Jun 05

Chilean Slang and Cilenismo

by in Random Things Flung, South & Central America

Sopa Mariscos

After traveling through Spanish speaking countries for about two months, we encountered the Chilean Spanish. (Dom dom dom dom. Lol). We were surprised to see how different it was from the rest, which added a layer of difficulty when communicating with the locals.
Uruguayans and Argentinians have a distinctive accent, much like the Cariocas (from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), where a “sh” sound is often heard, or like the “th” sound from the European Spanish, both of which make it a bit more difficult to understand.
Every country has its own slang and accent, and we didn’t expect Chile to be any different, but unlike other South American countries, Chileans use 50-80% slang in their daily interactions. *this was the explanation received from a local.

A few examples of Chilean slang include:

Cuico (adj.): stuck up
Pololo/polola (s.): boyfriend/girlfriend
Manyar (v.): to eat
Al toque/al tiro (adv.): immediately
Azorrao (adj.): fearful
Avisparse (v.): to become alert, to awaken
Azopado/azopada (adj.): stupid
Alaraco/alaraca (adj.): person who exaggerates or is loud

Last, but not least, my favorite:
Cachai(v.): from the English verb to catch. It means to understand. It is used both as a question and as an answer.

There is also something they call Chilenismo, which includes conjugating verbs differently than the way it is taught in school. For example:

English: Are you going to drink everything?
Spanish: Vas a tomar todo?
Chilean: Vai a tomar to-o?

English: How are you?
Spanish: Como estas?
Chilean: Como tai?

English: You want to go
Spanish: Tu quieres ir
Chilean: Voh querei ir

We very much enjoyed Chile, its kind people and its delicious food… Ohh seafood :-) . My only recommendation if you plan to spend an extended period there is to connect with a local who is able and willing to help you translate or obtain a Chilean idioms dictionary. *a friend of ours living in Chile received one as a gift, and it was as big as an English Oxford dictionary. Lol

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4 Responses to “Chilean Slang and Cilenismo”

  1. From Alexiel Riquelme López:

    btw, here the words’s not “querei” (into “querei ir”), here u can say “vo’h querí’h ir?”

    Best regards =)


    Posted on 2014/12/01 at 10:10 pm #
  2. From Alexiel Riquelme López:

    Hi. You’re wrong, “cachai” come from an very old spanish word: “catar” —-> “cateais” (congugated) —–>”Catcheais” (That “ch” -kinda- come from a language called “Mapudungún” -it sounds like ma-pu-thun-gun, kinda-)——>”cachai’h”———>”Cachai”, not from the english “to catch”.
    btw, “catar” means: watch + understand + catch up + realize + be alive to + register + aware of + perceive + comprise + comprehend + grasp + twig… and something like that lol


    Posted on 2014/12/01 at 10:08 pm #
  3. From Spanish Slang:

    Me again…by the way, do you know how to tell the difference between a “curanto” stew and a “sopa mariscos”? I’ve never figured that out.

    Fiestas Patrias was amazing as always. I suggest for anyone that’s never been that it’s a fabulous time of year to visit Chile. It rains a little, but you can see so much of the Chilean culture.
    Spanish Slang´s last blog post ..List of Cuban Spanish Words and Phrases

    Posted on 2014/03/02 at 8:46 pm #
  4. From Jared:

    Hello Aiko,

    I just ran across this article and thought I would share with you some Chilean Spanish slang resources to help you or any of your readers heading to Chile.

    I first lived in Chile for 3 years when I was learning Spanish so completely understand how surprising the language was for you when you arrived. It’s definitely different from other countries!

    At the end of your article you mention obtaining a Chilean idioms dictionary. There are two I can suggest to your readers, both having been bestsellers in Chile. One of them is my book Speaking Chileno, a collection of over 1200 Chilean words and phrases, available in bookstores throughout Chile.

    The second book is the book handed to me when I arrived to Chile for the first time, How to Survive in the Chilean Jungle. While the book has not been updated in almost 10 years and one of the authors, John Brennan, is no longer involved in updating the book, it’s a fabulous book. I have to give this book credit, since it’s the book that set me on a decade long project (so far) to publish books on Spanish slang.

    I’m heading to Chile in a couple weeks for Fiestas Patrias. I’m excited, it’s my first trip back in almost 3 years!

    By the way, the phrases you mention in this article perfectly represent the Chilean language! They always make me smile,


    Posted on 2013/08/28 at 7:52 am #

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