15 Spanish Words Everybody Should Know (Chile Edition)
It is said that Chilean Spanish is the hardest difficulty setting of Spanish language learning. The final boss, if you will. (Peruvian and Colombian Spanish would be the little Goombas from Super Mario Bros. in this analogy.) Chileans have the innate ability to come up with incredibly versatile slang words that can mean ten different things depending on the context, making them hard to understand even for people who have spoken Spanish their entire lives -- let alone for foreigners who are still getting the hang of the whole "el/la" thing.
So, in the interest of preventing some tourist in Chile from getting the chucha beaten out of them for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, we present a selection of Chilean words everyone should be familiar with. What the chucha is chucha, you ask? Read on to find out!
"Concho" Means "Remainder" But Also "To The Fullest" (Note: DON'T Change The Last Letter)
"Concho" is an extremely useful word in Chile, especially if you're a drunkard: it's used to describe the last tiny remainder of something, usually a bottle of booze, and usually said in the context of "hey, gimme it." Somewhat paradoxically, "a concho" also means "to the fullest." If you're playing socc-- sorry, futbol "a concho," that means you're giving it your all, and then probably going off to celebrate by drinking some booze until there isn't a single concho left, regardless of the results of the match.
Note: always make extra sure that the extra "a" in "a concho" stays there at the start. "Concha" literally translates as "shell," but Chile and some of its neighbors mostly use it to refer to a certain part of the female anatomy, almost always as part of some elaborate insult aimed at your mother. A similarly treacherous word is ...
Related: How a Letter By Letter Cover Of 'What A Wonderful World' Became A Modern TikTok Horror Story
"Cacho" Means "Problem" But Also The Cause Of And Solution To All Of Life's Problems
"Cacho" means horn, but this meaning is mostly ignored in Chile ... unless we're talking about the "cacho de chicha," chicha being a traditional alcoholic drink. If you're thinking "a horn of alcohol" is a poetic way to refer to a glass, haha, nope. It's literally a big horn that you fill up with chicha and drink. Here's former President Michelle Bachellet trying to do that:
But this is, like, the fifth thing people in Chile would think when they hear the word "cacho." The first is "a problem," the second is "a person who is a nuisance," the third is a popular game with dice, and the fourth is "a punch." Like, "what a cacho, I have to play cacho with that cacho of my brother-in-law. I think I'll get drunk on a cacho of chicha and throw him some cachos." Simple!
But, if you change the final letter, it becomes ... actually, let's give this one its own entry.
"Cachar" Means "To Understand Something" But Also "To Get Laid"
One of the words you'll hear most often in Chile is "cachai," which is sort of like "you know?" You'll hear it at the end of every other sentence, as if Chileans knew that they're hard to understand and were asking for constant confirmation that you got everything they said. (We said "as if" because that's not the case. Chileans do not care if you got everything they said.) This comes from the verb "cachar," which means "to know" -- if you're asked if you "cachas" someone, you're being asked if you're familiar with them.
On the other hand, if you're asked if you've done some "cachas" with someone, you're being asked if you're intimately familiar with them. Yes, "cachar" also means "to have intercourse." How do you, as a foreigner, know which version of the word you're being presented with? You don't. It is not your place to possess this knowledge this. Good luck!
"Raja" Means "Fast Asleep" But Also ... "Butt"
In Chile, "raja" is a word whose meaning can vary dramatically depending on the ones that surround it. Something "la raja" is something that is awesome, but "estar raja" means being very tired or straight up unconscious, probably after having "buena raja" (good luck) the night before; maybe someone else "se rajo con" (generously bought) free drinks for everyone before "rajar de ahi" (running off). Going from that, you might think that having a "cara de raja" ("raja face") might mean that you look handsome, or sleepy, or like a charitable person, but no: it means you're a shameless bastard deserving of scorn.
Meanwhile, "raja" alone, like in other countries, just means butt. Technically, it means butt crack, but you can rest assured that if someone in Chile threatens to kick your raja, they're probably talking about aiming for your cheeks and not putting their foot all the way up there. Probably. If you have "buena raja."
"Fome" Means "Boring" But Is Also An Expression Of Sympathy
"Fome" in Chile means dull or boring. If you're a stand-up comedian and you hear the entire audience joining together in a "foooooomeeeeeee" chant, you're most likely bombing. So, if you're telling a Chilean friend that your grandma recently passed away and they say that's "fome," you could reasonably assume that they're being insensitive and telling you to wrap up your sob story. But no: in certain contexts, "fome" can also mean "sad," so your friend is probably expressing sympathy. (Unless you're taking like 10 minutes to tell the grandma story. Then, yeah, wrap it up.)
Fome, by the way, is also the name of an album by a Chilean band called Los Tres (who, at that point, were four), which includes this non-fome banger:
"Medio" Means "Half" But Also, Somehow, "Massive"
"Medio" is another semi-omnipresent word in everyday Chilean speak that can lead to extreme confusion in non-natives. If you translate a sentence like "medio perro" literally, you'll get "half dog," and in a country with a language that makes sense, that will be exactly what the speaker is trying to say. Like, maybe they're offering to share a hot dog, or its superior form, the mighty Chilean "completo."
But, while Chileans are aware of the meaning of "medio" as "half" or "medium," they prefer to use the word to stress something's massive size -- if someone says "medio perro," they mean "holy crap that's a huge dog right there" and you should probably run, or at the very least protect your completos.
"Foca" Means "Seal" But Is Also A Way To Pick Fights
"Foca" is the Spanish word for seal, so if you hear that a Chilean intends to "tirar la foca" ("throw a foca") at you, you might think that they like you and intend to brighten your day by introducing you to a friendly aquatic animal. Quite the opposite, we're afraid. To "tirar la foca" in Chile is to give a harsh talking to, or straight up cover someone in insults with the intent to start a physical altercation. Yeah, it wasn't a friendly Sea World "foca" after all, but one of those hardcore seals that can decapitate penguins alive (do not click that link if you don't want to see a seal decapitating a penguin alive).
Anyway, feel free to tell the rude Chilean to go foca themselves. Or, you can go with ...
"Chucha" Means "Very" But Is Also ANOTHER Way To Pick Fights
In Chile, the word "chucha" is most commonly used as an expression of surprise, as in "chucha, this empanada is hot, I'll just put it down for a second" or "chucha, where did my empanada go?" (At least it wasn't a completo.)
But, before you go throwing "chuchas" around, you should be aware that it has many other uses, and not all of them are fit for polite conversation. It can be a stand-in for "very": "taller than the chucha" means something is very tall, "colder than the chucha" means something is very cold, and sending someone "to the chucha" is a common way to tell people to go to hell. This use is very, very common. More common than the chucha, you could say.
Perhaps related to the above, "sacar la chucha" (literally: "getting the chucha out") is understood as beating someone up. Note that "chucha" should not be confused with "chuchada," which means "curse word," or with Xuxa, the Brazilian children's entertainer who swore she'd never set foot in Chile again after a large audience replaced the lyrics of one of her wholesome El Show de Xuxa songs with more chuchadas than the chucha. On the subject of coarse language ...
"Penca" Means "Bad" But Also Refers To The Male Reproductive Organ
"Penca" refers to the stem of certain plants but, once again, no one in Chile ever uses it like that. If someone tells you something is "penca," they're probably trying to warn you that it's boring, poorly made, or just terrible. We're not sure what it says about Chilean men that "penca" is also a very common way to refer to the male sexual organ.
Then there's "pencazo," which can mean a strong hit or punch, a quickly-consumed shot of alcohol, or the act of berating someone. You could say that Chile's pencas are incredibly flexible and have many different and unsuspected uses. On a similar note ...
"Choro" Means "Cool" But Also Refers To The Female Reproductive Organ
Chile's world-renowned mussels are a common ingredient for many delicious dishes, and the Spanish word for them is "choro." Be careful when going around complimenting people's choros, though, because the same word is also a vulgar way to describe the female sexual organ. We're not sure what that says about Chilean women, but it's probably good.
But there are other uses for it: "choro" can also mean a gutsy or audacious person, or simply "cool." There are even cutesy variations a child might use, like "chori" or "choriflay." Yes, this word is rated E for Everyone and a hard R at the same time. Truly, Chile is a land of contradictions. And hey, speaking of words confusingly related to marine life ...
"Pescar" Means "Fishing" But Also "Paying Romantic Attention"
The verb "pescar" comes from "pez" ("fish") and every Spanish-speaking country uses it to describe the act of fishing. But, because Chile is allergic to words without double-meaning, it's also used to mean "to pay attention," very often (but not always) in a romantic context. If someone "te pesca," that means they dig you, not that they're trying to insert a hook into your mouth. Or, well, who knows. As long as both parties are into it, knock yourselves out.
Related: 5 Fish Clearly Designed by a Madman
"Jugo" Means "Juice" But Also "Being Unproductive And/Or Annoying"
"Jugo" literally translates to juice, so you could be forgiven for thinking that someone who "gives juice" in a workplace setting is a valuable and esteemed member of the community. It is, after all, very important to stay hydrated. But no: "giving juice" means to screw around and do nothing of value, or to talk people's ears off about stupid or irrelevant subjects. If a steak is "jugoso" that means it's juicy and desirable, but a "jugoso" person is someone you don't want around. The only possible exception is if they actually bring you juice and steak. Or if they volunteer to prepare ...
"Once" Means "Eleven" But Also "Mid-Afternoon Snack" (And Formerly: "Let's Go Get Wasted")
Some of you are looking at the word "once" and thinking "Finally, here's one I remember from middle school Spanish class! It means 'eleven,' what could possibly be confusing about that?" You underestimate Chile. Besides the number, "once" in Chile is used to mean "tea time," a light (or not so light) meal that goes between lunch and dinner, which was stolen from England and improved by adding way more avocado.
And no, the fact that this meal is called "once" doesn't mean it takes place at 11 pm, which would mean Chileans have dinner at like 5 am. The name comes from the number of letters in "aguardiente," which means "moonshine," because "once" was once (no cross-language homonym pun intended) used as code-word for going off to get wasted without your spouse knowing. But let's go back to an important subject mentioned above ...
"Palta" Is The Only Acceptable Word For "Avocado"
A public service announcement: if you own an English-Spanish dictionary that claims the word for "avocado" is "aguacate," throw it away. Burn it. Do not let a single pair of Chilean eyes see that cursed artifact. The word is "PALTA." The palta is Chilean, and therefore Chile dictates what it's called, not those heathens in Mexico. "Aguacate" is a filthy pretender that should never be uttered on Chilean soil.
Related: never get a Chilean started on the provenance of pisco. Do anything possible to avoid the subject. Swallow a full palta with the pit and all if you have to. This is the only way to ensure your survival.
"Wea" Can Mean Just About Anything
When the rest of Latin America wants to make fun of the way Chileans speak, they simply fill a sentence with like fifteen different variations of the word "wea." This is 100% accurate. "Wea" comes from the word "weon," which is a contracted version of "huevon" -- literally, somebody with large gonads (or "huevos," meaning eggs). Contrary to other countries, this is not a desirable physical trait in Chile, since "weon" means dumb.
But "weon" can also mean "friend," or "random person," and "wea" can mean ... anything. If a Chilean points at any given object, from a pencil to a Boeing 747 to the Sistine Chapel, nine times out of ten they will describe it as a "wea." It can be used for abstract concepts, too. To further complicate matters, the verb "wear" or "webiar" can mean to hang out OR to bother someone; "puta la wea" is a common expression of frustration; and "como las weas" ("like the weas") means "very bad." So, here's an average Chilean sentence: "Puta la wea, weon, we were at the wea with that weon, just weando, when he got weon and started to wear some weones, and acting like the weas. That weon is so weon, weon."
If, at this point, you haven't been permanently scared away from ever visiting Chile, have fun in this fun and friendly country! But seriously, don't say agu*c*te or they'll shank you.
Top image: Paul Lowry/Wikimedia Commons