20 Cuban Slang Words That Will Make You Sound Native
Learning Cuban slang words gives you the upper hand in understanding the language and culture of this fascinating Caribbean island.
In this post, learn what slang is and why you should study Cuban slang. Then, get acquainted with 20 of the most common and useful Cuban slang words, each of which comes with a simple explanation and practical examples you can use on your own.
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According to the Cambridge Dictionary, slang is “very informal language that is usually spoken rather than written, used especially by particular groups of people.”
There are two aspects to pay attention to in that definition. One, slang is mostly spoken, as it’s not formal language yet, and people don’t use it in written form. Two, it’s used by particular groups of people. In this case, that particular group of people is the Cuban people.
Why You Should Learn Cuban Slang Words
Forget about pragmatic and utilitarian visions of learning only the words of a language that you think you’ll need at some point. What happens if you fail in your forecast? How do you know which words you’ll need and which ones you won’t?
Besides, you never know when you’ll visit the beautiful island of Cuba or even Miami Beach, where your knowledge of Cuban slang words may prove quite useful due to the large Cuban community in the area.
20 Cuban Slang Words
Without further ado, let’s learn 15 of the most common and useful Cuban slang words.
This verb literally means “to poke” or “to stab,” however in Cuban slang it actually means “to work.” It makes sense then when you hear that they call the job la pincha.
Me voy a pinchar, nos vemos más tarde.
I’m going to work, see you later.
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Another verb, this one simply means “to eat.”
¿Qué vamos a jamar hoy?
What are we going to eat today?
One of the Cuban slang words that you hear a lot in Havan is camello. It means “camel,” but refers to the articulated buses that get this nickname from their “hump” in the middle.
¿Dónde puedo agarrar un camello?
Where can I get a bus?
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4. Acere or Asere
You’ll find it spelled both ways, which is common with slang terms as they’re mostly spoken instead of written. Acere works like the English word “dude.” It’s like a friend, but people use it more often as a filler word to accompany phrases.
Hey acere, ¿qué pasa?
Hey dude, what’s up?
Literally meaning “bottle,” in Cuban slang botella means “to give someone a ride.” This is very common in Cuba due to the scarcity of cars and the lack of good public transport services. Think of it as the “Cuban uber,” or as a community solution to a general problem.
Voy para la pincha, ¿me das la botella?
I’m going to my job, can you give me a ride?
In Cuba, a yuma is a foreigner.
Hay muchos yumas en la playa.
There are a lot of foreigners on the beach.
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This is one of my favorite Cuban slang words: paladar. It literally means “palate,” but Cubans use it to refer to any restaurant or café which, if you think about it, makes a lot of sense.
El nuevo paladar del centro está muy bueno.
The new restaurant downtown is very good.
8. Arrancado / Arrancada
A typical characteristic of Cuban accent is that they “eat” some consonants at the end of words. Arrancado is a good example of that, as it’s usually pronounced as arranca’o and arrancá. This way of speaking Spanish is also common in the Spanish regions of Andalusia and the Canary Islands. Cubans use arranca’o to say that they have no money or that they are broke.
¿Me prestas dinero? Estoy arranca’o.
Can you lend me some money? I’m broke.
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This is one more of the common Cuban slang words that refer to buses. I love the sound of this word (wah-wah).
¿Qué guagua me lleva para el centro?
Which bus takes me downtown?
Bola literally means “ball,” but in Cuban slang it’s a noun meaning “gossip,” similar to saying “the word on the street.”
La bola es que el profesor de español nunca se casó.
The word on the street is that the Spanish teacher never got married.
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11. Fresco / Fresca
In Cuba, a fresco or fresca is a disrespectful or rude person. In Spanish, the word fresco literally means “fresh.”
Ese Carlos es un fresco.
That Carlos is so rude.
A term of affection used in Cuba for grandmothers.
Mi tita está muy enferma.
My grandmother is very sick.
Cuban economic and political situation is unique in the world, and for that reason Cubans have very unique words too. Almendrón refers to the old cars from the decade of the 1950 that still roam the island these days.
El almendrón de mi padre está descompuesto.
My father’s old car is broken.
14. Jeva / Jevo
This term originally only referred to one’s “girlfriend” or jeva. However, nowadays the girls also use it to talk about their jevos or “boyfriends.”
Erika es mi jeva.
Erika is my girlfriend.
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15. Bembelequero / Bembelequera
Bembelequero is one of my favorite Cuban slang words. Do yourself a favor and pronounce it loudly to appreciate how beautiful it sounds! It refers to a person who gossips too much.
Ese Miguel es un bembelequero.
That Miguel is too gossipy.
The bicycle is an important means of transportation in Cuba, so it makes sense that it has its own slang term: chivo.
Ese chivo es mío.
That bicycle is mine.
Caballito is a Cuban slang term for a policeman, usually those with a motorcycle.
Mi tío es caballito.
My uncle is a policeman.
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This Cuban slang word seems pretty logical. In Cuba, an absorbente is a “straw.” Typical Spanish words for “straw” in Spanish are called pajitas or popotes. However, absorber means “to absorb,” which is what you actually do with a straw, right?
¿Quiere un absorbente con su bebida?
Do you want a straw with your drink?
In Cuban slang, gao means “home.” You may also hear it as gabeto.
Me voy para el gao.
I’m going home.
Finally, when a Cuban needs a lighter they ask for a fosforera.
¿Me prestas tu fosforera?
Can you lend me your lighter?
¡A Practicar Chico!
No article about Cuban slang words is complete without including the word that most characterizes the Cuban accent: chico or “boy.” They use it for everything, as a filler word at the end of most phrases. In this case, the header says: “Let’s practice boy!”
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