Chilean Spanish
Chilean Spanish is the variety of Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

 spoken in most of Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

. Though still entirely mutually intelligible with standard Spanish
Standard Spanish
Standard Spanish or neutral Spanish is a linguistic variety, or lect, that is considered a correct educated standard for the Spanish language. Standard Spanish is not merely Spanish adjusted to fit in prescriptive molds dictated by a linguistic overseeing authority, but also a form of language that...

, Chilean Spanish has distinctive pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, and slang
Slang is the use of informal words and expressions that are not considered standard in the speaker's language or dialect but are considered more acceptable when used socially. Slang is often to be found in areas of the lexicon that refer to things considered taboo...

 usage. Spanish speakers often say that Chileans speak very quickly and "mix up words".

Variation and accents

In Chile, there are not many differences between the Spanish spoken in the Northern, Central and Southern areas of the country, although there are notable differences in zones like Aysén
Aisén or Aysén may refer to the following places in Chile:*Aisén Region*Aisén Province*Aisén, Chile - a commune*Puerto Aisén - a city-Etymology:The name Aisén may come from the Huilliche word "Achen," meaning "to crumble"...

, Magallanes
Magallanes y la Antártica Chilena Region
The XII Magallanes and Antártica Chilena Region is one of Chile's 15 first order administrative divisions...

, Chiloé, or Arica
Arica is a city in northern Chile. "Arica" may also refer to:Places* Arica and Parinacota Region, Chile* Arica Airport , Chile* Arica, Amazonas, town in Colombia* Rio Aricá-açu, tributary of the Cuiabá River south of Cuiabá, BrazilOther...

 (especially in their accent). There is remarkable variation in the Spanish spoken by different social classes, however.

Phonetics and phonology

There are a number of phonetic features common to most Chilean accents, though none of them individually are unique to Chilean Spanish . Rather, it is the particular combination of features that sets Chilean Spanish apart from other regional Spanish dialects . These features include:
  • Yeísmo
    Yeísmo is a distinctive feature of many dialects of the Spanish language, which consists of the loss of the traditional palatal lateral approximant phoneme and its merger into the phoneme , usually realized as a palatal fricative or affricate. In other words, ‹ll› and ‹y› represent the same sound...

    , the merger of the phoneme
    In a language or dialect, a phoneme is the smallest segmental unit of sound employed to form meaningful contrasts between utterances....

    s /ʎ/, spelled , with /j/, spelled . Thus, cayó ("fell") and calló ("fell silent") are homophone
    A homophone is a word that is pronounced the same as another word but differs in meaning. The words may be spelled the same, such as rose and rose , or differently, such as carat, caret, and carrot, or to, two, and too. Homophones that are spelled the same are also both homographs and homonyms...

    s, both pronounced [kaˈjo]. In dialects which lack yeísmo, the two words would be pronounced respectively [kaˈjo] and [kaˈʎo]. Though yeísmo is common to most of Latin America, it is not the case that this feature should be considered a Latin American one, because both in Spain and Latin America there are regions with and without "yeísmo". Even in Chile, there are some people, mostly elderly speakers in rural zones, that are not "yeístas".
  • Word- and syllable-final /s/ is aspirated to [h] or lost entirely, another feature common to much of Latin America. Whether final /s/ aspirates or is elided depends on a number of social, regional, and phonological factors, but in general aspiration is more common, especially when preceding a consonant. Complete elision is most commonly found word-finally, but is somewhat less common overall in formal or upper-class speech . Thus, los chilenos ("the Chileans") is [lɔh t͡ʃiˈleːnɔ].
  • The velar consonants /k/, /ɡ/, and /x/ are fronted or palatalized
    In linguistics, palatalization , also palatization, may refer to two different processes by which a sound, usually a consonant, comes to be produced with the tongue in a position in the mouth near the palate....

     before front vowel
    Front vowel
    A front vowel is a type of vowel sound used in some spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a front vowel is that the tongue is positioned as far in front as possible in the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant. Front vowels are sometimes also...

    s. Thus, queso ("cheese"), guía ("guide"), and jinete ("rider/horseman") are pronuounced respectively [ˈceːso], [ˈʝia], and [çiˈn̪eːt̪e].
  • Between vowels and word-finally, /d/ commonly elides or lenites (a process common throughout the Spanish-speaking world), so that contado ("told") and ciudad ("city") are respectively [kon̪ˈt̪aːo] and [sjuˈð̞aː].
  • The voiceless postalveolar affricate
    Voiceless postalveolar affricate
    The voiceless palato-alveolar affricate or domed postalveolar affricate is a type of consonantal sound used in some spoken languages. The sound is transcribed in the International Phonetic Alphabet with ⟨⟩ or ⟨⟩...

     /t͡ʃ/ is pronounced as a fricative [ʃ] by many the lower-class speakers (thus, Chile is pronounced [ˈʃiːle]). This type of pronunciation is viewed as very undesirable. Other variants are a fronted alveolar
    Alveolar consonant
    Alveolar consonants are articulated with the tongue against or close to the superior alveolar ridge, which is called that because it contains the alveoli of the superior teeth...

     affricate, [t͡s], and an even more fronted dental affricate, [t̪ˢ], mostly used by the upper class.
  • The sequences [h]+[β̞] and [h]+[ɣ̞] (where the [h]s are the results of /s/-weakening) are devoiced to, respectively, [f] and [x]. Thus, resbaló ("slid") and rasgó ("tore") are realized [rɛfaˈloː] and [raˈxoː] by some speakers.
  • The sequence /ɾn/ is sometimes assimilated to [nn] in lower-class speakers. Thus, jornada ("workday") may be pronouned [xonˈn̪aː] .
  • In the sequence /bl/, the /b/ may be vocalized to [u]. Thus, inolvidable ("unforgettable") may be [in̪olˈβ̞jaːule], in rural and lower-class urban speakers.
  • Lipski also mentions the devoicing of word-final, unstressed vowels.

Pronouns and verbs

Chileans scarcely use the voseo
Voseo is the use of the second person singular pronoun vos in many dialects of Spanish. In dialects that have it, it is used either instead of tú, or alongside it....

and tuteo forms in the second person familiar, as in many Latin America
Latin America
Latin America is a region of the Americas where Romance languages  – particularly Spanish and Portuguese, and variably French – are primarily spoken. Latin America has an area of approximately 21,069,500 km² , almost 3.9% of the Earth's surface or 14.1% of its land surface area...

n countries.

Pronominal voseo consists of using the pronoun vos (in Chile, [βos], [β̞os], [βoh] or [β̞oh]) in place of for the second person singular familiar/informal.

Verbal voseo is the use of corresponding verb forms (tenís instead of tienes, hablái instead of hablas, etc.).

Voseo is common in Chile, with both Pronominal and Verbal voseo being widely used in the spoken language. However, unlike in neighboring Argentina
Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

, neither is deemed acceptable as part of any written document except as reported speech. Voseo of any kind is considered bad linguistic form and generally labels the speaker as unsophisticated, rude or lacking in education.

In Chile there are at least four grades of formality:

1. Pronominal and verbal voseo, that is, the use of the pronoun vos (with the corresponding voseo verbs).
For example: vos sabís, vos venís, vos hablái, etc.

This combination occurs only in very informal situations and should be approached and used with caution by foreigners. It is always considered rude and insulting but is tolerated and enjoyed as part of friendly bonding and banter. However, with even a slight change in intonation it can change from a tone of friendly banter to a form of insult in a heated argument, even among friends. Non-natives should refrain from using vos until sufficient understanding of its use is gained.

2. Verbal voseo, using the pronoun .
For example: tú sabís, tú tenís, tú hablái, tú vivís, etc.
This kind of voseo is the predominant form used in the spoken language. It should never be used in formal situations or with people one is not very familiar with.

3. Standard tuteo.
For example: tú sabes, tú hablas, tú tienes, tú vienes, etc.
This is the only acceptable way of writing the informal second person. Because of this more literary facet, its use in spoken language is reserved for slightly more formal situations such as (some) child-to-parent, teacher-to-student or peer-to-peer relations among people who aren't familiar with each other.

4. The use of the pronoun usted.
For example: usted viene, usted habla, usted tiene, etc. Used for all business and other formal interactions (i.e. student-to-teacher, but not always teacher-to-student), as well as upwards in situations where one person is considered to be well respected, older or of an obviously higher social standing. Stricter parents will demand this kind of speech from their children as well.

The Chilean voseo conjugation has only three irregular verbs in the indicative present: ser, ir, and haber.


In Chile there are various ways to say "you are" to one person.
From the least to the most formal:

Vos soi

Vos erí(s)

Tú soi

Tú erí(s)

Tú eres

Usted es


A comparison of the conjugation of the Chilean voseo, the general voseo used in Latin American countries except Chile, and the tuteo.
Form | Indicative | Subjunctive
Present Past Conditional Present Past
Voseo (Chile) caminái,
Voseo (general) caminás,
camines, caminés*
traigas, traigás*
vivas, vivás*
Tuteo caminas,

*Rioplatense Spanish prefers the tuteo forms, whereas in Central America, Argentina, and in some regions of Colombia the voseo forms are used.


Chilean Spanish has a great deal of distinctive slang and vocabulary. Some examples of distinctive Chilean slang include chaucha (small change/coins), gallo/a (guy/gal), fome (boring), pololear (to go out as girlfriend/boyfriend), pelambre (gossip), poto (buttocks), quiltro (mutt) and chomba (knitted sweater). In addition, several words in Chilean Spanish are loaned from neighboring Amerindian languages.

Coa and Lunfardo expressions

Lunfardo is a dialect originated and developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the lower classes in Buenos Aires and the surrounding Gran Buenos Aires, and from there spread to other cities nearby, such as Rosario and Montevideo, cities with similar socio-cultural situations...

 is an argot
An Argot is a secret language used by various groups—including, but not limited to, thieves and other criminals—to prevent outsiders from understanding their conversations. The term argot is also used to refer to the informal specialized vocabulary from a particular field of study, hobby, job,...

 of the Spanish language
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

 that originated in the late 19th century among lower classes of Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires is the capital and largest city of Argentina, and the second-largest metropolitan area in South America, after São Paulo. It is located on the western shore of the estuary of the Río de la Plata, on the southeastern coast of the South American continent...

 and Montevideo
Montevideo is the largest city, the capital, and the chief port of Uruguay. The settlement was established in 1726 by Bruno Mauricio de Zabala, as a strategic move amidst a Spanish-Portuguese dispute over the platine region, and as a counter to the Portuguese colony at Colonia del Sacramento...

. Coa is an argot common among criminals in Chile. It has been heavily influenced by Lunfardo. Examples of Lunfardo and Coa words and phrases in Chilean Spanish are:
  • Bacán - "awesome".
  • Echar la foca (lit. throw the seal
    Pinnipeds or fin-footed mammals are a widely distributed and diverse group of semiaquatic marine mammals comprising the families Odobenidae , Otariidae , and Phocidae .-Overview: Pinnipeds are typically sleek-bodied and barrel-shaped...

    Halitosis is a term used to describe noticeably unpleasant odors exhaled in breathing. Halitosis is estimated to be the third most frequent reason for seeking dental aid, following tooth decay and periodontal disease.- General :...

    ) - to severely address someone or express disapproval or disappointment.
  • Hacer perro muerto (lit. do a dead dog) - to dine and dash
    Dine and dash
    A dine and dash is a form of theft by fraud, in which a patron orders and consumes food from a restaurant or similar establishment with no intent to pay, then leaves without...

     or do something similar.

Mapudungun loanwords

The Mapudungun language has left a relatively small number of words in Chilean Spanish, given its relatively large geographic expanse. Most Mapudungun loans are names for plants and animals for example:
  • Cahuín - a rowdy, usually drunken, gathering, also malicious or slanderous gossip
  • Pucho - a cigarette or cigarette butt.
  • Copihue
    Lapageria rosea, commonly known as the Copihue Lapageria rosea, commonly known as the Copihue Lapageria rosea, commonly known as the Copihue (co-pee-way Lapageria rosea, commonly known as the Copihue (co-pee-way...

    - Chile's national flower
  • Coipo
    The coypu , , also known as the river rat, and nutria, is a large, herbivorous, semiaquatic rodent and the only member of the family Myocastoridae. Originally native to subtropical and temperate South America, it has since been introduced to North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa, primarily by...

    , a species of rodent.
  • Culpeo
    The culpeo , sometimes known as the culpeo zorro or Andean fox , is a South American species of wild dog. It is the second largest native canid on the continent after the maned wolf. In its appearance it bears many similarities to the widely recognized red fox...

    - a fox species.
  • Guata - belly, stomach.
  • Huala
  • Huichicheo - mockery.
  • Huichipirichi - a childish mockery, usually accompanied with a peculiar gesture with the hands.
  • Maqui - a kind of tree that bears berries, of the Patagonia
    Patagonia is a region located in Argentina and Chile, integrating the southernmost section of the Andes mountains to the southwest towards the Pacific ocean and from the east of the cordillera to the valleys it follows south through Colorado River towards Carmen de Patagones in the Atlantic Ocean...

  • Luma
    Luma (plant)
    Luma is a genus of two species of plants in the myrtle family Myrtaceae, native to the Valdivian temperate rain forests of southwestern South America. They are shrubs or small trees with evergreen foliage and smooth red or orange bark, typically reaching 10–20 m tall and up to 1 m trunk diameter...

    - a genus of the Myrtaceae
    The Myrtaceae or Myrtle family are a family of dicotyledon plants, placed within the order Myrtales. Myrtle, clove, guava, feijoa, allspice, and eucalyptus belong here. All species are woody, with essential oils, and flower parts in multiples of four or five...

     plant family. Also, a police baton.
  • Pichintún - a small amount or very little.
  • Yeco

Quechua loanwords

The Quechua language is probably the Amerindian language that has given Chilean Spanish the largest number of loan words. For example, the names of many American vegetables in Chilean Spanish are derived from Quechuan names, rather than from Nahuatl or Taíno
Taíno language
Taíno, an Arawakan language, was the principal language of the Caribbean islands at the time of the Spanish Conquest, including the Bahamas, Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, the Florida Keys, and the Lesser Antilles...

 as in Standard Spanish. Some of the words of Quechuan origin include:
  • Callampa - "mushroom" (seta in Spaniard Spanish)
  • Cancha - field, pitch, slope (ski), runway (aviation), running track, court (tennis, basketball)
  • Chacra - a small farm
  • Chala - "sandal" (sandalia in Standard Spanish)
  • Chasca - "tassle" can also be diminutized to "Chasquilla" which means bangs (of hair)
  • China - a female servant in a hacienda
    Hacienda is a Spanish word for an estate. Some haciendas were plantations, mines, or even business factories. Many haciendas combined these productive activities...

     or fundo
  • Choclo - "maize/corn" (maíz in Standard Spanish)
  • Chúcaro - "spirited/wild" used traditionally by Huasos to refer to a horse
  • Chupalla
    The chupalla is a traditional Chilean horseman's hat made of straw. Many people in rural areas of Central Chile use it as well. In addition, it is often used when dancing the cueca and during Chilean rodeos....

    - a type of hat
  • Chupe
    Chupe is a generic term used in South America to a variety of stew generally made with chicken, red meat, lamb or beef tripe and other offal, or with fish, shrimp, crayfish or shellfish such as loco, and vegetables, potatoes or yuca...

    - "soup/chowder"
  • Cocaví - "snack/lunch" or "picnic" (from coca
    Coca, Erythroxylum coca, is a plant in the family Erythroxylaceae, native to western South America. The plant plays a significant role in many traditional Andean cultures...

  • Cochayuyo
    Durvillaea antarctica
    Durvillaea antarctica is a large, robust bull kelp species and the dominant seaweed in southern New Zealand and Chile. D. antarctica has a circumpolar distribution between the latitudes of 29°S and 55°S . It is found on exposed shores, especially in the northern parts of its range, and attaches...

    - a type of algae
    Algae are a large and diverse group of simple, typically autotrophic organisms, ranging from unicellular to multicellular forms, such as the giant kelps that grow to 65 meters in length. They are photosynthetic like plants, and "simple" because their tissues are not organized into the many...

  • Guagua - "baby" (bebé in Standard Spanish) pronounced like wahwah
  • Guanaco - a native camelid
    Camelids are members of the biological family Camelidae, the only living family in the suborder Tylopoda. Dromedaries, Bactrian Camels, llamas, alpacas, vicuñas, and guanacos are in this group....

  • Huacho - an orphan or illegitimate children. also used as an adjective meaning 'lone' or 'without a pair', as in a matchless sock.
  • Huaso
    A huaso is a Chilean countryman and skilled horseman, similar to the Argentinian, Rio Grande do Sul's or Uruguayan gaucho, the American cowboy, the Australian stockman, and Mexican vaquero and charro. A female huaso is called a huasa, although the term china is far more commonly used for his wife...

    - a country bumpkin or horseman
  • Huincha - a strip of wool or cotton or a tape measure
    Tape measure
    A tape measure or measuring tape is a flexible form of ruler. It consists of a ribbon of cloth, plastic, fiber glass, or metal strip with linear-measurement markings. It is a common measuring tool. Its flexibility allows for a measure of great length to be easily carried in pocket or toolkit and...

    . Also used for adhesive tape.
  • Humita
    Humita is a Native American dish from pre-Hispanic times, and a traditional food in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru. It consists of masa harina and corn, slowly cooked in oil....

    - an Andean dish similar to the Mexican Tamale
    A tamale — or more correctly tamal — is a traditional Latin American dish made of masa , which is steamed or boiled in a leaf wrapper. The wrapping is discarded before eating...

  • Locro
    Locro is a hearty thick stew popular along the Andes mountain range. The dish is a classic Ecuadorian cheese and potato soup from the Ecuadorian cuisine. This is also a dish in Peruvian cuisine, which at one point held the center of the Inca empire. It typical also in Argentina prepared by the...

    - an Andean stew
    A stew is a combination of solid food ingredients that have been cooked in liquid and served in the resultant gravy. Ingredients in a stew can include any combination of vegetables , meat, especially tougher meats suitable for slow-cooking, such as beef. Poultry, sausages, and seafood are also used...

  • Mate
    Mate (beverage)
    Mate , also known as chimarrão or cimarrón, is a traditional South American infused drink, particularly in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, southern states of Brazil, south of Chile, the Bolivian Chaco, and to some extent, Syria and Lebanon...

    - an infusion
    An infusion is the outcome of steeping plants with desired chemical compounds or flavors in water or oil.-History:The first recorded use of essential oils was in the 10th or 11th century by the Persian polymath Avicenna, possibly in The Canon of Medicine.-Preparation techniques:An infusion is very...

     made of yerba mate
    Yerba mate
    Maté, yerba maté or erva maté , Ilex paraguariensis, is a species of holly native to subtropical South America in northeastern Argentina, Bolivia, southern Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay...

  • Mote
    Mote con huesillo
    Mote con huesillo is a traditional Chilean summer-time drink, known as the “refreshing national drink.” It is a non-alcoholic beverage consisting of a sweet clear nectar like liquid made with dried peaches cooked in sugar,water and cinnamon, and then once cooled mixed with fresh cooked husked...

    - a type of dried wheat
  • Palta - "avocado" (aguacate in varieties of Spanish that derive the name from Nahuatl
    Nahuatl is thought to mean "a good, clear sound" This language name has several spellings, among them náhuatl , Naoatl, Nauatl, Nahuatl, Nawatl. In a back formation from the name of the language, the ethnic group of Nahuatl speakers are called Nahua...

  • Poroto - "bean" (judía/alubia in Spaniard Spanish and frijol and México and Central America)
  • Yapa - lagniappe
    A lagniappe is a small gift given to a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase , or more broadly, "something given or obtained gratuitously or by way of good measure." The word is chiefly used in the Gulf Coast of the United States, but the concept is practiced in many countries where...

  • Zapallo - "squash/pumpkin" (calabaza in Spaniard Spanish)


An example of a text in normal, carefully spoken Latin American Spanish and the same text with relaxed pronunciation in informal Chilean Spanish:
Text ¡Cómo corrieron los chilenos Salas y Zamorano! Pelearon como leones. Chocaron una y otra vez contra la defensa azul. ¡Qué gentío llenaba el estadio! En verdad fue una jornada inolvidable. Ajustado cabezazo de Salas y ¡gol! Al celebrar [Salas] resbaló y se rasgó la camiseta.
("Standard" Latin American Spanish)
[ˈkomo koˈrjeɾon los tʃiˈlenos ˈsalas i samoˈɾano
(Chilean Spanish)
[ˈkoːmo kɔˈɹjeːɾon̪ lɔh ʃiˈleːn̪o ˈsaːla‿i samoˈɾaːn̪o
Translation "How those Chileans Salas
Marcelo Salas
José Marcelo Salas Melinao , better known as El Matador, Shileno or simply Marcelo Salas, is a former football player from Chile. He, along with world cup veterans, 3 time Best Player of America Elías Figueroa and former Real Madrid and Inter Milan forward Iván Zamorano, has been one of Chile's...

 and Zamorano
Iván Zamorano
Iván Luis Zamorano Zamora is a retired Chilean football striker. Along with former world-class forward Marcelo Salas and former world player of the year Elias Figueroa he is regarded as one of Chile's most recognized footballers.He was a member of the Chilean national team and played in the 1998...

 ran! They fought like lions. They beat again and again against the blues'
Italy national football team
The Italy National Football Team , represents Italy in association football and is controlled by the Italian Football Federation , the governing body for football in Italy. Italy is the second most successful national team in the history of the World Cup having won four titles , just one fewer than...

 defense. What a crowd filled the stadium! In truth it was an unforgettable day. A tight header from Salas and... goal! Celebrating, Salas slid and ripped his shirt."

See also

  • Chile
    Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

  • Languages of Chile
    Languages of Chile
    The Republic of Chile is an overwhelmingly Spanish-speaking country, with the exceptions of isolated native and immigrant communities. According to Ethnologue, Chile has nine living languages and seven extinct.-Spanish:...

  • Spanish language
    Spanish language
    Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

  • Spanish dialects and varieties
    Spanish dialects and varieties
    Spanish dialects and varieties are the regional variants of the Spanish language, some of which are quite divergent from one another, especially in pronunciation and vocabulary, and less so in grammar....

  • Bello orthography
    Bello orthography
    The Bello orthography or Chilean orthography was a Spanish-language orthography created by the Venezuelan linguist Andrés Bello and Juan García del Río, published in 1823. Part of the orthography was used officially for a time in Chile, and it influenced other Spanish-speaking countries. The aim of...

  • The first-person narrative novel Tomáh Errázurih
    Tomáh Errázurih
    Tomáh Errázurih is a highly idiosyncratic, experimental Spanish language novel written by the American writer and filmmaker Gonzalo Lira....

    , an example of Chilean Spanish.

External links

Diccionario de Modismos Chilenos - Comprehensive "Dictionary of Chilean Terms".
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