Chile at Surface Level: Modismos

So after being here in Chile for so long, I though it would be appropriate that I write an article on some Chilean slang.


Some words in Chile do not exist in Spanish for other countries. Such words make what Chileans call¬†modismos¬†or¬†chilenismos,¬†in other words Chilean slang. Let’s take a look at a few:

  • Cool¬†bac√°n
  • Expensive restaurant – pirulo
  • You know? You understand? –¬†¬ŅCachai?
  • Snobby – cuico¬†
  • Baby –¬†guagua
  • Belly/stomach –¬†guata
  • How does that sound? Would you like to…? –¬†¬ŅTe tinca?¬†
  • Boring –¬†fome/ lata “Qu√© lata”
  • Party –¬†carretear/ el carrete¬†
  • Boyfriend/girlfriend –¬†pololo/polola
  • Dude –¬†weon
  • 1000 pesos/money –¬†luca
  • Traffic –¬†taco
  • Right away –¬†al tiro
  • Rock paper scissors –¬†cachip√ļn
  • For extra emphasis: +¬†po¬†
  • “Chill” –¬†tranqui


In Chile, some Chileans will conjugate some of their verbs differently when addressing someone who they are familiar with or is of the same age or younger, using the t√ļ form.

Estar = to be        Querer = to want

Normal t√ļ form:¬†estas ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†¬†Chilean t√ļ form:¬†estay

Normal t√ļ form:¬†quieres ¬† ¬†Chilean t√ļ form:¬†queri

So that is what to expect when hearing Chilean Spanish. Even for those who speak Spanish as their first language find that there is a slight learning curve to understanding and even feeling comfortable using slang within everyday conversations. After a lot of TV shows and spending time with Chileans one will eventually¬†cachar¬†all of the slang that they use here. So if you want to visit Chile and are overwhelmed by the enormous amount of slang, tranqui.¬†Don’t be worried; you will learn a lot of slang to the point you will feel like a local!


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