Home Fun Random Costeñol – Learning the Loco Lingo from Colombia’s Northern Coast

Costeñol – Learning the Loco Lingo from Colombia’s Northern Coast

A man tries to be understood..
A man tries to be understood..

¿Pa’ qué Costeñol?

One of the first things foreign Spanish speakers encounter when they arrive to Barranquilla is the regional dialect known colloquially and affectionately as Costeñol (a Spanish portmanteau made from Costeño and Español).  Today we will look at the meanings behind some of the fun and eccentric jargon from this region.

First Things First

Costeños (or people from the the coast) talk fast, really fast.  Even other Colombians can’t understand Costeños sometimes so don’t worry if you can’t understand everything right away.  I had lived in Bogotá for one and a half years before I arrived to Barranquilla.  I thought that I had a pretty good handle on Spanish but found myself questioning my language skills during my adjustment period.

Ajá, Ajá, Ajá

The second thing most people notice about Costeñol is that Costeños say “ajá” a lot.  “Ajá” is usually equivalent to “yeah” in English, but combined with other words it seems to have other meanings.

“Y ajá” can mean “so,” especially at the beginning of a sentence. For example:

“¿Y ajá, vas a acabar el aguardiente?” means “So, are you going to finish the aguardiente?”

Another variation, “Pero ajá,” means something like “but oh well” or “but what can I do?”  For example:

Quiero ir al centro para comprar ropa pirata pero ajá, no puedo por los arroyos. = I want to to go downtown to buy knockoff clothes but oh well, I can’t because of the flooded streets.

¡No Joda!  Juan Ate all the Butifarra Again?

We can’t talk about Costeñol without mentioning “¡No joda!” (often pronounced together as “¡NoJoda!”).  “¡No joda!” is an expression of surprise and you can use it in both positive and negative situations.  It would best translate to English as “no way!” but it is a little more vulgar.  Costeños frequently say it together with “Eche” (also an expression of surprise) as in “¡Eche, No Joda!”

Ok the Transmetro is Here, Nos Pillamos

Soon after I arrived to Barranquilla, I got a lesson from some new friends in Costeñol and the lesson on “nos pillamos” was the one that convinced me that Costeños are locos.  “Nos pillamos” translates best as “catch you later” in English.  This in itself isn’t that strange and the shorter variation “nospi” isn’t really either.  The fact that “nospi” morphed into “Noxpirin,” a headache and cold medicine in Colombia, made me really question the sanity of the Costeños.  If saying bye with the name of a cold medicine weren’t enough, some people decided to go one step further and say “Noxpirin Junior,” the kids version of the drug, to part ways with their friends.  So next time you want to say goodbye, try saying “Noxpirin Junior” and see what people say.

She’s Bollo, but too Pupy

As in every language Costeñol has myriad slang words to describe a person’s looks or personality.  If you see a really attractive girl or guy you can call her or him “bollo,” but you might be turned off if you find out that she or he is too “pupy.”  “Pupy” is someone that requires only the most expensive things in life and not very down to earth.  On the other hand if someone is “corroncho” they probably aren’t very educated and don’t take good care of themselves.  You can call a handsome guy “pinta” or a girl with a shapely behind “nalgona,” “culona,” or “cantúa.”  But be careful, their aesthetic assets might have made them “bollón” which translates to “arrogant” or “stuck up.”

¿Qué Más?

Some other interesting Costeñol words and phrases include:

Mamar gallo – 1. Pull someone’s leg, joke around  2. Hang out doing nothing

Camellar – Work hard

Motilarse – Get a haircut

Trinche – a fork

Abanico – an electric fan

Tener filo – Be hungry

Martillar – Make out with someone

Chicharrón – A difficult situation

Please remember although I have found you can get away with saying almost everything here being a foreigner and most will have a good laugh, some of these words in this article are not appropriate for every situation and some are considered vulgar.  For an almost complete list of words in Costeñol and their meanings in Spanish you can visit this forum.  Warning some words are very vulgar and/or inappropriate in many social settings.



  1. What an amazing topic! I’ve been to Barranquilla a couple times already but I wish I had this then!! I’ll be back in July – I’m going to study up!


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