Explore El Salvador

For Tourists, By Travellers


Common Words

There are some slang words you’ll consistently hear throughout El Salvador.  Below, we picked some of the most common ones you’ll hear whether you’re on the beach or in the city.


Ahuevo (Ah-way-bo)
This is a little hard to translate, as it can be used for many different things.  Essentially, it’s a form of agreement or a reaffirmation of something someone has said.  For example:

“We got pretty drunk last night!”  
“Ahuevo!”

It can mean anything from “Right on” to “Damn straight.”

Chivo (Chee-bo)  
This means “cool” and can be used in almost any way that you would use “cool” in English.  For example:

While watching a surfer pull a 180: “Chivo!”Surfing El Salvador

A child shows you a picture that they drew: “Que chivo!” How cool!

"See you at D'Rocas at 9!"
"Chivo, pues!"


Que ondas?  (kay ohn-duhs)
This essentially means “What’s up?” or “How’s it goin’?”  It’s fairly informal, and a typical response might be:

“Suave” (swah-bay)  Literally, “smooth”
-or-
“Tranquilo” (train-kee-low) “calm”

Vos (bo-s)
This is something unique to Central America that you won’t find in European Spanish.  It’s an entirely different pronoun that is used only in parts of Latin America.  While we don’t use the formal “vosotros” we’ve brought informality to a whole new level with “vos.”  

For those of you learning Spanish, “usted” is the form of “you” used formally with people you don’t know well to whom you want to show respect: bosses, the elderly, clergymen, etc.  “Tu” is the “you” form can be used with people you know, although Salvadorans will rarely use it: elderly family members, acquaintances, children, etc. 

“Vos” can possibly best be translated as the “you” form that can be used with very close friends or with people you’re not worried about how you look or act: drinking buddies, friends, boyfriends/girlfriends, sisters/brothers, etc.

Most often you’ll hear it used at the end of the sentence, where it can be most closely translated into “dude” or “man” in US dialect, or “mate” in British or Australian slang.  As a pronoun, it sometimes has its own conjugation with verbs.

Example:
“A donde vas, vos?” Where are you going, mate?
“Como estas, vos?” How are you, man?