In the United States, Central Americans have found it necessary to modify the way they speak. For some, dropping words like vos – a strong marker of their Central American roots – and opting for tú meant survival, not only as they attempted to slip through Mexico unnoticed on their route to the United States but also as a way to fit in with the US’ larger Mexican population. For other Central American immigrants, eliminating the terms they grew up using was a matter of convenience. They grew tired of having to explain the unique words that made up their vocabulary. They either reserved these words solely for their homes or replaced them with more well-known phrases.

So now as we celebrate the independence day of several countries across the isthmus, we also want to acknowledge the diversity and beauty of Central American vocabulary.


Editor’s Note: This list is by no means comprehensive, and we may have inadvertently failed to match a country with a word. Comment below and let us know what we missed and how you use these words.

1

ahuevado

2

al chile

3

alero

4

ayala

5

bagre

6

bashment

 

7

bicha

8

bolo bola

9

brete

10

buco

11

cerote

12

chifiar

 

13

chilero

14

chispudo

15

cho

16

chunche

17

congo conga

18

deacachimba

19

dendioy

20

diay

21

enculado

22

guial gyal

*Gyal comes from Jamaican patois.

23

guirro guirra

24

juma

25

macaneado

26

macizo

27

maje mae

28

mejenga

29

mopri

30

palmado

31

patojo patoja

32

puchica

33

pulperia

34

que xopa

35

sho

36

shute

37

tuanis

38

vara

39

verguero