Colombians take much joy in their particular style of linguistic acrobatics and slang. Colombians freely convert verbs to nouns and vice versa, so take each word as a fluid concept.

Un camello

(n), camellar (v) Work, or working. A good way to refer to a particularly trying task.

La/una chimba

(adj) Used to describe a situation or thing that is wonderful. Roughly synonymous with the youthful American usage of “awesome”. Variations include “Qué chimba!” (“Nice!”).

Chucha

(n) Body odour. A crass but still useable term.

Elegante

(adj) “Cool”, loosely. Used to describe the subset of cool things – or happenings – that’s particularly classy, well executed or elegant. Think football passes or a good outfit. Chevere and bacán are other words for “cool”.

Paila

(adj) “That really sucks”. Used in response to a comment or situation that’s aggressively bad or heavy.

Perico

(n) Cocaine. Regional translations include scrambled eggs, coffee with milk or (as here) a parakeet.

Al pelo

(adj) Common response to a question like “How was your day?” that means “Good!” or “Perfect!”

Essentials

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Colombia features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Providencia: an introduction to Colombia’s Caribbean island

Providencia: an introduction to Colombia’s Caribbean island

Colombia meets Jamaica? Not quite, but two competing images loom large over the Caribbean island of Providencia: Bob Marley, adopted saint of the local Raizal p…

11 Mar 2016 • Stephen Keeling insert_drive_file Article
15 things everyone learns backpacking South America

15 things everyone learns backpacking South America

South America has become a favoured destination for the intrepid backpacker, and while it’s impressive in the astounding diversity of its nations, there are a…

02 Mar 2016 • Steph Dyson insert_drive_file Article
12 tips for backpacking Colombia

12 tips for backpacking Colombia

Colombia is a nation on the rise. The land of Shakira, Gabriel García Márquez and James Rodríguez has it all, from the bougainvillea-festooned streets of Car…

22 Feb 2016 • Stephen Keeling insert_drive_file Article
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