Colombian Expressions: No Dar Papaya
Colombia Spanish

Let’s Speak Spanish: Colombian Expressions

July 26, 2018

If you’re traveling to Colombia, you may be wondering, What’s Spanish in Colombia like?

Colombian Spanish is not too different from the Spanish in other parts of Latin America or even Spain. However, the country has a rich diversity of dialects, ranging from the costeño dialect near the northern Caribbean coast, the paisa dialect in Antioquia (Medellín), to the rolo dialect around Bogotá. I personally was surprised to learn that certain parts of Colombia speak Spanish similar to what you’d hear in Argentina, with the use of vos and the distinct pronunciation of words with the double “l.” Pro tip: “Medellín” is pronounced with a “j” sound, like “Mede-gene“!

While Colombia has no standard dialect, you’ll probably hear the same set of expressions throughout the country. Some of these expressions truly reflect the hospitality of the Colombian people.

Colombian Expressions


Means “intelligent” or “ready,” but people in Colombia say listo to mean “okay” or “sure.”


Means “okay” or “sure.” I heard this word used a lot in Spain, so I was a little surprised to hear it in Colombia, too.

a la orden

Translates to “at your service,” which you’ll often hear when you walk into a shop or restaurant.

con gusto

The Colombian way of saying de nada, or “you’re welcome.” You’ll probably hear this phrase after thanking someone for their service.


A slang word that means “friend,” “buddy,” or “bro,” typically used in Medellín.


The Colombian word for “party”!

no dar papaya

Literally translates to “don’t give papaya.” It means don’t let yourself be taken advantage of. Keep your valuables hidden and close to you. Don’t walk down dark streets by yourself at night.

pico y plata

Literally translates to “peak and plate.” It refers to the driving restriction policy that allows traffic access only to vehicles with certain license plate numbers during certain days and hours. You might hear your Uber driver use this phrase, perhaps expressing some frustration with the system.

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