Popular words and expressions in Bogotá: first edition

Plaza de Bolívar in Bogotá

When traveling to any place, language is a very important aspect to consider. It’s always a good idea if you know some basic words to move around, but I also think it’s important to know other typical and popular words and expression that, while not basic, give you an interesting perspective and understanding of a culture. I hope this “urban dictionary” of Bogotá will be useful for that purpose!

There are tons of ways to communicate beyond verbal language, but because words are the most common form of expression, you’ll always be better off knowing a few. Here, I’m going to explain a list of traditional words and expressions in Bogotá that you don’t necessarily have to know because they are not basic, however, they are a very important part of our local language and it’s always cool to understand a little bit more. So, this is not “basic words you need to know,” but rather an urban dictionary to arm yourself with some good background information on this wonderful city of ours that I absolutely adore and I hope you will too!

From A to Z

Colombians identify people from Bogotá as rolos or cachachos (read our article about it) and our local language as well. The words here are 100% percent local and even though this is not a dictionary of basic words per se, I decided to organize them alphabetically just to make it easier for you! I’ve selected the words according to their importance, relevance, and popularity. I wish I could talk about a million more, but then it would get long and I can always write a second edition (done, read it here!).

Adelantar cuaderno. Having a conversation with someone to know about their lives and others (aka gossip)

Al pelo. Something that perfectly fits the needs of the person involved (instead of “ok, alright,” say “al pelo”)

Thumbs up word
© Photograph by Colture

Alcagüeta. A person that allows other people to do anything they want/need (kind of in a bad or funny way). Basically, a person that “spoils” another one.

Apuntarse. Show inclination for a particular activity (say “yo me apunto a….”)

Azotar baldosa. Dance like there’s no tomorrow

Girl dancing "azotando baldosa"
© Photograph by Colture

Bacano. Something nice or cool (say “que bacano eso”)

Bajarse del bus. To give up on an idea or project (say “me bajé del bus por…”)

Bien jalado. Something done well (say “eso está bien jalado”)

Berraco. A person that has the stamina and works hard towards a specific goal

Buseta. A small bus

Cagada. Fault, error (say “que cagada”)

Calle esos ojos. To not speculate about a situation or determined fact

Chévere. Something cool, awesome, worth seeing (one of my favorite words!)

Chichonera. Very crowded place (like a concert or party) (say “que chichonera”)

Corrientazo. Cheap lunch that, despite the price, tends to be of excellent quality (read our article about foods you need to try in Bogotá).

Dar garra. Exceeding in a certain activity (could be positive or negative) (say “se dió garra”)

Deje así. Leave something as it is to not make it worse

Despeluque. Chaos (say “que despeluque”)

!Divino/a! Something or someone cute or nice

Donde comen dos, comen tres. Being generous with the food when eating in a group

Echar los perros. To flirt with someone

Echar pata. To walk

El que se quedó, se quedó. To indicate the imminence of the last call to those who are ready to board a particular means of transport (he who stays, remains)

En un dos por tres. Doing something fast

Esa platica se perdió. An expression used when you did something that was not worth it at all

Fajarse. Exceed expectations with quality (say “uy, te fajaste”)

Fincho. Weekend

Flojera. Laziness (say “que flojera tengo hoy”)

Flota. A public bus that you can take to travel outside Bogotá (read our article about the bus terminal and places near Bogotá to know more)

Fresco. Chill, everything is alright

Garrotera. Fight, quarrel

Gastar. To pay for an invitation (to the movies, restaurants, parties, etc.)

Guache. A man that is not nice at all in certain situations (though, ironically, in the Chibcha language, it means “sir”).

Guaro. Aguardiente (burning water), Colombia’s most famous alcoholic drink

Guayabo. To be hungover or nostalgic about something or someone

Habladera. A lot of talking (more than necessary)

Hacerle. Doing something with enthusiasm and strong will  (say “vamo’ a hacerle”)

!Hágamen el favor! It’s like saying “please!” in a surprised way (could be positive or negative)

Helaje. Extremely low temperatures (even for Bogotá’s weather!)

Hueso. Something boring tedious (say “que hueso”)

Íngrimo. A complete state of loneliness or abandonment

Jalarle. To be ininclined to do something

Jartar. Consumption of alcohol or lots of food

Juagarse de la risa. To laugh so much and so loud that you can’t handle it anymore

Juernes. Named given to Thursday recognizing its proximity to Friday

Jurgo. A lot of something (say “eso es un jurgo”)

!La macha! Expression used to indicate a desperate situation

La peor diligencia es la que no se hace: It’s better to do something that not doing it at all

Laxo. Relaxed

Llenador. Any food that completely satisfies your appetite

Madrugón. To wake up very early or also a big sale with excellent prices

Mamar gallo. The act and art of joking or evading a responsibility

Maromas. Pirouettes and tricks of complex execution made with the purpose of solving a difficult situation

Matacho. Cartoon, an illustration of something

Me hace el favor y me colabora. An expression used to ask for help with something

Nada de nervios. An expression used to say that you shouldn’t be nervous about something

!Nanay cucas! Nobody knows for sure what it means, but it’s generally used when something is uncertain

Ni cinco. Indicative of lack or denial towards a certain action

No me abra los ojos que no le voy a echar gotas. An expression used when someone has their eyes finally opened because of a certain situation

Ñapa. Something extra, something added without cost (I love this word!)

Orange juice word
© Photograph by Colture

O todos en la cama o todos en el suelo. Expression used to indicate equality in a particular situation

Onces. Snack served in the afternoon, usually made up of rolls, sponge cakes, hot drinks, and, in some cases, arepas and almojábanas (read our articles about these snacks)

Oso. One of the most traditional words in Bogotá to indicate something that was embarrassing (say “que oso”)

Pa’antier es tarde. An expression that indicates the urgency on the execution of a certain task

Pa’ trás, ni pa’ coger impulso. Used to express optimism, going forward

Papaya. Fruit, but also an expression used to indicate when someone acts with a little caution (say “no dar papaya”)

Dar papaya popular expression in Bogotá
© Photograph by Colture

Parche. Collectivity, a group of friends

Group of people
© Photograph by Colture

Pasar derecho. To not sleep at all because of academic or working tasks

!Qué cosita! Expression commonly used by mothers to indicate the bad behavior of their child

!Que nota! Something cool, nice, interesting (I love this one as well!)

Quemado. Used to indicate something that is overrated (say “eso está quemado”)

Rebote. Unpleasant feeling due to excessive consumption of food, especially sweets (say “me dió rebote”)

Remontadora. A local shop that fixes any kind of shoe with any kind of problem

Reposar. To let something cool before eating it

Ronboi. Round point/roundabout

Rumba. The best word for party!

Sagrado. Something that must not be touched or messed with

Sano. Someone calm, healthy, happy

Se cree la última Coca-Cola del desierto. Expression that refers to someone arrogant or egocentric

Séptimazo. To tour around Carrera Séptima (Seventh Stree), which is the oldest and most iconic one in Bogotá (read our article of cool facts about Bogotá’s history)

Sopa y seco. An expression used to indicate the superiority of knowledge (used in a positive tone)

Suelto. Money (bills and/or coins) of a low denomination (read our article about Colombian currency)

Tai o tacho. To stop a certain activity with the purpose of understanding something better

Tatequieto. To give ending to a situation or abnormality

Temazo. Generally referring to a great song

Teso. A person with an impressive strength or ability in certain situations (say “que teso”)

Tibieza. When you are warm because of the weather or because you are in a crowded place

Un gana-gana. A win-win situation

Una cosa es una cosa y otra cosa es otra cosa. An expression used to clearly differentiate two things or situations

Úpale. Indicates surprise

(Hacer una) Vaca. To gather money between friends for a specific purpose (I like this one a lot!)

Vaina. Used to refer to an object or any situation whose name is not remembered (say “que vaina”)

Veterano/a. Someone that has a lot of experience on something

Vieja. A woman of any age

Couple looking at the landscape
© Photograph by Colture

Vueltas. Things to do, procedures, formalities

¿Y ese milagro? An expression used to indicate surprise when you casually bump into someone that you haven’t seen or talked to in a long time

Yeyo. Discomfort, angriness (say “me dió un yeyo”)

Yo no nací ayer. Expression used to dispel any suspicion about something or someone (literally translates as “I wasn’t born yesterday”)

Zanahorio. Healthy and naïve person

Zarzo. Attic

!Zonas! A voice of alert to stay cautious on a risky situation

Check out this page if you want to know more words and expressions of Bogotá!

If you pay attention to the locals in Bogotá, you’ll probably hear many of these typical and popular words and expressions. My advice is to wander around, explore, and discover. It’s one thing to learn on the books and in school (but I do highly recommend going to Whee Institute to learn Spanish, it’s absolutely amazing!), and it’s another (and rather more important one) to interact with locals and get to know the “street, popular, urban language.” Cheers to listening and understanding!

To know about some really interesting Colombian facts, click here.

Was this article useful? Do you know other traditional and popular words and expressions in Bogotá? Or maybe an experience you would like to share? Please share and/or comment on this article, and visit our homepage Colture to take a look at my articles and many others to find more essential information about Bogotá before and during your trip.

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