Is there a Panamanian version of Urban Dictionary? I dunno, but this handy guide in front of your eyeballs will suffice.
Panama has a lot of slang words that are mixed with English because the United States controlled the canal zone of Panama from 1903-2000.
Why is Panama important? Well, lots of US (and other countries) products are shipped via the Panama canal. If you listen to politicians speak, they drop Panama every now and then because they understand how important the passageway is and how important the expansion of the canal (currently underway) will be for the US economy (Bigger ships! More exports/imports!).
Panama is a lush land that Ex-Pats go to for retirement. Where Germans go to work and travel. Where American born Panamanians go to reclaim some of their Ancestral heritage.
I fall into the last category. Born and raised in the US of A, spoke English at home. Ate cereal for breakfast. Pizza. Platanos on occasion.
Then I lived in Panama for 6 months deep in the mystic mountains of Río Sereno, near the border of Costa Rica. This was in 2012, so the vocab is still pretty relevant. I learned Spanish (still broken, but I’m working on it) and I also learned a lot of slang.
Disclaimer: Understand that certain words, while nearly similar to English words via meaning/intention, may be considered vulgar. I think of language as a drink, English words are sometimes not very strong, but the Spanish translation may be a bit stronger. So exercise caution. As long as you aren’t intentionally rude when using these words, people will mostly just laugh because they won’t expect a foreigner to know them.
1. Que Xopa \Keh So-pah\ This means “What’s up”. There is a song by Mr. Saik called “Que Xopa”.
*Lo Chekea \Loh Check-a-uh\ “Check it out” below
2. Vaina \Bye-nah\ Be careful with this one. It means thing. Give me that thing.
“Dame esa vaina”
It means shiz (Censoring myself here)
“You know how shiz is” = “Tu sabes como es la vaina”
“Give me that piece of shiz” = “Dame esa vaina”
Don’t say this in front of people you don’t know or in front of someone you should be respectful with. Its considered “grosero”, not classy. Once you get into the habit of saying vaina, its a slippery slope.
Vaina, the gateway slang…
3. Man \Mon\ If you have any Mexican friends you have probably heard the word “Whey” tossed around. They aren’t talking about protein. And its spelled Güey. The word Güey and Dude and Man are one and the same. “Este Güey” “This Dude” “Este Man”. Remember I told you the US had somewhat of an influence…
4. Gial \Gee-Ahhll\ Means girl. But not like little girl, thats niña. This is only girl the way young men mean girl.
“Y las giales?” “And the girls?”
5. Chiliar \Chill-e-arr\ What does it sound like? Chill. “Vamos a chiliar en el chantin”. Let’s go chill at the crib. This might be considered kinda vulgar so don’t use it with older folks.
6. Offi \Oh fee\ Similar to saying: Roger that! or Oh fasho. Always when you agree to do something.
“Let’s go meet up tomorrow at El Pollo”. “Offi”. You can sound cool by using this word instead of saying “Esta bien” which means Sounds good. You can say “Offi”. Oh, there’s a song for it.
7. Pariciar \Potty-see-arr\ This means party. For a visual, see Zoom Zoom Zoom music video.
“Zoom Zoom Zoom, una noche de pereo, rumba rumba rumba las giales salen a pariciar”
“Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, a night of mischief, rumba, rumba, rumba, the girls go out to party…all the time, pari all the time, pari all the time…”
8. Meto \Meh-toe\ This is only if you go to Chiriqui, the Northernmost state which is like the Texas of Panama. They say this there, it means “Oh man”. Be sure to say it real somber like.
*Additional slang. I remember watching behind the scenes vids of Bill Murray in Japan using awful pickup lines (By awful I mean amazing) in between filming LIT. He would approve of these:
Mami Tu ta buena – Now, be sure to drop the es in esta. The correct way to write this would be “Mami, tu estas buena” but you’re going to want to drop the “es” in front and the “s” at the end to say “Mami tu ta’ buena.”
“Dang girl, you look gooood” or “Damn girl, you so fine.”
El/Ella/Usted esta Buenona/o – If you really want to show that person you just met on the street how you really feel, adding “ona” to the end of buena makes it jumbo or super.
“She’s/He’s/That Kind Sir is SUPER FINE…Gosh darn.”