Dominican Spanish

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Dominican Spanish
Español dominicano
Native toDominican Republic
Native speakers
13 million (Including Dominican diaspora in other countries and immigrants living in Dominican Republic) (2014)[1]
9 million (only including Dominicans in DR)
Early forms
Spanish alphabet (Latin script)
Official status
Official language in
 Dominican Republic
Regulated byAcademia Dominicana de la Lengua
Language codes
ISO 639-1es
ISO 639-2spa[2]
ISO 639-3

Dominican Spanish (español dominicano) is Spanish as spoken in the Dominican Republic; and also among the Dominican diaspora, most of whom live in the United States, chiefly in New York City, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Florida. The Dominican accent is the most common Spanish accent in many parts of the US Northeast. Many Dominicans living in Spain and Puerto Rico tend to retain the Dominican accent.

Dominican Spanish, a Caribbean dialect of Spanish, is based on the Andalusian and Canarian Spanish dialects of southern Spain, and has influences from African languages, Taíno and other Arawakan languages. Speakers of Dominican Spanish may also use conservative words that in the so-called "upper-class speech of Spain" would be considered archaisms. The variety spoken in the Cibao region is a mixture of two dialects: that of the 16th- and 17th-century Portuguese colonists in the Cibao valley, and that of the 18th-century Canarian settlers with minor African influences along with words of Indigenous origin.[3][4][5]


Most of the Spanish-speaking settlers came from Andalusia (southern Spain) and the Canary Islands. When they first arrived in what is now the Dominican Republic, the first native people they had contact with were the Arawak-speaking Taino people.

Spanish, just as in other Latin American countries, completely replaced the indigenous languages (Taíno and the language of the Ciguayos) of the Dominican Republic to the point where they became entirely extinct, mainly due to the fact that the majority of the indigenous population quickly died out only a few years after European contact.

However, when the Spanish arrived, they found the flora and fauna of the island, as well as various cultural artifacts, very different from those of Spain, so many of the words used by the natives to name these things were conserved and assimilated, thereby enriching Spanish lexicon. Some of these words include: ají, anón, batata, barbacoa, bejuco, bija, caiman, canoa, caoba, conuco, guanábana, guayaba, hamaca, hobo (jobo), jagua, maní, papaya (lechosa), sabana, yuca.

Dominican Spanish also includes words and pronunciations borrowed from African languages spoken by the Africans brought to the island after the Taíno extinction, such as cachimbo, which was borrowed from the Portuguese word "cacimba", having the latter being borrowed from the Bantu "cazimba".[6]


  • Like most other Spanish dialects, Dominican Spanish features yeísmo: the sounds represented by ll (the palatal lateral /ʎ/) and y (historically the palatal approximant /ʝ̞/) have fused into one. This merged phoneme is generally pronounced as a [ʝ̞] or [dʒ] (these are the sounds in English York and John). That is, in the Dominican Republic (as in most of Latin America and Spain), se cayó "he fell down" is homophonous with se calló "he became silent / he shut up".
  • Dominican Spanish has seseo (there is no distinction between /θ/ and /s/). That is, caza ("hunt") is homophonous with casa ("house"). Seseo is common to nearly 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: "David 'tá 'co'ta'o", from "David está acostado" ("David is lying down / David is sleeping").
  • The fricative /s/ has a tendency to become an indistinct aspiration or disappear or to become a voiceless [h] or voiced glottal fricative [ɦ] (the latter before voiced consonants) at the end of syllables. The 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 [laɦ ˈmesah 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 much 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. The 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): the verb correr (to run) is pronounced correi and correl respectively, and perdón (forgiveness) becomes peidón and peldón. This substitution with the 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 not spoken to with familiarity, they use the more formal usted, instead of , the conventional word order is used.
  • The "d" 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 a few parts of the country, an "el" at the end of a word is pronounced as "err." For example, Miguel may be pronounced as Miguer in Dominican Spanish, a feature shared with Andalusian Spanish and in contrast to Puerto Rican Spanish, where the reverse occurs, e.g. pronouncing the name Arturo (Arthur) as Alturo.
  • In the northeastern part of the country, some speakers replace a final "l" with "y". An example is the use of "capitay" instead of "capital."

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
  • hypercorrected: asministracione púsblica

Example 2:

  • standard: jaguar [jaguar]
  • vernacular: jagual / jaguai
  • hypercorrected: jasguar

The hypercorrected form is more of a blatantly sarcastic mode of speech, commonly used for joking rather than everyday speech.


Dominican vocabulary[edit]

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.[7] 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 or enojado/-a
(in Spain apuesto/-a )
brave, combative or angry,
chinola maracuyá passion fruit
lechosa papaya papaya / pawpaw
cuartos (archaism occasionally used in standard
Spanish also; literally means "quarters")
dinero money
chin / chin chin (of Arawak origin)[8][9] un poco a bit
guagua (also used in Cuba, Puerto Rico, 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 (finca is also commonly used
in Central America)
granja farm/agricultural field
colmado (this is an archaism seldom used in Spanish), and pulpería tienda de ultramarinos convenience store
zafacón (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 (also used in Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Central America.
It is believed to be a genericized term deriving from a trademark.)
pañal desechable disposable diaper (Pampers)
Vaporu (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".[10] 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?".[citation needed]

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 except 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". 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 GIs 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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

Similarities in Spanish dialects[edit]

Below are different vocabulary words to demonstrate the similarities between the dialects of the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean countries, including Puerto Rico, Cuba, Colombia, Venezuela, and Panama. The dialects of Andalusia and the Canary Islands, two regions of Spain that have been highly influential on the dialects of these countries, are also included.

Puerto Rico Cuba Spain
(Canary Islands)
Venezuela Colombia Panama
apartment apartamento apartamento apartamento piso piso apartamento apartamento apartamento
banana guineo guineo plátano plátano plátano cambur banano guineo
bean habichuela habichuela frijol judía habichuela caraota frijol frijol
car carro carro carro coche coche carro carro carro
cell phone celular celular celular móvil móvil celular celular celular
child[I] niño/chico/
clothes hanger percha gancho perchero percha percha gancho gancho gancho
computer computadora computadora computadora ordenador ordenador computadora computador computadora
corn on the cob mazorca mazorca mazorca piña de millo mazorca jojoto mazorca mazorca
green bean vainita habichuela tierna habichuela habichuela judía verde vainita habichuela habichuela
money[II] dinero/cuarto dinero/chavo dinero/baro dinero/pasta dinero/pasta dinero/plata dinero/plata dinero/plata
orange[III] naranja/china china naranja naranja naranja naranja naranja naranja
papaya lechosa papaya/lechosa fruta bomba papaya papaya lechosa papaya papaya
peanut maní maní maní manises cacahuete maní maní maní
popcorn palomitas
de maíz
popcorn rositas
de maíz
palomitas palomitas cotufas crispetas/
maíz pira
postage stamp sello sello sello sello sello estampilla estampilla estampilla
potato papa papa papa papa papa papa papa papa
sock media media media calcetín calcetín media media media
soft drink refresco refresco refresco refresco refresco refresco gaseosa soda
sweet potato batata batata boniato batata batata batata batata camote/papa dulce
transit bus guagua guagua guagua guagua autobús autobús autobús bus
watermelon sandía melón de agua melón de agua sandía sandía patilla sandía sandía
  1. ^ In the Spanish-speaking world, niño is the standard word for child; all other words shown are slang or colloquial. In Panama, pelao mainly refers to teenaged boys.
  2. ^ In the Spanish-speaking world, dinero is the standard word for money; all other words shown are slang or colloquial.
  3. ^ Refers to the fruit.

Some words and names borrowed from Arawakan[edit]

Arawak Translation
ají chili/hot pepper
Anacaona golden flower
arepa corn cake
bara whip
barbacoa barbecue ("barbecue" is a borrowing derived from barbacoa). 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
ceiba silkcotton tree
canoa small boat, canoe (canoe is a borrowing derived from canoa)
Cibao rocky land
cocuyo or cucuyo small click beetle 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; also means someone who doesn't throw a ball accurately[citation needed]
mime little insect, typically a fruit fly
sabana savanna, treeless plain
tabaco tobacco
yagua a small palm native to Hispaniola


  1. ^ Spanish → Dominican Republic at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ "ISO 639-2 Language Code search". Library of Congress. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
  3. ^ Henríquez Ureña, Pedro (1940). El Español en Santo Domingo (in Spanish). Buenos Aires: Instituto de Filología de la Universidad de Buenos Aires.
  4. ^ Del Caribe, Números 28-33 (in Spanish). Casa del Caribe. 1998. p. 84.
  5. ^ John Lipski. "A New Perspective on Afro-Dominican Spanish: the Haitian Contribution".
  6. ^
  7. ^ Editan «Diccionario del español dominicano» que recoge más de 22 000 acepciones | Fundéu BBVA
  8. ^ 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; (...)
  9. ^ 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. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  10. ^ Online Etymological Dictionary, with reference link to "Based on the Random House Dictionary"

Other links[edit]