Nicaraguan Spanish

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Nicaraguan Spanish (Spanish: Español nicaragüense) is geographically defined as the form of Spanish spoken in the Central American country of Nicaragua. Affectionately, Nicaraguan Spanish is often called Nicañol.[1]

The Spanish dialect in Nicaragua shares many similarities to that of its neighbors in the region, but it has its stark differences in pronunciation and usage. Such differences are also noticed within the geographic confinements of the country.

Nicaragua is the Central American country that uses voseo Spanish as its written and spoken form with the strongest frequency, similar to that of Argentina and other countries in the Río de la Plata region. The pronunciation of Nicaraguan Spanish with other voseo forms, such as Rioplatense Spanish, however, is not similar despite sharing many grammatical similarities. Vos is used frequently in colloquial and familiar settings, but many Nicaraguans understand tuteo. The use of "vos" can be heard in television programs and can be seen in written form in publications.[2]

In the North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region and the South Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region, language and pronunciation is fused with native and creole dialects such as Miskito, Rama, Sumo, Miskito Coastal Creole, Jamaican Patois, Garifuna and Rama Cay Creole.


Nicaraguan Spanish has many indigenous influences and several distinguishing characteristics. Until the 19th century, a hybrid form of Nahuat-Spanish was the common language of Nicaragua. Today Nahuat, Mangue and Mayan words, along with their respective syntax, can be found in everyday speech. The Nicaraguan accent dates back to the 16th century in Andalusia. Andalusia's profound influence on speech could be found in other areas, particularly Cuba, the Dominican Republic and the Caribbean/coastal regions of Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Honduras and Puerto Rico. Nicaragua's relative isolation from Spain and, to an extent, other nations, fostered the development of the Nicaraguan accent, which did not change in the same ways that the Andalusian, Canarian, or Latin American accents did.


In Spanish, few words end in plosives. However, many such words are borrowed from English. In Nicaragua, all such stops are usually pronounced like 'c's. The Costa Rican ice cream shop Pops, with franchises in Central America is pronounced by populations in certain regions as Pocs. Internet is sometimes pronounced Internec; Laptop is pronounced lactoc; and robot pronounced roboc. This is sometimes extended to native Spanish words where such stops are found at the end of a syllable. For example, Aceptar is sometimes pronounced as Acectar.

Pronunciation and Variations[edit]

Some Nicaraguans pronounce the word vos with a strong s sound at the end. This characteristic mirrors the pronunciation of você in Portuguese. In the central part of the country, regions like Boaco pronounce vos without the s sound at the end. The result is vo, similar to vous in French and voi in Italian. The opposite occurs in regions like the Rio San Juan or Rivas, where the S at the end of words is frequently pronounced. Nicaraguans, unlike most Spanish speaking groups, cannot be categorized uniformly in terms of accent and word usage. Although Spanish is spoken uniformly throughout the country, the country faces a phenomenon similar to the regional differences of the Italian language: vocabulary, pronunciation and word use can vary between towns and departments.

Additional Characteristics[edit]

Some other characteristics of Nicaraguan phonology include:

  • The presence of Seseo wherein /s/, /z/ and in some cases /c/ (as in cerrar) are pronounced as [s], and, to a lesser extent, Ceceo wherein /s/, /z/, /c/ (as in cerrar) are pronounced as [θ]. Seseo is common to Andalusian and Canarian Spanish varieties, while ceceo is exclusively typical to Andalusian Spanish.
  • /s/ at the end of a syllable or before a consonant is pronounced like [h].
  • j (/x/), is aspirated; it is soft as the /h/ in English (e.g.: Yahoo).
  • Intervocalic /b/, /d/, and /g/ show no sign of reduction, and are much more pronounced than in most dialects.
  • There is no confusion between /l/ and /r/, as in the Caribbean.
  • /m/ at the end of a word (at times) is pronounced as [n]

Second person singular pronouns[edit]

In this map of voseo countries, Nicaragua joins Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay as dominant voseante countries. Rioplatense Spanish is spoken among those countries, whereas Nicaragua exhibits the usage of voseo via Central American Spanish.
An examination of the dominance and stress of the voseo dialect in Central America. Data generated as illustrated by the Association of Spanish Language Academies. The darker the country, the stronger its dominance.


"Vos" is the dominant second person singular pronoun used by many speakers in familiar or informal contexts. Voseo is most commonly used among people in the same age group in addressing one another. It is common to hear young children address each other with "vos." The phenomenon also occurs among adults who address one another in familiar or informal contexts. "Vos" is also used by adults in addressing children or juveniles. However, the relationship does not re-occur when children address adults. Children address adults with "usted;" regardless of age, status or context.

Conjugations with the Vos Pronoun[edit]

See Voseo

The conjugations with the vos second person form vary in comparison with its tuteo counterpart.

Affirmative Imperative[edit]

See Voseo Affirmative Imperative

The use of the imperative in Nicaraguan Spanish places particular emphasis on the last syllable. For example, ¡Ven acá! or ¡Ven aquí! becomes ¡Vení! The conjugation of the affirmative imperative is the same as other voseo forms, including Rioplatense Spanish.

Verb Meaning Vos Vosotros
ser "to be" sed
ir "to go" ve andá id
hablar "to speak" habla hablá hablad
callar "to become silent" calla callá callad
soltar "to release/let go" suelta soltá soltad
comer "to eat" come comé comed
mover "to move" mueve mové moved
venir "to come" ven vení venid
poner "to put" pon poné poned
salir "to leave" sal salí salid
tener "to have" ten tené tened
decir "to say" di decí decid
pedir "to ask/order" pide pedí pedid


"Usted" is the formal second person singular pronoun in Nicaraguan Spanish. "Usted" is used in addressing foreigners formally, for acquaintances, and in business settings. Unlike neighboring Costa Rica, "usted" is not the dominant second person pronoun for addressing a person.


"Tú" is hardly used in Nicaraguan Spanish. The use of tú is limited strictly to foreigners. It is used in addressing foreigners familiarly and when writing correspondence to foreigners (again in familiar contexts).


Certain words are present in Nicaraguan Spanish that may not be immediately recognizable to non-Nicaraguans:

  • Pinolero/a; Nica; Nicoya: colloquial terms for a Nicaraguan.
  • Chavalo/a: usually referring to an adolescent or young man/woman.
  • Cachipil: a lot of something. (usually in terms of quantity.)
  • Mae/Maje: depending on context, it can be used to refer to a friend, a third person in a familiar manner, or can be colloquially used to refer to a moron.
  • Caite: form of leather shoe typically worn and made by campesinos.
  • Chochada: something unimportant; nonsense, usually made as a comment in regards to someone's words.
  • Salvaje: colloquially used to refer to something awesome.
  • Rejio: used to refer to something very good.
  • Boludo: lazy.
  • Gaseosa: soft drink.
  • Pulperia: grocery store.
  • Ideay: a common phrase used when someone is surprised.
  • Pofi; Pana: friend.
  • Pegue: workplace.
  • Chayul; Zancudo: mosquito.
  • Tuani: something very nice or pleasing, usually used when expressing positive attitudes toward an article of clothing.
  • Caponera: Auto rickshaw.
  • Chimbomba: balloon

See also[edit]

References and further reading[edit]