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Spanish of Bolivia 101: Slang, Expressions, & More

Bolivia is one of few countries in this world where the indigenous people and their languages rule to this day.

For example, close to 20% of people in Bolivia speak Quechua - and that is just 1/30+ indigenous languages that are still spoken in households.

For this reason, the Spanish of Bolivia is extremely unique.

Not only are there words from indigenous languages that are used in day-to-day speech, but they also speak slower in general - because for many Spanish is their second language.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at a Spanish dialect that in its own way, is one of the most unique of all!

two bolivian cartoon  characters standing infront of a bolivian flag that says "Spanish Of Bolivia"

Summary of The Spanish Spoken In Bolivia

Amongst many others, here are some of the most unique Bolivian slang words:

  • Ñawi - Eye

  • Jato - Home/House

  • Caserita or caserito - Ma’am/Sir

  • Camba - White person

  • Guagua - Infant/Child

Out of the list in this article, these are my 3 favorite Bolivian expressions:

  • Tienes mucho ñeque - Your very brave

  • Vete a Sucre - Get out of here!

  • ¡Está torísimo! - It’s great!

If you want more slang, expressions, and examples for these words and phrases, read the full article!

Unique Vocabulary of Bolivia (Slang)

animated people standing infront of a bolivian flag conversing with big letters that say "Unique Vocab of Bolivia"

Cuate - Friends 👭

In Bolivia, cuate is the word used to say friend! For example:

Emilio siempre era un cuate mío

(Emilio was always a friend of mine)

Jato - Home/House 🏡

The word Jato which is not a Spanish word is used to refer to a house. For example:

Ese es mi jato con el techo rojo

(That’s my house with the red roof)

Ñawi - Eye 👀

This comes from the Quechua language, and it means eye. For example:

Tengo algo en el ñawi

(I got something in my eye)

Guagua - Infant/Child 👶

If you find yourself in a Caribbean country this word will mean Bus, but in Bolivia, it's an infant or child (up to 3 years of age). Example:

Ay mira a esa guagua jugando

(Aw look at that kid playing)

Caserita o caserito - Ma’am/Sir 👨👩‍🦱

This is a word that you use with a man or woman that you aren’t close with/don't know their name.

For example, if you’re buying bananas on the street you might say:

Me gustaría 2 libras de bananas, gracias caserito

(I would like 2 pounds of bananas, thanks sir)

Estar camote - To be in love 👩‍❤️‍💋‍👨

Camote means sweet potato, so in Bolivia to be sweet potato with someone means to be in love with them! For example:

Ella está muy camote de él

(She is very in love with him)

Jach'a - Big 🙌

This is a word taken from the Aymara language and is used sometimes in Bolivian Spanish to describe something large. For example:

Esa papa está jach’a

(That potato is big)

Singani - Grape brandy 🍷

If you are a drinker, get yourself some Singani, it’s a grape brandy that from what I hear is absolutely delicious!

Llajua - Hot sauce 🍾

If you like hot sauce make sure to remember this phrase!

Caserita, ¿usted podría traerme la llajua?

(Ma’am, could you bring me the hot sauce?)

Camba - White person 👦🏻

Although this word generally is used to describe a white person with the Rioplatense accent, for example, Argentinians, or Uruguayans.

However, you might be called it if you're white. Like the word gringo, even though it more or less means one thing, anyone who resembles the meaning might get the name too.

Unique Expressions of Bolivia

animated people standing infront of a bolivian flag wearing traditional bolivian clothes with big letters that say "Expressions of Bolivia"

Tienes mucho ñeque - Your very brave 👨‍🚒

Have you ever seen a ñeque? They mainly live in South America, but I remember the first time I saw one my mind was blown.

It looks like a big rat mixed with a groundhog. Anyway, if you have one of those - you’re very brave. For example:

Él lo haría, es un ñeque, no sería nada para él

(He would do it, he’s brave, it wouldn’t be anything for him)

Estar yesca - To be broke 😵

If you are Punk in Bolivia, that means you're broke! For example:

Ay no puedo salir esta noche estoy yesca

(I can’t go out tonight I am broke)

Ser un taco - To be unable to get drunk 😎🍻

If you are the type of person that can drink, drink, and drink without getting drunk, you are a Taco in Bolivia. For example

Julio no puede emborracharse - Sí él es un taco

(Julio can’t get drunk - Yeah he’s got a bottomless tank)

Vete a Sucre - Get out of here! 👈😂

This phrase basically means “You’re crazy” or “Get outta here”.

It’s usually said when somebody says something ridiculous or unbelievable. Example:

Yo gané $200USD por hora cuando yo tenía 13 años - Jaja vete a Sucre, loco

(I made $200USD an hour when I was 13 years old - Haha get outta here, you nut)

¡Qué macana! - What bad luck! 👎

This phrase refers to somebody's apparent bad luck in a situation.

For example, if you tripped on the street, the soda you were carrying spilled all over yourself, and police fined you for throwing your drink on the sidewalk. Your friend might say:

¡Qué macana!

(What bad luck!)

¡Está torísimo! - It’s great! 👍

This phrase is just a way to show that you like something, that it is excellent. Example:

¿Te gusta el bollo? - ¡Claro que sí, está torísimo!

(Do you like the bollo? - Of course, it’s excellent!)

Pronunciation of Bolivian Spanish

animated people standing infront of a bolivian flag conversing with big letters that say "Pronunciation of Bolivia"

I have heard it being said by Spanish learners that have visited Bolivia, that it would be impossible to find more neutral Spanish.

The reason for this is that a major sector of the population speaks indigenous languages as their mother tongue - so the colloquialisms that come with native Spanish speakers don’t really exist as much here.

Other than being a bit slower than most Spanish dialects, in some parts (mainly the highlands) of Bolivia, they pronounce the R differently.

Instead of sounding like R - it sounds like SHR. For example:

Rico = Shrico | Recordar = Shrecordar | Revisar = Shrevisar | ETC.

Conclusion: The Spanish (Slang) of Bolivia

As you can see, there is a ton of influence from the indigenous languages on the Spanish spoken by Bolivians.

If you are learning Spanish and want to go to one of the easiest places to practice, they say Bolivia is the place to be.

Not only does it contain some of the most humble and friendly people, but many of them speak very slowly in comparison with other countries where Spanish is everybody's first language.

If you are interested in learning about other Spanish dialects, you should check out my Spanish Dialect Breakdown Series where we go over the most important things to know about every Spanish dialect.

If you want to get a free lesson with a tutor, click here and Italki will give you a free $10 credit when you schedule your first lesson within 48 hours!

It was fun discussing the slang, expressions, and pronunciation differences of the Spanish of Bolivia.

Have a wonderful day, and study your Spanish!

- Benjamín George


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