Chilean Spanish
español chileno
Pronunciation[kasteˈʝano tʃiˈleno]
Native toChile
Native speakers
17.4 million (2015)[1]
Latin (Spanish alphabet)
Official status
Official language in
 Chile (de facto)
Regulated byAcademia Chilena de la Lengua
Language codes
ISO 639-3
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Primary dialects of Spanish

Chilean Spanish (Spanish: español chileno[2] or castellano chileno) is any of several varieties of the Spanish language spoken in most of Chile. Chilean Spanish dialects have distinctive pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, and slang usages that differ from those of Standard Spanish.[3] Formal Spanish in Chile has recently incorporated an increasing number of colloquial elements.[4]

The Royal Spanish Academy recognizes 2,214 words and idioms exclusively or mainly produced in Chilean Spanish, in addition to many still unrecognized slang expressions.[5]

Alongside Honduran Spanish, Chilean Spanish has been identified by various linguists as one of the two most divergent varieties.[4]

Variation and accents

See also: Chilote Spanish and Cuyano Spanish

In Chile, there are not many differences between the Spanish spoken in the northern, central and southern areas of the country,[6] although there are notable differences in zones of the far south—such as Aysén, Magallanes (mainly along the border with Argentina), and Chiloé—and in Arica in the extreme north. There is, however, much variation in the Spanish spoken by different social classes; this is a prevalent reality in Chile given the presence of stark wealth inequality.[7] In rural areas from Santiago to Valdivia, Chilean Spanish shows the historical influence of the Castúo dialects of Extremadura (Spain),[8][9] but some authors point to the Spanish province of Andalusia and more specifically to the city of Seville as an even greater influence on the historical development of Chilean Spanish. In general, the intonation of Chilean Spanish is recognized in the Spanish-speaking world for being one of the fastest-spoken accents among Spanish dialects and with tones that rise and fall in its speech, especially in Santiago and its surroundings; such intonation may be less strong in certain areas of the north of the country and more pronounced in southern areas. It is also not uncommon that other Spanish speakers, native and otherwise, have more difficulty understanding Chilean Spanish speakers than other accents.

As result of past German immigration, there are a few German influences in the vocabulary, accent, and pronunciation of southern Chile.[10] Speakers of Chilean Spanish who also speak German or Mapudungun tend to use more impersonal pronouns (see also: Alemañol).[11] Dialects of southern Chile (Valdivia/Temuco to Chiloé) are considered to have a melodic intonation (cantadito) relative to the speech in Santiago.[12] A survey among inhabitants of Santiago also shows that people in the capital consider southern Chilean Spanish to be variously affected by Mapudungun, have poor pronunciation, be of rural character and, in the case of Chiloé, to be rich in archaisms.[12] The same study does also show a perception that the speech of northern Chile is influenced by the Spanish spoken in Peru and Bolivia.[12]

Chile is part of a region of South America known as the Southern Cone (Spanish: Cono Sur; Portuguese: Cone Sul). The region consists of Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay; sometimes it also includes Paraguay and some regions of Brazil (Paraná, Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, and São Paulo). The vocabulary across the region is similar for Spanish speakers, and in some cases it's also shared by the Portuguese speakers in the Southern Cone parts of Brazil.

The Chilean Spanish dialect of Easter Island, most especially the accent, is influenced by Rapa Nui language.[citation needed]


There are a number of phonetic features common to most Chilean accents, but none of them is individually unique to Chilean Spanish.[13] Rather, it is the particular combination of features that sets Chilean Spanish apart from other regional Spanish dialects.[14] The features include the following:[15][16]

Syntax and grammar

Pronouns and verbs

Chileans use the voseo and tuteo forms for the intimate second-person singular. Voseo is common in Chile, with both pronominal and verbal voseo being widely used in the spoken language.

In Chile there are at least four grades of formality:

The Chilean voseo conjugation has only three irregular verbs in the present indicative: ser 'to be', ir 'to go', and haber 'to have' (auxiliary).


A comparison of the conjugation of the Chilean voseo, the voseo used in Latin American countries other than Chile, and tuteo follows:

Form Indicative Subjunctive
Present Imperfect Conditional Present Imperfect
Voseo (Chile)[24] caminái
Voseo (general) caminás
Tuteo caminas

* Rioplatense Spanish prefers the tuteo verb forms.[25]

Chilean voseo has two different future tense conjugations: one in -ís, as in bailarís, and one in -ái, as in bailarái 'you will dance'. These come from two different underlying representations, one ending in /-es/, and the other ending in /-as/. The /-es/ representation corresponds to a historical future tense form ending in -és, as in estarés. Such a historical conjugation existed in Spain in the 15th and 16th centuries, alongside the -ás endings, and was recorded in Chile in the 17th century. All this said, the simple future tense is not actually used that often in Chile. Instead, the periphrastic future construction (i.e. vai a (va a in standard Spanish)...) is more common.[24]


In Chile, there are various ways to say 'you are' to one person.[24]

Only the last two are considered Standard Spanish. Usage depends on politeness, social relationships, formality, and education. The ending (s) in those forms is aspirated or omitted.

The form erei is also occasionally found. It apparently derives from the underlying form /eres/, with the final /s/ becoming a semivowel /j/, as happens in other voseo conjugations. The more common forms soi and erís are likewise derived from the underlying representations /sos/ and /eres/.[24]


The auxiliary verb haber, most often used to form existential statements and compound tenses, has two different present indicative forms with vos in Chile: hai and habís.[24]


Ir, 'to go', can be conjugated as vai with vos in the present tense in Chile.[24]


Chilean Spanish has a great deal of distinctive slang and vocabulary. Some examples of distinctive Chilean slang include al tiro (right away), gallo/a (guy/gal), fome (boring), pololear (to go out as girlfriend/boyfriend), pololo/polola (boyfriend/girlfriend),[26] pelambre (gossip), pito (marijuana cigarette i.e. joint) poto (buttocks),[27] quiltro (mutt) and chomba (knitted sweater)[26] wea [ we.'a] (thing; can be used for an object or situation). Another popular Chilean Spanish slang expression is poh, also spelled po', which is a term of emphasis of an idea, this is a monophthongized and aspirated form of pues. In addition, several words in Chilean Spanish are borrowed from neighboring Amerindian languages.

Argentine and Rioplatense influence

In Chilean Spanish there is lexical influence from Argentine dialects, which suggests a covert prestige.[28] Lexical influences cut across the different social strata of Chile. Argentine summer tourism in Chile and Chilean tourism in Argentina provide a channel for influence on the speech of the middle and upper classes.[28] The majority of the population receive Argentine influence by watching Argentine programs on broadcast television, especially football on cable television[28] and music such as cumbia villera on the radio as well.[28] Chilean newspaper La Cuarta regularly employs slang words and expressions that originated in the lunfardo slang of the Buenos Aires region. Usually Chileans do not recognize the Argentine borrowings as such, claiming they are Chilean terms and expressions due to the long time since they were incorporated.[28] The relation between Argentine dialects and Chilean Spanish is one of asymmetric permeability, with Chilean Spanish adopting sayings from Argentine variants but usually not the reverse.[28] Lunfardo is an argot of the Spanish language that originated in the late 19th century among the lower classes of Buenos Aires and Montevideo that influenced "Coa", an argot common among criminals in Chile, and later colloquial Chilean Spanish.

Argentine slang loanwords[29][30]

Mapudungun loanwords

The Mapudungun language has left a relatively small number of words in Chilean Spanish, given its large geographic expanse. Many Mapudungun loans are names for plants, animals, and places. For example:[31][32][33]

Quechua loanwords

The Quechua language is probably the Amerindian language that has given Chilean Spanish the largest number of loanwords. For example, the names of many American vegetables in Chilean Spanish are derived from Quechua names, rather than from Nahuatl or Taíno as in Standard Spanish. Some of the words of Quechua origin include:[31]

French, German and English loanwords

There are some expressions of non-Hispanic European origin such as British, German or French. They came with the arrival of the European immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries. There is also a certain influence from the mass media.


Here is sample of a normal text in carefully spoken Latin American Spanish and the same text with a very relaxed pronunciation in informal lower-class Chilean Spanish:[39]

Text ¡Cómo corrieron los chilenos Salas y Zamorano! Pelearon como leones. Chocaron una y otra vez contra la defensa azul. ¡Qué gentío llenaba el estadio! En verdad fue una jornada inolvidable. Ajustado cabezazo de Salas y ¡gol! Al celebrar [Salas] resbaló y se rasgó la camiseta.
("Standard" Latin American Spanish)
[ˈkomo koˈrjeɾon los tʃiˈleno(s) ˈsalas i samoˈɾano | peleˈaɾoŋ ˈkomo leˈones | tʃoˈkaɾon ˈuna j ˈotɾa ˈβes ˈkontɾa la ðeˈfens(a) aˈsul | ˈke xenˈtio ʝeˈnaβa e̯l esˈtaðjo | em beɾˈðað ˈfwe wna xoɾˈnaða jnolβiˈðaβle | axusˈtaðo kaβeˈsaso ðe ˈsalas i ˈɣol | al seleˈβɾaɾ ezβaˈlo j se razˈɣo la kamiˈseta]
(Chilean Spanish)
[ˈkomo koˈrjeɾon loh ʃiˈleno ˈsala j samoˈɾano | peˈljaɾoŋ komo ˈljoneh | ʃoˈkaɾon ˈuna j ˈotɹ̝̊a ˈʋeh kontɹ̝̊a la̯ eˈfens aˈsul | ˈce çenˈtio ʝeˈna e̯l ehˈtaðjo | veɹˈða ˈfwe wna xonˈna jnolʋiˈawle | axuhˈtao kaʋeˈsaso ˈsala j ˈɣol | al seleˈvɾa ɹ̝efaˈlo j se ɹ̝aˈxo la kamiˈseta]
Translation "How those Chileans Salas and Zamorano ran! They fought like lions. They beat again and again against the blues' defense. What a crowd filled the stadium! In truth it was an unforgettable day. A tight header from Salas and... goal! Celebrating, Salas slid and ripped his shirt."

See also


  1. ^ "Chile".
  2. ^ "Sudamérica prefiere el término «castellano» y Centroamérica el de «español»" (in Spanish). 6 August 2007. Retrieved 8 July 2023.
  3. ^ Miguel Ángel Bastenier, "Neologismos y barbarismos en el español de dos océanos", El País, 19 July 2014, retrieved 20 July 2014. "...el chileno es un producto genuino e inimitable por el resto del universo lingüístico del español."
  4. ^ a b Alemany, Luis (30 November 2021). "El español de Chile: la gran olla a presión del idioma". El Mundo (in Spanish). Retrieved 1 June 2022.
  5. ^ "Nuevo diccionario ejemplificado de chilenismos y de otros usos diferenciales del español de Chile. Tomos I, II y III | Universidad de Playa Ancha Sello Editorial Puntángeles" (in Spanish). Retrieved 2 July 2020.
  6. ^ a b Canfield (1981:31)
  7. ^ CLASES SOCIALES, LENGUAJE Y SOCIALIZACION Basil Bernstein, retrieved June 25, 2013
  8. ^ "CHILE - Vozdemitierra" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 9 February 2013. Retrieved 17 February 2013.
  9. ^ "Extremadura en América - Diez mil extremeños - Biblioteca Virtual Extremeña". Archived from the original on 22 October 2013. Retrieved 17 February 2013.
  10. ^ Wagner, Claudio (2000). "Las áreas de "bocha", "polca" y "murra". Contacto de lenguas en el sur de Chile". Revista de Dialectología y Tradiciones Populares (in Spanish). LV (1): 185–196. doi:10.3989/rdtp.2000.v55.i1.432.
  11. ^ Hurtado Cubillos, Luz Marcela (2009). "La expresión de impersonalidad en el español de Chile". Cuadernos de lingüística hispánica (in Spanish). 13: 31–42.
  12. ^ a b c "Percepción y valoración de variedades geográficas del español de Chile entre hispanohablantes santiaguinos" [Perception and valuation of geographical varieties of Chilean Spanish amongst Spanish-speaking subjects from Santiago de Chile]. Boletín de filología (in Spanish). XLVII (1): 137–163. 2012.
  13. ^ EL ESPAÑOL EN AMÉRICA cvc.cervantes.e - JESÚS SÁNCHEZ LOBATO - page 553-570
  14. ^ Language of Chile: Chileanismos, Castellano and indigenous roots Archived 2 April 2014 at the Wayback Machine - February 22, 2011, retrieved August 8, 2013
  15. ^ Lipski (1994: 199–201)
  16. ^ Sáez Godoy, Leopoldo. "El dialecto más austral del español: fonética del español de Chile". Unidad y divesidad del español, Congreso de Valladolid. Centro Virtual Cervantes. Retrieved 12 August 2007.
  17. ^ Oroz (1966:119)
  18. ^ Lipski (1994:199)
  19. ^ Lipski (1994:201)
  20. ^ "Feature descriptions". Voices of the Hispanic World. Ohio State University. Retrieved 3 October 2022.
  21. ^ a b c d e f g h i Correa Mujica, Miguel (2001). "Influencias de las lenguas indígenas en el español de Chile". Espéculo. Revista de estudios literarios. (in Spanish). Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Retrieved 31 May 2009.
  22. ^ Chilean Spanish & Chileanisms Archived 2006-01-12 at the Wayback Machine retrieved June 27, 2013
  23. ^ Lipski (1994: 201-2)
  24. ^ a b c d e f Baquero Velásquez, Julia M.; Westphal Montt, Germán F. (16 July 2014). "Un análisis sincrónico del voseo verbal chileno y rioplatense". Forma y Función (in Spanish). 27 (2): 11–40. doi:10.15446/fyf.v27n2.47558.
  25. ^ Real Academia Española. "voseo | Diccionario panhispánico de dudas". «Diccionario panhispánico de dudas» (in Spanish). Retrieved 28 April 2022.
  26. ^ a b "Real Academia Española". Retrieved 17 February 2013.
  27. ^ Lipski (1994: 203)
  28. ^ a b c d e f Salamanca, Gastón; Ramírez, Ariella (2014). "Argentinismos en el léxico del español de Chile: Nuevas evidencias". Atenea. 509: 97–121. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
  29. ^ Salamanca, Gastón (2010). "Apuntes sociolingüísticos sobre la presencia de argentinismos en el léxico del español de Chile". Atenea (Concepción) (502): 125–149. doi:10.4067/S0718-04622010000200008. ISSN 0718-0462.
  30. ^ Salamanca, Gastón; Ramírez, Ariella (June 2014). "Argentinismos en el Léxico del Español de Chile: Nuevas Evidencias". Atenea (Concepción) (509): 97–121. doi:10.4067/S0718-04622014000100006. ISSN 0718-0462.
  31. ^ a b Zúñiga, Fernando (11 June 2006). "Tras la huella del Mapudungun". El Mercurio (in Spanish). Centro de Estudios Publicos. Archived from the original on 29 October 2007. Retrieved 12 November 2007.
  32. ^ "Día de la lengua materna: ¿Qué palabras de uso diario provienen de nuestros pueblos originarios? |". 21 February 2017.
  33. ^ "Del origen mapuche de las palabras chilenas". 2 April 2011.
  34. ^ Tana de Gámez, ed., Simon and Schuster's International Dictionary English/Spanish Spanish/English (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1973)
  35. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Teofilo Laime Ajacopa, Diccionario bilingüe iskay simipi yuyayk'ancha, La Paz, 2007 (Quechua-Spanish dictionary)
  36. ^ Diccionario Quechua - Español - Quechua, Academía Mayor de la Lengua Quechua, Gobierno Regional Cusco, Cusco 2005 (Quechua-Spanish dictionary
  37. ^ "18 Chilean Slang Phrases You'll Need on Your Trip". 31 August 2017.
  38. ^ "Productos - Confort".
  39. ^ Marcela Rivadeneira Valenzuela. "El Voseo En Medios de Comunicacion de Chile" (PDF) (in Spanish). Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 10 December 2010. Pages 82-83.