Are you about to head to Puerto Rico and want to learn some Puerto Rican slangs to help you speak like a native?
If you have spent time in Spanish speaking countries or even if you have talked to Spanish-speaking friends, you know that the vocabulary can vary widely between countries.
Everyday words in one country may be vulgar curse words in another.
For instance, the word “coger” has a drastically different significance in Mexico than it does in Spain. You aren’t catching a taxi when you say that in Mexico. 🙂
Learning local expressions and vocabulary not only helped me understand my Spanish friends better, but also helped me feel more integrated into Spanish society.
Whenever you go to a new country, it is helpful to learn some words in the native language.
Even if you are a Spanish speaker, you can benefit by learning local expressions before traveling to a new country.
In this article, I walk through 10 Puerto Rican Spanish slang words and expressions. Since Puerto Rico is an American territory, many of its slang expressions have English language influences.
Boricua is the local name for a Puerto Rican. The word derives from the indigenous name for the island of Puerto Rico: Boriken or Boriquín.
The Boricuas first inhabited the island many, many years ago long before the Spanish came and conquered. The name signifies, “Brave and noble Lord”.
So, next time you see a Puerto Rican, make sure to say, “Que tal, Boricua”. It might catch them by surprise.
In addition to the traditional meaning of tirar, “to throw away”, in Puerto Rican slang, tirar also means to make fun of someone.
The noun derived from the verb form, tiradera or tiraera means a dis or verbal feud and often refers to feuds between rappers.
Al garete is used to refer to someone or something that is adrift or going poorly.
It has a nautical origin. The garete is the rudder that is used as a last resort when a ship finds itself without a mast or oars, and al garete originally referred to a ship that was adrift.
You can say that something “se fue al garete”, meaning it started to go disastrously, such as “el partido se fue al garete” (the game went poorly).
You can also tell some “vete al garete” or “get lost” if they are bugging you. Careful with whom you use this one though, as context is key.
Chavos is a Puerto Rican slang word for money.
It is derived from a contraction of ochavo in old Spanish, or one-eighth, which in turn refers to the eight pieces a silver coin was divided into in previous centuries.
Before you head off for Puerto Rico, make sure you bring along some chavos.
Bregar means to struggle or to work on something with a lot of effort.
In Puerto Rican slang, both “bregaste Chicky Starr” and “bregar cajita de pollo” mean to betray someone or play dirty.
Chicky Starr was a Puerto Rican wrestler who takes on the antagonist. La cajita de pollo (box of chicken) refers to Kentucky Fried Chicken’s box of soggy chicken pieces that were not worth the money, at least originally.
As you can imagine this one is a bit of a silly phrase, but it is another way of saying, “you did me wrong”.
Wepa is more an exclamation than a word.
It is yelled to express joy and utter happiness. Puerto Ricans will yell it nasally and hold the “e” and “a” for a long time.
This may be used to celebrate a victory, a birthday or a good exam grade. Make sure to use it often and you will be confused as a Puerto Rican in no time!
Say the word janguear out loud, and you may be able to determine its definition: to hang out.
This is an example of an English words penetrating Puerto Rican Spanish.
Someone might say, “Voy a janguear con mis amigos en el parque esta noche.” This of course means, “I am going to hang out with my friends in the park tonight.”
Acho and chacho are contractions of the Spanish word “muchacho” which means “boy”.
Just like most Spanish speaking countries, Puerto Ricans have a way of shortening words.
So, if you are trying to say, “What’s up, dude?” you can say “Que tal, acho?”
They are also used as fillers between thoughts and sentences when speaking. It’s similar to “well” in English.
A mí, plín is a slightly vulgar way to say “I don’t care” or “no me importa”.
It is thought to have come from the English word “plink”, which means to shoot randomly and casually at targets.
Hopefully, by this point you are thinking, “A mí, plín” to these Puerto Rican Slang expressions.
Corillo is quite a useful word to know when talking to your new Puerto Rican friends.
The word “corillo” is the Puerto Rican slang for friends or a group of friends. You might hear someone say, “Vamos! Salgamos con el corillo!”
This signifies: “Let’s go! Let’s all leave together!”
Try out a few of these slang terms for Puerto Ricans and you are sure to make a “corillo” in no time.
I am sure most Puerto Ricans would feel honored that you are trying out the local slang expressions on them.
Ready to start speaking like a native Borinquen?
Puerto Rican slang is full of expressions and words found only in this beautiful island and many of which are influenced by English words and phrases.
The above list is only the tip of the iceberg and we tried to include only the 10 most important Puerto Rican slang expressions.
It can be useful whether you are planning a trip to Puerto Rico, have Puerto Rican friends or simply want to learn more about Puerto Rican slang and culture.
Using even a few native words or expressions can cause locals to instantly warm up to you even if your Spanish in general is not the best.
People will understand that you are interested in their culture and language and will welcome the opportunity to teach you more.
The ten words listed in this article are a place to start building your Puerto Rican vocabulary. Now get started and get using it!
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