Cuban Slang: 20 Cuban Slang Words and Phrases Natives Use All the Time

Cuba is a country with a rich history and culture which is reflected in its unique way of speaking.

The Spanish language as spoken in Cuba includes a range of vibrant Cuban slang words and phrases that are an integral part of everyday conversations. If you’re keen to learn Spanish, particularly if you want to communicate like a local and take your Spanish language skills to the next level, understanding Cuban slang is essential. Watch this video from Spring Spanish (a project I co-founded) to learn the most important Spanish slang Latinos use all the time:

And here’s your essential guide to Spanish as it’s used on the island, with 20 Cuban slang words and chunks that can help you sound like a native speaker. Stay until the end to see all of it in action – also known as, real-life conversations!

1. Asere – Dude, friend

This Cuban slang word is ubiquitous among Cuban friends and is used much like the English word “buddy.”

  • Asere, ¿cómo estás?” (Buddy, how are you?)

2. Acere – A variant of “Asere,” also meaning friend or buddy

“Acere” is another way to address friends in Cuba and is just as commonly used as “Asere.”

  • ¡Oye, acere! Vamos a la playa.” (Hey, friend! Let’s go to the beach.)

3. Guagua – Bus

In Cuba, “guagua” refers to a public bus, which might confuse Spanish speakers from other regions where the word means “baby.”

cuban slang bus on a street
  • Tomé la guagua para llegar aquí.” (I took the bus to get here.)

4. Yuma – The USA or a foreigner, particularly an American

“Yuma” is a slang term used when referring to the United States or to a person from the U.S.

  • Mi primo vive en la yuma.” (My cousin lives in the United States.)

5. Pincha – Job or work

“Pincha” is commonly used to talk about one’s job or profession in Cuba.

  • ¿En qué pincha tu hermano?” (What does your brother do for work?)

6. Jama – Food

Cubans will often use the word “jama” as a general term for food, not just ham.

  • Tengo hambre, vamos a buscar algo de jama.” (I’m hungry, let’s find something to eat.)

7. Jinetero / Jinetera – Literally means “jockey,” but used to describe a person who hustles

The term can have a negative connotation, referring to someone who engages in prostitution or manipulates tourists for economic gain.

  • Hay muchos jineteros en los lugares turísticos.” (There are many hustlers in tourist areas.)

8. ¿Qué bolá? – What’s up?

This phrase is an informal way to say hello and ask how someone is doing.

  • ¿Qué bolá, acere?” (What’s up, buddy?)

9. Chévere – Cool or fantastic

“Chévere” is a positive term used throughout Latin America to express approval or that something is great or cool.

cuban slang emoji with sunglasses on cuban street
  • Esa película estaba chévere.” (That movie was cool.)

10. Timbiriche – A small business or a makeshift stand

In Cuban lingo, a “timbiriche” is a small and often informal business establishment.

  • Compré este sombrero en un timbiriche al lado del mercado.” (I bought this hat at a small stand next to the market.)

11. Singao – A vulgar term used to describe someone unpleasant

Be cautious with this one; “singao” is an offensive term and should be used only among very close friends and in a fitting context.

  • Ese tipo fue un verdadero singao en la fiesta.” (That guy was a real jerk at the party.)

12. Papaya – Be careful, the fruit is called “frutabomba”

In Cuban slang, the word “papaya” is used as a euphemism for female genitalia. It’s a colloquial and somewhat vulgar expression, so it should be used with caution and awareness of the social context. To avoid embarrassment or misunderstandings, it’s better to use “frutabomba” when talking about the fruit.

  • Esa película tenía escenas muy subidas de tono, incluso mostraban papaya. (That movie had very risqué scenes, they even showed nudity.)
  • Me gusta el jugo de frutabomba.” (I like papaya juice.)

13. Candela – Fire

This Cuban slang word is used to describe situations, parties, or even gossip that is particularly exciting or dramatic.

  • La discusión entre ellos estuvo candela.” (The argument between them was intense.)

14. Fula – Money, specifically US dollars.

Fula” is a slang term specifically for U.S. dollars, which are highly valued in Cuba.

cuban slang us dollars on cobblestones
  • ¿Tienes fula para pagar el taxi?” (Do you have dollars to pay for the taxi?)

15. Pomo – A bottle, typically of rum.

A “pomo” usually refers to a bottle of rum, a staple in Cuban households and social gatherings.

  • Trae el pomo que esta noche vamos a celebrar.” (Bring the bottle because we’re going to celebrate tonight.)

16. Tirar – To throw, take a photo, have sex

This verb’s meaning changes significantly with context, so listen carefully to understand what is being conveyed. Tirar can mean:

  • To throw: “Tira eso a la basura, ya no sirve.” (Throw that in the trash, it’s no longer useful.)
  • To take a photo: “Cuando estés en la Habana Vieja, tienes que tirar una foto del Capitolio.” (When you’re in Old Havana, you have to take a photo of the Capitol building.)
  • To have sex: “No es apropiado hablar de esas cosas, pero se dice que ellos andan tirando.” (It’s not appropriate to talk about those things, but it’s said that they are sleeping together.)

17. Chanchullo – A sketchy deal or arrangement

The word “chanchullo” often implies some level of underhandedness or corruption.

  • Ese negocio parece un chanchullo, ten cuidado.” (That business seems sketchy, be careful.)

18. Estar en la luna – To be daydreaming or not paying attention

When someone’s mind is elsewhere, Cubans might say they are “en la luna.

cuban slang daydreaming cloud
  • No escuché lo que dijiste, estaba en la luna.” (I didn’t hear what you said, I was daydreaming.)

19. Socio – Buddy or pal

Socio” can be used to address friends in a congenial way.

  • ¿Todo bien, socio?” (Everything good, pal?)

20. Tremendo – Tremendous

This term is versatile and can refer to both good and bad extremes.

  • El concierto estuvo tremendo anoche.” (The concert was tremendous last night.)

Use Cuban slang words in real-life conversations

By using Cuban slang in your conversations, you can make your Spanish vocabulary sound more like a local would use it. Let’s look at some real-life situations where these chunks come to life. Pay attention to chunks in these conversations! Don’t know what chunks are?

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Two friends meeting in an informal setting:

Juan: “¡Asere, ¿qué volá?” (Juan: “Buddy, what’s up?”)
Dominic: “¡Chévere, socio! Estoy buscando una pincha nueva.” (Dominic: “Cool, pal! I’m looking for a new job.”)
Juan: “Oye, y yo que estoy en candela con la mía, mucho trabajo hermano.” (Juan: “Man, I’m slammed with mine, too much work.”)
Dominic: “Bueno, después hablamos de eso. ¿Vamos a tomar algo ahora?” (Dominic: “Well, we’ll talk about that later. Shall we get a drink now?”)

People talking about food and drinks:

Félix:¿Qué tal si compramos un pomo de ron para la fiesta de esta noche?” (Félix: “How about we buy a bottle of rum for tonight’s party?”)
Edvard:¡Buena idea! Y no te olvides de la jama, que con hambre no se baila.” (Edvard: “Good idea! And don’t forget the food, you can’t dance on an empty stomach.”)
Félix:¡Claro, acere! Vamos al timbiriche de la esquina para comprar todo.” (Félix: “Of course, buddy! Let’s go to the small stand on the corner to buy everything.”)

Friends talking about economics:

Juan: “La situación económica está tremenda, socio.” (Juan: “The economic situation is tough, pal.”)
Dominic: “Sí, mi hermano, pero nosotros los cubanos siempre encontramos la manera, aunque sea con un chanchullo.” (Dominic: “Yes, my brother, but we Cubans always find a way, even if it means a sketchy deal.”)
Juan: “¡Y siempre en la luna con los precios! A ver si los salarios suben.” (Juan: “And always daydreaming about prices! Let’s see if wages go up.”)
Dominic: “Lo que necesitamos es más fula en el bolsillo, eso sí es candela.” ( Dominic: “What we need is more money in our pockets, that’s really something.”)

Practice Cuban slang words and phrases with our designated worksheets

I. Translate the Cuban slang words into English

This is just one of our many exercises! On Effortless Conversations, we have a full Practice Worksheet Library which you can access right here if you click this button.

Learn more Spanish slang with Conversation Based Chunking method

By familiarizing yourself with these Cuban slang words and phrases, you’ll be able to engage in conversations with Cuban friends or when visiting Cuba. Whether you want to learn Spanish slang from Spain or expand your Spanish vocabulary with popular Spanish slang words from Latin America, the Conversation Based Chunking method is an excellent way to understand slang and sound like a native.

Remember, language and culture go hand in hand, and by embracing the Cuban way of speaking, you can connect more deeply with Cuban people and their way of life.

¡Nos vemos, asere! (See you later, friend!)

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