricious and arbitrary but with the intent to flaunt what is considered acceptable behaviour. It can be used to describe, for example, a judge who takes no particular concern for the law but instead invents an entirely inappropriate and possibly extralegal approach to a case. In fact it has been used to describe Chilean judges who fail to keep in custody violent offenders such as those charged with attempted homicide. It is also used in parts of Argentina where it can sometimes be translated as "shameless."
doblada
when a movie has been dubbed into spanish
efectiva
cash
factura
a formal receipt, which if prepared properly includes adequate information to claim IVA (sales tax) credit on purchases; a less formal receipt is a "boleta". A more comprehensive comparison is at Money-related glossary.
frutilla
strawberry
garzón, garzona (noun)
A "garzón" is a waiter in Chile, from the French garçon meaning "boy" or "young waiter" - rather rudely, by the way; better to address a French waiter as "monsieur". Chileans use "garzona", or "female boy" for a waitress.
gauchada
"Gauchada" is not unique to Chile but can be handy to know from a cultural standpoint. Etymologically, "gauchada" is something done by a gaucho. But in daily conversation, a gauchada is a "favour". A gauchada is perhaps something that your pituto might do for you -- speeding up some paperwork, for example.
The term often carries the connotation of an illegal bypassing of some regulation or moving your case to the top of the pile. ¿Quién me hace una gauchada? = Will somebody do me a little favour?
huevón, weone, huevona, huevonada, etc. (vulgar)
Though its use appears to be every fourth word in Chilean street talk, it is nonetheless vulgar. Huevón literally means "someone with large, swollen testicles". In the incomparable Chilean linguistic tradition, there is a feminine version: "huevona", which anatomically makes little sense, and is thus very Chilean. See "garzón" for a similar example of nonsensical definition derivation.
Huevón can be used as a true insult. A driver who performs stupidly deserves it, and often gets it. Or it can be used in a friendly and affectionate manner among mates/friends, as in "Well, hello, you old horse's arse, have not seen you for months."
There are slightly diluted versions of huevón, such as "gueon" or "hueon". No matter; it is still vulgar, though it can be used affectionately, it is still not "polite speech."
The verb "huevear" can mean many things, but is generally associated with "doing something stupid" or being lazy. Much can be written on the variations of meaning.
There is also "huevonada" often shortened to "gueá" or "hueá". Something small and/or stupid. Or a massive cock-up, or blunder. A range of possible meanings.
Someone who is "ahueonado" (or ahueonao) may be lazy, stupid, inattentive, fooked up, or working for customer service.
Examples: Ese hueón habla puras hueás. = That shithead talks pure rubbish (crap).
luquear (verb)
to look
malulo, malula (adjective, colloquial)
naughty
mina
a girl; in other Latam countries it means "mine" (as in a hole in the ground or something which blows up)
onda (slang)
Literally "wave". Often used in an expression, such as "buena onda", "mala onda" or "¿qué onda?". Not uniquely Chilean, but often treated as such.
Keeping in mind that "onda" means wave, one can see that micro-onda means "microwave" and wave in this context is really "vibrations" or really "vibes", as they say in North America.
So the figurative translation of "buena onda" is "good vibes" or sometimes an ambiguous "cool" if the context is clear. "Mal onda" therefore means "bad vibes" and ¿qué onda? means "what's the vibes" or "what's happening?". Examples:
  • "La Alejandra tiene buena onda" = Alejandra is cool.
  • "Pancho tiene muy mala onda" = Frank is a complete asshole."
Onda can also mean the "vibes of a location" or the "cool style" of a place. Example: A description of Puerto Varas reads "...sus paisajes, sus kuchenes, su onda sureña, sus raíces europeas..." meaning "its scenery, its [German pastry], its southern vibe/style, its european roots...."
palta
avocado
pituto (noun)
influence; based upon personal connections
Pituto is a core feature of the Chilean work and social system (and Latino/Mediterranean cultures in general): informal networks used for placing workers, favouring certain contractors, resolving problems, accelerating solutions, influencing outcomes, and similar. The Chilean government now formally considers part of the traditional "pituto" system to be unlawful forms of labour-hiring discrimination. However, the Ministerio de Trabajo has shown little progress in breaking up this firmly-entrenched and traditional practice, which is the ugly step-sister of nepotism. Pitutos serve not only for the placement of workers, but for resolving problems as well. Becoming even a minor part of a pituto can be challenging for an expatriate, but not impossible, though time and social skill are involved. Pituto typically works on the concept of reciprocal favours. If a local Chilean "pulls some strings" for an outsider/expat - for example, to get through some red tape or to get to the head of a figurative queue - then the outsider/expat is expected to someday repay the favour. Such repayment may not necessarily be in the form of a "service" connection, but could come in the form of a gift, or the giving of a substantial asado[1]. This can lead to a lopsided and minor membership in a pituto based on "buying in." On the other hand, outsiders/expats often successfully enter a pituto (albeit superficially) through a relationship with a locally connected spouse/partner/significant-other. Expats need to be aware of some of the implications of the pituto system:
  1. "referrals" may be artifacts of invisible pitutos and not necessarily recommendations for the best possible (quality or value) goods or services; and
  2. a "favour" given to an expat may (unwittingly to the expat, but wittingly to the Chilean) become a long-remembered debt.
Related cultural notes: In Spain, the results of such favours are called "enchufes" (plugs). In the US and Canada, working a pituto is one aspect of "networking."
polera
t-shirt
pololo, polola
boyfriend, girlfriend
tincar (verb)
A derivative of the verb is heard in the expression "Me tinca". There is no precise translation but it might be similar to "I have a feeling" or "I have an intuition" or just "I'm guessing". An approximate definition is "reckon" in Australian English.
Other meanings: "¿Te tinca ir al parque?" could be "what do you think about going to the park?". Depending on the context it can also mean "liking" something or someone, in a perhaps looser slang.
There is a related noun: "tincazos" - hard to properly translate for all contexts. It can mean something similar to premonitions or "vibes" that something is going to happen.
The usual story is that it came from the English word "to think", though is used grammatically quite differently. There is a competing theory that it may be related to a Quechua word with a similar meaning (Quechua is sometimes called "the principal language of the former Inca empire" and has provided many words to not just Chilensis but to English usage as well). Note that "tincar" is also used in some parts of Argentina and Bolivia, perhaps in Ecuador and Peru as well, since those countries were also influenced by Quechua words.
trasero
In most Spanish-speaking countries, 'trasero' means back or rear, but in Chile it means specifically the bum/ass of a person. In Chile, 'atras' is the word for back or rear of something. The back of a person is 'espalda'.

Expressions[edit]

agua de la llave
Llave has many meanings in Spanish: switch, valve, tap/faucet, key, wrench/spanner.... and others. So, literally is, "water from the tap." Sometimes said as "agua de llave"
In Argentina the equivalent is "agua de canilla". In much of the rest of the Spanish speaking world, this would often be "agua de grifo".
al tiro (slang)
The literal translation is "to the shot". Figuratively it means "like a bullet", or quickly, immediately . . . but it is widely expected that 'immediately' will morph into 'Latin American immediately', that is, 'sometime, probably not soon'. ("en seguida" is more correct Spanish.)
andar con los monos
Literally, "walk with the monkeys". Figuratively, when one is angry with everything and everyone.
andate a la punta del cerro
Literally, it means "leave to the tip of the mountain". Figuratively, it means, "take a hike", "get lost", "take a long walk off a short pier".
carne del perro
Literally "dog meat"; figuratively it means something is durable and reliable beyond normal expectations.
es lo que hay
Literally, "is what there is". Figuratively, "that is the way it is", implying you can not change it.
guatero con uñas
A "guatero" is a hot water bottle. The literal translation of the expression is "hot water bottle with nails". The figurative translation is "significant other" or "partner".
¡que papa!
Literally, "what potato". Figuratively, "how easy".
ya poh
come on
zero kilometros
The phrase initially referred to a "new car", but its use has expanded to mean anything "new". Example: "La Marta ya tiene pololo nuevo, zero kilometros." means "Martha has a brand new boyfriend, zero kilometros."

Related articles[edit]

External links[edit]