Let me first emphasize that it's important to learn proper Spanish before slang words. However, both are important to know in order to understand the local lingo and be understood. And at the end of the day, it's fun too!
There are so many fun Panamanian slang words, it's hard to know where to begin. I'll split it up into "difficulty" or "usage" levels, since for some slang terms, speakers should really have a good grasp of Spanish before making their own sentences with certain slang words.
LEVEL 1 - Beginner's Slang
- ¡Jo¡ (ho): Used to express surprise, exaggeration, or admiration, depending on the tone. Shortened version of "Carajo!" Like the English "Damn!"
- Chicha (CHI-cha): Fruit juice, either made from natural fruits (watered down and with sugar) or from a powder (like Kool-Aid).
- Chichi (chi-CHI): Baby
- Cocobolo (co-co-BOL-oh): Bald-headed man, or person with no hair.
- Diablo Rojo (di-AHB-lo ROW-ho): Literally "red devil." Old school buses now used for public transportation in Panama City. They are painted in colorful murals and usually have all sorts of decorations inside using feather boas, colorful tape, and big speakers that blast popular music.
- El Chino (el CHI-no): Literally "the Chinaman." The typical corner store that sells basic goods and needs, mainly food. Panama has a large Chinese and Asian population stemming from when the Chinese were brought over to build the railroad at the turn of the 20th century. The majority of corner stores are run by the Chinese now. In Panama it's not considered racist to refer to someone by their race or skin color.
- Maleante (mal-eh-AHN-tay): Bad person, either a gang member, criminal, etc.
- Palo (PAL-oh): Literally "stick." One dollar bill, English "a buck" or "a dollar". Or a tree.
- Respao (res-POW): Literally raspado is "scraped". Snow cone sold on the street in large cities in Panama. Made with shaved ice, colorful syrups (sometimes from natural fruit), and sweetened condensed milk.
- Yeye (YAY-yay): Used to describe people or things that are considered of the wealthy or flashy, preppy. Posh.
LEVEL 2 - Intermediate Slang
- Demencia (deh-MEN-sia): Adjective used to describe something really awesome. "¡Qué demencia ese concierto!". Or that everything went crazy and wild.
- Chata (CHA-ta): Adjective to describe someone who doesn’t have much of a butt.
- En panga (in PAHN-ga): Phrase to describe something that is uncool, messed up. It comes from the fact that "panga" means small boat, so "pangas" are usually left behind by the larger boats, or more popular trends. "Eso está en panga." (That's lame.)
- Meto (MET-oh): Interjection used by Chiricanos (those who are from the province of Chiriqui) which can convey many different meanings such as surprise, anger, digust or can just be used to signify you are from Chiriqui.
- Ponchera (pon-CHAIR-ah): A noun usually used for a really cool party or event. "Hubo una tremenda ponchera en la discoteca anoche!" (There was an amazing party at the club last night!)
- ¡'Tas loco! (tas LO-co): Shortened form of "Estás loco" Also used as "'ta loco." Meaning "wow" in English or "get out of town!" It can also just mean you're crazy (literal meaning).
- Yeyooo (YAY-yo): Greeting among Panamanian youth. Means that everything is cool.
- 'Toy (toy): Shortened form of "estoy" (I am). Can also mean, "I'm in!"
- Eso ni es (ES-oh nee es): When something is just not right, either because it's super uncool or something just shouldn’t be. "Man, eso NI ES." (with the emphasis on "ni es.")
- Echar un cinco (ETCH-ar uhn SINK-oh): Sleep for a little while. Basically "Take five (minutes)." It can also mean "let's fist-fight" but just a little bit... not as seriously.
LEVEL 3 - Advanced Slang
- O sea (oh-SAY-ah): Used to express disgust and typically with a roll of the eyes. Like "I mean..." when expressing an opinion of disgust.
- Refine (ray-FEEN-eih): A meal, or the verb form is "refinar" (to eat).
- Sacar la chucha (SACK-ar la CHEW-cha): Means be beat up or to be beaten up, or tired out. "Te voy a sacar la chucha!" (I’m going to kick the living daylights out of you!) Or "Ese juego me sacó la chucha." (That game tired me out.)
- Pilla (PEE-ya): Comes from the verb "pillar" meaning "to look," but also means "gotcha." "Pilla esto" (Look at this) or "Te pillé" (I gotcha).
- Verguero (ver-GAER-o): A very big problem or a bad situation.
- Babylon (BAB-ee-lon): Another word for the police.
- 'Tas pescando (tas pes-CAHN-doh): Literally "You are fishing." A phrase to refer to someone who is going out to flirt or hit on someone.
- Por fuera / pa'lante (por FUER-ah / pa-LAN-tay): Phrases to mean "I'm leaving." "Voy por fuera" or "Voy pa'lante."
- Palanquear (pa-LAN-kay-ar): A verb that is used whenever someone uses their influence to help another person get a job or pick up a member of the opposite sex.
- Mili (MIL-ee): A noun meaning to not give a damn, with disregard to authority, odds, or common sense. "Dale mili." (Do it anyway)
- Breham (BRI-am) - reversal of "hambre" meaning hungry
- Is (iss) - reversal of "sí" meaning yes
- Llesca (JES-ca) - reversal of "calle" meaning street
- Mopri (MO-pri) - reversal of "primo" meaning cousin. Also used for close friends, not necessarily related by family.
Words derived from English:
- Badbuay (bad-BUAY) - "bad boy" derived from Jamaican English
- Chaineado (chain-ee-AH-doh) - "shiny," dressed up
- Chilin (CHIL-in) - "chilling," hanging out
- Cuara (CUA-rah) - "quarter," the $0.25 coin
- Guachiman (wa-chi-MAN) - "watchman," security guard
- Gufi (GOO-fee) - "goofy," crazy person
- Guial (GUI-al)- "girl/gal," derived from Jamaican English
- De la hai (day la high) - "from the high [place]," from a sophisticated place (wealthy people)
- Pai (pie) - "pie" meaning "beautiful girl or boy"
- Sin Suan (seen swan) - "swing swang," a playground swing
- Tripear (TRIP-ee-ar) - "trippin'," to enjoy
Mary Beth Strawn