Beyond Standard Spanish: An Exploration of Puerto Rican Slang

Ellison Clapton10 min
Created: May 8, 2024Last updated: May 13, 2024
Puerto Rican Slang Words

If you go to Puerto Rico, you will find out they have a special way of talking. People there use some expressions you might not hear in other Spanish-speaking regions. Puerto Rican slang has its charm, color, and flavor. It combines different cultural influences from the Taino, African, and Spanish. This article brings you close to that rhythm. We will look at the popular phrases, how they are used in conversation, and their meanings.

Origin Story: How Puerto Rican Slang Words Were Born

The way people talk in Puerto Rico has much to do with the island’s past. The Taino people were the original inhabitants, and words they used, like huracán [uɾa’kan] (hurricane) for hurricane and hamaca [amaka] (hammock), are still used today. The Spanish came to Puerto Rico in 1493. They brought their ways of life and language. With time, this tongue mixed with Taino’s words, which created the start of today’s Puerto Rican Spanish.

From the 1500s to the 1600s, enslaved Africans came to the island and added words from their native tongues. When Puerto Rico became part of the U.S., English started influencing the island’s language. Words from English, especially those about tech, law, and pop culture, were mixed into Puerto Rican Spanish.

Throughout the 1900s, Puerto Ricans moved in and out of the mainland U.S., especially New York. Spanish took even more English words, which then returned to the island and enriched the slang.

Common Puerto Rican Phrases You Should Know

When you visit Puerto Rico, you’ll hear expressions unique to the island. Understanding these phrases can help you connect with locals and enrich your experience. Here are the most popular slang, complete with usage examples:

  • Wepa [ˈwepa] – Yay!/Alright! An expression of excitement or happiness.

¡Wepa! Ganamos el juego. [ˈwepa ɡaˈnamos el ˈxweɣo] Yay! We won the game.

  • Chévere [ʧeˈβeɾe] – Cool/Nice. A common term used to describe something cool or nice.

Esa película estuvo chévere.  [ˈesa peˈlikula esˈtuβo ʧeˈβeɾe] That movie was cool.

  • Pichea [piˈtʃea] – Ignore. A slang for Puerto Rican Spanish for ignoring someone or something.

Pichea eso, no vale la pena. [piˈtʃea ˈeso no ˈβale la ˈpena] Ignore that, it’s not worth it.

  • Achocao [aʧoˈkao] – Shocked/Surprised. Describes a state of being shocked or surprised.

Me dejó achocao la noticia. [me deˈxo aʧoˈkao la noˈtiθja] The news left me shocked.

  • Jíbaro [ˈxiβaɾo] – Country person or local peasant. A term that refers to someone from the rural areas of Puerto Rico, often used proudly to express local identity.

Soy jíbaro y me encanta la vida en el campo. [soj ˈxiβaɾo i me enˈkanta la ˈβiða en el ˈkampo] I am a country person, and I love life in the countryside.

  • Bregar [ˈbɾeɣaɾ] – To deal with/To work on. Used to describe dealing with a situation or working on something.

Voy a bregar con eso mañana. [ˈboj a ˈbɾeɣaɾ kon ˈeso maˈɲana] I will deal with that tomorrow.

  • Tapón [taˈpon] – Traffic Jam. Commonly used to refer to a traffic jam.

Siempre hay tapón en la autopista durante la hora pico. [ˈsjempɾe ai taˈpon en la awtoˈpista duˈɾante la ˈoɾa ˈpiko] There is always a traffic jam on the highway during rush hour.

  • Chavos [ˈtʃabos] – Money. Slang for money.

No tengo chavos para salir. [no ˈteŋɡo ˈtʃabos paˈɾa saˈliɾ] I don’t have money to go out.

  • Salpafuera [salpaˈfwera] – Go away/Get out. An expression used to tell someone to go away in a somewhat brusque manner.

¡Salpafuera, no te quiero aquí! [salpaˈfwera no te ˈkjeɾo aˈki] Get out, I don’t want you here!

  • Ñapa [ˈɲapa] – A little extra. Refers to a small extra amount added for free, typically when purchasing something.

Pídeme una ñapa cuando compres los mangos. [ˈpiðeme ˈuna ˈɲapa ˈkwando ˈkompɾes los ˈmaŋgos] Ask for a little extra when you buy the mangoes.

Puerto Rican Greetings: First Words in the Local Tongue

When visiting Puerto Rico, starting conversations with local greetings can make a great first impression. These words for beginners are your key to friendly interactions and showing respect for the local culture. Here’s a list of common Puerto Rican greetings you can use from the moment you arrive:

  • Acho [ˈatʃo] – Hey. A casual exclamation to grab someone’s attention.

Acho, ¿puedes ayudarme? [ˈatʃo ˈpweðes aʝuˈðaɾme] Hey, can you help me?

  • ¡Diache! [ˈdjatʃe] – Wow! Expresses surprise but can also serve as a lively greeting when meeting someone unexpectedly.

¡Diache! Hace tiempo no te veía. [ˈdjatʃe, ˈaθe ˈtjempo no te ˈβeja] Wow! I haven’t seen you in a long time.

  • ¡Buenas! [ˈbwena] – Hi/Hello! A universal greeting used any time of day.

¡Buenas, cómo estás! [ˈbwena ˈkomo esˈtas] Hi, how are you!

  • ¿Qué es la que hay? [ke es la ke ˈai] – What’s up? A very casual and friendly greeting.

¿Qué es la que hay, bro? [ke es la ke ˈai ˈbɾo] What’s up, bro?

  • Saludos [saˈluðos] – Greetings. A formal way to greet someone.

Saludos a tu familia. [saˈluðos a tu faˈmilja] Greetings to your family.

  • Dime algo [ˈdime ˈalgo] – Tell me something. Another informal greeting that prompts a conversation.

Oye, dime algo, ¿todo bien? [ˈoʝe ˈdime ˈalgo ˈtoðo ˈβjen] Hey, tell me something, all good?

  • Dale [ˈdale] – Go ahead/Okay. Used as a greeting and a way to give encouragement.

¡Dale, bienvenido a la fiesta! [ˈdale, ˌbjembeˈniðo a la ˈfjesta] Okay, welcome to the party!

  • Pendiente [penˈdjente] – Stay alert/Stay tuned. Often used as a farewell, implying to stay in touch or alert.

Nos vemos, pendiente con eso. [nos ˈβemos penˈdjente kon ˈeso] See you, stay alert with that.


On Friendship: Words to Bond with Locals

Connecting with locals can be a delightful experience, enriched by knowing the right expressions. Puerto Rico sayings include many terms that convey friendship and camaraderie. Here’s a list of phrases that can help you bond with locals:

  • Chacho [ˈtʃatʃo] – Dude. A casual way to refer to a friend or express surprise.

Chacho, ¿viste eso? [ˈtʃatʃo ˈβiste ˈeso] Dude, did you see that?

  • Janguear [haŋˈɡeaɾ] – To hang out. Used when talking about going out or spending time with friends.

Vamos a janguear esta noche. [ˈbamos a haŋˈɡeaɾ ˈesta ˈnotʃe] Let’s hang out tonight.

  • Corillo [koˈɾiʎo] – Group of friends. Refers to a close-knit group of friends.

Mi corillo siempre se reúne los viernes. [mi koˈɾiʎo ˈsjempɾe se reˈune los ˈβjeɾnes] My group of friends always meets on Fridays.

  • Broki [ˈbroki] – Bro/Buddy. A friendly term for a male friend.

¿Qué hay, broki? [ˈke ˈai ˈbroki] What’s up, bro?

  • Pana [ˈpana] – Friend/Buddy. A common term for a close friend.

¿Cómo está mi pana hoy? [ˈkomo esˈta mi ˈpana ˈoj] How is my buddy today?

  • Compa [ˈkompa] – Short for Compañero (Companion). Used among friends to refer to each other in a friendly manner.

Oye compa, vamos al cine. [ˈoʝe ˈkompa, ˈbamos al ˈθine] Hey mate, let’s go to the movies.

  • Tigre [ˈtiɣɾe] – Guy/Dude. Often used to refer to a guy in an affectionate or friendly way.

Ese tigre siempre tiene buenas ideas. [ˈese ˈtiɣɾe ˈsjempɾe ˈtjene ˈβwenas iˈðeas] That dude always has good ideas.

Youth Vocabulary: Unique Words Loved by Teens

Puerto Rican teens have their lingo that keeps evolving, blending Spanish with local dialects and English influences. These words often capture the vibrancy and creativity of young people on the island. Here are a few Puerto Rican words used among teens:

  • Brutal [ˈbɾutal] – Awesome/Cool. A term for describing something that is exceptionally good or cool.

Ese concierto estuvo brutal. [ˈese konˈθjeɾto esˈtuβo ˈbɾutal] That concert was awesome.

  • La jodienda [la xoˈdjenda] – Fun/Messing around. Refers to having a good time or joking around.

Nos pasamos toda la noche en la jodienda. [nos paˈsamos ˈtoða la ˈnoʧe en la xoˈdjenda] We spent the whole night having fun.

  • Janguiar [ʝaŋˈɡjaɾ] – To hang out. Refers to spending time with friends.

Vamos a janguiar en el mall. [ˈbamos a ʝaŋˈɡjaɾ en el mall] Let’s hang out at the mall.

  • Atrevido [atɾeˈβiðo] – Bold. Describes someone who is daring or bold.

Eres bien atrevido para hablar así. [ˈeɾes ˈβjen atɾeˈβiðo paɾa aˈβlaɾ aˈsi] You are very bold to talk like that.

  • Tirar pinta [tiˈɾaɾ ˈpinta] – To show off. Used when someone is showing off their style or possessions.

Siempre está tirando pinta con sus zapatos nuevos. [ˈsjempre ˈesta tiˈɾaɾ ˈpinta kon sus saˈpatos ˈnweβos] He’s always showing off his new shoes.

  • Pela’o [peˈla.o] – Young guy/Kid. Refers to a young person, often implying they are somewhat naive or inexperienced.

Ese pela’o no sabe nada de la vida todavía. [ˈese peˈla.o no ˈsaβe ˈnaða ðe la ˈβiða toðaˈβja] That kid doesn’t know anything about life yet.

  • Revolú [reβoˈlu] – Chaos/Disorder. Describes a chaotic or disorderly situation, often used to depict messiness or confusion.

Qué revolú tienen en esa casa. [ke reβoˈlu ˈtjeneɴ en ˈesa ˈkasa] What a mess they have in that house.

Using Slang with Caution: When and Where it’s Suitable

Slang gives the language a unique taste but must be used at the right place and time. You wouldn’t use Puerto Rican sayings everywhere you travel. Just as each country has its specific culture and customs, they also have certain words suitable only for their region. Here are some points to keep in mind:

  • Use slang in informal settings. Puerto Rican sayings are great for conversations with friends or local people. They give a casual and friendly touch to your chats.
  • Be aware of the context. Not all slang words are suitable for every situation. Some expressions may be rude or inappropriate if used at the wrong time or place.
  • Demonstrate respect. When using Puerto Rican slang, do so respectfully. It’s important not to offend locals by misusing their phrases.
  • Don’t overuse it. Too much can be confusing and might seem forced. A touch of local phrases will be appreciated, but standard Spanish is perfectly fine in most situations.

Remember that phrases can carry regional or cultural nuances. Be open to learning from these and ask if you’re unsure about using a word or phrase. Locals usually appreciate your interest in their language.

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Puerto Rican slang is a unique blend of several cultures. Understanding it can improve your time on the island. It helps you bond with the locals and makes you feel at home. Master these phrases and start your linguistic adventure in the heart of Puerto Rico today. Soon enough, you can speak like a true Boricua!


What are some common gestures alongside these spoken phrases?

Locals use expressive hand movements when speaking with excitement or emphasis. Also, a nod or shake of the head can often accompany certain expressions.

Do other Spanish-speaking countries understand Puerto Rican slang?

As with many regional dialects, some Puerto Rico words may be unique. Yet, Spanish-speaking individuals from various countries might understand common terms or similar expressions.

How well is English spoken in Puerto Rico?

English is spoken in Puerto Rico due to its status as an official language alongside Spanish. But fluency varies widely among different people and places.

Where can I find accurate translations for these terms?

Some reliable online dictionaries are WordReference and Reverso Context. They offer excellent tools for translating specific words or entire sentences in context.