My top 10 favorite Boricuan words

I’m from Costa Rica, a Spanish-speaking country, so I didn’t expect to have many language barriers during my time in Puerto Rico, but I was wrong. So, for anyone coming to Puerto Rico, this is my top 10 list of favorite Puerto Rican words and their meanings. If you know other words that should be on the list, please leave a comment.
A special thanks to the “corillo” of Foundation for Puerto Rico for teaching me most, if not all, of these words.

  1. Jangueo: going out with your friends. You might’ve guessed it already, but it comes from the English “to hang out”. There is also a verb form, janguear.
Jangueo with friends
  1. Guagua: it’s either a bus or an SVU car. I just love the way it sounds.
  2. Tapón: means traffic. And Puerto Ricans complain a lot about how awful it is.
  3. Revolú: it’s a mess or chaos, a place or situation where there’s a lot of confusion.
  4. Pon: when someone gives you a ride. Public transportation system in Puerto Rico is particularly unreliable, so asking for pons to get around is my solution.
  5. ¡Ay Bendito!: it’s a phrase that literally translates to “Oh Blessed!” and it has different meanings depending on the context. It can be used to express pity or empathy, but also for example, when pinching a baby’s cheeks which I guess it’s more of a “so cute!” meaning.
  6. Mangó: when I first heard this word I understood it was the fruit, I just thought it was hilarious that the accent was in the last vowel. When I asked them why they did that, they looked at me like I was crazy saying that’s how it is said in Spanish (I disagree, haha!).
  7. China (-ita): orange, both the color and the fruit. So, if they offer you a “jugo de china” don’t panic, it’s just orange juice.
  8. Guillao: someone full of themselves. But, “te guillas” can be either positive or negative depending on the context.
  9. Corillo: a group of people. My favorite corillo is the people at the Colaboratorio, they are the best!
Part of the corillo of Colaboratorio


About the author

Paula Vega

Paula Vega is from San Jose, Costa Rica. She studied Economics and is recently pursuing a Master's degree at United Nations mandated University for Peace in Responsible Management and Sustainable Economic Development, and the Kiva Fellowship will serve as the internship requirement to complete the MA. After her undergraduate, she worked at University of Costa Rica's Research Institute in Economics as Research Assistant and later worked 5 years at Procter & Gamble in finance and accounting roles. There she worked with Mexico and Andino markets providing advice on marketing expenses and recognition policy, as Brazil's general ledger business support to the country's general manager. During her last year at P&G, she was the forecaster and budget comptroller of Latin America's Project Implementations division, successfully hitting the targets. After Kiva, she looks forward to returning to Costa Rica and working towards finding common ground between private, public and NGO sector to decrease poverty.