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I have heard the following words in various contexts to refer to breasts: seno, pecho, busto, mama, chichi, teta.

I want to understand what the finer differences in nuances are among their usage while referring to breasts. They cannot all carry exactly the same connotation. I am not concerned about any other meaning any of them might carry; for example, pecho also refers to a male chest but I am only bothered with its usage while referring to breasts. What is a native speaker most likely to use while referring to breasts in regular conversation, and in what context? How would you rank them in the order of formality?

Please mention your country in case there's any regional specificity to the usage you suggest. Latin American or Mexican usage are particularly welcome.

  • Boobs, boobies, breasts, bosoms, honkers, knockers, tits, fun bags, and cleavage. English has a variety of words for tits just as any other language. – dockeryZ Dec 1 '14 at 4:21
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    Yes and any English speaker would know which word to use in which context. Same way I'm interested in understanding what words are preferable in what context. Also certain English words are tied to regions, such as knockers in BE. Same way, I also want to understand if there's any regional specificity to any of these Spanish words. – TheLearner Dec 1 '14 at 4:27
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    Before using "chichi" you should look carefully to which speakers are you talking to. As can be seen in the accepted answer, the meaning differ from some country to another, from breast to vagina. – Flamma Dec 1 '14 at 10:25
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    Lets try to narrow the focus of this question a bit. Rather than asking for answers from every country, as you seem to be doing now, can we focus on a specific region and a specific context? Perhaps you want to ask questions about some (or all?) of the various words you've heard, asking for their specific nuances (although hopefully a dictionary will help you answer a lot of that before you ask). If you want the best word for you to use in a specific context, lets define that context very clearly (formal? Medical? slang? Talking to a girlfriend? Buddies?) etc – Flimzy Dec 2 '14 at 14:34
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    En Chile hay una palabra muy general, que puede abarcar casi todas las variantes: pechugas. – Rodrigo Jun 16 '16 at 0:24
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Spain usage:

The word pecho can be considered an exact equivalent of the English breast; you can use it uncountably (the front part of your thorax) or countably (women have two of them). It is a neutral word and can be used safely in any context. To breastfeed also translates as dar el pecho.

Seno can have several meanings. It can be your lap, a woman's womb (seno materno), but also each breast of a woman; in this case, it is a somewhat prudish word.

Busto is used mainly to refer to the general area of the breasts in a woman. You could use this word, for instance, when you are talking about the breast size in a neutral way, such as in the fashion industry. This also refers to the bust of a statue, i.e. the portion including the head and the thorax; for example, "El busto de Simon Bolivar."

Mama is used as a technical word in medicine or biology. Breast cancer can be called cáncer de pecho or cáncer de mama, for instance.

Chichi would not mean breast in Spain; in fact, it is a slang word for vagina. Yes, this usage is very different from that in other Spanish speaking areas, where it does indeed mean breast.

Teta can be used in a variety of contexts. It is the most usual word for a breast in a colloquial environment and it is not necessarily derogatory. For instance, a breastfeeding infant can be called a niño de teta. In other Spanish speaking countries it can be considered a vulgar word, but not so in Spain, though it is not usual in a formal context.

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    Note that "Busto" has no female meaning. In fact, it refers to the part of the body above the stomach. Thus, sculptures (usually of notable men) that show only head, shoulders and chest are called "Busto", which is the primary meaning of the word. – Envite Dec 1 '14 at 14:00
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    That is consistent with English, Envite. Bust in English simply refers to the general torso area and head, and same with regards to the culture. However, you could still use busty to indicate a large breasted female. It wouldn't really be used in any other context. I imagine adding the appropriate suffixes in Spanish to busto would have a similar meaning? – corsiKa Dec 1 '14 at 16:28
  • @corsiKa The word busto does indeed have that additional meaning, as in English. But we don't usually append any suffixes to it in Spanish. – Gorpik Dec 2 '14 at 7:32
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Indeed they do all refer to the same thing, but you are right, they do all have different connotations.

Seno - Cleavage

The space between the breasts; The space between the chest and a woman's shirt. Seno refers to this area, and you might possibly bring it up when a woman grabs her wallet from inside her shirt; or change, a cellphone, tampons, whatever... it's like a pocket.

Pecho - Chest

The area where the breasts are; the chest. If I am looking at a woman's chest, I am pretty much staring at her boobs. So use this one when you are referring to that general area.

Busto - Bust

Measurement. Plain and simple. It can also be used to describe a woman's boobs that are very big; so big that they stretch her shirt out.

Mama - Mammary

I've never heard anyone use this. Since I am not a native speaker though, I can only assume things. The use of motherly words is often used to express vulgarity, so this could be a very vulgar use for the word. Or, it is just short for mammary.

Chichi - Boobie

I have heard this used before, and it was at a party in Mexico. The word was spoken by an English girl so there's no telling where she was influenced to use that word, but I heard it. It was used in the same context as boobies in English; to be cute.

Teta - Tit

In English, this word is usually thrown around misogynistically. I have heard and understand the word teta to be equal to our tit. It's sexual undertones make it an arousing word to use. And on the other hand, cows have tits too. Tits are where the milk comes from! :D

Each word is completely different from one another. Being a non-native speaker, I can't exactly narrow down regional usage for you, but I can point out their differences like I did.

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    Teta is normally not very vulgar (if at all), but in some areas it is very vulgar. So the show Sin tetas no hay paraíso had to have its name changed to Sin senos no hay paraíso when Telemundo redid it. Mama you'll only really hear in "cáncer de mama" – user0721090601 Dec 1 '14 at 6:01
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    In Spain when talking about cows' tits we use ubres. – itziki Dec 1 '14 at 10:36
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    While this usage of "Seno" is teh most correct, the word is also usually used for each breast individually, thus saying at the same time that a woman has one "seno" and that she has two "senos". – Envite Dec 1 '14 at 14:02
  • I think English cows have teats on their udders. Teat is also the word for the device on the end of a baby's bottle. – mdewey Jun 8 '17 at 15:56
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For Argentina:

  • Senos - unusual term, perfectly understood thanks to exposure to other Latin American dialects but seldom used in actual speech. Found in medical contexts (cáncer de seno, senografía).
  • Mamas - technical and medical term, more common than seno (cáncer de mama, mamografía) though both are found interchangeably.
  • Pechos - meaning "breasts". The singular form pecho means "chest" and is ambisexual if definite and singular (el pecho), but refers to one of the female breasts if indefinite (un pecho) or plural (los [dos] pechos).
  • Tetas - colloquial, not so much taboo today, but definitely not something to be used in polite company. "Reclaimed", so to speak, by women as a simple word to refer to a part of their bodies that nobody should care that much about.
  • Chichis - colloquial, harmless, not in wide use by perfectly understood by context.
  • Busto - joint term for both breasts, correct and not especially impolite. It sounds stiff and old-fashioned in most contexts except when referring to sizes of clothing.
  • Lolas - coined in the 1980s or 1990s I think, nowadays much less shocking than then, though still too colloquial.
  • Delantera - a not very successful euphemistic term.

And some expressions:

  • Both hacerse las tetas and hacerse las lolas mean "to get breast implants".
  • Nene de pecho means "child of breastfeeding age", but it's used figuratively to mean "weak or defenseless person". Generally negated: Éstos no son nenes de pecho ~= "These guys are to be reckoned with."
  • All of these are common in Spain apart from chichis (which in fact we sometimes use for pussy but in singular: el chichi). – fedorqui 'SO stop harming' Jun 19 '17 at 9:14

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