Before traveling to either country, having a basic understanding of common phrases, quick hits, and old stand-by sayings will make communication much easier on the ground. Central American slang — and Salvadoran in particular — is very particular and not what you’d find in Colombia, Argentina, or elsewhere in Latin and Central American countries. Even Panama is quite distinct from El Salvador and Honduras.
Even though it is more common to see slang in spoken language it does appear in the written language in both countries on occasion, among younger generations. Slang words help you connect to the local populace.
If you’re traveling to Chile, understand these common Chilean slang terms before you go to add a dose of humor to your conversations on the ground.
Cheque is Honduran for “OK’ or ‘sounds good.’ It’s often used solo, and is one of the most commonly used of Honduras slang terms.
Person 1: Want to do happy hour at Johnny’s?
Person 2: Cheque.
In El Salvador, you might hear “Cabal” used in palce of cheque. It means to agree or to confirm.
Person 1: ¡El juego fue un reventón! — The game was a blowout.
Person 2: Cabal. — Certainly.
Chivo, or chiva, means “cool.” It is used to refer to something that you like, agree with, or support.
Qué chivo, amigo. — That’s cool, buddy.
Birrias are what you might enjoy during happy hour at Johnny’s. This is how Hondurans refer to beer.
Necesito una birria.
Goma is what happens when you have too many birrias. It is Honduran slang for hangover.
For example: Si tomo otra cerveza, tendré goma mañana. — If I have another beer, I will be hungover tomorrow.
The word “mara” has two common meanings — hopefully, you’ll hear it used (or use it to yourself) to refer to your crew. On a bad day, you’ll hear it used to refer to a street gang.
Mi mara está fuera con toda su fuerza. — My crew is out in full force!
Alero refers to your best friend.
Mi alero esta en trabaja hastla las cinco.
In El Salvador, you’ll hear “bayunco” to mean “crazy,” often to describe a person or situation.
¡El juego was bayunco! — That game was crazy!
Vaya pues is what you might say to someone as you are leaving the happy hour at Johnny’s. It is Honduran slang for “see ya later.”
Person 1: Voy a casa ahora.
Person 2: ¡Vaya pues!
Paja refers to the act of lying, or more casually, or pulling someone’s leg.
¡Deja de hablar paja! No hay forma de que eso sea cierto. — Stop talking nonsense! There’s no way that is true.
A charrula is the person who might talk a lot of Paja. It refers to someone who is full of it or who doesn’t have themselves together.
El es un charrule. ¡Ya nadie lo quiere cerca! — He is a dirtbag. No one wants him around anymore!
Catracho is how Hondurans refer to themselves, similar to how Costa Ricans refer to themselves as Ticos.
Estoy orgulloso de ser un Catracho. — I am proud to be a Catracho!
This is how someone from El Salvador might say “damn it!” It’s a light swear word that is not super offensive.
¡Puchica! Olvidé mis llaves! — Damn it! I forgot my keys!
If you are looking to expand your Spanish vocabulary beyond slang terms before your trip to El Salvador or Honduras, learn more about how to talk like a true local by starting with our Spanish Survival Crash Course.
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