Dominican Spanish

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Dominican Spanish is Spanish as spoken in the Dominican Republic, a Caribbean country, and throughout the Dominican diaspora, which is found mostly in the United States, chiefly in New York City, Boston, and Miami.

Dominican Spanish is similar to other Caribbean Spanish or Coastal Caribbean Spanish dialects, as well as Canarian Spanish (Canary Islands of Spain) and Andalusian Spanish (Andalucia, southern Spain).[1] Speakers of Dominican Spanish may also use several Spanish archaisms.[1]

Dominican Spanish is based on the Andalusian and Canarian Spanish dialects of southern Spain.[1]


Most of the Spanish-speaking settlers came from what is known as the Andalusia region of south Spain, as well as people from the Canary Islands of Spain. When they first arrived in present-day Dominican Republic, the first non-Spanish speaking people they had contact with were the Arawak speaking Taino people. The environment on the island was much different than that of Spain, so they needed to borrow words of Arawak origin in order to indicate such things.


  • Like many other Spanish dialects, Dominican Spanish features yeísmo: the sounds represented by ll (the palatal lateral /ʎ/) and y (historically the palatal approximant /j/) have fused into one. This merged phoneme is generally pronounced as a [j] or [dʒ] (these are the sounds in English York and John). That is, in the Dominican Republic, se cayó "he fell down" is homophonous with se calló "he became silent / he shut up".
  • Dominican Spanish has seseo (traditional /θ/ merges with /s/). That is, casa ("house") is homophonous with caza ("hunt"). Seseo is common to all of Hispanic America, the Canary Islands, and southern Spain.
  • Strong contraction in everyday speech is common, as in "voy a" into "vuá" or "voá", or "¿para adónde vas?" into "¿p'ónde va'?". Another example: "Taco 'tá 'co'ta'o", from "Taco está acostado" ("Taco is lying down / Taco is sleeping").
  • The fricative /s/ has a tendency to become an indistinct aspiration or disappear or to become a voiceless glottal fricative [h] at the end of syllables. This change may be realized only at the word level or it may also cross word boundaries. That is, las mesas son blancas "the tables are white" is pronounced [lahˈmesah sɔn ˈblaŋkah], but in las águilas azules "the blue eagles", syllable-final /s/ in las and águilas might be resyllabified into the initial syllable of the following vowel-initial words and remain [s] ([laˈsaɣilasaˈsulɛh]), or become [h] (it varies by speaker). Aspiration or disappearance of syllable-final /s/ is common to all of Hispanic America, the Canary Islands, and southern Spain.
    • Example 1: To say lo niño or los niño, instead of los niños
    • Example 2: To say lluvia ailada or lluvias ailada, instead of lluvias aisladas
  • In some areas, speakers tend to drop the final r sound in verb infinitives. This elision is considered a feature of uneducated speakers in some places, but it is widespread in others, at least in rapid speech.
  • Syllable-final r tends to be changed in many words by an i sound in the Northerly Cibao region and by an l (L) in the Eastern and in the capital city (Santo Domingo); i.e., the verb correr (to run) is pronounced correi and correl respectively, and perdón (forgiveness) becomes peidón and peldón. This substitution of i is delicately (almost mutely) present in Andalusian Spanish, and also the l use is prototypical, and more marked, in Puerto Rican Spanish. It is believed to be of Andalusian origin.
  • Dominican Spanish uses the common Caribbean inverted placement of the second person singular pronoun in front of the verb in questions: "¿Cómo tú estás?" instead of "¿Cómo estás tú?". When speaking formally or with those the speaker does not speak with familiarity, then they use the more formal usted, instead of , the conventional word order is used.
  • The "D" sound is silent in the common word-ending -ado. For example, the words casado (married) and lado (side, way) are pronounced as casao and lao in Dominican Spanish.
  • In very few parts of the country, the "L" sound after the "E" (only if the "L" is the last letter) is pronounced as an "R" sound. For example, Miguel is pronounced as Miguer in Dominican Spanish.

Other differences with Standard Spanish include subtleties like hypercorrection, in particular, adding the s erroneously, thus overcompensating the habit of omitting it.

Example 1:

  • standard: administraciones públicas [public administrations]
  • vernacular: aminitracione pública
  • hyper-corrected: asministracione púsblica

Example 2:

  • standard: jaguar [jaguar]
  • vernacular: jagual / jaguai
  • hyper-corrected: jasguar
        • NOTE: This hyper-corrected method is more of a blatantly sarcastic mode of speech, commonly used for joking rather than everyday speech..


As in every dialect, Dominican Spanish has numerous vocabulary differences from other forms of the language. The Dominican Academy of Letters (Academia Dominicana de la Lengua) published in November 2013 a dictionary of Dominican terms (Diccionario del español dominicano) containing close to 11,000 words and phrases peculiar to the Dominican dialect.[2] Here are some examples:

Dominican Spanish Standard Spanish English
aposento (a Spanish archaism also meaning "chamber") habitación room
Dominican slang: tató (shortened from "está todo (bien)") bien good, fine
guapo/-a agresivo/-a brave, combative
chinola maracuyá passion fruit
lechosa papaya papaya / pawpaw
cuartos (this is an archaism seldom used in standard Spanish also; it literally means "quarters") dinero money
chin / chin chin (of Arawak origin)[3][4] un poco a bit
guagua (this term is also used in the Canary Islands (Spain), Cuba, Puerto Rico; it originated in the Canary Islands) autobús coach / bus
motoconcho mototaxi motorbike taxi
pasola (a generic term derived from a trademark) ciclomotor scooter
yipeta (a generic term derived from a trademark) (vehículo) todoterreno jeep / SUV
conuco (Arawak origin), finca granja farm/agricultural field
colmado (this is an archaism seldom used in Spanish also), and pulpería tienda de ultramarinos convenience store
zafacón (used also in Puerto Rico; possibly a corrupted anglicism of safety can) bote de basura trash can
mata árbol tree
conflé (possibly a corrupted anglicism of corn flakes) cereal cereal
Pamper (many Spanish-speaking countries use this term, including Puerto Rico, Cuba, and in Central America. It is also believed to be a genericized term deriving from a trademark.) pañal desechable disposable diaper (Pampers)
Vivaporu (a generic term derived from a trademark) crema mentolada ointment (Vicks VapoRub)

A slightly pejorative slang expression also common around most of the Caribbean basin is vaina. The Castilian meanings are "sheath", "pod", "shell", "shell casing", and "hull" (of a plant). It is descended from the Latin word "vāgīna", which meant "sheath".[5] In the Dominican Republic "vaina" is mainly a thing, a matter, or simply "stuff". For example, ¿Qué vaina es esa? means ¿Qué cosa es esa?, "What is that thing/stuff?".

Anglicisms, due to cultural and commercial influence from the United States and the American occupations of the Dominican Republic during 1916–1924 and 1965–1966, are extremely common in Dominican Spanish, more so than in any other Spanish variant, save for Puerto Rican and perhaps Northern Mexican Spanish. A prime example of this is "vaguada", which is a corruption of the English "bad weather", though in Dominican Spanish the term has come to mean storm or torrential downpour, rather than a spot of unpleasant climate. Hence, a common Dominican expression: "Viene una vaguada", "here comes a vaguada", or "here comes a storm". Another excellent example of this is "boche", a corruption of the English "bull shit", though in Dominican Spanish the term has come to mean a reprimanding, fulmination, or harangue in general terms. Hence, a common Dominican expression: "Me echaron un boche", "they threw me a boche", or "they reprimanded me". The pronoun "they" in Dominican Spanish often refers to the third person singular, so that me dijeron, "they told me", is sometimes used instead of "a man told me", or "a woman told me", or "the young boy by the lemon tree told me". Furthermore is the Dominican Spanish word for SUV, "yipeta", "jeepeta", or rarely "gipeta". This term is a corruption of the American "Jeep", which was the primary mode of transport for the GI's throughout the country during the occupation in the 1960s. Dominican license plates for SUVs are marked with a "G" for "gipeta", a variant of, and pronounced like, "yipeta", before their serial number. The word "tichel", from "T-shirt", also refers to a rugby shirt, association football jersey, or undershirt, and similarly, "corn flakes" and its variant "con fléi" can refer to any breakfast cereal, in Dominican Spanish, be it puffed corn, bran flakes, or puffed wheat. The borrowing "polo shirt" is frequently pronounced polo ché.

Another phenomenon related to Anglicisms is the usage of brand names as common names for certain objects. For example, "Gillette" and its derivative yilé refer to any razor, and while the machete is known as machete, this being originally a Spanish word, it is sometimes referred to as a "colín", derived from "Collins & Co.", name of a former Connecticut toolmaker.

Some words and names borrowed from Arawakan[edit]

Arawak Translation
ají chili/hot pepper
Anacaona Golden Flower
arepa corn cake
bara whip
barbacoa barbecue (barbacoa and "barbecue" are cognates). It was a four-legged stand made of sticks, used by the Taínos for roasting meat.
batata sweet potato
bohío small square house (typical countryside homes)
cacata tarantula
cana any number of palmetto trees (a type of palmetto are the palms that line the Malecón of Santo Domingo)
ceiba Silkcotton tree
canoa small boat, canoe (canoe is a cognate of canoa)
Cibao Stoned Mountains
cocuyo or cucuyo small lightning bug with a blueish light
cohiba tobacco/tobacco leaves
guayo grater
jaiba river crab or freshwater crayfish
jicotea turtle
maraca gourd rattle, musical instrument made of higuera gourd
maco toad; in sports it can also mean someone who doesn't throw a ball accurately[citation needed]
mime little insect, typically a fruit fly
nana or nena little girl
sabana or zabana savanna (a cognate of sabana); a flat grassland of tropical or subtropical regions
tabacu or tabaco tobacco
yagua a small palm native to Hispaniola


  1. ^ a b c Henríquez Ureña, Pedro (1940). El Español en Santo Domingo (in Spanish). Buenos Aires: Instituto de Filología de la Universidad de Buenos Aires. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ María Rosa Vélez (2005). "Los nuevos taínos". Universidad de Puerto Rico, Recinto de Mayagüez (in Spanish). Retrieved 29 June 2014. One only has to think “un chin” (the Taino word for a little) about many words and phrases used here; (...) 
  4. ^ Grisel R. Núñez (24 August 2012). "La herencia taína". El Post Antillano (in Spanish). San Juan, Puerto Rico. Sin embargo, no sólo heredamos palabras, sino también frases, como la muy conocida ‘un chin-chin’ para hacer referencia a una cantidad pequeña. 
  5. ^ Online Etymological Dictionary, with reference link to "Based on the Random House Dictionary"

Other links[edit]