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Ultimate Guide to Puerto Rican Spanish: Decoding Boricua Slang and Expressions

Puerto Rican slang Dominican slang

Imagine you just stepped foot off the plane in San Juan Luis Muñoz Marín Airport.

You feel like you have a pretty good command of Spanish, and you’re confident you will be able to talk to the locals.

There’s just one problem.

In all of your Spanish courses, you never really learned that there are some significant differences to how Spanish is spoken in Puerto Rico.

To you, it sounds like a different language than the Spanish you have learned.

And that’s because, in many ways, Puerto Rican Spanish is not your standard “textbook” Spanish.  Many Puerto Ricans, or boricuas (pronounced bo-ree-kwahs), consider Spanish to be a key part of their cultural identity.

In this article, I’ll break down some of the ways that Puerto Rican Spanish is unique.

A Little Background…

Puerto Rico’s Spanish is the product of a mixing of races and cultures.  Starting with the original Taíno inhabitants, the island’s language was also heavily influenced by the Spanish occupation, the slave trade, and in modern times by the United States.  Puerto Rico’s history has resulted in a diverse population that has created a unique form of Spanish.

Puerto Rican slang Dominican slang

The Spaniards that originally arrived in Puerto Rico were from the Southern Castilian region of Spain.  For that reason, the Spanish spoken in Puerto Rico most closely resembles the Spanish spoken in that region.

Southern Castilian Spanish was enriched with the words and expressions of the thousands of Africans that were brought over as slaves, as well as the native language of the indigenous Taino tribe.

Later, Puerto Ricans were introduced to the English language through American books, movies, music, visitors, and the diaspora as a large population of Puerto Ricans moved to the continental U.S.A.

The island’s physical and cultural isolation has further aided to the development of a Spanish that is spoken so differently from the rest of Latin America that, at times, it can be difficult for other native Spanish-speakers to understand their speech.

There are some American words that have been adopted into Puerto Rican slang.  At times, Puerto Ricans may add an “a” or “o” to the end of an English word instead of using the proper Spanish word.  In addition, many English words have found their way into the daily language and music produced by Puerto Rican artists.

 

The Puerto Rican Accent

Puerto Ricans are known for speaking quickly and cutting off word endings in informal speech.  Here are a few characteristics of spoken Spanish in Puerto Rico:

Speaking with an “L”

Many Puerto Ricans also speak with the letter “L”.   Words ending in “ar”, “er,” and “or” are pronounced with the “R” turning into an “L” sound.  For example, instead of saying “manejar” (to drive), you would hear “manejal.”

The Silent “D”

Like other Caribbean islands, Puerto Ricans tend to omit the “d” in spoken language.  When the letter “d” appears between two vowels, it’s generally not pronounced.

  • For example, instead of saying “frustrado” (frustrated), they would say “frustra’o.”  In general, any word ending in “-ado” will sound like “-a’o”.
  • Words ending in “-ada” just sound like a stressed “-a” sound.  This means the word “cansada” (tired, feminine form) would sound like “cansá.”

The Aspirated “S”

Another common characteristic of Puerto Rican Spanish is aspirating or omitting the letter “s” in spoken language.

The word “pescado,” for example, is pronounced “peh-ca’o” (recall the letter “d” is also silent).

 

Puerto Rican Spanish Words and Expressions

There are hundreds of words used in Puerto Rico that you won’t find in other parts of the Spanish-speaking world.  Here are some words and expressions that you might hear on the island:

1) A fuego

(Adjetivo)

Objeto, persona o situación que se considera agradable o divertido.

Puede ser utilizada sola como una exclamación confirmando emoción.

(Adjective)

Expression used to describe a person, object or situation considered pleasant and enjoyable.

It can sometimes be used on its own as an exclamation confirming excitement.

 

Ejemplo (Example):

  • Ese tipo es bien a fuego; todo el mundo lo quiere mucho.

      That guy is super a fuego; everybody likes him.

 

2) Añoñar

(Verbo)

Engreír o mimar a alguien; prestarle atención excesiva a una persona, principalmente a un niño.

(Verb)

To be extremely indulgent and pampering with someone; to pay excessive attention to a person, particularly a child.

 

Ejemplo (Example):

  • Se pasa añoñando a su hijo con regalos y lo va a malacostumbrar.

      She’s always indulging her kid with presents and she’s going to end up spoiling him.

 

3) Bonche

(Sustantivo – masculino)

Anglicismo proveniente de la palabra bunch utilizado para indicar un grupo de personas o cosas.

(Noun – masculine)

Anglicism of the word bunch used to describe a large group of people or things

 

Ejemplo (Example):

  • Aquel día, había un bonche de más o menos veinticinco personas en la playa.

      That day, there was a bunch of about twenty-five people at the beach.

 

4) Chinchorrear

(Verbo)

Salir de paseo a visitar chinchorros y otros establecimientos modestos para beber y comer.

(Verb)

To go out and visit chinchorros or other modest establishments where food and drink is sold.

 

Ejemplo (Example):

  • El domingo que viene vamos a chinchorrear a los pueblos de la montaña.

       We’re going on a pub-crawl next Sunday to the towns in the mountains.

 

5) Estofón/Estofona

(Adjetivo)

Persona que siempre obtiene buenas notas; alguien que es el mejor estudiante de la clase aplicado.

(Adjective)

Someone who is very diligent with their schoolwork and studies; an A plus student; the smartest person in class or in school.

 

Ejemplo (Example):

  • Los demás estudiantes se molestan con él porque es bien estofón y siempre saca buenas notas.

        The rest of the students get angry at him because he’s very studious and always gets excellent grades.

 

6) Guille

(Sustantivo – masculino)

Actitud de orgullo, vanagloria o jactancia.

(Noun)

An attitude of pride or conceit; to be full of oneself; cockiness.

 

Ejemplo (Example):

  • Tiene tremendo guille ahora que empezó a trabajar en esa compañía.

      He’s so full of himself now that he works for that company

 

7) Mofongo

(Sustantivo – masculino)

Plato tradicional hecho con pedazos de plátano verde fritos y luego majados en forma de bola. A menudo se sirve relleno con carne, pollo o mariscos.

(Noun – masculine)

Traditional dish made out of mashed fried green plantains. It is usually served in the shape of a bowl and filled with meat, chicken or seafood.

 

Ejemplo (Example):

  • El mofongo es una de las comidas más icónicas de Puerto Rico.

          Mofongo is one of the most iconic Puerto Rican foods.

 

8) Sal pa’ fuera

(Sustantivo – masculino)

Formarse un sal pa’ fuera: estado de desorden o confusión que surge tras un evento o accidente imprevisto.

(Noun – masculine)

State of disorder and confusion that occurs as a result of an unforeseen event or accident; mayhem; uproar; all hell broke loose.

 

Ejemplo (Example):

  • Se formó un sal pa’ fuera cuando los estudiantes se enteraron de que les iban a subir la matrícula.

       There was uproar amongst the students when they learned that they were going to get a raise in their tuition.

 

9) Wepa

(Interjección)

Exclamación que sirve para una variedad de propósitos que van desde expresar júbilo o felicidad hasta para llamar la atención.

(Interjection)

Woo!; Woo-hoo!; Hey!

Exclamation that expresses a variety of things from joy and happiness to attracting attention.


Want to learn more Puerto Rican Spanish? Check out the Puerto Rican Spanish 101 course.  Your first lesson is free.

 

 

 

 

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