Get to know your Panameñismos

I know you might be wondering what a panameñismo is. If you have searched for it on Google, let me tell you it’s not the political party from Panama.

panameñismos def.png

If you’re visiting us, you might want to learn some beforehand. Although there are many more, here’s a list of some you could be interested in. If you’re Panamanian and reading this, I hope you enjoy.

1. Burundanga: sweets, sugar or candies. Junk food.

2. Brujo/gallo: an imitated product. Not the original brand.

3. Camarón: a momentaneous job.
Back when we had the Canal Zone on Panama, some used to approach their buildings asking for jobs. Whenever they decided to give someone a job, they’d tell them to «come around». Meaning: to come around the high fences that guarded their territory. Eventually, Panamanians that didn’t speak the language, said what they grasped of what was heard. Their cue to knowing that they were accepted for the job, was when they listened to the famous «camarón».

4. Chachai: a dress for a little girl.

5. Chambón: used to refer to someone as dumb.
Panamanians often use this expression to refer about a person who can’t do things right, such as driving.

6. Chinito: the store over the corner of your house.
Panamá has a large Chinesse Community and many of them own a business. Particularly, mini markets near every neighbourhood. Everyone, at least once in their lives, was sent to the chinito to buy something.

7. Guaro/waro: beer or alcohol.

8. Pay: a very pretty boy or girl.

9. Mili: when you do something without caring.

10. Tongo: policemen.

11. Guilla: being confused about something.

12. Parkin: (yeah like parking lot). Used to refer to a party or when you want to hang-out.

13. Plena: a really good song.

14. Qué xopá: what’s up?

15. Vaca: to collect money for someone or someone with a group of people.

16. Talla’o: a very well dressed person.

17. Chifeo: to ditch or ignore somebody.

18. Grubeo: used to refer to a person that you’re dating but you know it’s not going to far or to something serious.

19. Rantan/buco/pocotón: A LOT of anything in particular.

20. Pifear: to show off.

21. Chicha’e’piña: when something is too easy.

22. Arranque: going to a party.

23. Pelaita: little kid.

24. Birria: when friends gather to play a sport (usually soccer) or videogames.

25. Pana: a friend (another term that panamanians use to refer to this: fren).

26. Chantin: house.

27. Vaina: Although many people consider it a bad word, panamanians use to talk about a «thing». If you look for it on the dictionary it is a flexible material that you use to keep certain weapons such as knives and swords.

28. En vida real: seriously man.

29. Chakal/rakataca: is used to refer to people that have certain lifestyle in common, usually those from the «hood».

Many of us tend to take off letters from words. Such as:

  1. Estás = ‘tas / to be
  2. Asustado = asusta’o / scared
  3. Cuñado = ‘ñao / brother in law

Or switch their order:

  • Calles = llesca / street
  • Primo = mopri / cousin
  • Hambre = breham / hungry


All latinos have words that differ in meaning, it’s always good to be careful and ask first. Although, Panamanians are very chill if they know you’re visiting the country and would try to explain the meaning of what you could’ve said.

One example for this could be the word traffic. In Panama, it is called «tranque» and in Chile, it is called «taco». Pineapple here is «piña», while in Brazil, it’s «abacaxi».

Some words are harmless in meaning, but it it doesn’t hurt to consult previous to your visit.

By: @nicolemarietrelles

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