Bolivian slang terms can really help a traveler adjust to communication while on a trip to Bolivia. It’s a friendly country, and the more you are able to connect with locals, the better your overall experience will be. Use these terms, the latest in our run of Spanish slang guides, to help.
Usually you will hear these terms in casual social settings or light-hearted media, though there are exceptions.
This is the first Bolivian slang term you need to know, because it is how Bolivians greet multiple people or address a crowd. You’ll hear it in public and private situations, and also in media.
¡Jallalla! Bienvenido a mi tienda. — Hello everyone, welcome to my store.
This expression is used to describe someone you respect or think is awesome. It can also be used to describe someone who is good at a particular task.
Jon es un capo de béisbol, lo quiero en mi equipo. — Jon is the best at baseball, I want him on my team.
You’ll hear this term constantly in social settings. It means “Oh shit!” or “Dammit” or “Hey!” depending on the context and seriousness.
¡Pucha! ¡No puedo creer que me haya mostrado! — “Oh shit! I can’t believe he showed up!
¡Pucha! No tengo mi billetera. — Dammit! I don’t have my wallet.
Another one you’ll hear almost everywhere, “tinkunakama” means “see you later!”
Es hora de que me vaya a casa. Tinunakama. — It’s time for me to go home. I’ll see you soon.
When referring to a really cool thing, situation, or place instead of a person, you’d say “Pintudo”.
Este tienda es pintudo. — This store is great.
“Chango” is how Bolivians refer to young people, sometimes kids but in social settings, often teenages or those in their early 20s. It literally translates to “monkey”.
La fiesta estaba llena de changos, así que nos fuimos temprano. — The party was full of young people, so we left early.
“Chela” is Bolivian slang for “beer.” To say “cerveza” means one of two things — you’re trying to be formal, or you’re not Bolivian.
Necesito dos chelas, por favor. — I need two beers, please.
“Chupar” literally means to suck, but Bolivians use it to refer to drinking booze.
¡Quiero ir a chupar este fin de semana! — I want to go out drinking this weekend!
“Yema” is Bolivian slang for “hammered drunk.” If Cal Naughton, Jr. were to be front row at Lynrd Skynrd, él sería yema.
Estaba yema anoche. — He was hammered last night.
If someone esta yema and won’t stop running their mouth, this might be your reply. It essentially means “What? I don’t believe you!”
La semana pasada gané la lotería y pagué mi casa. — Last week I won the lottery and paid off my house.
Person 2: Waaaaaaa!!!!????
Bolivian for “dumbass.”
El es un opa. — He is an idiot.
If you find yourself saying “Waa?” repeatedly in one conversation, it’s a good sign that someone is talking “paparupa,” or “nonsense.”
No escuches lo que dice Fred. Está yema y dice paparupa. — Don’t listen to what Fred says. He’s drunk and talking nonsense.
This is what happens when you have too many chelas. You become chaqui, or hungover!
Hoy tengo un chaqui, demasiadas chelas anoche. — I have a hangover today, too many beers last night.
This term refers to when it just isn’t going your way. Maybe you had a bad day at work, or maybe your relationship isn’t going well — either way, tu estas kh’encha.
Person 1: ¿Por qué no viniste a trabajar ayer? — Why didn’t you come to work yesterday?
Person 2: Porque mi carro se rompió, estoy kh’encha. — Because my car broke down, I have bad luck.
Trucho means false, not as in a lie but as in something that is not the authentic original.
Ese vagón de tren es trucho, en realidad no funciona. — That train car is fake, it doesn’t actually function.
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