27 Cuban Slang Words and Phrases

kids Havana photo holiday

When you travel to a country that is not your own, you prepare yourself with its basic language, right? For example, you familiarize yourself with how to ask for a meal or where the nearest bathroom is.  But what if you could better immerse yourself into the culture by utilizing more than what you learn in Spanish class?  Why not use the slang terms and language unique to Cuba?

Here are some informal phrases and words what you can use to blend in and make yourself at home. 

Phrases

¿Qué bola?

Is the most famous and recognized phrase in Cuba. This informal phrase is used to greet a friend, meaning “how’s it going?” You can also use ¿Cómo está la cosa? Which translates to “how is everything going?”

¡Candela!

The word candela might sound familiar, it means candle in Spanish. You’d hear someone say this to a lady walking down the street. It’s “how awesome” or “how hot” translation can also change it’s meaning to “how awful.” It all depends on the context, but you’ll likely only hear this in a positive context while in Cuba.

Pérate un´mntico

These words put together translate to “wait a moment/second.” You could say this phrase to the bus driver if you’re traveling buddy is stuck at the bathroom, but don’t forget to add por favor!

Ta’ quimba’o

He/she is crazy or out of his mind. 

Eso es pan comío

It’s funny to think that the exact translation is “that bead has been eaten” when its real meaning is, “that’s easy as pie.” Curiously, in both languages it’s related to eatable treats.

Dale

let’s go”

Estás como pescao en nevera.

When your travel buddy forgets how to read a map, you can jokingly say this phrase, soothing the reality of the meaning which is “you know nothing about nothing.”

Tocao

“It’s great” or “good” 

Está volao

“that’s amazing”

No te rajes. 

Maybe your travel buddy is too tired to explore the city. A fun way to encourage them to follow up with the plan would be this phrase. The Spanish slang and a touch of the Cuban accent could definitely change their mind. It means “don’t let down.”

Coger un diez

“take a break”

Voy a hacer café. Beyond its literal meaning, “I am making some coffee” there’s more to it. Believe it or not it’s actually said when a host wants its guests to leave. Pretty subtle right, if this were said anywhere else, someone would’ve offered to go get the biscuits. 

Nos pillamos

“see you later” or “were leaving”

Me piro

“I’ll get going” or “I’m out of here”

La cosa está que arde.

Its literal translation is “this thing’s burning,” it makes sense that the real translation is “this is a complicated/dangerous situation”

Que me quiten lo bailao.

It translates to “Take away what I’ve danced.”  The long version is:  “Que me quiten lo bailao. Lo que ya viví, vivido está, no hay forma de quitármelo,” which means “Take away what I’ve danced. What I have already lived, is lived, there is no way to take that away from me.”  The second part of the phrase is an explanation. You’ll only hear people say the first part. 

 

Words

Now that you learned some of the most defining phrases of the Cuban language, you can now learn a couple of slang words that make the Cuban language so unique.

 

Yuma – foreigner, especially a white one 

Camello – public transportation bus 

Guagua – bus

Descojoná – extremely tired 

Guaracha – party/fun

Chévere – very cool

Jama – food 

Baro – money

Jamar – eat

¡Chao pescao!   Pescao means fish, so basically your saying, “Good bye fish”

In Cuba you’ll feel right at home if you use these basic and well know phrases and words. Shyness won’t get you anywhere. The Cuban community will greatly appreciate your interest in their culture and language, so go for it! Don’t you forget to add the Cuban accent to everything you say and do!

 

Travel Like A Local

Now that you’ve learned to speak like a local, do you want to travel Cuba like a local too?  Then download our free travel guide here:  Travel Guide

 

Learn Spanish in Cuba!

Want to improve your Spanish while in Cuba?  Ask us about our Spanish Language Learning Tours.  You can read more here: https://vamoscuba.co.uk/learn-spanish-in-havana/

 

 

This post is part of Follow Me Friday at Feet Do Travel  

Follow Me Friday by Feet Do Travel

  • Anna says:

    Some slang words definitely help better immerse into any culture! As I speak Spanish, was really interesting to read about the Cuban phrases!

  • Sharon says:

    This is very helpful! I could actually learn some of these words and phrases. Some languages completely escape me. This is a great guide!

  • This is great! I love learning slang in a foreign country, it makes you feel less like a tourist. We are off to Mexico in October, I may ask a local if these are used there. #feetdotravel

  • Travel Lexx says:

    Really useful post with some key words and phrases that will help visitors fit in and make themselves understood! Cuba is very high on my bucket list and I will definitely be saving this for later!

  • Gracias, some useful words here, just hope I say them correctly and don’t get laughed at ha.

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