While Spanish is the main language used in Peru (along with Quechua, Aymara and other indigenous languages), Peruvians use so much slang and colloquial expressions that it can sometimes be difficult to follow. For example, Peruvians like to have fun with language, and use a lot of ‘sound alike’ phrases, like the Cockney rhyming slang – for example ‘ahí nos vidrios’ (there are the glasses) is sometimes used instead of ‘ahí nos vemos’ (see you later). Another favorite, and a tough one to figure out until you’re used to it, is the habit of ‘rearranging’ words, or turning them around backwards. For example, instead of chofer (driver), drivers are called ‘fercho’.
(Peruvians also love to use the diminuitive form – in other words, they like to add the ‘ito’ or ‘ita’ at the end of words. So instead of gata, they use gatita. Instead of casa, we go home to the casita. That’s not slang, but this habit takes a while to get used to.)
So, to help you out when you’re out on the street, here’s a list of some common Peruvian slang and colloquial expressions.
- a su madre (AH-soo) – often shortened to ‘a su!’, it’s an interjection of surprise or pain, usually. Ex: “They have nine children?” “A su! Don’t they have a television?”
- al toque – right away
- bacán – cool, awesome
- calato – from Quechua, it means naked, often turned around into tolaca
- coco – a US dollar
- coima – a bribe
- cole – short for “colegio”, school
- combi – a mini bus
- costilla – literally rib, it’s used for girlfriend (as in Eve, from Adam’s rib)
- cuero – a very attractive man
- cumple – short for cumpleaños
- chamba – work or job (chambear means ‘to work)
- chaufa – Chinese rice, and often used for ‘goodbye’ in place of ‘chau’ – also used as ‘chaufita’
- chela – beer – can be used like ‘cheleando’ to mean drinking beer
- chévere – cool, awesome
- china – a fifty cent piece
- de fresa – used in place of ‘de frente’ to mean straight ahead
- flaco or flaca – Boyfriend or girlfriend
- guachimán – watchman, from English
- luca – one Nuevo Sol
- micro – a small bus (from “microbus”)
- monse – stupid, boring, slow
- pata – literally leg, means a guy, a person. If you call someone ‘mi pata’ it means you’re friends.
- Perucho – slang for ‘Peruvian’ or Peruano.
- pituco – a stuck-up snobbish, or rich person.
- porfa or porfi – shortened form of “por favor.”
- seño – short for señora.
- taxeando – driving a taxi.
- tombo – police officer – Peruvian police uniforms at one time had large buttons on them – ‘tombo’ comes from switching the syllables in ‘boton’
- tono – a party – a tonazo is a BIG party
We’d like to hear from you. What is the Peruvian slang or expression that you have found the most useful, clever, or surprising? Tell us about it in our forum topic: Peruvian Slang Expressions. (No swearing please)