Useful Words for Visiting Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico has developed a unique version of Spanish. The language was greatly influenced by Puerto Rico’s history. Puerto Ricans integrated thousands of Taíno words, adopted some pronunciation habits from African dialects, and incorporated English words or phrases (known as “Spanglish”) into the language.    The pace of the Spanish spoken here is usually very fast for non-native speakers, even those familiar with another dialect: don’t be discouraged if you feel you are having a hard time keeping up!!

Unlike most dialects of Spanish, it has contractions (more in line with influences from English). For Europeans with some familiarity with Castillian Spanish from Spain, let it be known that the vosotros form of the verb is almost NEVER used: like most of North America,  such formalities died out a long time ago, right alongside English “thee” and “thou-”   People will mostly use Usted when they first meet you and then let their guard down as they get to know you and are less formal as a whole than in Spain. It should also be mentioned that /s/ is never pronounced /th/ like it is in Spain, but occasionally is dropped if it ends a word.  (i.e. Gracias beomes Gracia)

Here follow a few words  or phrases you will only hear on the island. Some do not posess the same meaning they do in standard Spanish, and this list is by no means exhaustive….

Perdoname – Excuse me (as in when you bump into someone)

Con Permiso – Excuse me (as in someone is in the way and you’d like to get by them)


La guagua—bus, truck, or SUV

un bobo–idiot, moron

Pa’ lla–contraction of para alla ( meaning: over there)

Pa’ca–contraction of para aca (meaning: over here.)

¡Carajo! -Swear world roughly on par with the f-word in vulgarity, avoid unless a brick falls on your foot or the equivalent.

Borinquen–Puerto Rican.


Salida- Exit

¡Uepa!– Cool!

limber–a treat made of frozen juice or coconut milk. (Corruption of the name Charles LINDBERGH.)

‘Mano-roughly means “dude” if used to address someone.

China – May refer to the country “China”, a female from or of Chinese descent. It also means the color or fruit “Orange”.

Comemierda – (literally) shit-eater; it is used when some person thinks that he/she is all-knowing and/or all-deserving

Gafas – Sunglasses

Zafacón – Garbage can

Tú SabesOne of the most popular sayings you’ll encounter in a conversation with a local, tú sabes, along with ya tú sabes is literally “you know.” As in, “That beach is the best, you know.”

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