How Do You Say Carnival in Spanish? Essential Vocab and Regional Slang to Party Anywhere

Sometimes you just need a break.

A chance to let loose.

A trip to Latin America during Carnival season might be just what you need!

Carnival is not just another vacation.

It is a chance to immerse yourself in the remarkable history, culture and language of a Latin American country.

Before you go, you will want to learn some basic vocabulary for the Carnival you are attending.

For starters, you will probably be wondering, “how do you say Carnival in Spanish, anyways?”

We will cover all the essential vocabulary you need, including lots of regional slang and terms from the biggest celebrations across the Spanish-speaking world.

So How Do You Say Carnival in Spanish? And What’s It All About?

Carnival is translated as Carnaval in Spanish.

Although your first impression may be that it is just a fiesta (party), I can assure you that Carnaval is so much more than that.

Carnaval is a huge celebration that lasts for multiple days. Throughout the days there are parties, parades and more.

Carnaval takes place in the days and months leading up to Lent, which is a Catholic tradition that involves a lot of fasting. The idea behind Carnaval is one last gigantic party before the Lenten season begins. These Catholic roots can be traced back to the arrival of Spanish explorers to this region.

What’s in It for Spanish Learners?

First and foremost, attending Carnaval would be a really fun adventure. You would not only experience this important cultural tradition but also immerse yourself in Spanish while you are at it. This would be a relaxed environment to hear tons of informal Spanish all day and all night.

But whether or not you can actually hop on a flight this Carnival season, learning about the many different Carnaval celebrations will expose you to lots of unique regional Spanish. It is a great way to expand your understanding of the Spanish language and how native speakers use it across the globe.

For example, you can get a sneak peek at the fun from your couch with this promo for Bolivia’s Carnaval—keep an ear out for key words about the costumes, food and music of the festival.

How Do You Say Carnival in Spanish? Essential Vocab and Regional Slang to Party Anywhere

If you want to attend Carnaval, then you should learn some basic words before you go on your adventure. As noted above, Carnaval celebrations occur throughout Latin America, so you will need to decide on a destination. After you decide on a place, take some time to brush up on the region-specific vocabulary. It can help tremendously to know even just a few local words as you join in the fun at Carnaval. 

Carnaval in Oruro, Bolivia


This 10-day celebration has been recognized on UNESCO’s list of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Oruro is a relatively small mining town and their Carnaval is thrown to honor Virgen de Socavon, who is the patron saint of miners.

Vocabulary to know for your trip:

Api (popular hot purple corn drink)

Muchas personas tenían tazas de api en las manos. (Many people had cups of api in their hands.)

ch’allas (ritual offering)

These include different forms of homage to the Virgen de Socavon.

Conjunto (dance group)

Entrada (opening day of Carnaval)

Asistir a la entrada es una experiencia que nunca olvidarás. (Attending the opening day of Carnaval is an experience you will never forget.)

Mesas (burned offerings)

These are usually made of flammable sheets of paper covered with special herbs, small pieces of lead and other simple trinkets that represent what people hope to gain, including money, love, health and happiness.

Carnaval in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago


Although it takes place on a relatively small island, this party is anything but small.

Vocabulary to know for your trip:

Fetes (themes parties to attend around the city.)

Desfiles (parades)

Los desfiles en la ciudad son emocionantes de ver. (The parades in the city are exciting to watch.)

Tambor de acero (steel drums)

Los tambores de acero tienen un sonido único. (Steel drums have a unique sound.)

You will hear the sound of steel drums all over the island and throughout the duration of Carnaval. 

Carnaval in Quito, Ecuador


Quito is the mountainous capital city of Ecuador. The country is known for its outstanding scenery, but its version of Carnaval is unique as well.

For the culmination of Carnaval celebrations all over the city, people douse unsuspecting neighbors with any liquid they have on hand. It could be beer, water or something stickier. It is highly likely that as a non-local, you will get doused. Just be prepared, join in the fun and splash someone else!

Vocabulary to know for your trip:

Chiva (party bus)

Una chiva es una forma completamente nueva de ir de fiesta. (A party bus is a whole new way to go partying.)

You might want to catch a ride on one of these.

Soroche (altitude sickness)

El soroche afecta a las personas de manera diferente. (Altitude sickness affects people differently.)

The mountains of Ecuador could easily give you altitude sickness. The best preventative method is just to drink plenty of water and pay attention to your body.

Carnaval in Barranquilla, Colombia


This is the rival of Rio de Janeiro’s famous Carnival celebration. It has many similarities with its Brazilian counterpart, but a Caribbean twist that really takes this Carnaval to the top of everyone’s list. The variety of music and dances that come together all in one place is astounding.

Vocabulary to know for your trip:

Batalla de Flores (The Battle of Flowers)

This is a parade that officially kicks off Barranquilla’s Carnaval, and the colorful celebration lives up to its name. It is one of the biggest events of the whole celebration.

Bailar (to dance)

Quiero bailar toda la noche. (I want to dance all night.)

Hopefully, you will be doing a lot of this.

Música (music)

Me encanta una variedad de música. (I love a variety of music.)

You will definitely hear a lot of this, too.

Guayabo (hangover, in Colombian slang)

A possibility while attending one of these amazing cultural displays.

Carnaval in the Dominican Republic


There are parties throughout the country that are collectively known as Carnaval dominicano. Santo Domingo is the best place to go if you want to see a huge parade that is representative of the entire country.

Vocabulary to know:

Diablo cojuelo (Crippled devil)

Costumes are a must if you are planning on attending this Carnaval. If you want to blend in with the locals, then try wearing un diablo cojuelo costume. It is the most popular costume on the island every year.

Other costume options include anything that is colorful and bright!

Máscaras (masks)

People will be wearing fun and colorful masks all over the island. You may want to bring your own to join in the fun.

Isla (island)

The entire country is on an island, so this is a good word to know!

Carnaval in Rio de Janerio, Brazil


Although this one does not take place in a Spanish-speaking country, it is a Carnaval celebration worth mentioning because it is one of the biggest and most well-known Carnivals in the world. There are huge parties in the streets that are all focused around parades and cultural performances that are truly out of this world.

The word for “Carnival” is the same in Spanish and Portuguese: Carnaval.


All of the Carnavals above are truly amazing celebrations. It is a huge community effort for these cities to put on these amazing events year after year. Carnaval is not just a huge party, it is a way of coming together and celebrating the culture of a nation.

As a visitor and participant in one of these spectacular celebrations. you will gain a deeper knowledge and appreciation of both a culture and its language. It is truly an experience that cannot be matched by textbook learning—and now that you know the answer to the question “how do you say Carnival in Spanish” and lots more, you are ready to join in. If you have an opportunity to go, then take it!

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