Before traveling from the United States to either country, having a basic understanding of common phrases, quick hits, and old stand-by sayings will make communication much easier on the ground. Learning Spanish is the best way to have an optimal trip to Panama.
Even though it is more common to see slang in spoken language it does appear in the written language in both countries on occasion, among younger generations. Panamanian Spanish is unique to other dialects in Latin America because Panamanian slang words evolved out of local customs, happenings, and urban vernacular.
In Colombia or Costa Rica, for instance, you won’t hear the term “pork chop” thrown around like in Panama. Nor will this happen elsewhere in Central American or Caribbean dialects.
If you plan to visit Panama City or elsewhere in the country, understand these common Panamanian slang terms and terms before you go to add a dose of humor to your conversations on the ground.
“Arranque” is how Panamanians refer to a party. Using this term refers to a party that might become rowdy or be more appropriate for adults, while the general term “fiesta” might be used for tourist or family events.
¡Quiero ir de fiesta este fin de semana! — I want to party this weekend!
Where the arranque takes place — a house!
El arranque es en mi chanti este fin de semana. — The party is at my house this weekend.
“Frenes” are who you will arrive to the arranque with — this is Panamanian slang for friends. It’s used among close friends in place of the word “amigos.”
Mis frenes y yo estaremos allí en breve. — My friends and I will arrive shortly.
This is what you and your friends are doing at the arranque — it is a casual way to say partying.
Yo estaba de parkin con mis amigos. — I was partying with my friends.
You don’t want to be chifear in Panama — this means to be forgotten or intentionally left out of something. If someone didn’t invite you to their party, it could be said that you were chifearon.
El fin de semano pasado me chifean de mis frenes. No son realmente mis frenes. — Last weekend I was left out by my friends. They aren’t really my friends.
How Panamanians refer to their “bro.” Also, used to refer to a male in casual situations.
¿Quién es ese pelao? — Who is that guy?
Panamanian for drunk, “Juma” is what happens when you consume too much chicha at the arranque.
¡Anoche estaba muy juma! — Last night I was very drunk!
Ta cool — A quick Panamanian slang expression for “It’s cool.”
If a Panamanian isn’t vibing with someone, or generally thinks a person isn’t very smart, he or she might describe them as “ahuevao“. This is Panamanian slang for “stupid”.
No invites a Robert, él es ahuevao. — Don’t invite Robert, he is stupid.
This is a Panamanian slang phrase that is similar to “like taking candy from a baby” in English. It literally means “chicha with pineapple,” referring to the alcoholic drink that is so easy to make that many people craft their own chicha at home.
llegar aquí fue Chicha e piña, el tren estaba funcionando a tiempo. — I got here no problem, the train was running on time.
Another common phrase, referring to being caught off guard.
¡Ayala vida! ¡De hecho ganaron el juego! — Wow! They actually won the game!
You may hear this term directed at you in social settings while in Panama. Don’t take offense — it is a common word used to refer to someone for whom you don’t know their name.
¿Joven, me puedes tomar una cerveza? — Hey man, can you grab me a beer?
A sort of opposite of Joven, “Yeyé” refers to the bourgeois, the upper crust, or someone who is conceited and unapproachable.
No pueden relacionarse con nosotros, son de yeyé. — They can’t relate to us, they are high-class folks.
You may expect this to. mean beer, as it does in El Salvador and Honduras, but in Panama “birria” refers to the action of playing something, like a sport or board game.
Quiero birria al futbol. — I want to play soccer.
Expand your Spanish vocabulary beyond slang terms before your trip to El Panama, and have a better trip for the effort. Learn more about how to talk like a true local by starting with our Spanish Survival Crash Course.
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