What is the most important Spanish word in the Dominican Republic? That word almost every Dominican uses over and over again, the word that when you hear it makes you say “You are Dominican!”
I believe the word “vaina” is the most important word in Dominican Spanish. Just look for it in the recently released ‘Diccionario del Español Dominicano’ and you will see a whole block of definitions. The word “vaina” in the Dominican Republic can have a broad spectrum of meanings, from positives to negatives. It can be used to name something that you don’t know the name of or as part of many colloquial expressions.
The other day I had the opportunity to chat with two Spanish teachers from the Dominican Republic and I asked them about the word “vaina”. In my opinion, the word vaina is so common among the Dominican community, that I consider it part of their identity. But to my surprise, these teachers had a different opinion.
“After living abroad, I realized that the vocabulary (in the Dominican Republic) is very, very poor and everything that we don’t know the name of is simply ‘una vaina’,”, one teacher said laughing.
The other teacher expressed: “Well, I don’t use that word. (The use of the word “vaina”) depends on how educated is the person… That is why, in my case, I don’t use it because I think it looks bad. If an object has a name, why do I have to use that word? I have to call it by its name, right? I try to avoid it.”
The real meaning of the word VAINA
Before going to the Dominican meanings of “vaina”, let us clarify what it really is. According to the dictionary, vaina is a scabbard or sheath for holding a sword, knife or large blade. Vaina is also the seed-pod in plants or the husk or shell in nuts.
The Dominican Spanish uses of the word VAINA
If we look for the word “vaina” in dictionaries specialized in Dominican Spanish, we will get many uses of this word. For example, the ‘Diccionario de Dominicanismos’ by Orlando Inoa gives us the following two meanings:
1. Disappointment, deception (Chasco, engaño)
2. Problem (Problema)
But, the best reference source is the ‘Diccionario del español dominicano’ because it gives us many more definitions:
1. Thing or matter whose name is unknown or one does not want to mention. (Cosa o asunto cuyo nombre es desconocido o no se quiere mencionar.)
2. Subject or business issue. (Asunto o tema de negocio.)
3. Disgruntled, thing or situation that is uncomfortable or unpleasant. (Contrariedad, cosa o situación que resulta molesta o desagradable.)
4. Annoying, problematic person. (Persona molesta, fastidiosa, problemática.)
Dominican Spanish phrases with VAINA
This dictionary even gives colloquial Dominican phrases with “vaina”. Check out these examples and their meanings:
1. Dar una vaina: Suffer an ailment whose name is unknown or one does not want to mention. (Sufrir una dolencia cuyo nombre es desconocido o no se quiere mencionar.)
2. dejar esa vaina or dejarse de vaina: To stop bothering someone. (Dejar de molestar a alguien.)
3. de vaina: By chance, unexpectedly. (Por casualidad, de forma inesperada.)
4. echarle la vaina (a alguien): To force someone to do something nasty. (Obligar a alguien a hacer algo desagradable.)
5. echase una vaina: To be in difficulties as a result of their actions or decisions. (Verse en dificultades a consecuencia de sus actos o decisiones)
6. echar vainas: a. Pretend to demonstrate superiority to someone. (Pretender demostrar superioridad o poder ante alguien.) b. To harm someone else. (Perjudicar a alguien ante otra persona.)
7. Juan Vainas: A feeble-minded person who is easily swayed to whatever another person wants them to do. (Hombre apocado que se presta con facilidad a todo cuanto se quiere hacer de él.)
8. privar en vaina: To see oneself superior to others in some respect. (Considerarse superior a los demás en algún aspecto.)
9. tratar de vaina (a alguien): To treat someone with indifference. (Tratar a alguien con indiferencia.)
10. vainero or vainera: An annoying person or someone who mocks others. (Una persona molesta o burlona.)
11. vainoso: A picky or prone to anger person. (Una persona quisquillosa, irascible.)
Awesome VAINA videos
And now comes the real test. In these videos, native Dominican Miguel Ramírez, shows an unbelievable domain of the most important word in the Dominican Republic. In these monologs, he uses the word “vaina” from start to finish. Almost 3 minutes of pura vaina. Amazing!
So, my tip for you is: If you happen to be in the Dominican Republic, try to master the use of the word “vaina” if you wish to speak fluently like a Dominican. Plus, remember to check out our book Quick Guide to Dominican Spanish than includes English explanations of hundreds of words used in the Dominican Republic.
Check out these other articles about Dominican Spanish Words.