Think your trip to Puerto Rico is complete with no local jargon?
Está loco, papi.
Just like a trip to Mexico, Puerto Rico has its own way of speaking. It’s Latino, localized — and you might find your trip adrift if you don’t grasp what others are saying.
If you’re an American citizen, you don’t need a visa to travel to Puerto Rico. But in order to effectively communicate while you’re there, you do need a grasp on these Puerto Rican slang terms. Taking a few Spanish courses will also help you out on your trip.
Each of these slang phrases is used commonly and casually throughout Puerto Rico. The he/she paradigm persists — don’t say “Buena” when you should say “Bueno,” muchacho. For practice, tune into a podcast or TV show that is based in Puerto Rico or uses Puerto Rican Spanish regularly. Your local vernacular will be “diablo” by the time you arrive.
Many Puerto Rican slang terms are essentially Spanglish — a mix of Spanish and English, often derived from American influence and Latin American culture. Puerto Rican Spanish is among the most unique regions of Spanish diction because the English language is more present — though Spanish slang tends to influence it moreso due to conjugation issues with many English words.
Puerto Rican slang words don’t necessarily imply curse words — though that is sometimes the case. They are often terms of endearment or recognition, even when they appear offensive, for family members and friends — though certainly not always.
Whether you’re traveling to San Juan or the coast, brush up on Puerto Rican Spanish before visiting the island — your trip will be so much more meaningful.
This is what Puerto Ricans refer to themselves as. Locals are Boricuas.
Que pasa, Baricua. — What’s up, dude. (from one Puerto Rican to another).
Nearly every culture has an endearing term for close friends that are like family, and in Puerto Rico, that term is Mano. It’s taken from Hermano, which means brother.
El es mi mano, hacemos todos juntos. — He is my brother, we do everything together.
This is the other term to know right away, before you land on the island. In general, “ahorita” means right now in Spanish. But Puerto Rico operates on island time, so when someone says “ahorita” to you, it means at some point in the future. That could be in an hour, it could be tomorrow, it could be in five years, but definitely not right now.
Claro hombre, te veré ahorita. — Yeah sure, man. I’ll see you then. (Sarcastic)
A term that signifies you have mastered something, be that your job, your hobby, your relationship, whatever it is that is being discussed.
Ella es una dura estudiante en la clase. — She is the best student in class.
Similar to countryfolk, and sometimes used as a demeaning term similar to “redneck,” jibaro is someone who lives in the rural areas of Puerto Rico.
No quiero convertirme en un jibaro. Me gusta vivir en la ciudad. — I don’t want to become a redneck. I like living in the city.
Al garete is a term used to desribe a crazy, awesome, or fun experience or person.
¡El partido de fútbol de anoche fue al garete! — The football game last night was so crazy!
Brutal is similar to al garete in that it refers to something that is super awesome or cool. It is perhaps even better, though — something that will be tough to repeat. “Epic” would be the closest incarnation in English.
¡El concierto de anoche fue brutal! ¡No puedo creer ese solo de batería! — The concert last night was so epic! I could not believe that drum solo!
These terms are how Puerto Ricans refer to children. They don’t generally use the common Spanish terms of niño or niña. Of Puerto Rican slang terms, this one is one of the few used in more formal talk.
Invitamos a todos los nenes a la fiesta de cumpleaños. — We invited all of the kids to the birthday party.
Tirar means to make fun of someone, to consider them trashy.
For example: Los dos raperos estan tirando los otros raperos. — The two rappers are making fun of the other rappers.
Chavos is Puerto Rican slang for money. You won’t hear this term used formally, but among groups of friends, it’s used on the daily.
No tengo chavos para cervezas esta noche, amigo. Están en ti. — I don’t have any money for beer tonight, buddy. They’re on you.
This term is hard to accomplish if you don’t have chavos. It refers to the act of being well put together, of dressing nice, or of really preparing yourself of a fancy event.
Voy a acicalao esta noche porque quiero impresionar a la chicas en la bembé. — I am going to dress up fancy tonight because I want to impress the girls at the party.
You can dress up as fancy as you wish, but don’t act like you’re better than everyone else. If you do, you’re likely to hear people whisper “come mierda” in your direction. It means “eat shit” literally, but it used to describe someone who is full of themself or who is an asshole.
For example: Ese comemierda no debería volver a entrar aquí. A nadie le gusta. — That asshole shouldn’t be allowed back in here. No one likes him.
The Spanish word for “cat” is used to describe someone who is very good looking, of either gender.
For examle: El es un gato! OOOOH! — He is so fine! OOOOH!
If you don’t watch yourself at el bembé (Puerto Rican for party), you might find yourself to drunk, which is signified by the term jumeta.
Anoche fui a casa porque si me hubiera quedado más tiempo, me habría emjumeta. — I went home early last night because if I had stayed any longer, I would have been too drunk.
You might need these to become jumeta. Birras are Puerto Rican slang for beer.
For example: Es hora de un birra. — It’s time for a beer.
This may happen if you have one too many birras. It means to dance fervently, as if you are possessed. It’s common in Puerto Rican pop music and club culture.
Ella bailaba como una perrea. ¡Era su banda favorita! — She was dancing like a crazy person. It was her favorite band!
This term looks like it’s about to spell out revolution, but if anything similar, it’s only what causes the revolution in the first place. It refers to something being a disaster, a mess, or needing to be handled.
Ese centro comercial es un revolú No quiero volver a ir nunca más. — That shopping mall is a disaster, I don’t ever want to go there again.
If you are looking to expand your Spanish vocabulary beyond Puerto Rican slang terms before your trip to the island, learn more about how to talk like a true local by starting with our Spanish Survival Crash Course.
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