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How would I describe something as "sketchy" in Spanish? In the sense of something questionable or unsavory, like dark alley ways or the wrong part of town.

For example in the sentence:

I don't trust most of the people I meet at that bar, it's a really sketchy place. Someone even tried to sell me drugs in the bathroom.

In Spain I was told that the closest thing was "perro y fluta" referring to how the homeless have dogs and play flutes, but that didn't seem to translate back here in Texas.

Can anyone confirm/deny or offer another translation that is more localized to Latin American Spanish?

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Slang is difficult - Latin American slang in particular varies a lot from place to place. In Chile, "flaite" is a tolerably good translation of at least one meaning of "sketchy", but I'd be surprised if that word were well known in Texas.

  • I think this nails it. The Wikipedia page even uses it to describe a bad neighborhood-- an area that I would refer to as "sketchy" – 1ifbyLAN2ifbyC Jul 10 '13 at 21:44
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Sketchy, as in "questionable," is sospechoso:

What a sketchy character Vaya un tipo sospechoso

Other answers mentioned the term "flaite." That's not going to be known anywhere else but Chile, and it also conveys a meaning of being of low upbringing.


After reading your question again and some of the comments, I noticed you are talking about low class and dangerous places or characters. The correct term for that will depend on your assessment of the situation or character. You have a good range there:

  • oscuro
  • sospechoso
  • peligroso
  • criminal
  • de dudosa reputación
  • In general the word that I've heard most is sospechoso but obviously peligroso or oscuro work in many situations. – lucuma Jul 17 '13 at 22:10
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I looked up the phrase "a grandes rasgos" on the web, and got this page.

It's not an exact match, but it's kinda the same idea. "Sketchy", to my ear, conveys the notion of insufficient detail, while "a grandes rasgos" does not. Maybe this will lead to a correct answer, however.

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As mention above it really depends on the place the phrase is used. For me and from what I'm trying to get of the info you gave, the word that seems more appropriate, at least in Mexico is pintoresco, since it refers to something cute but a little funny or even ironic.

Vi a un indigente, con perros y tocando flautas. Fue muy pintoresco.

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    I think that pintoresco is not used in that way. In Spain we use pintoresco for landscapes and places, not necessary bad or marginal (in fact pintoresco can be considered a "good thing"). – Salvatorelab Jul 11 '13 at 8:09
  • @TheBronx you are right! I assumed that by sketchy it mean something curious, good and cute not at all like the sentence in the new coment, like something bad or marginal. – Newbie Jul 11 '13 at 15:47

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