Of all the many Colombian slang terms explained on this blog, one of the trickier terms to get your head round is “berraco” (sometimes also spelt “verraco”). It is extremely easy to get confused with this one.
Technically, a “berraco” is a sort of pig, but if you hear this word in Colombia, it is almost certainly not being used to refer to the animal. But it is not always an easy matter to figure out what the word is being used to mean.
A Colombian could quite feasibly say “berraco” (or one its variants like berraquera, emberracarse or berracamente) in five consecutive sentences to mean five entirely different things. Trying to decipher these as a language learner is a sure fire way to get yourself confused. And fast.
To save you some of these headaches, I’ve produced a quick gringo survival guide to the most common contexts in which the word is heard. At least now you’ll have a fighting chance of understanding what is being said.
When talking about people, “ser berraco” is a high complimentary way to describe someone intelligent or exceptionally able. There is little better way to congratulate a Colombian on achieving something very difficult than saying: “¡Usted sí es un berraco!”. This is perhaps the equivalent of the English phrases: “Wow, you’re a genius!” or “You’re a total legend!” etc.
The personal quality which has led them to achieve such lofty heights may separately be referred to as “berraquera”. In this context, the phrase “¡Qué berraquera!” means something akin to “How amazingly clever of you!”.
Off to Colombia?
Well, you better not leave without first signing up for my FREE email course to the best of Colombia's Spanish and slang.
Learn all the coolest lingo that you'll need to have fun with locals, but which the textbooks will never teach you.
In other circumstances, describing someone as “berraco” can mean not that they are clever but that they are angry. This would be the case when the term is preceded by the verb “estar”.
So, the meaning of “Él está bien berraco hoy” would be something like “He’s really angry / in a foul mood today” (not “He is exceptionally able today”). In this same line, the verb “emberracarse” is a way of saying “to get angry”, while “estar emberracado/a” means “to be angry”.
When applied not to people, but instead to situations and tasks, “berraco” means “very difficult”. For example, “Uy esto está muy berraco hermano” is a way to say “Jesus man, this is really tough!”. Another popular phrase meaning roughly the same thing is “¡Qué cosa tan berraca!” (“What a difficult / tricky thing”).
For (Large) Quantities
Another use of “berraco”, and “berracamente”, is as synonyms for “a great deal” or “a large amount”. For example, a sign over a little shop might read: “Berracamente orgulloso de ser colombiano” (“Incredibly proud to be Colombian”). Alternatively, a friend preparing for an exam might say: “Me toca leer como un berraco” (“I’ve got to read an absolute ton”).
In this same vein, the uniquely Colombian idiomatic phrase “…más que un berraco” means “a great deal”, as in “Él estaba gritando más que un berraco” (“He was shouting a hell of a lot”). Finally, “ni por el berraco” means “(absolutely) no way” e.g. “¡Ni por el berraco voy a ir allá!” (“No way in hell I’m going there!”).
Given the numerous different meanings of this term, you will no doubt see why it is one of Colombian Spanish’s hardest terms (and this list is by no means exhaustive). Hearing it used frequently in context is probably the only way to understand its true versatility.
Become a Colombian Spanish Superhero!
Gain the superpowers of charm and charisma when speaking Spanish.
Sign up for the Colombian Spanish video course today to transform your language skills from ordinary to extraordinary.
English Words That Colombians Love
Speaking natural-sounding Spanish is all about learning how to use the exact same words that locals do, in the exact same contexts. Your teacher or textbook might tell you the correct way to speak, but on the streets of Bogota or Cali, many of these phrases just won’t cut it. Rather than obsessing over how to say things in a technically perfect way, my advice would be to embrace the local variations and imitate them as far as possible.
Colombian Slang Basics #4: Parche
Today’s slang word is “parche”; a term the dictionary would have you believe just means “patch”. In Colombia, it has an altogether more useful meaning too. While no exact English translation exists for Colombians slang use of “parche”, it roughly means: “a group of friends getting together to do something”.