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Dominican Spanish 101: Guide to Dominican Slang and Expressions from Vaina to Qué Lo Que

advanced spanish vocabulary

What does it mean when Dominicans say vaina or qué lo que? Here is your quick guide to Dominican Spanish and Slang

The Dominican Republic, or República Dominicana, is a remarkably beautiful country.  Named Quisqueya (meaning “mother of all lands”) by the indigenous people, it shares an island with modern day Haiti to its west.

Its diverse population, controversial history, and rich culture give the Caribbean nation its own way of speaking Spanish. The distinct language of the Dominican Republic is due to its indigenous Indio, African, Spanish, and American influences.

advanced spanish vocabulary

The Spanish spoken in the Dominican Republic has its own accent, vocabulary, and colloquial expressions. Dominicans are also known for speaking fast and loudly.

In this article, I will give you some insight that will help you get a handle on what’s said to be one of the more difficult Spanish accents to understand.

The Dominican Accent

The accent of Dominican Spanish speakers shares some features in common with other Caribbean Spanish speakers.

In the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean islands, the letter “d” is often not pronounced. For example, instead of saying “pegado” (stuck), a Dominican Spanish speaker would say “pega’o.”

Related: Your Ultimate Guide to Caribbean Spanish

Another feature of the Dominican accent shared with other Spanish speakers from El Caribe (the Caribbean) is eliminating or aspirating the letter “s.” The common phrase “Que tengas un buen día” (Have a good day) sounds like “Que tenga’ un buen día.”

Dominicans also have the habit of shortening common words and phrases. The words “está” and “estás” generally just become “‘ta” in the Dominican Republic. Dominicans will generally say “¿Cómo tú ’tá?” (How you doin’?) instead of “¿Cómo estás tú?” (How are you?).

Another common phrase in Spanish, “Está todo bien” (Everything is well) is also drastically shortened. In the DR, they would simply say “Ta to.”

Regions of the Dominican Republic

Similar to its people, the Dominican Republic is also geographically diverse—from mountain ranges to jungles and open plains.

The Dominican Republic is made up of three major regions in the north, south and east:  El Cibao, El Sur, and El Este.  Each region has its own customs, accent, and expressions.advanced spanish vocabulary

The Eastern Region: El Este

El Este is well known for its major provinces: La Romana, Higuey, and Punta Cana. The beaches are beautiful, as this is the Caribbean Coast of the country. Tourism is higher here than in any other region.

In La Romana, and especially Punta Cana, you will find the largest hotels and resorts in the country. Many Dominicans from all over travel there to work.  Unlike in the rest of the country, El Este is much quieter and docile. The Spanish spoken in this region is the most “neutral” in the country.

Northern Region: El Cibao

The largest region is El Cibao, which spreads through the north, northeast, and central parts of the country.  There you will find the longest, highest mountain ranges and fertile land.

The El Cibao region accounts for almost all of the country´s agriculture and diverse wildlife species, which can be found in Constanza, Santiago, and Puerto Plata (three of the most prominent provinces in El Cibao).

El Cibao has the most recognizable Dominican accent. Many people live in rural areas in this region, which is home to many popular Dominican musicians and artists.

The Southern Region: El Sur

As you travel to El Sur (The South), you’ll begin to notice larger open spaces and more urban territory.  Here you won’t find any large rural areas, as the demographic is predominantly urban.

The nation’s capital of Santo Domingo is in the southern region of the country.  In La Capital (the capital) you will notice the people there are less inviting, but much more exciting.    Tall buildings, endless traffic jams, and music echoing from cars are common sights and sounds in El Sur.  Stores, known as colmados, line the streets and you can hear Dominican hip-hop, salsa, reggaeton, bachata, and dembow music.

The Spanish spoken in this region is full of slang that changes constantly, riddled with both American and Puerto Rican influences.

To learn more details about the accents of each region, enroll in Dominican Spanish 101. (free trial)

It’s a complete course featuring audio and full transcripts of dialogues between native Spanish speakers from the Dominican Republic.

The free trial includes a detailed description of the differences in accents between the south, east, and northern regions of the DR

advanced spanish vocabulary

14 Common Dominican Spanish Words and Phrases

The Dominican Republic has hundreds of unique words and expressions. Although you may hear some of these phrases from other Spanish speakers or in popular Latin music, they are unmistakably Dominican in origin.

1) Allantoso


A person who talks a lot and does little.

Examples:

Esos políticos son unos allantosos.

These politicians are all talk and no action.

Ese allantoso, me dijo que venía al trabajo y no vino.

He is so full of crap, he said he was coming to work and he never came.

2) Fiebrú


A person addicted to something.

Examples:

Soy fiebrú con la pelota.

I’m so addicted to baseball.

Ese tipo e’ un fiebrú de la computadora.

That guy is addicted to the computer.

3) Kachú


Tomato paste, ketchup

Examples:

Tráeme kachú con mis papas fritas.

Bring me Ketchup with my french fries.

Yo no como pica pollo sin kachu.

I can’t eat fried chicken without ketchup.

4) La Bandera


Literally, “the flag.” This is the most popular dish in the Dominican Republic, due to how much it leaves anyone satisfied, and its low preparation cost. It’s made up of rice, with red beans in their sauce, and chicken or beef.

Example:

El dominicano que no haya probado la bandera se está perdiendo del significado de la vida.

The Dominican that hasn’t ever tried the flag dish is missing out on the true meaning of life.

5) Vaina 

An annoying situation something with little to no importance, crap, or any random thing.

Examples:

!Que vaina con esta nevera rota!

This broken fridge is so annoying!

A mí no me importa esa vaina.

I don’t give a crap.

6) Vestida de novia


When a beer is cold and the exterior of the bottle is white due to freezing, but the inside liquid is not frozen. It is the usual temperature to drink beer in the Dominican Republic.

Examples:

Dame una Presidente vestida de novia.

Give me a Presidente beer well chilled.

Pásamela vestida de novia.

Pass me a ice cold beer.

7) Viejebo


A person of mature age that wants to be up-to-date with fashion and dress like a young person.

Examples:

Mi mamá priva en viejeba.

My mom thinks she’s young.

Estos viejebos de hoy en día andan como jevitos de 20.

These old people nowadays want to dress like they are 20 years old.

8) Nítido


It refers to when a person accepts something or likes something. Something cool or awesome, on point.

Examples:

Nítido, te veo aya.

Alright, see you there.

El carro de Luis está nítido.

Luis’ car is on point.

9) Pajón


Derived from the word “straw” and refers to unstyled hair with a lot of volume. It is also a derogatory term for kinky Afro-Latinx hair.

Examples:

Ese pajón es muy grande tienes que recortarte.

That hair is too big you need a haircut.

Ella está orgullosa de su pajón.

She’s proud of her Afro.

10) Palomo


Expression used to refer to very shy man when it comes to flirting.

Examples:

Ese pana sí es palomo.

That guy is such a coward.

No seas palomo y háblale.

Don’t be a coward and talk to her.

11) ¿Qué lo que?


Very informal expression that means “what’s up?” (Abbreviated in text messages as klk)

Examples:

Klk, como estás?

Sup, how are you?

Dime qué lo que con esa jeva.

Tell me what’s up with that girl.

12) Sancocho

Traditional Dominican dish. It’s a thick soup that comes full of vegetables, starchy root vegetables, and well-seasoned meats.

Example:

El sancocho de don Raulo está para morirse.

Old man Raulo’s sancocho is to die for.

advanced spanish vocabulary

13) Tiguere


An astute man or with street smarts.

Examples:

Yo no confío en él, tiene cara de tiguere.

I don’t trust him he looks like he’s a wise guy.

¿Y ese tiguere quien es?

Who’s that dude?

14) Vamo’ a lo que vinimo’


To swiftly execute a task; literally translates to “let’s get to what we came for”.

Example:

¿Qué hace todo el mundo sentado? Vamo’ a lo que vinimo’ señores!

What’s everyone doing sitting? Let’s finish what we’re here to do gentlemen!


Now you have some idea about the unique way Dominicans speak Spanish.  Refer to the links below to learn more Dominican Spanish:

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