Top 20 Guatemalan Words and Slang Expressions You Should Know
There are tons of fun Guatemalan words to learn in Spanish. As a Guatemalan, I know and use them all the time.
Guatemala is full of wonder and magic, and its language is alive in its people and traditions.
Now, let’s take a deep dive into Guatemalan words and culture. It’s a fun way to get to know Guatemala better so that you can come to visit and fit right in.
What Makes Guatemala Special
The former territory of the Maya, Guatemala is a Central American gem full of natural beauty and touristic attractions. According to the UNWTO, (the United Nations’ world tourism organization), the country received 2.56 million international tourists in 2019.
The local people of Guatemala are sweet and welcoming. They actually go out of their way to help you out, especially if they see that you’re not from here. They love tourists and enjoy sharing what they know with those who are curious.
Guatemala’s colorful and elaborate handwoven textiles are famous worldwide. They come in different shapes and colors, and you can find them throughout the country. The different villages have unique patterns and colors, and they all catch your eye. The colonial architecture in Antigua Guatemala makes it a picturesque town full of wonder.
Ancient Mayan civilization is at Guatemala’s core. You can visit ruins from the Mayan civilization, like Tikal (the most famous tourist site in the country). It’s astonishing what they were capable of achieving with limited resources. Many believe they created their own astrology and were advanced astronomers, engineers, and architects. Mayan teachings and rituals live on to this day in Guatemala.
It might seem exotic and remote but Guatemala isn’t far from North America. It’s easy to fly to from the U.S. or Canada.
What is Slang?
According to dictionary.com, “slang is a very informal usage in vocabulary and idiom that is characteristically more metaphorical, playful, elliptical, vivid, and ephemeral than ordinary language.”
It’s common to find slang in any country. Today, we’ll learn 20 Guatemalan words to expand your Spanish slang vocabulary.
20 Guatemalan Words You Should Know
These Guatemalan words and slang will not only make you sound cool but also help you get around!
1. Chapín / Chapina
This is the unofficial Spanish word for a person from Guatemala. Guatemalteco is the official term, but people in Guatemala consider themselves chapines. Chapín is a male from Guatemala, and chapina is a female.
Soy chapina y estoy orgullosa de ello.
I’m a Guatemalan and proud of it.
If you’re thinking that agua is water, you’re right. But when it comes to Guatemalan words and slang, it means “look out!” This term is used throughout Central America and Mexico.
¡Aguas con el tráfico! Es peligroso manejar tan rápido.
Careful with traffic! It’s dangerous to drive so fast.
This is slang for money. When someone says they’re broke, they usually refer to it as pisto. It refers to cash and a friend may ask to borrow pisto when they don’t have enough.
No tengo pisto hasta que me paguen.
I don’t have any cash until I get paid.
This is a nail, but when it comes to Guatemalan words, it is commonly used to declare that you have a serious problem. You’ll hear it in different contexts and scenarios, as the expression applies to any kind of problem.
Tengo un gran clavo con mi familia.
I have a big problem with my family.
5. Burro / burra
This is a casual way to tell someone that they’re dumb but just joking around. It’s not really an insult but more a term of endearment.
No seas burra, no cometiste un error.
Don’t be dumb, you didn’t make a mistake.
This is a Guatemalan word for snack. The literal translation is small mouth but it’s all about eating something light before lunch or dinner. I use this one all the time, and I love boquitas! They’re just like tapas in Spain; small portions but delicious.
Podemos comer unas boquitas mientras vemos Netflix.
We can eat some snacks while we watch Netflix.
This expression refers to chaos or disorder caused by crowds. It’s usually noisy and can even be a strike or a riot. A bochinche is a group of people making noise for a reason or cause.
Cuando salí de mi casa, había un bochinche en la calle.
When I left home, there was a riot in the streets.
Guatemalans are expressive, and they love to give people nicknames. It’s common for a nickname to be based on your appearance. Canche means blonde and it’s a common nickname and term of endearment used in Guatemala.
Como me gusta ese canche.
I really like that blonde guy.
This is one of my favorite Guatemalan words. It involves charming someone you like, even if you have to lie a little. When someone really wants to get close to you and get your attention, they use casaca.
La casaca que le dijo funcionó y ahora son novios.
The charm he used on her worked, and now they’re dating.
Of all the Guatemalan words that we’ve learned, this is the spiciest. It is derived from chile which is a hot pepper in Guatemala and you use it to mean “awesome!”
¡Que chilera tu bolsa!
Your purse is awesome!
Chispa means spark. So, if someone calls you chispudo or chispuda, it means you have a spark and you’re sharp. It’s definitely a compliment.
Maria es chispuda y sabe todas las respuestas.
Maria is sharp and knows all the answers.
This term is used to refer to all your things. It’s informal and used in a colloquial way. It’s used as “stuff.”
Dejaste tus chivas en mi carro.
You left your stuff in my car.
This word refers to a stray dog. But it can also be used as an adjective for someone who is greedy and cheap.
Mi papá es un chucho y nunca me da dinero.
My dad is cheap and never gives me money.
The chicken buses in Guatemala are epic. They are old school buses that have been remodeled into public buses. These are known as camionetas and riding one is quite an experience.
Tuve que tomar la camioneta que va a la ciudad.
I had to take the chicken bus that goes to the city.
This word means kid or child. It’s said in a loving and fun way.
Hay unos patojos jugando al fútbol en la calle.
There are some kids playing soccer on the street.
It means to relax and do absolutely nothing. Peluche is a polite way to say that you’ve been completely unproductive.
Esta semana estoy muy cansada y he estado de peluche.
This week I’ve been exhausted so I’ve just rested.
It means “wow!” You can use it to encourage someone when they do something cool or to make fun of them because they’re trying to be cool.
¡Sanigua! ¿Es nueva esa falta? Me gusta
Wow! Is that skirt new? I like it.
I had to include this one because it’s so common to hear and use in Guatemala. I must admit, I use it. It’s a colloquial way to say “be quiet!”, “listen here!”, or even “shut up!”
It’s not really rude because you only use it with close friends. Be careful not to use this with elders or authority figures, as it wouldn’t be appropriate.
¡Sho! Necesito silencio para concentrarme.
Hey, listen here, I need silence to concentrate.
When someone is extremely nosy and they want to know everything about everyone, they are shutes. It’s a playful way to call out on someone who’s intruding in your life.
No seas shute, mi vida privada es privada.
Don’t be nosy, my private life is private.
This is slang for an extremely comfortable sandal-like shoe. It’s also what many indigenous people wear.
El niño llevaba puestos sus caites nuevos.
The boy was wearing his new casual sandals.
Why Learn Slang?
First of all, Spanish is spoken by over 572 million people, and it’s the official language of more than 20 countries. Every country has its own slang.
Learning a language has challenges, and learning the slang can be even more challenging. But it’s also a fun and interesting way to learn more about the language and culture.
Adding Guatemalan words to your vocabulary will make your Spanish richer. What other slang words do you know and like to use? Let us know in a comment.
And if you’re looking to further your Spanish speaking skills, sign up for a free class to talk with one of our native-speaking teachers from Guatemala today and immerse yourself in the beauty of Spanish.
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