Skip to content


Definition of Paila

The meaning of this word in different countries is very varied. At least, in Colombia it means that something was very bad, but also an object used to fry food, as well as it refers to a person who has gone wrong.

While in Chile it refers to ears, but also denotes frying pans for frying and is called “pailón” to a person who has grown up and is overprotected by his mother.


  1. Frying pan
  2. Something that went wrong
  3. Person who is doing badly
  4. Ears
  5. Older overprotected person


The word paila comes from the Latin patella “frying pan” from where the word paella comes from. Hence it currently means frying pan for frying food. It is also said to come from the Leonese of Spain and means “frying pan”, although in some places it has been given the meaning of water heater.

Although the indigenous meaning is “flat”, as well as it can also denote spread out, quiet or even “lying on your back”, it also has versions in other Romance languages such as the Old Castilian padilla, in Catalan paella and in French poele.

Nowadays, in most Latin American countries it is a round, shallow, metal or clay pot that can be used to heat water, as a frying pan or as a flat dish for roasting food.


As a curious fact a paila is also a Latin percussion musical instrument also known as timbal or timbaleta, which is composed of two cylindrical metal drums, with a drumhead on top of both.
It is normally used to play the musical genres of salsa, cumbia, among others.