!¡ Pico ≠ Beak; it’s less innocent than it seems

In other countries, pico usually means beak, pick (as in an ice pick), and peak (as in mountain peak).  So what does it mean in Chile?

  • Pico: You may have guessed it… pico means penis.  As do many other Chilean words.  So many.
  • Como el pico: This means something went terribly.  For example: “¿Cómo te fue en la prueba?”  “Como el pico.”  You’re literally telling someone your test went “like dick.”
  • La hora del pico:  The hour of the penis = really late at night.  As an English equivalent for “I arrived late last night,” I might say, “I got home at shlong o’clock.”  (Llegué a la hora del pico.)
  • El día del pico:  A day so far in the future that you might as well say never.  Like “I’ll call her back when pigs fly”… or the day of the D.
  • Hacer propaganda al pico:  This is a really uncouth way of saying someone is pregnant.  Please, never use it.  It means that she is spreading propaganda for the ol’ one eye.  It’s a tasteless expression… sorry I’ve sunk so low.

If you’re not sure what “ir rajao” means, check out my post “Let the Bullets Fly: Speed in Chilenismos.”

So there you have it, kids.  A smutty post all for your degradation and enjoyment.


Mapuche Chilenismos: How to Confuse Dominican Preschoolers

Mapuche ancestral territory

Continuing with this week’s theme of heritage, today’s post introduces a few words the Chilean lexicon has adopted from Mapudungun, the language of the Mapuche people.

The word Mapuche means literally the people (che) of the land (mapu), and the Mapuche are the largest indigenous group in Chile.

There are many choice, and so I’ve narrowed today’s selection to some words that thoroughly confused my preschool class of Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, and Guatemalans back when I was in the States.

1.  Guata*: barriga, stomach.  This is an incredibly common word.

Seeing that a student is crying and holding his stomach, I ask, “¿Te duele la guata?”  (Does your stomach hurt?)

He responds, “¡No, me duele la barriga!” and proceeds to throw up numerous times.

2.  Cuncuna: oruga, caterpillar.  I often sang the well known Chilean children’s song, “Una Cuncuna Amarilla” (below), to my students, and I was surprised at how many didn’t know the word cuncuna.  Turns out it’s a word from Mapudungun.  Thanks, Chile.

3.  Guagua*: bebé, baby.  Ok, so in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, guagua means bus.  In preschool, we talk about both babies and buses a lot.  Imagine the confusion.

Me: ¿Tienes una guagua en casa?  (Do you have a baby at home?)

Student: No.  Tenemos un carro.  (No.  We have a car.)

4.  Cahuín: chisme, gossip.  This is one of my favorite Chilenismos.  A cahuín was a celebratory meeting of Mapuche leaders and chiefs in which they discussed the current state of affairs.  Later, it became known more for the drunkenness of such events, and where there’s drunkenness, there’s gossip.

During recess a child runs up to me: Teacher!  Roberto está diciendo que yo me quiero casar con Amanda.  (Teacher!  Robert is saying that I want to marry Amanda.)

Me: ¿A ver, Roberto?  ¿Andas cahuineando?  (What’s this, Roberto?  Are you gossiping?)

5.  Pichintúnpoquito, little bit.  This word is related to the word pichi, which means “little.”  This is also the reason that people say they need to hacer pichi; it’s not just a funny way of saying pipi.  They’re saying they need to “go a little” instead of saying “go pee.”

Me, giving instructions: Sólo tienes que usar un pichintún de pegamento. [Giggles.]  (You only need to use a little bit of glue.)

There are many other Mapudungun adoptions to explore, but we’ll leave those for another post.  Have a good weekend, everyone!

* These words are similar to quechua words for the same thing.

Mapuche flag

Let the Bullets Fly: Speed in Chilenismos

We're all spinning really fast!Considering that lately, life has been flinging me across a massive vortex, in which surreal moments of a slow calm are sandwiched between violent winds of insanity, I’ve decided to write about words for velocity.

For those of you who weren’t put off by that strange introduction, let’s jump right in!


This is the most important Chilean speed word that you will need.  You hear it all the time.  It meansright away and comes from back when you used to be called to lunch with the shot of a gun—a tiro.  But it makes me think of standing at the start of a race.

¿Ya me mandaste el blog de esa gringa bakán?

No, pero lo voy a hacer altiro.


Continuing with the gun theme, this word means “like a bullet.”  While altiro is an adverb, this is an adjective.  The loose translation of the picture below should clarify.

Makes threats like a tough guy; wimps out and speeds off on his motorcycle.


The Spanish word for lentil.  Chileans were like, “Hey!  This word sounds like lento!  Let’s use it to mean slow!”… so it means slow.  And sounds kind of cute.  But I’m always biased toward lentils.

Meterle chala:

This is the equivalent of “put the pedal to the metal.”  Chala is “sandal,” so “give it some sandal” is a little closer.

Hecho una goma:

“Made of rubber”… which means you go really fast, maybe like a race car wheel?  I’m not sure on this one.  The example I have of this one, which I think is highly irresponsible and dangerous, is this guy who arrancó hecho una goma del policía.

Ir rajado:

GO REALLY FAAAAST.  I usually use this to talk about drivers that go way too fast and are making me angry.  Like the motorcyclist “made of rubber” in the video above.

I feel like there are more words in English and in Chilean Spanish to describe speed.  I mean “slowness” competes with speed, velocity, celerity, rapidity, swiftness, speediness, quickness, haste, and so on.

There must be other words out there to describe slowness.  Ideas?

We’re All Animals

A couple of weeks ago when I posted Of Goats and Men: Chilean Words for People, a friend commented that I had omitted many Chilenismos that compare people to animals.  And there are many of them.  So, in honor of Marco, I present this week’s Chilenismos:

Pavo—Someone who is “turkey” is slow on the uptake, silly, clumsy, or absentminded.  The demographic that best illustrates this is pre-teens.  I mean, just imagine dozens of them in a room, speaking to each other with their “gobblegobblegobbles” and other nonsense, trying to hide the zits that have begun sprouting on their chins.  And so in Chile, la edad del pavo (“the turkey age”) is the preteen years.

la edad del pavo

Una yegua—A yegua is a mare, a female horse.  We have another female animal in English that we use to describe someone like this.  A female dog, to be more precise.  Google it.

Sapo—A sapo is literally a frog, with their huge eyes staring you down, their ears always alert, but most importantly, their big mouths ready to snap open and spill the beans at any second, right?  Well, that’s why Chileans call busybodies, gossips, or eavesdroppers sapo.   For example, Edwin might say to me,

“Un alumno le dijo a otro profe que yo no paso la lista en clase.” (A student told another professor that I don’t do roll call in my class.)

And I’d respond, “Pucha, el huevón sapo.”  (Shoot, what a busybody.)

Also, as with most Chilenismos, be careful; sapo can also mean… female genitalia.  Shorry.

Ser vaca—To be a cow is to be a traitor.  Why do cows get such a bad wrap?  They seem such simple and stupid animals.  It might have to do with another phrase, ser pata de vaca, or “to be a cow’s hoof,” which indicates someone who treats another person cruelly.  All I can think of is, “Late last night, when we were all in bed, Old Lady Leary lit the lantern in the shed, and when the cow kicked it over…” there was the Chicago fire.  The end.  Traitorous.


Picaflor—Hummingbirds!  A picaflor is a womanizer, a man who runs around with all the ladies the same way a hummingbird courts every flower he sees.  Look at the picture to your right, and be creative with this parallel.  I’ll say no more.

I know there are many more I’ve left out!  As I rule, I don’t want to address more than five Chilenismos at a time, so keep shooting me your suggestions or questions, and know that I will get to them as soon as possible!

English, Brothertrucker!… When Chileans use English

Welcome, aspiring Chilean-speakers.  This week we’ll take a look at how Chileans make it easier on gringos by adopting some of our terms.

Apart from the many academic or business-related terms that Chileans adopt from English, such as feedback or management, there are numerous everyday English words mottled throughout Chilean’s lingo.

Top or topísimo:  Chileans have adopted top as an adjective similar to excellent, as in “You’re the top; you’re the Louvre Museum…”  What’s more entertaining to me is the occasional addition of the superlative ísimo—to show just how excellent they mean.  The first time I heard this use was when a colleague informed me: Ese restaurante es topísimo.

Heavy: Something that’s grave, weighty, or impactful.  ¿Supiste que unas tres personas murieron en la huelga? Sí, qué heavy.  (Did you hear that three people died in the strike?)

Sorry: Exactly what you think.  Except with a Chilean accent and strongly rolled rrrrs.  Yesterday as I left the bus, a man stepped on me.  He turned around and, after a sincere “sorry!” was gone again.

Too much:  Basically the same use as Sassy Gay Friend in this video around 1:10… “That’s a little too much.”  Graciela Alfano, an Argentine model, demonstrates the use nicely here:

I don’t know what she’s talking about, but I can’t help but think the same thing about her hair and makeup…

Feeling: This is similar to onda; basically it’s used to talk about if there’s a vibe or click between people.  During the trial first class with one of my students, his mother assured me that “lo importante es ver si hay feeling.” (The important thing is to see if there is feeling.)

And there you have it!  Sometimes, just speak English and people will understand you.

(As always, suggestions for future Chilenismos of the week are always welcome.  Don’t worry if it takes a couple of weeks to see your suggestions; I only do about five words a week and try to stay ahead of my game… so keep ’em up!)

Of Goats and Men: Chilean Words for People

Welcome back to Chilenismos of the Week!  This week we’re taking a look at common ways to talk about people in general: the dudes, Joe Schmoes, kids, and chicks of Chilean lingo.

Qué gallo.

Tipo/a: Chileans will commonly use tipo/tipa, literally “type,” as an informal way of saying man or woman.  They use it the same way we might use “guy.”  For example:

¿Cómo se llama ese tipo norteamericano que se casó con Beyoncé?  

Translation: “What’s the name of that American guy who married Beyoncé?

Gallo: Some of you may met someone who thinks he’s the “cock of the walk.”  Roosters are known for their bravado, for their swag, you could say, and they have long held an influential place in Chilean folk tradition.  In fact, the national dance, the cueca, is said to be the imitation of the mating ritual of chickens.

So yes, the first use of gallo is the same as tipo—it’s used informally like “guy” would be in English.  And someone who is “gallo,” used as an adjective, is very capable.  Remember, a good rooster will sing in any henhouse.

Cabro/a:  This literally means goat.  I have no clever guesses as to why Chileans started to call each other goats.  But we call our children kids, so I can’t be hating.  It just so happens that Chileans do the same; they call young people or children “cabros chicos.”I'm not a kid!

¡OJO!  In Perú, this is a derogatory phrase for homosexual men.  So be careful.

Mina/o: A sexy lady, a babe; a stud or a hunk—basically, hot stuff.  I’m not going to speculate about the origins of this Chilenismo, but I will point out that mina means mine, as in copper mines, gold mines, etc.  You are welcome to surmise what you will.

Lola/o:  A lola or lolo is an adolescent or young teen.  Does this come from Lolita?  Maybe.  Let’s not think about it.  Because in Chile, any teenybopper is a lola, and it doesn’t have anything to do with sexuality.  It would really disturb me if they actually thought of all their young teen girls as Lolitas.