Honduran Spanish: Common Words and Phrases and Why You Should Learn More
Cada vez que ríes, un clavo es removido de tu ataúd. (Every time you laugh, a nail is removed from your coffin.) — Honduran proverb
Sounds like the people of Honduras are quite the joyful bunch!
It’s certainly true that this beautiful Central American country is often overlooked. If you know where to go, it’s a place that can give visitors plenty to smile about.
So whether you’re planning a trip or just want to expand your Spanish horizons, you can brush up on some Honduran Spanish right here in this post.
- An Brief Overview of Honduran Spanish
- Common Words and Phrases in Honduras
- Why Learn Honduran Spanish?
- And One More Thing…
An Brief Overview of Honduran Spanish
Spanish is the only official language of Honduras. This Central American country is home to more than 9.4 million people, the vast majority of whom speak Spanish as a native language.
Like other nearby nations, Honduran language and culture retain influences from the Mayan people who have long occupied the area. Indigenous languages, including Garifuna and Miskito, are also still spoken there.
Hondurans use the voseo form of verb conjugation rather than the tuteo form most of us are familiar with. This simply means that vos (you) takes the place of the second person pronoun tu (you). A few other countries use this conjugation variance as well, most notably Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay.
Another very notable aspect of Honduran Spanish is the tendency to pronounce the letter “s” as an “h.” So the word semana (week) would sound like hemana instead! You can watch this video on the Lifey channel to hear more about this.
What else can you expect to hear in Honduras? Slang—and lots of it! You can listen to Spanish teacher Elizabeth talk about this here. You can also use the short videos on FluentU, which come from all over the Spanish-speaking world and include learning tools to help you along.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
The word for Honduran slang is caliche. It’s also the term used for slang in some other countries, like Guatemala and El Salvador.
Now let’s take a look at some caliche and common Honduran Spanish phrases to really dive into the culture of Honduras.
Common Words and Phrases in Honduras
Catracho or catracha is synonymous with the term “Honduran.” The proper term for a Honduran person is Hondureños but locals prefer and use this term.
Remember, Spanish has both masculine and feminine forms so catracho refers to a male while catracha references a female.
So a local man might say, “Yo soy catracho.” (“I am Honduran.”)
2. Eso es harina de otro costal
“That’s flour from another sack” is the literal translation—but no one’s talking about baked goods when they say this!
In local conversation, this phrase means “that’s another matter.”
Looking for a way out of answering a question or explaining a private situation? Just shrug and say, “Eso es harina de otro costal.” It should do the trick!
Pisto is a slang term that’s also used in a few other spots, like Guatemala and El Salvador, to casually reference dinero (money).
If you’re browsing some high-end shops, the price tags might exceed your travel budget. In that case, they’re talking pisto loco (crazy money) which means—you guessed it—a lot of money!
Here’s another fun fact about this word: In Mexico, pisto is a slang term that can refer to beer.
“Close friend” never sounded as pretty as it does when you use this Honduran word.
Calling someone your alero (or alera for women) is like saying they’re your BFF. It’s a term of endearment that indicates a cherished relationship.
Who knows? You may go solo to Honduras and get so cozy with the locals that you’ll find someone to call your own alero! After all, everyone needs a best friend.
If you do, you can shout it to the world like this: “¡Tengo un nuevo alero!” (“I have a new best friend!”)
5. ¡Vaya pues!
This short phrase literally translates to “Go, then!”
It’s not meant to chase anyone away, though, but rather used to indicate sincere agreement or to end conversations. It’s pretty much like saying, “Okay! Bye!”
In fact, it’s used so often in Honduran Spanish that there’s even a song titled “Vaya Pues.”
The Honduran slang term for “dog” sounds so friendly, doesn’t it?
Sure, you’ll hear perro (dog) used in conversation too, but if someone refers to their chucho you’ll know they’ve got a fuzzy companion.
There are other countries that favor this word, too—Spain and some Central American countries also give their dogs this sweet moniker.
Be careful, though: In other Latin American countries, such as Chile, Bolivia, Colombia, Panama and Mexico, chucha is a slang term for the female lady bits, which is probably not what you want to call your dog. Context is everything!
This word refers to a cheap alcoholic drink made from sugarcane. It’s somewhat comparable to white rum and may be consumed on its own or in various cocktails.
In Honduras and other Central American countries, guaro can also be used as slang for any cheap, strong liquor or alcoholic beverage.
A pulpería is a small store or shop that sells everyday items like food staples, canned goods, toiletries and other basic provisions.
Originally found only in rural areas, these convenience stores were a place where people could buy essential goods without traveling long distances to larger supermarkets.
Pulperías were often run by a local family and also served as a community gathering spot for locals to chat and socialize. In modern-day urban settings, a Honduran pulpería is something like a New York City bodega.
This mild exclamation is the gentler version of a more explicit curse word. It can be used to express surprise, frustration or disappointment.
If a Honduran says, “¡Púchica!” it’s basically like saying “Damn!” or even “Oh, shoot!”
A colloquial way to refer to a child (especially a boy), cipote is an affectionate Honduran term much like “kid” or “little one.”
A word of warning: In some regions, notably Spain, this term is a vulgar way to reference the male genital organ. Knowing your audience and being aware of context is (as always) vital!
In Honduras, this term is often used to mean “pampered,” much as a cipote might be by his parents!
Again, note that in other areas this word can mean “screwed” or refer to someone who is infatuated or obsessed with someone else.
Why Learn Honduran Spanish?
Even if you already know Spanish well, you can always benefit from learning more!
For instance, you might be planning to travel to Honduras. Knowing how to speak Spanish is a great start, but learning regional words and expressions will help immerse you more fully in the culture.
Plus, local idioms are fun! Sometimes silly, sometimes slightly off-color, they tell a lot about how laid-back or inviting the locals are.
Learning Honduran phrases will also help endear you to the locals and make for more pleasant conversations. Whenever I travel to a new country I try to use some local phrases as icebreakers and, believe me, the people I meet always appreciate the effort.
This not only increases your odds of making friends but also facilitates global understanding and connection through communication.
For example: I was so intrigued by the country while writing this post that I interviewed a Honduran friend for information. Yep—I’ve never been to Honduras!
I have learned a lot just by being curious about Honduran Spanish, though. My friend taught me one of his favorite expressions, passed down from his Honduran grandmother, that means one shouldn’t hesitate to take advantage of opportunities:
Camarón que se duerme se lo lleva la corriente. (A shrimp that goes to sleep is carried away by the current.)
So if you have an opportunity to learn more Honduran Spanish or even visit Honduras—take it.
You wouldn’t want to be swept away like the sleeping shrimp!
And One More Thing…
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