by Elena Llorca from Spain2Speak
If you have visited the Canary Islands, you will have checked that it is the Spanish region which looks the most like South America –especially like the Caribbean, for its climate and its accent. In fact, the Canary Islands dialect corresponds to the “Atlantic variety,” linked to Spanish-speaking America and much more to Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, as well as to some areas of Venezuela, Colombia and Panama.
For example, the Canary Islands speech has as some of its most outstanding characteristics the “seseo” [pronunciation of the Spanish sound /θ/ as /s/] –the same as in South America and the Spanish region of Andalusia– or the aspiration of initial “h,” the softness when pronouncing the letter “j” or the plural with “ustedes” –and not with “vosotros” as in the rest of Spain. The truth is that the Canary Islands “deje” or accent is the one that the other Spaniards prefer for its sensuality and its rhythm –as opposed to other accents, like the ones typical of Madrid or the Basque Country, which often seem excessively brusque.
The “canarismos” or dialectal expressions from the Canaries mainly show influences from Andalusian Spanish, from Portuguese and from South American Spanish. I was lucky to live in Santa Cruz de Tenerife –the most populated city in the archipelago– for a few years as a little girl and, therefore, among all the possible words and expressions (there are thousands of them!), I have made a selection of those which bring me more memories from my childhood.
Let’s do it in alphabetical order!
Canarian Spanish Words Infographic
Scroll down for the text version with examples!
Canarian Spanish Words: Full Text
1. A pela: carrying someone “a pela” is to carry them on our back. When we were very small, our parents carried us in their arms. When we grew bigger and they could not carry us any more, we asked them: “¡Pues llévame a pela, por favor, que estoy cansado! [Then, carry me piggyback, please, I am tired!]”. Needless to say, we were not successful 😀
2. Afilador: a little instrument used for sharpening pencils that we all used to put into our pencil case. Elsewhere in Spain, it is called “sacapuntas” [pencil sharpener].”
3. Aguavivas: sea jellyfish; those which sting, making your flesh red and swollen at the end of summer…
4. Alcancía: one of the words which comes from the Arabic language “alkanzíyya.” It refers to a moneybox, whether it is in the shape of a little pig (“piggybank”) or not.
5. Arrojar: to vomit. In excursions with children, you must be careful to prevent them from getting sick, or they can end up arrojándose [vomiting themselves] completely!
6. Arrullar: to rock. The wind rocks leaves; mothers rock babies to sleep. The word “arrullar” also exists in Spanish with a different –though closely related– meaning: it refers to a “lull” as a soft, sweeping voice that makes you sleepy, like that of a mother who rocks her baby, or the sea murmur. But the use of “arrullar” as “mecer [to rock]” is typical of the Canary Islands.
7. Baifo: it is a type of goat and the Canary Islands phrase is “se te fue el baifo,” which means “you lost your mind,” “you got muddled,”…
8. Boliches: Marbles, small glass balls that children play with.
9. Chachi: that is good or has good quality (even human). “¡Qué chachi que vinieron! [It is so good that you came!]” or “¡Qué chachi es tu madre! [Your mother is so nice!]”
10. ¡Chacho!: a shortened form of “¡Muchacho!” used to express surprise. “¡Yayo!” could also be heard, since people from the Canaries pronounce “ch” very softly: “¡Yayo! ¡Yo no sabía que te habías comprado esta casa tan grande! [Yayo! I didn’t know you had bought such a big house!]”
11. Chicharreros & Canariones: natives of Tenerife and Gran Canaria, the two largest islands in the archipelago, respectively. Curiously enough, whereas those born in Tenerife proudly call themselves Chicharreros, the inhabitants of Gran Canaria do not recognise themselves as Canariones, this being a term that others use to designate them –but which is not used by people born in Gran Canaria.
12. Chola: beach sandal, the typical flip-flop. When we went to the beach, we took our swimsuit or swimming trunks, our towel and… we couldn’t possibly forget our “cholas”!
13. Cotufas: popcorn. On Sundays, well-dressed and combed with eau de cologne, we went to the cinema and, of course, we bought ourselves some cotufas and a soft drink.
14. Durazno: The same as in other Latin American regions, “durazno” is the name given to a peach. [NOTE FROM JARED: melocotón is another common Latin American word for peach.]
15. Engurruñar: It means “to wrinkle,” whether it is a piece of clothing or our brow when we are sad or in low spirits.
16. Escachar: to squash, as in the sentence “cruzaron las vacas corriendo por el huerto y dejaron todas las verduras escachadas… [the cows ran across the garden and left all the vegetables escachadas (squashed)…].”
17. Fisco, fisquito: a small piece, a little bit. “¡Dame un fisquito de tu chocolatina, que la mía se acabó! [Give me a fisquito of your chocolate bar, mine is finished].”
18. ¡Fos!: when a bad smell is suddenly detected, a person from the Canary Island says Fos! or also Foo!, which is equivalent to “¡qué peste! [what a stink!]”
19. Frangollo: typical Canary Islands dessert similar to crème caramel or pudding which is served cold with honey or liquid caramel.
20. Godo: this is how people from the Canary Islands derogatorily refer to the inhabitants of the Iberian Peninsula. We cannot forget that Spain is formed by the peninsular territory, which is the largest part of the country, a small territory in North Africa (Ceuta and Melilla) and two archipelagos: The Canaries and the Balearic Islands. Well, “Godos” [literally, Goths] is what people from the Canaries call those born in the Peninsula.
21. Guagua: the same as in Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and other territories in the Antilles, “guagua” means “bus.”
22. Guanche: Indians, ancient settlers of Tenerife. Aborigines from the Canaries.
23. Jalar: to pull, attract to oneself.
24. Machango, machanguito: dummy, young child. Doing “machangadas” means doing “childish things.”
25. Mago: a word with which people from the Canaries refer to peasants, and not always kindly.
26. Majado: very finely chopped, mashed for cooking.
27. Majorero: native of Fuerteventura.
28. Manejar: The same as in most of Latin America, “manejar” means driving a car.
29. Mi niño, mi niña: a very common affectionate expression, among adults too. “¡Venga, mi niña, vístete que te llevo a cenar fuera! [Come on, mi niña (my little girl), get dressed because I’m taking you out for dinner]!”
30. Millo: this is how they refer to corn, whether it is raw, boiled or toasted. The latter is known as “kikos” elsewhere in Spain, and they are eaten alone or mixed with toasted sunflower seeds. It is quite typical to eat seeds and millo while people chat in a relaxed fashion at village squares.
31. Mojo: Typical Canary Islands sauce which is eaten with roasted potatoes. There are two types: “mojo verde” (green) and “mojo picón” (red).
32. ¡Ño! or ¡Ñú!: an exclamation of fright or surprise, as when you hit yourself and say “¡Ño! ¡me destrocé la pierna! [Ño! I smashed my leg!]”
33. Piche: pitch / tar, like the one which sometimes appears on beaches when waste is dumped at sea. As children, when we came back after a day on the beach, we had to rub our feet with oil to remove the remains of piche more than once.
34. Piña: corn cob. How did we distinguish it from the “piña” = fruit (pineapple)? I guess by the context, because they are both called the same…
35. Sancocho: a stew typical of the Canaries with dry fish, potato, sweet potato, toasted cornmeal and sometimes banana.
36. Tenis: trainers (sports shoes).
37. Trabas: hairpins, the ones which they made you wear to prevent your hair from being constantly all over your face and also for ponytails to be retained a bit better.
And finally, some of those words that we used to say in a low voice while we killed ourselves laughing: the pinga, the cuca or the picha to call the penis, and the chocha or the pepe for the female organ :-D.
Check out these other Spain Spanish Slang Word articles.