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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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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
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    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 '16 at 20:58
  • When you say "Sólo estoy bromeando" (="I'm just kidding), "bromear" is not the action of playing a prank/practical joke on someone, it usually refers to something you said ironically/joking. So, I assume that "broma" could mean either "prank/practical joke" or "joke" when it means "something said in a playful or ironic way" – Alan Evangelista Dec 17 '19 at 22:30
  • When you say "Sólo estoy bromeando" (= I'm just kidding), "bromear" is not the action of playing a prank/practical joke on someone, it usually refers to something you said ironically/joking. So, I assume that "broma" could mean either (1) "prank/practical joke" or (2) "joke" with the meaning "something said in a playful or ironic way". On the other hand, "chiste" only means "joke", when it means "amusing and short story, usually fictional". – Alan Evangelista Dec 17 '19 at 22:39
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  • broma is like "prank" in English.

Example:

Le hicimos una broma a Carlos.

Aquellos niños le hicieron una broma pesada a Juan.

  • chiste is like "to tell a joke".

Example

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
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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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  • I have never heard "broma" used as "persona pesada y molesta", so I assume it must be a rare meaning. It'd be nice to mention that in your answer and give examples of each meaning. – Alan Evangelista Dec 17 '19 at 22:44
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A "broma" can be an innocent practical joke that you pull on a person or something less innocent, but not as malicious as a "burla." In any case, it may not be funny to the other person and might cause embarrassment.

"Chiste," on the other hand refers to a joke in the sense of a humorous story, not told a someone's expense.

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