Cuban slang phrases to help you sound like a local
Published on July 18, 2023 / Updated on August 7, 2023
Are you thinking of visiting or even moving to Cuba? If so, learning some Cuban slang phrases before you go will help you blend in with the locals and ensure a more immersive experience. Every Spanish-speaking country has its own local vocabulary, which inevitably includes a bit of slang. Cuba is no exception.
Why bother to learn slang? Because familiarizing yourself with slang and local word choices can help bring your listening comprehension up to a higher level. In the case of Cuba, you can begin to train your ear to this particular accent at home by watching videos. And if you happen to live in Florida or elsewhere in the US, you’ll have many more opportunities to listen to Cubans and Cuban descendants. More than 1.3 million Cubans live in the US, so it will be easy to practice your Cuban Spanish stateside in order to get ready.
In this guide, we’ll start by learning some common Cuban slang phrases and how to use them.
Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean, 90 miles south of Florida. Over 11 million people live in Cuba. With over one million visitors in 2020 alone, Cuba has become a popular tourist destination thanks to its culture, medical industry, lively music, rum, cigars and vintage cars.
Cuban Spanish may not sound exactly like the Spanish you’ve encountered elsewhere in your travels, thanks to its mix of influences from the Canary Islands and West Africa.
Cuban slang has also been uniquely influenced by different waves of immigration to the island. Cuban Spanish tends to not pronounce the final syllable in words. All of this can make Cuban Spanish difficult to understand for Spanish language learners who are used to the Spanish accents in Mexican media, for example.
Let’s dive in and learn some of the most common Cuban slang words and phrases.
|Hay muchos yumas en la playa.
There are a lot of foreigners on the beach.
|acere / asere
|friend, dude (also used as a filler word)
|¿Qué pasa, acere?
What’s up, dude?
|¿Qué bolá, acere?
What’s up, dude?
|¿Vamos a la playa en guagua?
Are we taking the bus to the beach?
|Tengo que llevar mi máquina al mecánico.
I have to take my car to the mechanic.
|Literally “bottle,” but in Cuban slang it means “a ride”
|Dame la botella a mi casa, por favor.
Give me a ride to my house, please.
|police on motorcycles
|Tanto ruido hacen los caballitos, vamos.
The police make so much noise, let’s go.
|No quiero manejar a la fiesta, llamamos al botero.
I don’t want to drive to the party, let’s call a taxi (driver).
|Quiero un nuevo chivo.
I want a new bike.
|restaurant or cafe
|¿Qué haces? Vamos al paladar. Tengo hambre.
What are you doing? Let’s go to the restaurant. I’m hungry.
|Me voy para el gao.
I’m going home.
|Sarita es una bembelequera.
Sarita is a gossip.
Now that you know the Cuban slang words above, here are some longer slang phrases that you should also take the time to learn.
|Voy a hacer café.
|Literal: I’m going to make coffee.
In Cuba: It’s time to go.
|No te vayas, espera el café.
|Literal: Don’t go, stay for a coffee.
In Cuba: Another polite way to suggest it’s time to go.
In Cuba: ¡Ojo! The word papaya is a graphic term for vagina. For fruit, avoid that term and use fruta bomba.
|Literal: Mango (the fruit)
In Cuba: A forward term to call someone sexy.
Daniella es un mango.
Daniella is very sexy.
|Literal: A tremendous mango
In Cuba: A more extreme version of the above.
Daniella es un tremendo mangón.
Daniella is very sexy.
|Literal: A tremendous package
In Cuba: Used to describe drama.
Tremendo paquete mi prima.
My cousin is extra/dramatic.
|por la izquierda
|Literal: To the left
In Cuba: Describes a bribe or some illegal activity.
Están pagando por la izquierda.
They are paying me under the table.
|Literal: Flying, high on drugs (in some countries)
In Cuba: Amazing.
Está volada la fiesta.
The party is amazing.
|jamar un cable
|Literal: To gulp a cable.
In Cuba: Someone is broke.
No puedo ir de vacaciones este año porque estoy jamando un cable.
I can’t take a vacation this year because I’m broke.
|Literal: To look for ammunition.
In Cuba: To look for a job or how to make money.
Estoy buscando balas para poder ir de viaje.
I’m looking to make money to go on a trip.
First things first: Get familiar with the lists of Cuban slang words and phrases above. As you may have noticed, some Spanish words have multiple meanings. For example, the word guagua means “baby” in Chilean Spanish but “bus” in Cuban Spanish. Once you memorize the most common Cuban slang words and their meanings, you’ll recognize them when you hear them spoken aloud.
Last but not least, practice using the words yourself! Having an idea of what these words mean in various countries will help you avoid getting caught off guard (or embarrassed) in a social situation. Watch out with those fruit names if you want to be polite!
Don’t forget to pack these Cuban slang phrases when traveling to Cuba, as they can be a great way to practice your Spanish skills. Learning Spanish expressions is a fun part of your language journey. The formal way of speaking in Spanish class is important, but if you throw in some local slang and a few idiomatic expressions, you’ll get a more immersive experience of the culture of the country.