How to Sound like a Local in Peru

Quick Answer

Planning a trip to Perú? Don’t be surprised if, on your trip, you hear a sentence like this one:

Ayer mi jerma dejó su chompa en el bus.

Scratching your head over what this sentence means? If you are, it may be because this sentence is full of jerga peruanaor Peruvian slang. Not to worry, though. In this article we’ll introduce you to some key words and phrases that will help you blend in with the locals once you arrive.

Vinicuna, Peru

Palta - Avocado

Peru is well known for its luscious avocado trees that can bear aguacates, or avocados, the size of your foot! That said, if you use the word aguacates with the locals of Lima or Cuzco, they’ll be quick to correct you. That’s because Peruvians use the word paltainstead of aguacate when referring to an avocado.

Cuando vivía en Perú, desayunaba palta con pan y sal todos los días.
When I lived in Peru, I ate avocado with bread and salt for breakfast every day.

¡A su! - Woah!

You’re likely to hear someone scream ¡A su!after burning their hand on the stove or being startled by someone creeping up on them. If you suspected that ¡A su! is actually a shortening of A su madre, literally to your mother, you’d be right. However, whereas this may have some negative connotations elsewhere in the Spanish-speaking world, in Peru it is simply used as an exclamation of surprise or pain.

¡A su! No te oí subir las escaleras.
Woah! I didn’t hear you come up the stairs.

Al toque - Right away

When Peruvians use the adverbial phrase al toque, they mean they want something done right away. Keep this useful phrase in your back pocket if you are feeling apurado(rushed) and need to get a number of tasks done immediately.

¡Está lloviendo! Entra la ropa al toque.
It’s starting to rain! Bring the clothes inside right away.

Luca - One Peruvian Nuevo Sol

If you travel to Peru, you’ll have to cambiar de divisas(exchange your currency) to the official Peruvian currency. Peru uses the Nuevo Solas their currency, and they typically refer to one Peruvian Nuevo Sol as una luca. If you come from the United States, Peruvians are likely to say that they’re trading soles for cocos, their colloquial term for the United States dollar.

Quiero contribuir a la chancha, pero dejé mi cartera en casa y no tengo ni una luca.
I want to help pay, but I left my wallet at home and I don't have one Sol on me.

Hacer una chancha - To pool money together

You’re likely to hear this phrase upon going out to dinner with friends after someone asks for la cuenta, the bill. In Peru, una chanchais a collection of money among peers, and hacer una chanchais to pool that money together to pay for something collectively.

Andrés, ya estamos haciendo una chancha para el viaje de camping y tú debes 100 soles.
Andres, we’re pooling money together for the camping trip and you owe 100 soles.

Qué roche - What a shame

In Peru, rocheis the same thing as verguenza, or shame. Likewise, a common phrase that Peruvians use to show their pity or sympathy is the phrase, qué roche, which means what a shame.

Llegaron atrasados al aeropuerto y perdieron su vuelo. ¡Qué roche!
They got to the airport late and missed their flight. What a shame!

Chompa - Sweater

The word chompais used all over the Andes region of South America to refer to a sweater or jacket one would put on to keep warm in the mountains. Depending upon what Andean country you visit, your chompa can appear in many different shapes and sizes. If you venture into the mountains of Peru, make sure you buy one made of lana de alpaca, or alpaca fur, since they are super warm and soft and typically offered at a cheap price from the local market.

Solo hace falta llevar tu chompa y algo para picar para la caminata.
You only need to bring your sweater and something to snack on for the hike.

Tombo - Cop

Now when your amigo limeño(friend from Lima) uses the word los tombos, you’ll know that she or he is talking about the cops. Tombo is a colloquial name that Peruvians use for a police officer, but also keep in mind that they also use the standard word policía.

El tombo me detuvo y me pidió identificación.
The cop stopped me and asked for ID.

Tono - Party

When you hear your Peruvian friends start talking of un tonohappening down the street, get ready to party. Tono is Peruvian Spanish for a party in English, and, just as with rumbaand rumbearin Colombia, Peruvians can change this noun into the verb tonear, which means to party. In addition, if you hear the word tonazo, prepare to be out dancing all night; that’s the Peruvians’ way of graduating tono into another noun that means a huge party.

Anoche Rocío nos llevó a un tono en una fábrica abandonada en Barranco.
Last night Rocío took us to a party at an abandoned factory in Barranco.

Jerma - Woman, Girlfriend, Wife

The word jermacan take many meanings for Peruvians. Often they’ll use it to refer to someone’s female spouse, such as one’s wife or girlfriend. In other contexts, it can be simply used to mean woman or girl. It is said that this word was created by inverting the syllables in the word mujer(woman in English).

Luisa nos presentó a su jerma en la reunión familiar.
Luisa introduced us to her girlfriend at the family reunion.

machu picchu

¡Haz tus maletas!(Pack you bags!) You’re ready to explore Lima, Cuscoand Arequipa!