Must-Know Colombian Slangs: Part II

This is the second of a multi-post series dealing with Colombian slang. As with any language, there are innumerable slangs 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 5 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.

Paige M. Poole

About the author:

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.  You can see more of Paige’s traveling experiences in her personal blog


8 thoughts on “Must-Know Colombian Slangs: Part II

  1. 2 other very useful ones and that are frequently used are “guayabo” which means “hangover” (if you’ve been to Colombia at least once you’ll have experience this one yourself) and “mono” often used to describe someone who’s blonde.

  2. Excellent! Thanks so much. I am sat with my Colombian family having a very relaxing Sunday and they tell me these expressions are very common too. I will definitely be using them!

  3. Pingback: Teaching English in Colombia | Travel, Discover, Experience

  4. this what I know about dar papaya phrase.First, people started to use, papaya as a way of saying ass, since the correct translation (culo) was considered to rude or vulgar, so you can figure de rest out, I do not want to be too graffic, There is another version, that says if you cut a papaya in half, you can see what it looks like(seeds included), and basically means that you do not want to be exposed, to b
    e abused or do not get cought with your pants down. Disculpa, la mala ortografia, gracias

  5. Well I what to congratulate you becuase you were really accurate in your definitions. However I would like to add that “dar papaya ” is also used to tell that a person is not alert for jokes his or her friends whats to make her/him, so if the person say something that you can “twist” in a funny guy, and the person get embarrace, you tell her/him I am sorry but you gave papaya – why you give papaya “pa’ que da paraya E.g. In Spanish we say “quiza” which means maybe, and it is a perfectly clean word, but if you are talking with English native speaker they probably will burst out in laught because the pronunciation of this word soundslike the English expression “kiss ass”
    , so the person that said quizas, without meaning it “dio papaya”
    That make sense?

  6. Pingback: The Summer of Colombian Slang - Gee, Cassandra

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