12 Panama Slang Words You Need To Know
La jerga panameña (Panamanian slang) is quite extensive, and just as with many other Latin American countries’ slang, Panamanian is one highly influenced by the U.S.
Panamanians have a great amount of words that come from the English language—such as blod or blo from “blood” meaning “brother” or close friend, dain from the word “dime” meaning in fact ”10 cents,” fren from “friend,” or one of my personal favorites, yiyinbré, which means “gingerbread.”
In this post, we will dive more deeply into Panamanian slang. If you are ready to learn a bit of Spanish like a panameño(a) (Panamanian), start scrolling down!
1. Qué sopá
To start off with our list of Panama slang words we are starting with a greeting.
Qué sopá is the Panama slang equivalent to saying “what’s up?” Panamanians came up with these, as some others of their slang words, by mixing up the syllables.
In Spanish, you would normally say ¿Qué pasó? which literally means “what happened?” From there, they inverted the two syllables in the word pasó and came up with sopá which really means nothing.
¿Qué sopá, fren? ¿Todo bien?
What’s up, dude? All good?
Qué sopá, dame una soda, por favor.
What’s up? Give me a soda, please.
Qué sopá, ¿qué plan tienes hoy?
What’s up, what’s your plan for today?
Qué sopá, ¿quieres venir al cine con nosotros?
What’s up, do you want to come to the cinema with us?
PRO TIP: Do not confuse the slang word sopá with the Spanish word sopa, which means soup.
Another Panamanian slang word is tongo.
Panamanians call their police officers tongo, especially those of the lowest ranks who might usually be patrolling the streets.
A funny thing about this particular word is that it has many different uses all throughout Latin America—especially in Argentina, Chile, Venezuela and Peru, but also in Spain. You could not use this particular word in these countries and have it mean “cop” or “police officer.”
Ayer me encontré unos tongos caminando por la calle.
Yesterday I ran into some cops walking down the street.
Anoche escuché las sirenas de los tongos.
Last night I heard the cops’ sirens.
Los tongos están muy activos en esa zona.
Cops are very active in that zone.
Los tongos visten uniformed.
Cops wear uniforms.
PRO TIP: The best, and most respectful way to refer to a police officer, wherever you are, is by calling them agente or oficial.
The Panamanian slang word ñamería comes from the Spanish word ñame (yam.) But it has nothing to do with the delicious African tuber. Ñamería or ñamerías means “crazy stuff.”
Whoever says ñamerías in Panama is a ñame (yes, a yam!) in Panama.
Jessica es una ñame, nos propuso cruzar el estrecho de Darien en carro.
Jessica is crazy, she suggested we should cross the Darien street by car!
Ya deja de decir ñamerías, no te voy a hacer caso.
Stop saying crazy things, I will not listen to you.
Ese canal de YouTube que miras son puras ñamerías.
That YouTube channel you watch is all about crazy stuff.
Joel no es ningún ñame, de hecho es todo lo contrario.
Joel is not a crazy person, in fact, he is quite the opposite.
4. Rantan, pocotón and or buco
Rantan, pocotón and buco are all synonyms in Panamanian slang. Panamanians use all of these to mean “a lot” or “a whole lot of…”
The last word, buco, comes from the French word beaucoup which means “a lot.” Sometimes, when there is so much of something, Panamanians might combine the three words.
Tú tienes un buco de zapatos.
You have a lot of shoes.
En mi pueblo hay un pocotón de restaurantes italianos.
In my town, there are a lot of Italian restaurants.
Tienes un rantan de canciones en inglés en esa lista de reproducción.
You have got a lot of music in English in that playlist.
¡Hay un buco, un rantan, un pocotón de gente en el festival de la mejorana!
There are a lot (three times for emphasis) of people in La Mejorana festival!
5. Pelao or Pelado(a)
Next in our Panamanian slang list is pelao or pelado . The literal meaning of this word is “skinned” or “trimmed,” but in Panama (and in some Colombian regions too) people use it to address young people whose names they don’t know yet.
Panamanians use pelao or pelaa the same way people in English use words like “dude,” “guy,” or maybe even “little man.”
Ese pelao corre rapidísimo.
That dude runs really fast.
Ese pelao me dijo que este restaurante era bueno pero eso no es cierto.
That guy said that this restaurant was good but that isn’t true.
Esa pelaa es muy amable.
That girl is very nice.
¡Hey, pelao! Ven para acá.
Hey, man! Come here.
6. Inchi Pinchi
There is a Panamanian slang word for “best friend” or BFF (Best Friends Forever), which is inchi pinchi.
Friendships amongst Panamanians tend to be close and the best ones are labeled with these two words. The friend you met in kindergarten, with whom you still go out every week and tell your life about, or the girl you met at summer camp and haven’t stopped talking to ever since, are inchi pinchis in Panama.
Juana y yo somos inchi pinchis desde que teníamos 6 años.
Juana and I are BFFs since we were 6 years old.
Mercedes y María son inchi pinchis; jamás se separan.
Mercedes and María are BFFs, they are never apart from each other.
El inchi pinchi de Esteban es único.
Esteban’s BFF is one of a kind.
¿De verdad Estefanía cree que somos inchi pinchis? Yo no estaría tan seguro.
Does Estefanía really think that we are BFFs? I wouldn’t be so sure.
7. Chuzo or váyala vida
Chuzo is an interesting word in Panamanian slang. It is the equivalent to “Oh, boy!” Panamanians use the word chuzo or the expression váyala vida when they forget about something, or when something unfortunate happened.
¡Chuzo! Dejé la billetera en la casa, voy a tener que regresar.
Oh snap! I left my wallet at home, I am going to have to go back.
¡Chuzo! Se me quemó un poco el pollo.
Oh snap! I burned the chicken a little bit.
¡Chuzo! Hasta ahora recordé que había partido.
Oh snap! I just remembered that there was a match.
¡Chuzo! Se me olvidó hacer la tarea de lenguaje.
Oh snap! I forgot to do the math homework.
The next word in our Panamanian slang is chambón(a). Chambón is a person who is bad at a certain activity, or at doing something. All of us are a chambón at something, if not at several things.
Ese segunda base es un gran chambón.
That (guy at) second base is really bad.
Joaquín es un chambón montando moto, siempre se le apaga.
Joaquín is bad at riding motorcycles, it always turns off on him.
Pocos latinos son chambones bailando salsa.
Few Latinos are bad at salsa dancing.
La pobre Julia es muy chambona escribiendo.
Poor Julia is bad at writing.
FUN FACT: Despite not being very near, Guatemalans also use the word chambón in the same context.
The word bulto in Spanish means something close to “package”. Whoever, in Panamanian slang, they use it for people who are even worse than chambones. This is because in Spanish, a bulto is generally something heavy and difficult to carry around. When someone is a bulto people around them “carry them” or carry “their load”. While the word can be funny it can be offensive as well, depending on the tone you use with it and the amount of confidence you have with the person.
Fernando es buenísimo de catcher, pero de pitcher es un bulto.
Fernando is a great catcher, but he stinks at being a pitcher.
Si yo estuviera en la banda con ustedes solo sería un bulto.
If I were in the band with you (all) I would only “stink”.
José es una máquina para jugar Call of Duty pero un bulto jugando FIFA.
José is a machine at playing Call of Duty, but he stinks at playing FIFA.
No sirvo para escribir poesía, soy un bulto.
I’m not good at writing poetry, I stink.
A very popular Panamanian slang word is ahuevado(a), which if we literally translate from Spanish means “egged”. This word is a double edged sword, because it can be insulting or friendly depending on your tone. In some contexts it can be a good translation of the word “dude”. But if you do not use it like that you could be calling someone slow or stupid. Check it out.
¡¿Qué sopá, ahuevado?!
What’s up dude?!
Ese tu amigo es un ahuevado, no cacha una.
That friend of yours is stupid, he does not understand anything.
Hey, ahuevado, ¿me prestas el carro?
Hey, dude, can I borrow your car?
Wake up, stupid!
11. Puro tilín y nada de paleta
Puro tilín y nada de paleta is a Panamanian slang term that Panamanians use for people who promise things and then don’t act. In other words, people who are all about empty promises, or who brag about things that they do not have in reality.
This expression comes from the ice cream carts in Latin America. Ice cream carts have a little bell that sounds tilín so you know that they are there, and you go and buy a paleta (popsicle). This expression would mean something close to “Ringing ringing but no popsicles”.
Juan siempre dice que nos invitará a comer, pero es puro tilín y nada de paleta.
Juan always says that he’ll invite us to eat, but he never fulfills his promise.
Ricardo dice que le caes mal y te va a pegar, pero es puro tilín y nada de paleta.
Ricardo says that he does not like you and he is going to hit you, but those are false promises.
Tú eres puro tilín y nada de paleta.
Your promises are empty.
The Panamanian slang word taquillar is a verb, as you may already have guessed from its -ar ending. Taquillar means to brag or to show something off. Not necessarily as a yeyesito would do, but in other different ways as well. For example when you want to impress someone, or when you post things in your instagram feed waiting for your followers response.
¿Viste la historia del Maserati de Roberto? Está taquillando.
Did you see the story of Roberto’s Maserati? He is showing off.
A Josefina le encanta taquillar las uñas siempre que va al salón.
Josefina loves to show off her fingernails everytime she goes to the beauty saloon.
Pepe vive taquillando en el gimnasio.
Pepe is always showing off in the gym.
Eres un taquillero.
You are a show-off.
Put Panamanian Slang Into Use, Fren
You have successfully improved your Spanish and learned some slang from Panama. Now it is time to put your newly acquired knowledge to test. Go visit Panama and experience the most cosmopolitan city in Central America, dance a bit in El festival de la Mejorana, go surfing in the beautiful Playa Venao, try some delicious carimañolas panameñas and visit the spectacular Biomuseo.
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