Peru’s cultural diversity means that the Spanish spoken there borrows from many different sources. Indigenous languages, Spanish, and Asian influences mix together to produce a rich culture to only in food and customs, but also in language. Dialects of Spanish-speaking Peruvians vary across geographical locations. With migration from the mountainous regions of Peru, where Andean Spanish is the main dialect, to Lima, the mixing of dialects produces yet more slang.
Learning some of the words exclusively used in Peru gives you that extra connection and access to 30 million Spanish speakers, the fifth most populous Latin American country. Lima, being the capital, and most diverse city with a quarter of Peru’s population, is a rich source of slang terms. We don’t recommend peppering your speech with slang straight away. Learn to be comfortable with the dialect and slowly introduce some words in context.
It’s always best to try out new words with friends or acquaintances, especially those that don’t offend easily. Using Peruvian slang words out of context or in the wrong company can lead to problems, just like in any other language. As a non-native speaker, you will be given some credit for trying, and most people will find it comical, rather than offensive, to hear a rude word out of place. However, caution is advised.
13 common Peruvian Slang Words to know
¡A Su! – You will no doubt hear this one quite a bit. A su is a contraction of the phrase “A su madre”, and is a little more polite. Often used to express surprise, disbelief, or resignation, it literally means “To his/her/its”. A su madre is used just like “Wow” in English. “To your mother” would be one direct literal translation.
Be careful using this phrase outside of Peru. Any phrase involving someone’s mother could easily be construed as an insult in other dialects.
Manyas – “You know”. This word can be used as a question (“¿manyas?”) or a statement (“¡manyas!”). Very commonly used word in Peru. Used mostly among younger people but you can hear this expression anywhere.
Achorado/a – Rude/impertinent. Someone referred to as Achorada is usually a rude, aggressive, or forward person.
Gilero – Player/Romeo/seducer. A gilero is someone who flirts with all the girls constantly, with the objective of seducing them.
Jamear – To eat (verb). Ir a jamear means to go and eat. Jama is used for the word food.
Chamba – Work. Buscando chamba means looking for work or employment.
Bacán – Cool. Used just like chevere. Both words are also popular in Colombia.
Luca – 1 sol (Péruvian money). Not to be confused with luca in Argentina, Venezuela, Chile, and Colombia where it means 1000 when referring to money.
Bróder – Brother. A direct import from English. Used mostly by younger people, bróder is a cool way to refer to a friend directly or indirectly.
Jale – Sex appeal. Describes someone’s charisma. Jorgito tine jale, ¿no? (“Georgy is good looking, no?”)
Jatear – To sleep. Voy a jatear (“I’m going to sleep”)
Chapar – To kiss. Also means “to catch”. Diego y Gabriela se estan chapando – (“Diego and Gabriela are kissing each other”)
Chupar – Literally: “to suck”. Used colloquially to mean “to drink” when referring to alcohol.
Choro – Thief, robber. The same word is used in other Latin American countries and has the same meaning. El choro le robó la cartera – (“The thief robbed her purse”)
Chela – a beer
Mi pata – this sounds a little weird when you understand the literal definition of “pata”. Referring to your friend as your paw, as in “animal foot”, is a term of endearment you’ll hear in Peru that shows just how far from the original meaning the colloquial terms can go. Pata in other Latin American countries can mean “leg” but in Peru it generally means “friend”.
Example: Juan es mi pata – Juan is my friend.
Pucha – expression of relief
Mamacita – beautiful woman
Al toque – A cool Peruvian phrase to learn that you can use in situations where you need to estimate time for something to be done. Basically, “al toque” means “right away”, but you’ll soon find out that people are quite flexible with the definition. Don’t expect anything to be done immediately. At the same time, you can use the phrase to mean anytime in the near future.