Category Archives: Dominicanismos & Language

Dominican Sayings Idiomatic Expressions

DOMINICAN SAYINGS and IDIOMATIC EXPRESSIONS

Funny and interesting sayings, proverbs, maxims, adages and terms used by our Native Dominican Speakers in their everyday conversations. Many of these sayings and words are very difficult to understand but when you finally get the idea they can be quite funny.

When you use these idiomatic expressions in Dominican Republic make sure you pronounce them like a Dominican and be sure you are able to laugh at yourself. This way people know you are making a joke so you are not taken the wrong way. In time, you will know more of the Dominican way and will be talking in true Dominican style.

*A buen hambre no hay pan duro – (When you are really hungry no bread is too hard to eat) Where there is a will there is a way.
*A caballo resaldo no se le mira el diente – Never look a gift horse in the mouth
*A falta de pan, casabe, dice el pueblo. – (When there is the lack of bread, eat cassava, said the people) Make do with what is available.
*A la brigandina – to do something fast
*A paso de tortuga – (Walks like a turtle.) When someone is too slow.
*Abrir gas – (Open gas.) To run away. Full throttle.
*Acostarse con las gallinas – (Lying with the chickens.) To go to bed at the same time as the chickens. Go to bed very early.
*Amarrando la chiva – (literally means roping the goat) To do nothing when you are supposed to be working, because roping a goat is too easy
*Amarrar los perros con longanizas – (Tie dogs with sausages) To be very naive and give away opportunities to the enemies.
*¡Ay, mi madre! – (literally Oh, my mother! ) An exclamation to mean “oh man!” or can also mean like Wow! sort of a surprised expressive remark
*Caerle a la conga – (literally Playing the drums) To jump on someone intending on beating him up
*¿Cómo e’tamo’? – country way of saying ¿Cómo estamos? How are we today?
*¿Como ‘ta la cosa? – How’re things?, How’s it goin’?
*Conocer al cojo senta’o – (Literally, Recognize the cripple, even when he’s sitting down.) To know someone’s intentions when they haven’t told anyone. (updated by Rachel)

A 91 year old Dominican lady telling some wild stories.
A 91 year old Dominican lady telling some wild stories.

*Cuando cuca bailaba – When people refer to the good old days. When they talk about the old times.
*Curarse en salud – To practice prevention even before there is a problem
*Date brillo cadenita que tu mojo llega – Shine now for your day will come
*Despues de la excusa, nadie se queda mal – After the excuses were given, everybody got along fine
*E’ palante que vamo – We are going to go forward (election campaign slogan)
*E’ pa’ fuera que va – Out it will go (election campaign slogan)
*El carro quedó debaratao’ – When a car receives a violent hit
*El que anda con perro a ladrar aprende – He who hangs out with a dog will learn how to bark
*El que quiere moños bonitos tiene que aguitar halones – (literally: If you want nice hair you have to pull it tight) If you want something you need to work hard for it.
*Entrar a comer ojos – to go – Between a rock and a hard place
*Es mejor andar solo que mal acompañado – Better to go alone than to keep bad company
*Eso lo sabe hasta la madre de los tomates – (Everyone knows even the mother of the tomatoes.) Everyone knows it,
*Estoy entregado en ……….. – like saying “I am up to my eyeballs in ___ (something-fill the blank).
*Gallina vieja da buen caldo – (Old hens make a good broth.) To express that a mature woman has more experience and that adds to their sex appeal.
*Hacerse el chivo loco – (Become the crazy goat.) To play dumb and unaware. To be irresponsible.

*Ir por la sombrita – To walk in the shade of a tree
*La mama de Tarzan – used to describe a something cool or a good looking person
*La piña está agria – (literally: The pineapple is sour.) When something is difficult (dura)
*Llegó la lú – (Here come the lights!) What is said when the electric service comes back on.
*Lo agarraron asando batatas – (They caught him roasting sweet potatoes.) He got caught with his pants down
*Lo que va, biene – (What is going, comes) What goes around comes around
*Má caliente que una vieja metía en fiesta – Hotter than an old woman on a party mood.
*Me da grima. – It scares me
*Me hizo plancha – when a person does not go to something that they committed to.
*Me llevó el diablo -(literally: the devil took me) I am damned
*Me tienen en un tirijala – when someone says I’ll see you soon or I’ll soon be there.
*Ni con Dios ni con el Diablo – Neither with God or the Devil
*Ni fú ni fá – when something is congested or stuck, you can’t move forward or backward

Ni fú ni fá - when something is congested or stuck, you can't move forward or backward. Traffic Jam.
Ni fú ni fá – when something is congested or stuck, you can’t move forward or backward. Traffic Jam.

*Niágara en bicicleta – to overcome many problems, to go over the waterfalls on a bicycle. It is also the name of a song by Juan Luis Guerra (updated by Rachel)
*No Dar Un Golpe – not to deliver an attack or not to work
*No hay problema. – No problem
*No’ vemo- (Nos Vamos) – I’m gonna go.
*Nunca digas de esa agua no beberé – (Never say from that water I will never drink) Don’t say you will never do something because you may have to do it someday. You may regret those words someday.
“Un clavo saco otro clavo” (literally meaning “one nail raises another nail”). Used when you have a hangover and need another drink to make it better. “Hair of the dog that bit you” is the equivalent in English.
*Pa’ seguida – right away; immediately
*Pajaro de cuenta. – People will call you this if you are not a very trustworthy person. Tamaño pajaro – this is even less trustworthy than the first.
*¡Por la maceta! – Very good; excellent; great!
*Probando e que se guisa – By trying is how you will know
*Que aperidá. – Used when something is amazing
*¡ Que Leche ! – If you win at the lottery or get a really good job you say this. Sort of like saying you’re in the cream now.
*¿Que lo Que? – the same as ¿que pasa? What’s up? What’s happenin’?
*Saber más por viejo que por diablo – To say that old age gives wisdom
*Sacar los pies – to move away, get away from a person
*Se fue corriendo – (literally went away running) to run fast, go full throttle, fast
*Se lo llevó quien lo trajo – sort of like you brought it upon yourself. When someone has a big problem the response is this, ( you made your bed now sleep in it)
*Si dios quiere – God willing. Not necessarily religious. I think its used just in case what was planned to happen doesn’t, then the person feels they can always use it as an excuse, “God didn’t want it to happen”
*Si la vaca ha venden por libras, porque comprar la vaca entera?- If you can buy the cow by the pound why buy the entire cow? (referring to having a woman for the night or for always)
*Si tomas Brugal tú resuelve o peleas. – If you drink Brugal (rum) you either fight or have sex.

Si tomas Brugal tú resuelve o peleas. - If you drink Brugal (rum) you either fight or have sex.
Si tomas Brugal tú resuelve o peleas. – If you drink Brugal (rum) you either fight or have sex.

*Ta que echa chi’pas – (literally throwing sparks) means being angry.
*Te llamo pa’ tras – (in true Spanish-devolver la llamada) I will call you back
*Te conozco bacalao, aunque vengas disfrasao-I know you even if you are in disguise, “you can’t hide your intentions from me”
*Te subi lo vidrio – (Literally:shut the window) when you’ve had enough talking to someone or when you don’t want to hear them you shut the window on them.
*Tengo un arranque encima – to be in a bad economic situation
*tililí-tililí – repeating the same thing or story over and over
*’Toy feo pa’ la foto – (exact translation – I am ugly for the picture) things can’t be worst for me
*Tu eres muy jediondon y delicagao -You are very hard to please
*Tu ta como un aji picante -You’re mad as hell
*Tu ta’ pasao -“you have really crossed the line now!” more of a warning that a fight was about to break out. (added by Rachel)
*Tu ta’ muy quitao de bulla – What you call a person that is carefree
*Vamo hacer un coro – “Lets get together and hang out”
*Vamo pal pley – Let’s go play. Refers to baseball the “pley” is actually what they call the baseball field.(updated by Rachel))
*Vamos a Ver, quisas ahorrita – (Lets see, maybe later) when a Dominican really does not want to do something but they really do not want to say no.
*Yo estoy chivo con eso – “I’m doubtful about that”, to doubt something.

_____
In an interview with one time President Hipolito Mejia the president was told “Bread has gotten too expensive” Hipolito’s answer “Man does not live on bread alone, eat platano and yuca”. “Somos un pai de come ‘platano”

Leonel Fernendez campaign slogan – “E’ Pa Fuera Que Van” – “And ahead/ forward we go”
_____


Find or Create Hilarious Merchandise at CafePress

Have a Dominican Slogan or image placed on T-Shirts, Womens tanks, boxers, g-strings, sweatshirts, mugs, baby clothes, hats and even dog size clothing. If you like you can even make your very own design and it can be placed on an item. Or buy an already designed item. If you want Dominican Republic related items do a search for Dominican Republic and there are pages of items. Check them out.


A Dominican Saying on a Shirt?

Basic Spanish

Basic Spanish

A quick review of how to speak Spanish that could help when visiting any Spanish speaking country including Dominican Republic. I’ve included some of the basic words that you should know, including some public transportation words, the vowels and alphabet and how to pronounce them.

Basic Spanish Words | Days, Months, Seasons | Public Transportation | Pronunciation | Alphabet | Shortcuts For Typing Foreign Symbols

Useful Spanish Words

These are some of the basic Spanish words that could be very helpful if you are going to visit Dominican Republic (first lesson; República Dominicana is the way to say the name of this country in Spanish) or any Spanish speaking country.

Spanish is not necessary if you are staying at a resort and do not plan to go off the property as most people at the resorts will speak many different languages. Yet, it is still fun to try and use the language of the country where you are visiting. People do appreciate that you tried to speak their native tongue. If you do not pronounce a word accurately or use it in exactly the correct context it is not really important. Also, it never hurts to learn something new and keep the ole brain working.

*Sí – Yes
*No – No
*Por favor – Please
*Thank you – Gracias
*Perdone – Sorry
*Disculpe – Excuse me
*De nada-Your welcome
*Perdón; Con permiso-Excuse me
*Un momento-Just a second
*Está Bien; Muy bien-Okay
*Buenos dias-Good morning
*Buenas tardes-Good afternoon
*Buenas noches-Good night, Good evening
*Señor-Sir
*Señora-Madam
*Señorita-Miss
*Arriba-up
*Abajo-down
*Tengo hambre/sed-I am hungry/thirsty
*¿Cómo?-What did you say?
*¡Ayúdeme! – Help me!
*No entiendo – I don’t understand
*¿Me ayuda? – Can you help me?
*Estoy perdido – I am lost
*Hola – Hello
*Adiós – Goodbye
*¿Cómo está? – How are you?
*Question – Pregunta
*¿Habla inglés/español? – Do you speak English/Spanish?
*¿Cómo se dice _____ en español?How do you say______ in Spanish?
*No hablo español – I don’t speak Spanish
*Más despacio,por favor – Slower please
*¿Cómo se llama? – What’s your name?
*¿De dónde es? – Where are you from?
*¿Dónde está?-Where is____?
*¿Cuándo?-When?
*¿Cuánto?-How much?
*¿Quién?-Who?
*¿Por qúe?-Why?
*¿Cómo?-How?
*¿Qué?-What?
*¿Qué hora es? – What time is it?
*Son las 3 – It is 3 o’clock.
*A las quatro de la mañana/tarde/noche – at 4 o’clock in the morning/afternoon/night
*Necesito un médico – I need a doctor
*¡Peligro! – Danger!
*¡Cuidado! – Careful!
*¡Llame al policia! – Call the police!
*¡Ladrón! – Thief!
*¡Para! – Stop

Dominicans in front of a Colmado with the Dominican Dog Blog dogs.
Dominicans in front of a Colmado with the Dominican Dog Blog dogs.

Days, Months, Seasons

When learning about the days and months of the year remember that none of the words are capitalized when you write them.

Days of the Week / Días de la Semana
domingo – Sunday, lunes – Monday, martes – Tuesday, miércoles – Wednesday, jueves – Thursday, viernes – Friday, sábado – Saturday

Months/ Meses
enero – January, febrero – February, marzo – March, abril – April, mayo – May, junio – June, julio – July, agosto – August, septiembre – September, octubre – October, noviembre – November, diciembre – December

Four Seasons of the Year / Las cuatro estaciones del año
The names of the seasons are good to know when you come to Dominican Republic, even if there is not much difference in the yearly temperatures. There is very little fluctuation in the temperature (unless you go into the mountain areas where it does get cold) but there is a noticeable change in the humidity. Dominican people love talking about the weather even if is only about how hot it is or how much it rained.
el verano – summer
la primavera – spring
el otoño – fall
el invierno – winter

Public transportation / El transporte público words.

These words are good to know if you plan on going out and about to discover the country which you definitely should do. If you cannot remember a word just point. Almost everyone understands a pointed finger as it is a universal way to communicate.
(for information about transportation in Dominican Republic)

*Antes de cruzar – Before the intersection
*Después de cruzar – After the intersection
*Déjeme – Let me out
*Dónde pueda – Wherever you can

*En la esquina – Stop at the next corner
*Derecho – straight ahead
*Derecha – right
*Izquierda – left

Dominican Spanish 101 from Amazon

Enjoying some free time in one of the local parks.
Enjoying some free time in one of the local parks.

Spanish Pronunciations / Pronunciaciones Españolas Básicas

It is very important to learn how the letters of the Spanish alphabet are pronounced. It is the first thing one should learn when trying to speak a new language.

The vowels (in bold) are where I would suggest starting. Learning the vowels are the first and the most important step when trying to learn Spanish. Vowels are only pronounced one way, they do not have long and short sounds as in the English language. Since there is only one way to pronounce these letters it makes it much easier to pronounce words when you see them written.

a ah (yacht)
e ay (day) eh (pet)
i ee (meet)
o oh (open)
u oo (tooth)

c (before a, o, u) hard k (cat)
c (before e, i) soft s (cent)
g (before a, o, u) hard g (go)
g (before e, i) breathy h (hot)
h always silent
j breathy h (hot)
ll y (yes)- in Dominican Republic ll generally sounds like jah
ñ ny (canyon)
v b (book)
y by itself y = i (ee)

The Spanish alphabet/ Alfabeto Español

The Spanish alphabet has 2 more letters than the English alphabet. Many of the letters are pronounced very differently than what you might be used to.

It is a good idea to practice how to spell your name using the Spanish alphabet. Learning the A, B, C’s will really help with hotel check-in.

a – a
b – be
c – ce
ch – che
d – de
e – e
f – efe
g – ge
h – hache
i – i
j – jota
k – ka
l – ele
ll – elle
m – eme
n – ene
ñ – eñe
o – o
p – pe
q – cu
r – ere
s – ese
t – te
u – u
v – ve
w – doble u/doble ve
x – equis
y – i griega
z – zeta

For more Dominican Spanish Quick Guide to Dominican Spanish from Amazon.

Keyboard Shortcuts For Typing Foreign Symbols

Did you ever wonder how to type some words in Spanish? Where are those funny letters and symbols? Wonder no longer. You can go into the set up of your computer and change the keyboard to any language you would like but then you have to figure out where all the letters are on the keyboard and that takes time.

Here is our suggestion. Make a list of these alt code shortcuts and others you find. Put them where you can find them. I have mine taped to the side of the computer. This way you’ll never be lost again. Also, you will look really intelligent when you type a word in Español and use the proper letter or symbol.

For example; to make the Ñ (nne) hold down the ALT key and using the number keypad on the left of the keyboard type in the numbers 165. Let go of the ALT key and you should have Ñ. Remember to hold down the ALT key while you are entering the numbers. When you let go, walah!! You’ve got it.

ALT 130 = é ALT 163 = ú ALT 168 = ¿
ALT 144 = É ALT 164 = ñ ALT 173 = ¡
ALT 160 = á ALT 165 = Ñ ALT 155 = ¢
ALT 161 = í ALT 126 = ~ ALT 171 = ½
ALT 162 = ó

This page list Alt codes for accented letters and other characters. In order to use these codes, your computer keyboard should have a separate numeric keypad on the right (make sure it is unlocked). If it does not, then another method of inputting accents is recommended.

Dominican Spanish

Dominican Spanish- The Way Dominicans Talk

Dominican Spanish, the way the Dominicans talk (Como Hablamos Dominicanos) sometimes known as Dominicanismos or Dominicanese. Some words are the same as Spain Spanish but many are very different. Even the way words are pronounced are different. For example, most Dominicans do not use the “S” at the end of a word.

It is important to know many of these words. When you are walking in the street and someone calls out to you. Should you acknowledge or ignore the comments. When dining knowing what your ordering could make a real difference for the stomach!

Dominicanismos / Dominican Idiom Dictionary

Dominican Spanish Explanations | Basic Spanish Words | Pronunciation and Alphabet | Shortcuts For Typing Foreign Symbols | Dominican Sayings & Idomatic Expressions | Trees | Animals | Using Animal Traits to Describe People | Animal Talk | Taino Language Used Today | Funny Names Of Dominican Towns Translated

Use these as a guideline. As with all languages, words change as well as peoples interpretation of them. Each region and sometimes town, has its own words, expressions and accents. Imagine trying to explain some words you may use in your own language…not as easy as it seems.

Dominican people having fun at the Plaza Bartolome de las Casas.
Dominican people having fun at the Plaza Bartolome de las Casas.

Official Language

Spanish is the official language of the Dominican Republic. Street signs and restaurant menus are written in Spanish with the exception of some tourists areas. Knowing some Spanish would be helpful even though most people linked to the tourist trade generally speak different languages. Even if you are laughed at, people will respect your efforts to use their native language. Anyhow, laughing is good for the health, even if it is at your own expense. Enjoy and take it easy, life is too short.

Speaking Loud and Fast

Some interesting things that you will probably notice about the language is when you hear a group Dominican people hanging out talking. Dominicans usually speak very loud and fast while waving their arms around. Some might use strong hand and facial gestures. When I first saw this I thought people were getting ready to fight. It made me nervous. I did not understand the words they were saying and, for me, they were using what seemed to be aggressive gesturing. I later learned that this is just their way. It is normal Dominican-talk. It is not aggressive, rude or annoying to others. It is the way they do it. Their cultural custom. Dominican people are just the opposite of the way they come across. They are very polite humans, always greeting others with a “buenas días” or “¿Como esta?”.

Funny little statue

Consonants and Vowels

One very noticeable difference in the language is the way certain consonants and vowels change. In the capital area of Dominican Republic, Santo Domingo, the R sound is changes to an L sound. For example the word ¿por que? changes in sound to ¿pol que?. In the north part of the country they make the R sound like an I which makes ¿por que? sound like ¿poi que?. The southern region makes the R sound like an L making the word Miguel sound like Miguer. Also they do not add the letter S to the ending of words. In fact, they cut off many of the last letters in a word.

Words, for the most part, are written as they sound. At times it is not easy to determine exactly what letter is correct just by the sound. The average Dominican has no idea (and for the most part doesn’t really care) if a word is spelled with a V or a B; an H or a J; a soft C or an S or a Z (any letters that are interchangeable in pronunciation). When writing something of importance make sure to look up the word if there are any doubts as to the spelling.

Dominican Spanish 101 from Amazon

Do not put your garbage here sign
Do not put your garbage here sign.

Slang

Slang is very common, like everywhere in the world. Learning the slang of a country or region can be a never ending task as things change from day to day. One example is years ago in USA the word bad meant good, and now when something is sweet they do not mean that it is filled with sugar.

This is the same in Dominican Republic. It can be seen everywhere. On political posters, signs, and names of businesses. Trying to learn some of the slang can make conversing a bit more fun, helping your understanding and making it easier to fit in. In time, and with a little effort, you should be able to understand and laugh at a joke just as you do in your own native language.

Common Phrases

Try listening to people talking in the streets with friends or enter a Dominicans chat room and see if you can pick up some common phrases. Esta Bien would be the school book way to say something is good, OK or cool. Here people might say “Ta nitido” “Ta jevi” “Ta vacano”. If you agree with something and want to say this in Dominican slang you could say “ta to” or “fuego”. If you want to just say hello or what’s up you would say “¿Que lo que?” or ¿Como tu ‘ta?” There are so many more sayings. I have tried to list many in the Dominicanismo Dictionary.

Word Play

Dominicans use many double entendres in their language. This word play and metaphors make the language quite flowery and fun. Try and remember that for many Dominican words, including Spanish words in general, there are no direct translations. It is important if you want to fit in try and use a few of these words. It is also fun. If you do make a mistake don’t worry. Dominicans will most likely understand and try to help. They will appreciate your efforts.

Relax and enjoy this wonderful island and its beautiful and colorful people. Life is good!!

Kids selling almendras in the street laughing at the way the American talks
Kids selling almendras in the street laughing at the way the American talks.

How to respond to a greeting Dominican style

When you are asked:
“¿Como tu ‘ta? (“How you Doing?”)
OR
“¿Que lo que?” (“What’s happening?”)

Respond with:
“Tranquilo” (“Calm”)
“Ma-o-meno” (“ore or less)
“Regular pal’ tiempo (“OK for now”)