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Both words broma and chiste translate to the English word joke. What's the difference between these two Spanish words, and how do I know when to use each one?

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up vote 15 down vote accepted

The main difference that comes to my mind is that chiste can be something witty that you tell, like a joke. For example, the "three guys walk into a bar..." thing.

While broma is a joke that you play on someone, such as putting a sign at the wrong place.

A broma inocente is a joke played on someone that makes the "victim" laugh together with the ones who did the joke, something light; while a broma pesada is a joke that went a little too far.

If we go worse than that, then we're talking about a burla.

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And when I just make fun of someone, and want to say "I'm just just kidding," that's a broma, too, right? – Flimzy Dec 5 '11 at 21:12
Yes, "estoy bromeando" or "es broma". To pull someone's leg is, instead, tomar el pelo a alguien. – Alenanno Dec 5 '11 at 21:24
Generally, a broma is closer to a practical joke than a chiste is. – Yay Jun 19 at 20:58
  • broma is like "prank" in English.


Le hicimos una broma a Carlos.

Aquellos niños le hicieron una broma pesada a Juan.

  • chiste is like "to tell a joke".


El profesor nos contó un chiste que nos hizo reir.

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Yes, but 'broma' is also used in a widest sense that 'prank' – Envite Dec 5 '13 at 21:53

Chiste is a relatively simple concept as explained in the other answers. The thing is that broma is a complex word that has many meanings:

  • Bulla, algazara, diversión.
  • Chanza, burla.
  • Persona o cosa pesada y molesta.

You need many words in english to explain what broma really is: to make fun of, to mock, to kid around, to have fun.

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