Puerto Rican Spanish: what makes it so special? + 10 Puerto Rican slang words

Explore Puerto Rican Spanish, a unique and vibrant flavor of the Spanish language!

Learn about its captivating culture, passionate native speakers, and vibrant tunes along with some of the most used Puerto Rican slang terms!

Effortless Answers

The key distinguishing characteristics of Puerto Rican Spanish:

• Aspiration/deletion of final /s/
Yeísmo (merger of /ʎ/ and /ʝ/)
• Flapped/trilled /r/ even in word-final position
• Extensive use of diminutive suffixes
• Unique vocabulary, including many English loanwords
• Use of “ustedes” instead of “vosotros
• Distinct intonation and faster speech tempo

There are a lot of different Spanish dialects and accents that have unique features. Lucky for you, we have the video that explains EVERYTHING!

This one is coming from Spring Spanish (a project I’m a co-founder).

Bear in mind that some of the things we’re writing about in this article are not exclusive to Puerto Rican Spanish but also to other Spanish dialects!

1. Overview of Puerto Rico history and the development of the Spanish language

The history and growth of Puerto Rican Spanish is a fascinating journey through centuries of cultural influences.

puerto rican spanish puerto rico map

Puerto Rico’s rich past is defined by various groups leaving their impact on the island’s language.

Here’s a short history lesson:

  • The indigenous people of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean were called the Taino people.
  • The Taino language was the first language Christopher Columbus and his crew encountered in 1492.
  • Explorers and colonizers adopted new words from the native groups.
  • The popularity of Spanish grew among islanders after they started settling down.
  • The assumed dialect origins of Puerto Rican Spanish are Andalusian and Canarian accents.
  • Other language influences are:
    • African languages – brought by enslaved Africans, contributing to vocabulary and pronunciation.
    • English: modern influence due to trade, tourism and media presence.

2. How is Puerto Rican Spanish different from the official language form?

Puerto Rican Spanish is a unique dialect of the Latin American Spanish language.

Puerto Ricans use a lot of slang in their everyday conversations, which might make it difficult for non-native speakers to understand.

Let’s take a look at some distinct characteristics of Puerto Rican Spanish:

  1. Seseo: This means that the “c” (before “e” or “i”) and “z” are pronounced like “s”, not like the “th” sound in Spain: gracias would be pronounced “grah-see-ahs” /ˈɡɾa.si.as/ instead of “grah-thee-ahs” /ˈɡɾaθjas/.
  2. Aspiration or elimination of ‘s’: The ‘s’ at the end of words or before other consonants is often aspirated (sounds like an English ‘h’) or dropped entirely: “los amigos” /los aˈmiɣos/ might sound more like “loh amigo” /loh aˈmiɣo/.
  3. R to L: In Puerto Rican Spanish, the “R” sound can sometimes be replaced by an “L” sound, especially at the end of the words. The “R” may also be aspirated or completely eliminated, just as the “S” we mentioned previously: “puerta” /ˈpwerta/ (door) might be pronounced as “puelta” /ˈpwelta/; “calor” /kaˈloɾ/ (heat) can become “calol” /kaˈlol/ or “verde” /ˈberðe/ (green) might turn into “velde” /ˈbelðe/.
  4. Use of ‘ustedes’ instead of ‘vosotros’: Unlike Spain, Latin American countries including Puerto Rico use ‘ustedes‘ for both formal and informal plural ‘you’.
  5. Influence of English: Given Puerto Rico’s relationship with the United States, there’s a significant influence of English on vocabulary: “parking” is commonly used instead of “estacionamiento“.
  6. Unique vocabulary: There are several words that are unique to Puerto Rican Spanish: “guagua” (bus), “china” (orange), and “zafacón” (trash can).
  7. Rhythm and Speed: Puerto Rican Spanish is known for its musicality and faster pace compared to other Spanish dialects.

3. Learn Puerto Rican Spanish words and phrases

While Spanish is the primary language spoken in Puerto Rico, the island has its own distinct dialect and slang.

If you’re traveling to Puerto Rico, you may hear some words and phrases that differ from other Latin American countries!

puerto rican spanish Architecture in San Juan Old City

Here are 10 of the most common Puerto Rican Spanish slangs you might find interesting!

SpanishEnglishUse case
Güey
Dude/ManCasual conversation among friends
Pegao
Stuck/Close-knitDescribing close relationships or heavy workloads
Janguear
Hang out/PartyPlanning social gatherings and leisure activities
Bregar
To work/DealManaging situations or tasks
Chévere
Cool/AwesomeExpressing approval or excitement
Chavos
MoneyDiscussing financial matters
Chin
A little bitRequesting or describing small quantities
Guagua
Bus/SUVTalking about transportation
Chulería
Swagger/GoodComplimenting qualities or situations
Chinchorro
Local eaterySuggesting places to eat or meet

And let’s explore them one by one:

Güey

This term, commonly used in a similar context as “dude” or “man” in English, is a casual and informal way to refer to someone, often a friend or acquaintance. It shows a sense of familiarity.

¡Hola güey, ¿qué estás haciendo? (Hey dude, what are you doing?)

Pegao

It means “stuck” or “close-knit,” often referring to a close group of friends.

No puedo salir hoy, estoy pegao con trabajo. (I can’t go out today, I’m stuck with work.)

Janguear

This is a commonly used slang term that means socializing with friends, engaging in leisure activities, or enjoying lively gatherings. It’s a casual way to describe “hanging out” or “partying” in a relaxed and informal setting.

Vamos a janguear en el parque esta tarde. (Let’s hang out in the park this afternoon.)

Bregar

It translates to “to work” or “to deal with,” usually used to describe handling a situation.

Tengo que bregar con los problemas del trabajo. (I have to deal with work problems.)

Chévere

This slang is really similar to “cool” or “awesome” in English. It expresses positivity.

¡Esa fiesta estuvo chévere! (That party was awesome!)

Chavos

Instead of using “dinero” (money), Puerto Ricans often use this term.

No puedo comprarlo, no tengo chavos suficientes. (I can’t buy it, I don’t have enough money.)

Chin

This Puerto Rican slang is used to express a small quantity, similar to saying “a little bit” in English.

Dame un chin de agua, por favor. (Give me a little bit of water, please.)

Guagua

Instead of “autobús” (bus), Puerto Ricans use this term for saying bus or SUV.

Voy a tomar la guagua para ir al trabajo. (I’m going to take the bus to go to work.)

Chulería

In other countries, this word means “insolence”. In Puerto Rico, it has a completely different meaning and is used to describe something that is good, fun, funny, great, or beautiful.

Ese cantante tiene mucha chulería en el escenario. (That singer has a lot of swagger on stage.)

Chinchorro

Typically refers to a small, local, and usually inexpensive restaurant or bar.

Vamos a comer en un chinchorro de comida típica. (Let’s eat at a local food stand with traditional cuisine.)

4. Practice section – What do these slangs mean?

This practice worksheet will help you learn Puerto Rican slangs correctly.

I. Change the underlined chunks to the Puerto Rican Spanish slangs you’ve read about previously.

This is just part of our practice sections on Effortless Conversations. If you click the button below, you can request the full practice worksheets for all of our blog posts!

5. Combine Conversation Based Chunking and other resources for learning Puerto Rican Slangs

Puerto Rican Spanish is a vibrant language with influences from various countries.

It has a distinct accent, vocabulary, and syntax, borrowing from English and other languages. With its deep linguistic heritage, different dialects have emerged.

To learn the language, immerse yourself in conversations, both formal and informal.

Talking to native speakers or learning more about the Conversational Based Chunking method can quickly build your core foundations. Don’t miss out on the endless opportunities!

Sign up for our Conversation Based Chunking Starter Pack now and immerse yourself in this beautiful language!

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