8 Nicaraguan Slang Words and Phrases to Give Your Spanish Local Flavor
Nicaragua is an undiscovered jewel of Central America.
But if you’ve learned a standard variety of Spanish, you may be a little confused once you start hearing the people talk here, because they use a lot of slang.
That’s where this super informative post comes in.
Read on to learn the eight most used Nicaraguan slang words and phrases. Then learn a little more about the unique language variety that is Nicaraguan Spanish, also known as Nicañol.
- Nicaraguan Spanish Slang Essentials to Sound Like a Local
- What is Nicaraguan Spanish?
- Why Learn Nicaraguan Spanish?
- How to Learn Nicaraguan Spanish
- And One More Thing…
Nicaraguan Spanish Slang Essentials to Sound Like a Local
To get your Nicaraguan slang off to a good start, here are some must-know terms that you can practice before the airplane wheels hit the Central American tarmac.
Remember, slang is inherently an informal aspect of communication so please don’t use any of these examples in a formal environment!
Chunche is one of those all-purpose words that’s loosely translated to mean “that,” “thing” or even “whatchamacallit.”
Something to be aware of: Chunche can also refer to female genitalia. So chances are, if you’re in a heated discussion and hear the word, the other person probably isn’t calling you a doodad. Just a point to remember.
But most often it’s used to refer to an item, not a person or their parts.
Escucha, agarrame ese chunche de allí.
Listen, pass me that thing over there.
I want that one!
While ¡hola! (hello!) and ¡adiós! (goodbye!) are still standard Spanish expressions that you’ll hear frequently, Nicaraguans use adiós differently. Here, it’s a casual way to acknowledge friends or acquaintances on the street.
It’s similar to the Hawaiian aloha (hello/goodbye).
Or even the passing New Yorker’s “hey” and head nod that can mean just about anything.
Use it while you’re in Nicaragua and you’ll surely garner smiles!
“¡Adiós!” from the woman passing on the sidewalk with a baby carriage.
“¡Adiós!” and a wave from a friendly toddler.
3. Ser peor que un pujo de vendaval
The literal translation of this expression is “You’re worse than rainfall” and it’s definitely an insult.
It’s used when someone is a pest or just bothersome, like a mosquito that won’t go away.
Considering the Nicaraguan rainy season is seven months long and probably curtails a lot of outdoor fun, likening someone to anything worse than rainfall is definitely not complimentary!
The street vendor who won’t stop following you with his brightly-colored sandals even after you’ve declined the invitation to purchase them?
Surprise him with this phrase and see how quickly he backs off!
“¡Ser peor que un pujo de vendaval!“
Pues is another wonderful all-purpose word.
Literally, it means “well” but in casual conversation it’s also “hmm.”
Quite simply, it’s a word used to fill a pause in a conversation. You know, the one that gives a speaker time to consider a response.
Vamos a cenar … pues… más tarde.
We are going to dinner…hmm… later on.
The actual translation of salvaje is “wild” but it has an even trendier translation.
On the street, in the club, in a classroom or just about everywhere else you’ll hear the word, it’s the catch-all expression to signify something is cool, awesome or lit.
¡Tus pendientes están salvajes!
Your earrings are awesome!
El nuevo restaurante es genial. ¡El pico gallo es salvaje!
The new restaurant is great. The pico gallo is awesome!
Cuecho is a fun slang word because, well, it’s got a roll-off-the-tongue sound but also because it’s a case of cultural reference becoming street lingo.
Literally, cuecho refers to something that’s been ground (like coffee into grinds or something made into a powder) but its slang meaning is “gossip,” which is a folk song reference.
Carlos Mejía Godoy, a Nicaraguan musician whose most popular song is “La Tula Cuecho,” spawned this slang expression. In the song, he references a woman, “Gertie the Gossip,” who practically rules the town with her sharp tongue.
Consider a line from the song to see the sentiment and you’ll understand where this concept came from:
A flor de labio maneja el chisme.
On the tip of her tongue she handles the gossip.
It’s just a fun example of song lyrics gaining a solid spot in the everyday slang lineup.
¡Eso es todo cuecho!
That’s all gossip!
7. No hay falla
If you want to say something’s okay, use this expression, which, literally translated, means: “There’s no failure.”
But on the street it’s right up there with ¡no hay problema! (no problem!)
It’s the hip way to say, “don’t worry about it” or “everything’s cool.”
When la camarera (the waitress) realizes she’s made a mistake on your lunch order, just wave a hand and say:
“¡No hay falla!”
This literally means “Did you hear?” but it’s also used as “right?” or “okay?”
When you want to confirm your friend is paying attention to what you’re saying, ask:
What is Nicaraguan Spanish?
Spanish is the official language of Nicaragua although two forms of English are also spoken there. Creole English is used in the Caribbean coastal area and Standard English is spoken among the expat community.
Nicaraguan Spanish is called Nicañol.
Nicaraguans use the voseo form of verb conjugation rather than the one most of us are familiar with, the tuteo form. It just means that vos (you) takes the place of the second person pronoun—instead of tú (you).
A few other countries in Latin America also use this conjugation method—notably El Salvador and Argentina.
Along with Nicañol Spanish, you’re going to hear lots—and I mean lots—of slang. Remember, the atmosphere is casual and where the living is laid-back, the word on the street is often loose and easy, too!
Why Learn Nicaraguan Spanish?
Whenever you travel to a country, it’s great to have some basic, ice-breaking phrases on hand.
Idiomatic expressions also increase your Spanish vocabulary—and many times, they do it in a very colorful way!
Let’s face it: When we travel we go to experience a culture and communicate with those who live at that destination. We want to see and learn—and interact.
With some slang under your belt, you’ll be able to talk with the locals with confidence. You’ll be able to give compliments, meet new friends and feel at home when you’re away!
How to Learn Nicaraguan Spanish
There are some super tools that can help get your Nicaraguan Spanish up to speed. And the best part is they’re fun to use!
HelloTalk is the go-to language exchange app if you’re looking to chat and exchange text and audio messages with someone living in Nicaragua. This isn’t a course in Nicañol. Rather, it’s the chance to chat one-on-one with someone who’s able to teach you from their own experience in their own words. The app is available for iOS as well as Android. And be sure to check out our full review of HelloTalk.
- Language Exchange:
Language Exchange is another excellent resource for gaining some practice speaking Spanish with a native Nicaraguan speaker. Finding a language partner with Language Exchange is simple. Enter your information on the home page (native language, practicing language and country). My quick search yielded over three dozen language learners in Nicaragua searching for a language exchange partner!
So head to Nicaragua for the sights, sounds and amazing adventures. But don’t leave home without some Nicaraguan Spanish slang! Need some context for your learning? Find these and other slang terms in action on an immersion program like FluentU.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Power up your Spanish skills, blend with the locals and enjoy the experience!
¡Buena suerte! (Good luck!)
And One More Thing…
If you've made it this far that means you probably enjoy learning Spanish with engaging material and will then love FluentU.
Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the Spanish language and culture over time. You’ll learn Spanish as it’s actually spoken by real people.
FluentU has a wide variety of videos, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts. You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used. If you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.
Review a complete interactive transcript under the Dialogue tab, and find words and phrases listed under Vocab.
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s robust learning engine. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It'll even remind you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning with the same video.
Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Sign up by November 28th to receive a 60% discount with our Black Friday sale!