If you speak Spanish, you can – for the most part – communicate with other Spanish speakers, regardless of what part of Latin America they (or their families) are from. But there are times when speaking the same language results in confusion, and in some cases, embarrassing misunderstandings. For example, you may be complaining about pesky bichos – small insects, to some – but someone from a different country will think you’re referring to penises, which means you’re ultimately having v v v different conversations.

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And it doesn’t just stop at bichos; there are several other words in Spanish that don’t mean the same things across Latin America. While we couldn’t possibly get to all of them, we can offer you a little bit of guidance on some terms. First up is chapa – a word that is used in most Spanish-speaking countries. Read on below, so you can avoid any puzzlement in the future.

1

This is one of the most popular meanings for this word, with Chileans, Colombians, Mexicans, Nicaraguans, and more using this term.

2

Hair is used by several South American countries, including Uruguay and Argentina.

3

In several South American countries – such as Bolivia, Colombia, and Argentina – chapa means nickname.

4

Costa Ricans use chapa to mean clumsy.

5

Colombia also uses the word chapa to mean dentures.

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6

This definition is familiar to many across Latin America, and used in regions in Central America like Honduras and Costa Rica, as well as in South America, such as in Venezuela.

7

Nicaraguans use chapa in several ways, including for earrings.

8

In Ecuador, the word chapa can be used to mean police. The word comes from chapak, a quechua word for guard.

9

In Peru, chapa is when your cheeks get rosy, say after you go for a jog or take a walk outside in freezing temperatures.