american spanish

Central American Spanish

Central American Spanish (Spanish: español centroamericano) is the general name of the Spanish language dialects spoken in the Central America. More precisely, the term refers to the Spanish language as spoken in Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Panama, and the Mexican state of Chiapas.


While most vocabulary is common, each country has its variations, for instance, for "corner store" and "soft drink": In Guatemala, they are tienda and agua (water is agua pura). In El Salvador, they are tienda and gaseosa. In Honduras, they are pulpería (in the north called trucha informally) and fresco. In Nicaragua, they are venta or pulpería and gaseosa. In Costa Rica, they are pulpería and gaseosa although they could also be abastecedor and refresco or fresco.

Phonetics and phonology

Some characteristics of Central American phonology include:

  • /s/ at the end of a syllable or before a consonant is pronounced like [h], except in Guatemala and in Costa Rica.
  • j (/x/), is aspirated except in some areas of Costa Rica; it is soft as the /h/ in English (e.g.: Yahoo).
  • There is no confusion between /l/ and /r/, as in the Caribbean.
  • /s/, /z/ and in some cases /c/ (as in cerrar) are pronounced as [s]


The most common form for the second person singular in Central America is vos.

People say "vení" for "come here" or "pedí tu cosa" for "ask for your thing" (see picture).

Its conjugation follows the pattern, (for “you have”) vos tenés instead of tú tienes, or (for “you sing”) vos cantás instead of tú cantas. The pronoun usted is used when addressing older, unfamiliar or respected persons, as it is in all Spanish countries; however, in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Honduras it is frequently used with younger people, and in Honduras between husband and wife, and friends. And it's also used with most, if not all, profanities.


There are also many words unique to Central America, for example, chunche or chochadas means thing or stuff in some places. Also the words used to describe children (or kids) is different in various countries, for example in Guatemala they are called patojos while in Honduras they're called güirros, chigüin, or cipotes is used in both Honduras and El Salvador, while in Costa Rica they are called guilas or carajillos. In Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador money is called pisto, a term originally used by Maya peoples in Guatemala.


See also

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