Yesterday I went to an outdoor Monsieur Periné concert, and there were tons of bean bag chairs in the grass for concertgoers to plop down on. Between the five of us, we managed to grab three bean bags and then smoosh ourselves into them. Remember when there was just nothing cooler than a bean bag chair? Bean bags, waterbeds, lava lamps–the stuff kids’ fantasies are made of.

So, how do you say a bean bag chair in Spanish? It beats me . . . well, it was beating me, until I beat it back. I kept hearing my friends say puf this, puf that, and I felt disconcerted. Wait, are you telling me you call this thing a puf? And they did. Wait, are you telling us you call this thing a bean bag? A bolsa de fríjoles? Yeah, I was one to talk. ¡Puf! What a great, onomatopoeiac word! Though I think the name doesn’t refer to the sound it makes when you sit on one but rather its puffiness.

Gracie in a puf

Gracie in a puf 

The word’s universally used everywhere, with a few regional variants tossed in–fiaca in Argentina, pera in Chile, etc. A puf can also be a hassock (?) or ottoman, which moonlight under the names of pouf or pouffe. Flouting the conventions of the Spanish translations for other bags like a sleeping bag (un sleeping, or un saco de dormir) or an airbag (un airbag in Spain, una bolsa de aire in the Americas), a bean bag chair is neither un bean nor un bean bag nor una bolsa de fríjoles. It’s a puf–take it or leave it. Though who leaves a puf? Not I.

Also, I can’t quite remember, but I feel like poofy can also be used to mean smelly-? I think I said this as a kid, but I’m really fuzzy. Kind of like pee-yoo! Words that have long since gone poof! from my vocabulary, but at least they’re being replaced by new ones.


19 responses to “¡Puf!

  1. I was surprised too when I first heard the word puf in Colombia.
    But not for the same reason. I was surprised because it’s exactly the same word in French. Pouf. Pronounced like the Spanish puf.
    Puf is mentioned in the RAE dictionnary, btw. It is not a Colombianism.

    (Del fr. pouf, y este voz de or. onomat.).
    1. m. Asiento blando, normalmente de forma cilíndrica, sin patas ni respaldo.


    • Interesting! I saw that it’s also the same in Portuguese. I don’t know why the name never caught on in English, though pouf and pouffe exist for ottomans (I’ve never heard or used these words, though).

      Yes, as I wrote in my post, it’s used everywhere. So, not a Colombianism. I do my best to indicate on the blog which words are universal and which are unique to Colombia- not sure what the percentage is. Hopefully around 50/50? Thanks for the comment! :)

      Dime, are you already here in Colombia?


  2. Great name, short and to the point! I definitely prefer it to the alternatives. :)


  3. The English name comes from the fact that they used to be stuffed with husks, which are often bean-shaped. Pouf puts me in mind of old up-do hairstyles for some reason.


    • Hey agm, thanks for the comment. From what I read, the chairs are filled with styrofoam “beans”, real beans, or other similar objects. I didn’t read anything about husks or hulls, but that would obviously be an eco-friendly option. Bean bags are also common with other uses- hacky sacks, bean bags for games like cornhole, etc.

      pouf (po̅o̅f)
      1. A woman’s hairstyle popular in the 18th century, characterized by high rolled puffs.



  4. a pouf or pouffe is a padded footstool. It is commonly used word in countries with an English/French background (although there is of course a slang usage that is derogratory towards certain members of society)



    • So it’s common in Australia? In the US, I’d never heard it used this way (not that I’m an expert on furniture).

      And we still haven’t exactly established how pouf= padded footstool became puf= bean bag chair :)


  5. sorry… just saw your comment above. que tengas un buen dia!


  6. It is more common than ottoman in Australia. I never really came across that word until I started hanging out with more people from the USA. I guess it was the seat with no feet thing that led to the use of the word for beanbag


  7. whatwhileweslept

    And I get to be the one who mentions that a “pouf” is, in British English, a gay dude! I haven’t googled that yet, but I think I’m right. Lovely photo of Gracie. :)


  8. I tried to mention that above with a little more political correctness ;) but yes, more common until the 90´s, but colloquially used in English colonial countries


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