CHILENISMO – My Favourite Chilean Slang Words


Bueno –  let´s start with the most basic thing when you visit  another country – language. Naturally we need and probably want to communicate with locals, not just to get around but also to relate and learn about the country. In my case CHILE. I did already know a bit of Spanish (or castellano as they call it here) and therefore thought I might get around well. Let´s just say I was surprised. For once Chile is a Latin American (LA) country – therefore LA Spanish is the basic and second CHILE has a quite unique slang which is used in informal daily conversation. AND they speak very fast, but you will get used to that, eventually.

To help you understand CHILENISMO, I want to share my favourite Chilean slang words with you. For starters these 3 words are  most frequently used: Sipo, ¿Cachai? and Bueno.

Sípo is not as I first thought the lighter – Zippo – but very simply the CHILENISMO for “Yes”. You can also say Nopo for “No”, but I haven’t heard that too often. I could try to explain why they add “-po” to the word “” (as well as to many other words), but I won´t. Quite frankly no Chilean knows why they say it like this or from which words it originates from, so why should I care. 😉 BUT, if you are interested you can check SUAblog. There you will find ONE explanation but there are also others. The important thing for me is to know what it means. The same goes for ¿Cachai?. It is nice to know it originated from the word “cachar” but you probably won´t recognize it because they add this wired ending for the 2. person singular of verbs (e.g. ¿Como estai? ¿Tu sabí? ¿Tu querí?). Chileans use cachai at the end of nearly any sentence. For me it feels like the German slang when they us “nee” or “gell” at the End of sentences. Or the American “Yah know”. Generally it is an expression to make sure the other person did understand what you just said, cachai? And as a reply to ¿cachai? you could answer bueno (Okay), sipo and also nopo.

As you now cachó (you got it?) the 3 most basic words let me share with you some more useful words in my  life as a gringa (foreigner) in Chile. Whereas to get from city to city hacer dedo (hitch-hike) can be an option, in the city the micro (a city bus) or a colectivo (shared cap) should be your transport of choice. For more infos about transport in Santiago check Public transportation in Santiago de Chile. Make sure you always have a luca (1000 pesos) or some gambas (100 pesos) in your pocket, as the crazy migro drivers can`t change any big money. You don’t need much plata (money) to get around in the city, but you might find yourself confronted with many paltas (avocados) in nearly any meal. This might not be a problem for you, if you find them to be rico (delicious), as I do. Another thing that can be rico (sexy, attractive) are Chileans of the other (or the same) gender. And if you want to get to know them make sure they are not flaite (trashy/ bad person) or flojo (lazy). Or if you care more about a good body, make sure they come with a culo/poto (ass) super rico . To get to know people I find it to be interesting to find out if they have a pololo/a (boy/girl-friend) or if they like to go to carretes (parties) and get curado/a (drunk). If you like to dig in a bit deeper into a person’s attitude , you could go so far and ask if they wear patas negros (literally “black feet” meaning a person who another person cheated – gorrear – with). You will probably find such weones (idiots; BUT can also mean friend) or cachetónes (show-off) anywhere in the word. But so far the people I got to know in CHILE via SEN were all of buena onda (good kind of person/mood).

And with this positive statement I like to close my lecture about CHILENISMO. Obvio (obviously) this are just my personal favourites, there are definitely more words to learn. To do so you could check out the website el diccionario de chilenismo  or the blog SUAblog. Also check out the video posted earlier at the SEN blog to get to know the pronunciation of the Chilean slang words.

A last word of advice: generally it is good to know those Chilean slang words, so you understand them, but I would highly recommend not to use them yourself if you not have lived here for some time and are 100% sure how and when to use them.

Bueno, ¡ya! (Alright!) Que te vaya bien ! (All the best!)

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SEN Team

SEN es la organización de estudiantes internacionales más grande de Chile. Al unirte a nuestra red podrás conocer a estudiantes de Chile y de todo el mundo, participar en actividades, viajes y fiestas que harán de tu experiencia en Chile algo inolvidable.
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