estar bravo / ponerse bravo


 to be angry / to get angry

(literally: to be fierce, boastful, or stormy)

Although in school you may have learned enfadado/enfadarse (Spain) or enojado/enojarse (LatAm), step off the plane in Colombia and you realize that when people are pissed off, they’re usually bravo


Example 1
Ok, pero no te pongas bravo, simplemente me estoy expresando.
Ok, but don’t get pissed off, I’m just expressing my opinion

chica brava

Example 2
Una tipa venia toda brava y por detrás llegó el novio. La abrazó y le dio un ramo de rosas. ¡Yo casi lloro! 
A chick walked up all angry and behind her came her boyfriend.  He hugged her and gave her a bouquet of roses.  I almost cried! 

This use of bravo can be found from Mexico to Colombia, but it doesn’t look like it has traveled much further south (and is definitely not said in Chile or Argentina.)


pedir cacao


to give in and beg for mercy/help

 (literally: to ask for cocoa)

Example 1
Hay que reconocer que uno se equivocó. Si la relación lo vale, ¿Por qué no pedir cacao?
You have to recognize that you messed up. If the relationship is worth it, why not ask for forgiveness (or that she take you back)?
From a Costa Rican blog:

From a Costa Rican blog:

Example 2 
Ahora los españoles vienen a pedir cacao a América Latina, cuando antes nos catalogaban como “sudacas.”
Now the Spanish come to Latin America with their tail between their legs, when before they were calling us “sudacas” (derogatory term for South Americans).

dar una pela


to spank / to give a beating

 (literally: to give a peeling)

dar pelas

Example 1
Vaya mijito, haga caso que su mama le va a dar una pela.
Please darling, pay attention or your mom is gonna spank you.
Example 2
Dar pelas no es disciplinar, producen en el niño daños físicos y emocionales.
Beating is not disciplining, it causes physical and emotional damage in a child.



thingy / stuff / shit

 (literally: pea pod)


¿Me pasas esa vaina?
Can you pass me that thingy?
No importa esa vaina.
That stuff doesn’t matter.
Quiero algo sabroso, no la vaina esa que venden en la nevera.
I want something flavorful, not that shit from the freezer that they sell.

Yeah, you got it. ANYTHING can be vaina in this country in almost ANY conversation.

Also said in some other parts of Latin America (Dominican Republic, Peru, etc).



a lot

 (literally: fed up)

Me gusta harto esa canción de Calle 13.
I really like that Calle 13 song.

I heard harto used with this meaning the whole way south through the Andes from Colombia to Chile, but apparently you don’t hear it in Mexico, Argentina, or Spain.  Spanish friends tell me it sounds ‘biblically’ formal to use it with this meaning.





Used in most of Latin America, internet theories about its origin abound: it’s either a quechua word, a Mexican word that spread through a popular TV show, or the onomatopoeia sound of vomiting.

See also: que ceba