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7 Spanish Words That Mean Different Things Across Latin America

Photo: Vanity Fair/YouTube

When traveling, and/or interacting with Latinos from different countries, it’s important to know that a word in your culture can mean something completely different in another! For example, mona means monkey in Spanish, but it’s also used to describe a blonde in Colombia, or a conceited girl in Venezuela. To avoid confusion—or even worse, offending someone—here are seven words that mean different things in various Latin American countries.

Guagua

Guagua means “bus” in Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic. In Venezuela, Chile, Peru, and other Andean countries where Quechua is spoken, however, the word means “baby.” When someone is being cheap and doesn’t want to pitch in for the tab, Chileans might call them mano de guagua (“hand of a baby”).

Cuadrado

In Spanish, cuadrado is defined as “square.” In addition to this general meaning across Spanish-speaking countries, it also means “muscular/buff” in Mexico. In Colombia, if a couple is dating they are described as being cuadrados.

Chucho


Chucho means all kinds of things. It is a nickname for someone named Jesus. It also means a greedy or stingy person, in countries including El Salvador and Guatemala; a dog/mutt in Central America; and both a jail and an owl in Chile (among other things).

Fresa

In Spanish, fresa means strawberry. If you are called a fresa in Mexico, however, it means you are a rich girl, who may be snobby and superficial.

Chuleta

The word chuleta translates to “chop”(like a porkchop) in Spanish, but in Panama, it also means “damn!” or “wow!” It is also a way to refer to a cheat sheet, in Venezuela, and “sideburns” in Chile.

Varas

In Spanish, varas literally translates to “rods.” But in Costa Rica, it also means a “thing” or “object,” or excuses (varas).

Calabaza

Calabaza translates to “pumpkin” in Spanish. Harmless, right? Well, if you’re called a calabaza in Peru, it means you’re an idiot.