Must-Know Colombian Slangs: Part II Uncover Colombia

Must-Know Colombian Slang: Part II

February 27, 2019, 7:42 pm

This is the second of a multi-post series dealing with Colombian slang. As with any language, there are innumerable slang that are invaluable for both language students as well as foreign travellers mingling with locals or itching to practice their language skills.In this second post, I’ll continue to focus on phrases I think are both commonly used and useful for travellers or expats in Colombia.

So, let’s get to the slang: 

"Dar papaya"

This phrase is extremely common in Colombia. I am not sure how this phrase first began, and it has always seemed a bit strange to me. Literally, “dar papaya” means “to give papaya.” However, when you hear someone say, “no des papaya,” they are not telling you to “not give someone papaya.” They are actually telling you to be careful—to not set yourself up or make yourself an easy target. Most often, you will hear this when people want to warn you about theft. For instance, leaving money out on your desk at work while you go to the W.C. would be “dando papaya.” Or, if you are going to the downtown areas of Barranquilla, using your brand new iPhone while in the street markets would be “dando papaya.” In both cases, you are setting yourself up for something to be taken from you—you are making yourself an obvious target.

Estar “Pa’ las que sea” / ”Para las que sea”

Another very common expression in Colombia is “pa’ las que sea.” This phrase is very similar to saying, “I am up for whatever” in English. Normally, this phrase is used with the verb “estar” and goes something like, “Estoy pa’ las que sea” (“pa” is a shortened and more common way of saying “para,” especially in coastal areas of Colombia). For instance, if you are with a group of friends and someone asks if anyone would like to go for ice cream in Crepes and Waffles and take a walk through Chapinero, you might would say, “Sí, estoy pa’ las que sea.” Another way to use it would be if a friend called and told you they were bored and looking for something to do—you could say, “Pues, estoy pa’ las que sea,” meaning you are up for whatever your friend proposes.

“Pa’ las que sea” can also be used to mean “through thick and thin” or “through whatever may come.” For instance, you might tell your significant other “Estaré contigo pa’ las que sea,” meaning you will be with him/her through whatever. Or, you might use it with a friend—especially if that friend is going through a difficult situation. You might say, “Sabes que puedes contar conmigo pa’ las que sea” to remind them that they can count on you for whatever they might need.


In “Must-Know Colombian Slangs: Part I,” I talked about the Colombian expression “buenas,” as a way of greeting people. “Quibo” is used in a similar manner. I’ve been told that “Quibo” developed out of the combination of the words “Qué” and “hubo,” which used together form the question, “Qué hubo?”—translated to: “What’s happened/happening?” I am not sure if that explanation is true, but it certainly makes sense considering people use it to greet in way that implies both a “hello” and a “how are you?” all at once. It’s worth mentioning that “Quibo” is extremely informal and you wouldn’t want to use it in any formal situation.

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Paige Poole

Paige Poole

Paige M. Poole is an Alabamian and traveler at heart who has settled, for now, in Barranquilla, Colombia, and earns her living as an English professor at the Instituto de Idiomas (Language Institute) at la Universidad del Norte (University of the North). When not teaching English, she enjoys blogging, traveling, relaxing on the beach, and spending time with her partner and two cats, Milo and Sophie. 

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