What’s the best way to brighten up your Spanish?
How can you add a little extra color to your conversations?
It’s easy. Put the textbook down for a minute, and start picking up some new slang.
Language learners love slang because it’s fun, vivid and unique. Plus, it just feels cool to use. You can show off your new slang vocabulary to all your language learning friends and trade new words and phrases like Pokemon cards.
And Spanish offers a lot of slang.
You have your Mexican slang. Then there’s Spanish slang. And don’t forget South America—there’s also Argentine slang, Chilean slang, Peruvian slang and Ecuadorian slang. With lots of other Spanish-speaking countries and regions, that’s only the tip of the iceberg!
On today’s slang agenda, however, we have the glorious, vivid slang of Puerto Rico. So dive in and prepare to learn some great words and phrases!
What Makes Puerto Rican Slang Unique?
Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory. Why does that matter to Puerto Rican slang? Well, perhaps because of Puerto Rico’s relationship with the U.S., a lot of Puerto Rican slang words and phrases are Anglicisms, or words/phrases borrowed from the English language. Anglicisms can be useful for English-speakers learning the language, because they feel familiar and are therefore easy to remember.
While these Anglicisms can be intriguing and appealing, Puerto Rican slang has more to offer than just Anglicisms alone. Puerto Rican slang (like much of the world’s slang) also often focuses on abbreviating longer words in interesting ways. This can be confusing for non-native speakers, but it leads to a more dynamic and exciting language.
Why Do You Need to Know Puerto Rican Slang?
Getting comfortable with Puerto Rican slang will open windows to a new facet of the Spanish language and to the everyday culture of the island. Here’s how:
- You’ll sound local. If you’re traveling to Puerto Rico and don’t want to stand out, learning Puerto Rican slang is one of the quickest ways to sound local. This is a great way to experience more authentic culture rather than always being treated as a tourist.
- You’ll understand the Spanish language in greater depth. Learning different facets of the Spanish language such as Puerto Rican slang will help you see the diverse and dynamic nature of the language.
- You’ll be able to communicate more easily with Puerto Ricans living in the continental U.S. There are a number of large Puerto Rican communities throughout the continental U.S. Learning Puerto Rican slang will help you communicate with Puerto Ricans near you!
- Puerto Rican slang is just plain fun. There are some very interesting and colorful terms and phrases. You might work them into your regular Spanish vocabulary even if you aren’t communicating with Puerto Ricans. Yes—Puerto Rican slang is that good.
Resources for Learning Puerto Rican Slang
If you have a limitless appetite for Puerto Rican slang and 14 words and phrases isn’t enough, here are some helpful resources you can use to expand your vocabulary.
- Bambinoides, an international news website, maintains an excellent list of expressions.
- Dialecto Boricua is a Spanish-language blog dedicated to the dialect of Spanish spoken in Puerto Rico.
- “Speaking Boricua: A Practical Guide to Puerto Rican Spanish” and “Speaking Phrases Boricua: A Collection of Wisdom and Sayings From Puerto Rico” are two great selections from author Jared Romey that cover Puerto Rican slang.
- FluentU covers regional accents and dialects from all over, so when you learn with FluentU videos, you can be sure your Spanish knowledge is well-rounded.
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 topics, 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.
Plus, 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 studying with the same video.
Gufiao! 14 Puerto Rican Slang Phrases to Make You Sound Like a Boricua
Admittedly, the word boricua isn’t technically slang, but it’s a popular word that’s important to Puerto Rico. It’s also frequently used in conversation, and not knowing it’ll make you sound silly. Therefore, it’s front and center on this list.
Boricua is a term used to mean “Puerto Rican.” Before the Spanish arrived on the island now called “Puerto Rico,” the indigenous Taíno people called the island Borikén (also spelled Boriquén and Borinquen). Boricua is simply a name for the local people derived from the island’s original name, but let’s face facts—it’s just more interesting than puertorriqueño (Puerto Rican).
While the spelling varies, janguiar, janguear and hanguear are all slang for “to hang out.”
Try saying any variation out loud. You’ll notice it sounds a lot like “hang.” That’s because this slang word is an Anglicism. It was derived from the American expression “hang out.” Use it to talk about hanging out with friends or just relaxing.
Broki is Puerto Rican slang for “buddy.”
Again, this word may look familiar. That’s because it’s derived from the popular English-language slang “bro.” The “ki” suffix makes it diminutive, making the term more affectionate.
You probably already know tirar as a verb meaning “to throw” or “to throw away.”
However, in Puerto Rican slang, it can also mean “to hit on” or “to diss” or “to shoot” (as in a person). Given its diverse meanings, try to be careful with your use of tirar. Context is important, and slipping up could come across as a threat.
Acho and chacho are both short for muchacho (guy).
However, these slang words are usually used between thoughts, similar to how we use the word “well…” in English to transition between ideas or change subjects.
Alternately, acho and chacho can also mean “what’s up?”
6. A mi, plín
A mi, plín literally means “to me, plink.” Still unclear? Well, “plink” usually means “to shoot at for fun.” Think “Plinko” on “The Price is Right.”
However, in Puerto Rican slang, a mi, plín usually means “I don’t care.” It’s a bit more colorful than no me importa (I don’t care).
It looks like tirar. It sounds like tirar. It’s like tirar, but it only ties to one slang meaning of tirar, which relates to a diss. Yes, tiraera or tiradera is the noun form of the verb tirar. While the slang tirar can mean “to diss,” tiraera or the alternate spelling tiradera refers to a diss, a verbal feud or the act of purposefully antagonizing. Tiraera or tiradera is also often used to describe feuds between rappers.
For instance, you might say Kanye West and Taylor Swift have a tiraera/tiradera.
8. Al garete
Al garete originally referred to when a ship was adrift. It’s used as an adjective.
In Puerto Rican slang, it has a wide variety of meanings. It can mean “wild,” “off the rails,” “disastrous” or “out of it.”
For instance, if you hosted a party and it went poorly or got out of control, you might say “la fiesta se fue al garete” (“the party went off the rails” or “the party was disastrous” or “the party was wild”).
Nebuloso literally means “cloudy,” “foggy” or “vague.”
However, in Puerto Rican slang, nebuloso can also mean “untrustworthy.” It’s kind of like the English slang word “shady” in both its literal and figurative meanings.
In Puerto Rico and its neighbors Cuba and the Dominican Republic, chavos is slang for “money.”
Don’t confuse it with chavo, which means “guy” in Mexico, Honduras and Nicaragua.
This one’s a good example of the pin balling paths slang words can take as they develop. Gufiao is a contraction of gufeado, which is derived from the English word “goofy.”
However, in Puerto Rican slang, gufiao actually means “cool” or “awesome.”
Like gufiao, gufear is derived from English. However, in this instance, gufear means “to goof around” or “to joke around.”
13. Bregarle Chicky Starr
This one requires a little dissecting. Bregar is the verb for “to struggle.” For this phrase, it’s used with an indirect object (le) to refer to the person being affected.
Chicky Starr, meanwhile, is a Puerto Rican wrestler, cast as the antagonist in the ring.
In slang, bregarle Chicky Starr means “to play dirty with someone,” “to betray someone” or “to turn on someone.” It’s a humorous but negative phrase. And it certainly is entertaining and colorful!
If you hear someone say mano your immediate thought will probably be that they mean “hand.” Totally understandable. Mano usually does mean “hand.”
However, in Puerto Rican slang, the exclamation ¡Mano! is an abbreviation of hermano (brother). Indeed, in slang it’s used to mean brother; however, as an exclamation, ¡Mano! roughly means “hey, bro!”
Congratulations on having learned some valuable and intriguing Puerto Rican slang.
But remember: These great slang words and phrases are by no means all there are to learn. Think of them as a helpful nudge on your path to full proficiency in Puerto Rican slang.
To learn more, enjoy some time in Puerto Rico or hang out with Puerto Ricans near you!
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