Online dictionaries translate both as jokes but I am sure they've got to have some differences in either meaning or usage. Can anyone help?

Also, although the difference between broma and chiste has already been asked and covered elsewhere, I would like someone to put that in perspective here. Is the following order of severity good enough?

chiste -> chanza -> broma -> burla

Even so, how do I decide whether a particular joke is chiste or chanza or broma or burla?

PS. To add to the confusion, I also just came across mofa and guasa. That makes it a grand total of half a dozen words for jokes in Spanish!

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    I don't know about chanza, but if burla is at the highest degree, then I would agree with you. I'm not a native spanish speaker, though... Nov 7, 2014 at 9:31
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    This could give you a brief idea about how serious we are :P
    – Bardo
    Nov 7, 2014 at 13:48
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    Guasa in Spain is synomym of cachondeo, that can be translated as jocundity, joviality, jokeyness. "Cuando llegué a la oficina todos estaban de guasa, bromeando sobre lo que me había pasado".
    – Lucas
    Nov 11, 2014 at 15:51

2 Answers 2


I agree with Diego in certain things, however here are my 2 cents:

  • Chiste/Chanza

A chiste is merely a joke, generally intended to make somebody laugh rather than make fun of someone, but both uses can be covered by this term.

Les conté un chiste pero nadie lo encontró divertido.

I told them a joke, however nobody found it funny

Hice un chiste inocente acerca de los dientes torcidos esperando que mejorara el ánimo de Lauren, pero lo único que logré fue que se enojara.

I made an innocent joke about crooked teeth hoping to brighten up Lauren's mood, but all I accomplished was to make her angry.

In the same way, chanza (though not commonly used in everyday speech—— except in Mexico, I think, where they have adopted it as synonym of oportunidad thanks to the similarity with the English noun chance) can be understood as a chiste or as a witty remark; which leads me to think that the closest word in English for it depending on the context would be witticism. I'd dare to say you should opt for chiste instead of chanza, there's a common saying that uses both in certain countries and only one in others.

Entre chiste y chanza la verdad se asoma.

Many a true word is spoken in jest.

  • Broma

Aditionally, broma can also be replaced in the aforementioned saying.

Entre broma y broma la verdad se asoma.

However, it's also used in contexts where you literally play a prank on someone.

Le jugué/hice una broma para su cumpleaños y me dijo que había sido muy original.

I played a prank on him for his birthday and he told me that it had been a very original one.

Like Diego said, broma in this context is not meant to make fun of somebody but rather to make somebody laugh despite the circumstances. Then again, not everyone shares the same humour and somebody might not take it the right way.

  • Burla

This one is more specific. It has a slight negative connotation, since whenever you use it, you give away the impression that it is indeed your intention to make fun of someone/ridicule/mock someone.

Nos burlamos de sus gafas que hacían que su nariz se viera más grande.

We made fun/mocked him for his glasses since they made his nose look bigger.

Finally, as for mofa and guasa, I can say I've rarely ever heard any of them. Perhaps I've heard mofa in literature,but I can say this is the first time I see guasa. Though the DRAE (Diccionario de la Real Academia) defines mofa similar to burla, that is, it might have a strong negative connotation in its usage.


You would use chiste for a joke, not a practical joke, which would be a broma.


This guy walks into a bar...


I told everyone that I lost the car keys and you should have seen their faces. I'm such a joker...

A Broma doesn't necessarily make laugh on somebody. At least the connotation or inflection of the word implies so. A broma intends to be fun, not fun on somebody or mock him or her as the word burla implies.

Chanza is not widely use (at least in Spain. I don't know for sure if it is common in another dialects). Chanza is also a joke, but can be turn into a joke on someone (you make fun on somebody), so then, it means something similar to burla (mock somebody).

Se chancearon de mi en la fiesta / Se burlaron de mi en la fiesta / Se rieron de mi en la fiesta

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    Diego, I am not sure what do you mean by make laugh on somebody. Did you mean make somebody laugh or make fun of someone? I think the latter is what you meant. Nov 7, 2014 at 14:20
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    make fun of someone. I'll edit the answer. Thanks.
    – Diego
    Nov 7, 2014 at 14:51

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