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My friend, Alexandra of Good Day Regular People, recently wrote about “Colombian-isms” – I loved her hilarious post (check it out!) and she encouraged me to write my own post of “Salvadoran-isms” – So here I am. I have to say though, Salvadoran slang could fill a book thicker than War & Peace. It seems like every other word out of your average Salvadoran’s mouth is unique to El Salvador or the Caliche of Central America. That being said, here are a handful of random highlights to amuse you.

Puchica! – This is perhaps the most Salvadoran word of all. Use this exclamation anywhere you would usually use “Wow, Holy cow, Geez!”

Maje – Means “dude” or “dumb” depending on context. “Qué onda, maje?” = What’s up, dude? … “No seas maje” = “Don’t be dumb.”

Cipote/Cipota – This word means “child.” Like a lot of Salvadoran slang, this word comes from the native Nahuatl. There is even a beloved Salvadoran folk character named Cipitío – a boy who wears a really big sombrero and has backwards feet as well as a big round belly. He is the result of a forbidden love affair between other folk characters and for some reason he eats ashes and bananas.

Está bien yuca – This means “it’s a really difficult situation.”

Chucho/Chucho Aguacatero – dog/mutt/stray dog/street dog … Example: “Chhht! Chucho! Vete!” (“Chhht! Dog! Get out!”)

Cabal/Cabalito – Means “Exactly.” This can be used when you agree with something and you’re saying, “Yes, that’s it exactly!” or when trying on a pair of shoes that fit perfectly.

Paloma – Although this word usually means “dove” in Spanish, this is also commonly used slang for “penis” in El Salvador… I never found out how that happened, but it must be a fascinating story. (And for this reason, you won’t meet many Salvadoran women named Paloma.)

Fíjate -or- Fíjese – This word is kind of like, “Look,” or “Look here”, “Listen,” – I read once on a blog by a Peace Corp. volunteer in El Salvador that nothing good ever follows this word. I found that hilarious and very true. Example: “Fíjate, el dinero que me diste por pagar la renta, tuve que usar por comprar algo para el cumple de mi novia.” (Look, the money you gave me to pay the rent, I had to use to buy a birthday gift for my girlfriend.)

Más vale amistad perdida, que una tripa retorcida. – “Better to have a lost friendship than a twisted gut.” This is said when one really needs to pass gas and they let it rip. Lovely, right?

Hay pericos en la milpa. – “There are parakeets in the corn field.” Use this to alert someone to watch what they say because others might be listening.

Machete estate en tu vaina. – “Machete stay in your sheath.” Meaning it’s better not to get involved or it’s better to mind your business so you don’t come into problems.

Vaya pues – “Okay, then. That’s fine. It’s all good.” My suegra is known for saying this on the phone before hanging up. She rarely says a proper goodbye, just “Vaya pues” – CLICK.

… Vaya pues.


What Salvadoran-isms would you add to the list? If your roots are from elsewhere in Latin America, give me your Mexican-isms, Venezuelan-isms, Cuban-isms, or whatever other “-isms” you have from anywhere in the world.

53 thoughts on “Salvadoran-isms

  1. This list is great – You should have seen the look on my friend’s face when I started to use Salvadorian slang when speaking with him. He asked me, “Where did you learn that?!” I told him, “I have the internet!”

  2. This is sort of a crossover between Colombianisms & Salvadoranisms, but a Colombian friend had an unfortunate habit of referring to Salvadorans [in a very classist way] as “Vaya pues” – or, to put it phonetically, Bah-Pways.

    Also wondering about the exclamations – more phonetic spelling here, my Spanish is oral rather than written – Kee-ho-lay! or Ee-ho-lay! which Sr. Wonderful uses regularly, but I have no idea what the literal translation is.

  3. No conoces anadie que se llame Paloma? Yo si!
    Y hay apellido Palomo! Y no te olvides de la frase Esta Paloma! Meaning its hard!

  4. “pico de gallo”

    in Mexico, a delicious sauce… in Chile, something ENTIRELY different, much to the very hearty amusement of my host family and my own embarrassment!

  5. para laprincesayasin

    in el salvador its also used that way….fijate o fijese….it has two meanings…and how you apply it…fijate y fijese does not have a set rule on how to be used

  6. Lol i have said all of this at one point, but I think u missed one of the biggest ones, vos, haha when i went to el salvador a few months ago I bought a shirt thats says “sabes que eres salvadoreño sí hablas así” I don’t have the shirt in front of me but it says something like that and there are so many phrases on it, words that salvadoreans use, its really funny.

  7. My husband and is family are really ‘malcreados’ when it comes to their ‘isms’. My husband’s favorite is ‘coma mierda’ or ‘eat shit’. Another one I hear a lot is ‘chuco/a’. Like ‘Tu cara esta toda chuca’ or ‘Your face is all dirty’.

  8. Good start, but don’t forget “pisto” or “plata” referring to money; “bicho” referring to kids instead of insects; “trucho” for being smart or wise; “llevate a cucucho/tutucho” for sitting on one’s shoulders.

  9. These take me back, I have a cousin who was born and raised in the states and whenever my aunt called us bichos or bichas he always thought she was calling us bitches in Spanish!

  10. I know I’m late to the party on this post, but… Are these exclusively Salvadoran?? I use/hear most of them all the time! I never knew I was using Salvadoran slang, just thought it was Spanish!

    • Hi Eddie! Where did you learn Spanish? Are most of your friends Salvadoran or Central American? … A lot of Salvadoran slang is used throughout Central America. A couple of these may be used in other countries but not necessarily with the same exact meaning.

  11. Pingback: Que Yucca ser tanchi, until Anthro did petites! |

  12. quihubo means hi, hello; salu means bye or ciao; huevon or guevon means lazy bum; chevere (same as in Colombia) means nice, beautiful; mono chillon, means cry-baby; bayunco means clown; ese volado, el volado, means that thing the thing; jeton means loose or big mouth; acurrucarse, to crouch, etc. etc.

  13. You know, “maje” actually means “guy” or “individual” according to the formal usage in Spanish language, but we Salvadorans use it as an adjective.

  14. Great work! It’s interesting as my daughters often asked me for some of those words and from time to time I could not proper respond. Thanks for your effort sharing with us some of our background history

  15. What about “casaca?” It means “you’re kidding me”. And “va” for “OK.” And “cual zapatos?” when someone asked you a stupid question.

    • Yes “cual zapato?” is so unique and it my favorite to use it mean “what shoes?” Usually used when someone say something stupid or is trying bullshit ypu reply with “Cual zapato:

  16. Don’t forget “pego ginda” which means to run away. Also “talegon” which means “nice”. Pastelero means to flirt a lot. Chichipate and bolo is refer to a drunk guy. Lio means a problem.” Renco”which means ” limping.” Tetelque means not ripen. Amasar means to hug and kiss. Devanar means to get beaten. Fundillo means the ass or buttom. Utualito means right now. Pijaso o talegaso means to hit with the fist.

  17. I remember my mom yelling at me as a kid for saying “ah chis” I heard her say it all the time, she explained that its like saying “ohh shit” at least that’s what she told me.

  18. here are some other ones, i keep hearing these from brothers😂😂😂😂
    Serio pedo
    Ponele mente
    No pues ni en cuenta
    Ey maje mira a esa morra

    • I was just going to say that! My husband says that all of the time. It took me a minute to figure it out but I got it. It is as if Salvadorans have their own language lol.

  19. When I was young I remember lining up for the bus in El Salvador. I was about 10 years old at the time and it was my first visit back since I left for Australia when I was two and a half. I remember lining up and noticed people shoving to get in so I thought, “Hey, why not?”. As I began to shove, I didn’t realise I had shoved a pregnant lady…suddenly out of the blue a rather plus sized, middle-aged street vendor lady pops out and says, “Bicho estupido! No ves que esta preñada?! Bicho pendejo cabron, cerote, coma mierda hijueputa!” I turned to my brother behind me in awe because I had never heard so much profanity stringed together in one breath to which he replied with a cool grin on his face, “Welcome to El Salvador little bro”. I’ll never forget that day.

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