Spanish vocabulary can vary greatly between countries. Using the vocabulary of one country in another can draw weird looks or result in confusion or even an insult.
Learning the vocabulary and slang of the country in which you plan to spend time, will help you become more immersed in the culture.
Plus, you will fit right in with the locals and will be more easily accepted and trusted.
In each South America country that I have lived in (Bolivia, Argentina, and Colombia), I did my best to learn the local expressions and dialect of the words being spoken.
The vocabulary helped me to not only understand my native friends better, but to also feel more integrated into daily conversations. Lastly, it showed that I cared.
Even if you do not plan to go to a Spanish speaking country soon, it can be fun to learn different slang expressions and see how the meaning of words varies between countries. In this article, I will explain 11 popular Dominican slang words and expressions.
Vaina is a word that is either neutral or derogatory, but never positive. So you want to be careful with how you use it.
Vaina has four main meanings. It can be translated as thing, stuff or something, such as “Esa vaina es fea”, which signifies that thing is ugly.
Vaina can also be used as an exclamation, such as “¡de vaina¡”, which means by chance! Or “¡Qué vaina!”, which signifies darn it.
Thirdly, it can carry the sense that someone thinks they are better than someone else. “Echar vaina” means to brag and “privar en vaina” means to be arrogant.
Finally, “Tratar de vaina” means to treat someone with indifference. As you can tell “vaina” is a very useful word. There is a reason we put this as #1 on our list!
This is a popular Colombian slang phrase, but also very popular in the Dominican Republic (DR). Bacano has the same meaning as bacán in Chile when referring to an object.
If something is bacano, then it is really good and the person likes it a lot. You can also say “¡Qué bacano!”, which means how great! That’s a common expression that you can use all over Latin America and people will understand you.
If a person is bacano, then they are good at doing something that is difficult. Finally, bacano can also translate as dude in the sense “Bacano, vamos”. Native Domicans use this one to signify dude, let’s go.
Colmado is a useful word to know if you are in the DR and are looking for a quick snack. A colmado is a small corner store or a convenience store.
If you go to the DR, you will see many colmados.
Concho is another good word to know when traveling to the DR. Concho is a car or motorcycle used for transportation in the Dominican Republic.
In all my time in South America, I have never heard this one used, so it truly is a Dominican-specific word.
It’s also the Dominican word for taxi.
Yala is probably one of my favorite Dominican slangs. This is a common word used in informal settings around friends.
It's a common way to say, "okay." If something is okay or alright, then “yala” is the word you want to use.
So next time you want to say “okay” in the DR make sure to use “yala”.
Dime a ver literally translates as “tell me so I can see”, but has the meaning of what’s up?
Just like in English, the phrase “What’s up?” is used all over the world.
Dominicans usually want to know what is going on with you. So next time you hear “Dime a ver?” you will be ready and able to tell what is going on with you.
If you have spent time in Spain, then you probably know what chulo means. Chulo is used to refer to a person, place or thing that is good or nice.
If someone says “¡Qué chula!” about your shirt, then they think it is nice or cute. If someone is called chulo, then they are a great person.
So, yes, it is a good thing to be called a “chulo”.
Keep in mind that this phrase, like most in this guide, is best for informal settings and I probably wouldn’t use it in a more formal setting like talking with a police officer.
Nítido comes from the English word “neat” and carries the same meaning as in “great” or “cool”.
You can say “¡Qué nítido!” if you see something you like or if someone tells you a great story.
I like this phrase a lot and especially like that it is easy to remember as it practically has the word neat in it.
Lengua larga literally translates to “long tongue”.
However, it refers to a talkative person or even at times refers to someone who is an outright liar.
It came about because someone who is constantly talking always has their tongue out of their mouth and as expected is often stretching the truth.
Having a lengua larga isn't the most flattering of comments so be careful with which Dominican friend you say has a lengua larga.
Dame dato literally translates to “give me a piece of information”.
Dominicans use this phrase when they want you to tell them about something. Next time you need to get more information you can say “dame dato”.
En olla literally means “in the cooking pot”, but refers to being broke.
“Estoy en olla; no puedo ir al bar” signifies “I am broke; I cannot go to the bar.” Nobody wants to be en olla.
Dominican Spanish is full of its own unique slang words and expressions just like every Spanish-speaking country.
If you really want to get a good understanding of a country and start blending in like a local, you will need to start using words like a local.
This list of 11 Dominican slang expressions and words to learn is a good starting point for learning Dominican slang. Some of the words are useful if you are traveling, while others you are more likely to use and hear others if you hang out with Dominicans.
If you plan to go to the Dominican Republic or if you have Dominican friends, try using a few of the slang words and expressions listed above. But be careful with vaina!
Even if your Spanish is not the best, people will like that you are trying to learn and speak not only Spanish, but also their version of it. They will warm up to you quicker and you will soon will blend right in with your Dominican friends.
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