13 El Salvador Slang Terms to Sound Like a Local

El Salvador has more to offer than most people realize.

Not only is it home to more than a dozen active volcanoes, there are Mayan ruins at Tazumal and 191 miles of Pacific coastline and beaches.

Whatever you do in El Salvador, getting to know some local lingo will be important for communicating with the locals during your trip. 

Here are 13 essential El Salvador slang words and phrases to infuse your Spanish with local color.


Essential El Salvador Slang Words and Phrases

1. Chucho   — dog

Don’t expect to hear the furry little friend with a wagging tail following you around the market called perro (dog). You may look at his big, soulful eyes and think perro (dog) but you’ll be the only one with that term in mind.

A dog is always called chucho in El Salvador. It doesn’t seem to have a literal translation, but that doesn’t matter—just memorize it, because you’ll be seeing a lot of cute dogs in El Salvador.

¡Mira! ¡El chucho nos sigue!
Look! The dog is following us!

2. Casamiento   — traditional rice and bean dish

This word literally means “marriage,” but don’t get nervous if someone offers you casamiento—they’re not proposing.

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Casamiento is a traditional Salvadoran dish made with white rice and black beans—and the two components, rice and beans, are said to “marry” when combined, which gives the dish its name.

This is a staple food, so it’s likely it’ll be offered at least once. If you’re hungry, accept because while it’s simple fare, it’s very nourishing and tasty.

Prueba el casamiento. ¡Es muy bueno!
Try the casamiento. It’s very good!

3. Vaya pues   — see you later

Literally, “go then,” but the expression is used to say a friendly “see you later.”

Adiós (goodbye) is rarely heard when ending a phone conversation or even a transaction in una tienda (a shop). Instead, vaya pues is the standard in such situations so it’s a helpful term to keep in mind.

A chorus of vaya pues will follow you from any crowd if you’ve made at least one casual connection.

4. ¡Puchica!  — damn!

This is a minor swear word that loosely translated means, “oh, man!” or “damn!” This multipurpose exclamation works in almost any situation that locals use freely.

Did you drop your phone? Miss the last bus back to the hotel? Find the restaurant all out of pupusas for the day?

Feel free to say “¡Puchica!” and blend in with the locals.

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5. Cabal   — agreement

The literal translation of cabal is “thorough” but it’s used to show agreement here in El Salvador—a word that replaces “exactly” or “certainly.”

El costo del café es demasiado alto. 
The cost of coffee is too high.


It’s a very useful word and adds to any conversation where two parties are in accord.

6. Chera / chero   — friend

This has no literal translation—it’s simply a word commonly used to replace amigo or amiga (friend).

Eres un gran chero.
You’re a great friend [masculine].

7. Chivo / chiva  — OK, great, cool

Chivo means “great” or “cool.” If you give something a thumbs up, it’s chivo/chiva. You can also use this to convey “OK” or agreement.

This is one of my favorite Salvadoran slang words because it’s fun to say and its meaning is so positive! I mean, really, who can say this without smiling?

¡Qué chiva!
That’s cool!

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8. Buena onda   — good vibes

Buena onda translates literally to “good wave,” but this phrase is used to show a good feeling about a person, place or situation. In other words, buena onda is Salvadoran for “good vibes.”

El club está bueno, ¿no? 
The club is good, no?

Sí, tiene buena onda.
Yes, it has good vibes.

9. Tener goma  — having a hangover

The actual translation is “to have glue,” but it’s the slang term for having a hangover and is used in other countries in the region as well.

This is widely used, so you should tuck this one into your slang kit. You may (or may not, depending on your travel plans!) hear it often.

Me quedé demasiado tiempo en la fiesta. ¡Tengo goma
I stayed too long at the party. I have a hangover!

Check out this post for more ways to say “hangover” in Spanish!

10. Bayunco — crazy

Bayunco is the slang term for crazy, so don’t expect to hear loco (crazy) in El Salvador.

Honestly, bayunco is another fun word that rolls off the tongue and brings smiles. And shared smiles in a foreign country? That’s a win/win situation!

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¡Qué bayunco!
It’s crazy!

11. Bajonear — to eat

This verb literally means “to go down,” but Salvadorians use it to mean “chow down” or eat.

¡Estoy hambriento! Vamos bajoneamos.
I’m starving! Let’s eat.

12. Bicho — children or people younger than you

This word’s true meaning is “bug,” but this cute slang word is used to refer to children, or really anyone that’s younger than you.

Ese bicho siempre quiere pasar el rato.
That kid always wants to hang out.

13. Pista  — money

In Mexico, a pista is an alcoholic beverage, but in El Salvador, it’s one of many slang terms for money.

No tengo pista.
I have no money.

What You’ll Hear in El Salvador

Spanish is the official language, although it’s slightly different from what most of us learn through mainstream language study.

Salvadorans use the voseo form of verb conjugation rather than the one most of us know, the tuteo form. It simply means that vos (you) takes the place of the second person pronoun—instead of (you). A few other countries use this conjugation variance, most notably Argentina.

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Often called Salvadoran Spanish, the speech unique to El Salvador is called Caliche. It’s a mix of standard Spanish and native Salvadoran slang spoken among locals.

Additionally, Nahuatl is still spoken on a limited basis. Historically, it has been referred to as Aztec and at this point, some contend it’s a dying language. Others, however, deem it worthy of continued study.

It’s worth seeing all this in practice, by watching videos featuring native speakers from the area. You can do this on FluentU, which gathers hundreds of videos from around the Spanish-speaking world for natural learning.

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I never travel to a country without trying to get some of the local expressions under my belt. It just seems natural to want to communicate effectively with those I meet—and besides, it’s fun to be able to lay down the lingo like a local.

Using this list of phrases and other Spanish slang in El Salvador will ramp up your communication skills, open doors and maybe even garner an invitation or two to some local events.

Speak like the locals, with the locals—and that’s just the best way to communicate, isn’t it?

¡Buena suerte! (Good luck!)

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