Cuban expressions are, well…expressive. I recently overheard a conversation in Spanish between a man and a woman on a Havana street. A “dictionary” translation would sound something like this:

Man: “You know, Jose has no delayed steaks because he is lined. He even moved to a new house where the devil gave the three voices. Didn’t you know? You are not in anything, my partner.”

Woman: “Oh, don’t eat feces, young man! I heard on Radio Big Lip that he was finishing but he is also a big packager so you never know. I think he is eating a tremendous cable.”

What could they possibly be talking about? Translated from Cuban slang the conversation is:

Man: “You know Jose looks great because he is doing well financially. He even moved to a new house very far away. Didn’t you know? You don’t seem to be aware.”

Woman: “Oh, don’t be a fool. The gossip is he’s doing well but he is such a liar that you never know. I think he is having a hard time.

Things are frequently not what they seem when “speaking in Cuban” and using Cuban expressions.

Want the best price? Make sure you “put yourself in something” (get your act together) “tear his arm off” (negotiate well) and “don’t let them grab your ass” (take you for a fool).


Cuban expressions are rich, descriptive and fun. They can also be very confusing… unless you’re Cuban.

I would like to share some of my favorite Cuban expressions and help you understand how to use them so that next time you’re in Havana “you will be finishing” (everyone will be very impressed with you).

Expression: No comas mierda
Translation: Do not eat feces
Meaning: Don’t be a fool

Expression: Va a la Habana y apaga fuego
Translation: He goes to Havana and puts out fires
Meaning: He is very talented, does many things well.

Expression: Radio Bemba
Translation: Radio Big Lip
Meaning: Gossip, as in, I heard it on radio big lip

Expression: Comiendo un cable
Translation: Eating a cable
Meaning: Having a real hard time.


Expression: Eramos pocos y pario Catana
Translation: There were few of us then Catana gave birth
Meaning: As if things weren’t bad enough, they got even worse

Expression: Tremendo arroz con mango
Translation: A huge mango with rice
Meaning: A big confusion

Expression: Eso va a terminar como la fiesta del Guatao
Translation: That will end like the Guatao party
Meaning: That’s not a good idea or that will not end well


Expression: Canto “El Manicero”
Translation: He sang “The Peanut Vendor”
Meaning: He died

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Expression: Eso dura lo que dura un merengue en la puerta de una escuela
Translation: That will last about as long as a sugary pastry at the door of a school
Meaning: That’s not going to last too long

Expression: No tiene bistec atrasado
Translation: He has no delayed steak
Meaning: He looks healthy and in good shape

More Cuban expressions

1. Cubans don’t eat hotdogs with “all the trimmings,” they eat them with “all the irons” (con todos los hierros).

2. Cubans are not “very talented,” they “go to Havana and extinguish fires” (va a La Habana y apaga fuego).

3. Cubans don’t “think something is outrageous,” they “throw a mango aggressively” (le zumba el mango).

4. Cubans don’t just give directions. When something is “very far away,” they say it is “where the devil gave the three voices, and no one heard him” (donde el diablo dio las tres voces y nadie le oyó) or “it is in the earth’s ass” (eso queda en el culo del mundo). But if the place is nearby, it is “to the rooster’s crow” (al cantio del gallo) and if the place is “too dark,” it is a “wolf’s mouth” (la boca de un lobo).

5. Cubans don’t tell you that “you have been taken for a fool,” they say that “they grabbed your ass” (te cojieron el culo).

6. Cubans aren’t just “fed up,” they are “up to their last hair” (hasta el último pelo).

7. Cubans aren’t “indifferent,” they “care three cucumbers” (me importa tres pepinos).

8. Cubans won’t tell you something was “confusing,” they’ll tell you it was a “huge rice with mango” (tremendo arroz con mango).

9. Cubans won’t say something is a “big lie,” they’ll tell you it is a “huge package” (tremendo paquete).

10. Cubans will never do something “underhandedly,” they will do it “by the left” (por la izquierda).

11. Cubans will not “cause trouble,” they will “bleat like a goat” (arme un berrinche).

12. Cubans are not just “proud,” they “cannot fit another bird seed into their butt” (no le cabe un alpiste en el culo).

13. Cubans don’t ask you to “stop being a fool,” they ask you to “stop consuming feces” (deja de comer mierda).

14. Cubans don’t think something will “end badly,” they think it will end “like Guatao’s party” (esto va a terminar como la fiesta del Guatao).

15. Cubans don’t think you are “pretentious,” they think you “polish yourself a lot” (te das tremenda lija).

16. Cubans won’t ask you to “keep a secret,” they’ll say “with a closed mouth, flies don’t enter” (boca cerrada no entran moscas).

17. Cubans don’t “die,” they “stretched a leg” (estiró la pata) or “sang the peanut vendor” (cantó el manisero).

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18. Cubans don’t say you should “attack the problem at its source,” they say “if the dog is dead, the rabies will stop” (muerto el perro se acaba la rabia).

19. Cubans don’t think something “will not last very long,” they think “it will last about as long as a sugary pastry at a school’s door” (eso dura lo que dura un merengue en la puerta de una escuela).

20. Cubans don’t “go somewhere reluctantly,” they “go like the cat whose tail is being pinched” (como el gato que le están pellizcando el rabo).

21. Cubans don’t say “the situation is increasing dire,” they say “there were so many of us then Catana gave birth” (eramos tantos y pario Catana.

22. A Cuban kid is not “annoying,” he is a “cow lung” (un bofe).

23. Cubans don’t think “someone or something is meaningless,” it just “doesn’t paint anything” (no pinta nada).

24. A Cuban would never say “a woman’s dress is a poor fit,” they’ll say “she looks like a badly wrapped tamale” (parece un tamal mal envuelto).

25. Cubans don’t think “someone is lazy,” he just “doesn’t shoot a pea” (no dispara un chicharo).

26. A Cuban won’t tell you how it is,” they’ll tell you “to bread, bread and to wine, wine” (al pan, pan y al vino, vino).

27. Cubans don’t think “someone is incompetent,” they think he is a “yam with a tie” (es un ñame con corbata).

28. A Cuban is never “useless,” he is a “zero to the left” (un zero a la izquierda).

29. A Cuban won’t tell you to “stop encouraging someone” they’ll tell you to “stop cranking him up” (no le des cranque).

30. Cubans don’t “go senile,” they lose a coconut” (perdio el coco).

31. A Cuban is never “foolish,” he just “eats what the chicken pecks at” (come de lo que pica el pollo).

32. A Cuban won’t “rip you off,” he’ll just leave you “cackling and without feathers” (sin plumas y cacareando).

33. A Cuban is not “skinny,” he is a “butcher’s hook” (es un gancho de carniceria).

34. Cubans don’t “go nuts,” their “coconut skates” (le patino el coco) or they “get little mice in their coconuts” (tiene guayavitos en el coco).

35. Cubans are not “spinsters,” they’re just “left to dress saints” (se quedo para vestir santos).

36. A Cuban won’t “pretend to be innocent,” they’ll pretend to be a “little dead fly” (se hace la mosquita muerta).

37. Cubans are never in a “bad mood,” they just “woke up with a disheveled bun” (se desperto con el moño virado).

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38. Cubans don’t say someone is “coming on to you,” they say “that egg wants salt” (ese huevo quiere sal).

39. Cubans didn’t “have a hard time” they “ate a huge cable” (se comio tremendo cable).

40. Cubans won’t tell you to “get lost,” they’ll tell you to “go to the crow’s nest” (vete para el carajo).

41. A Cuban is not “pretentious,” he is the “last Coca-Cola in the desert” (la ultima Coca-Cola en el desierto).

42. Cubans don’t “congratulate you for doing a good job,” they tell you “you ate it” (te la comiste) or “you are finishing” (estas acabando).

43. A Cuban doesn’t think someone “is a jerk,” they think he is a “pubic hair” (es un pendejo).

44. Cubans won’t ask you to “make a decision,” they’ll tell you to “either comb your hair or curl it.”

45. A Cuban won’t tell you she’s “not in the mood” she’ll say “this oven is not ready for pastries” (este horno no esta listo para pastelitos).

46. Cubans won’t tell you “your medical case is hopeless,” They’ll tell you “even the Chinese doctor can’t cure you” (eso no lo cura ni el medico Chino).

47. Cubans won’t say something is “inconsequential,” they’ll say it is “not a fart that will break the underpants” (no es un peo que rompa los calzoncillos).

48. Cubans don’t “give awesome parties,” they “throw the house out the door” (tiro la casa por la ventana).

49. A Cuban is not “smart,” he “knows more than the cockroaches of Guanabacoa” (sabe mas que las cucarachas de Guanabacoa) or he is a lantern (es una lumbrera).

50. Cubans are not “outspoken,” they don’t have hairs on their tongues” (no tine pelos en la lengua).

51. Cubans don’t get angry,” their “testicles snore” (le roncan los huevos).

52. Cubans aren’t “cheap,” they “walk on their elbows” (caminan con los codos).

53. A Cuban doesn’t “have a streak of bad luck,” they “have a barefoot Chinese man behind them” (tengo un Chino descalzo detras de me).

54. A Cuban won’t tell someone to not be distracted,” They’ll say “don’t be thinking of small rodents” (deja de pensar en musarañas).

55. A Cuban is “never off his game,” he “is salty” (esta salao).

56. Cubans never “admit mistakes” they “put their foot in it” (meti la pata).

57. Cubans don’t ask you to “share your food,” they’ll ask you if “you think they have a square mouth” (tengo la boca cuadrada?)

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58. Cubans don’t think “its cold outside” they think it’s so cold that the rocks are breaking” (hace un frio que parte las piedras).

59. Cubans don’t think “old people are wise,” they think “the devil knows more because he is old than because he is the devil” (mas sabe el diablo por viejo que por diablo).

60. Cubans don’t think “something is suspicious,” they think “there is a caged cat” (aqui hay gato encerrado).

61. A Cuban doesn’t believe “something is obvious,” they believe it “falls from the tree” (se cai de la mata).

62. A Cuban won’t tell you he “doesn’t understand,” he’ll tell you “now you’ve put it in Chinese” (ahora me los has puesto en Chino).

63. Cubans don’t think “something is severe” they’ll tell you it’s “of mother” (de madre).

64. A Cuban won’t tell you “you’re nuts,” he’ll tell you “you have sawdust on the rooftop” (tienes serrin en la azotea).

65. Cubans don’t think you “have enough of something,” they think you have it “through a tube and seven keys” (por un tubo y siete llaves).

66. Cubans don’t think “it’s cold,” they think “the monkey whistles” Chifla el mono.

67. Cubans won’t tell you to “get going,” they tell you to “put yourself in something” (ponte en algo.)

68. Cubans don’t say “a place is empty,” they’ll say there were “only four cats there” (nada mas habian cuatro gatos).

69. A Cuban won’t tell you “something is amazing,” they’ll say it is “of mother” (de madre).

70. Cubans express surprise, indignation, amusement, shock, dismay and dozens of other expressions with the statement “this has no name” (esto no tiene nombre).

I hope you enjoyed these Cuban expressions. What are some unusual expressions from YOUR background?

If you’re interested in Cuba, you might enjoy these posts.

The Perfect Cuba Itinerary: Everything You Need to Know.

10 Dos and Don’ts for Your Trip to Cuba.


BTW, if you are getting ready for your trip, make sure to take advantage of these useful,money-saving linksto book your trip:

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What are some Cuban sayings? ›

7 Spanish Sayings to Take With You to Cuba
  • ¡Acere, qué bolá! Referring to someone as “Acere” is endearing—it's a term for “buddy” or “friend.” As for the “qué bola” bit, it' is a pleasantry to ask someone how things are. ...
  • Chévere. ...
  • ¡Chao pescao! ...
  • Está volao. ...
  • En talla. ...
  • Tremendo Mangon/Tremenda Manguita. ...
  • Me piro.
21 May 2017

What does Pinga mean to Cubans? ›

#4 Pinga is…

Literally translated it refers to the male genital organ. However, conjugated in a wide variety of ways and placed into all sort of different contexts, it can mean anything from “it is horrible” (está de Pinga), “amazing” (empinagado), “what the hell is up with you” (qué Pinga te pasa a tí)…

What does Pipo mean in Cuban? ›

Pipo: (pee-po) it's similar to guy, or che in Argentinean slang. Ironically they don't use che here even though his face is everywhere. Tata/Titi: Similar to honey or sweetie.

What does asere mean in Cuban? ›


You'll hear this one all the time in Cuba and it's not used in any other Spanish-speaking country. It's the most popular way to address a friend, and you wouldn't use it in with someone you've just met or in a professional situation. Think “mate” or “buddy”. Often heard in the phrase: “¿Asere qué bola?”

What is a famous Cuban saying? ›

En talla

Literally, this means “at the size,” and the closest English equivalent is “it's a good fit.” It could mean that things literally or figuratively fit, or that people are understanding each other well.

How do you say beautiful in Cuban? ›

1. Bonito/a. In English, this word translates to “beautiful,” “pretty,” or “lovely.” Bonito/a is widely used in Spanish-speaking countries, and it's generally a loving word. ¡Qué bonito eres!

What does Chula mean in Cuban? ›

What does chula mean? Chula is Spanish slang for “cute” or “a beautiful woman,” often seen in mami chula (“hottie”).

What does Oye mean in Cuba? ›

Oye is Spanish for "hey" or "listen".

What is daddy in Cuban? ›

Papá – Dad

As you may know, papá is the direct translation of 'dad'. In Latin American Spanish speaking countries, this word is the most common and standard way to say 'dad.

What does aguaje mean in Cuban slang? ›

watering place {noun} aguaje (also: abrevadero) watering hole {noun} aguaje (also: aguada, bebedero)

What does Comepinga mean? ›

comepinga [m/f] CU. foolish person.

What does Baba mean in Cuban? ›

mucus, the ~ Noun.

What does Bola mean in Cuba? ›

However, Cubans employ it to say "friend." Ex. "¿Acere, que bola?" = "Buddy, what's up?"

What does Bella mean in Cuban? ›

bello (bella) ADJ liter


What does Papito mean in Cuban? ›

Papito is a colloquial Spanish term that literally translates to “little daddy” in English. This is a term of endearment that a son or daughter would call their own father, like the English “daddy.” The word papito can also be used to mean “baby,” “hunk,” or “sweetheart,” according to Spanish Dict.

What is the Cuba motto? ›

Flag. Coat of arms. Motto: ¡Patria o Muerte, Venceremos! ("Homeland or Death, We Shall Overcome!")

What does Mira mean in Cuba? ›

I quickly look up both words in a Spanish Phrasebook and find that “mirar” means “to look” and “linda” means “beautiful.” This lost-in-translation moment led me to the adventure I was hoping for. “Mira” was the intention behind my month-long trip to Cuba and “linda” was the perfect word to describe the experience.

What is I love you in Cuba? ›

To say I love you in Cuban “Te amo” and “Te Quiero” also works, Which is in Spanish. I love you in Cuban has two phrases to say 'I love you' in both ways.

What does Chico mean in Cuba? ›

Chico (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈtʃiko]) means small, boy or child in the Spanish language.

What does chica mean in Cuba? ›

'Chica' is a Spanish word for a girl, just as 'chico' is the Spanish word for a boy. Girls who are normally called 'chica' are referred to as extremely good-looking and/or the other person takes pride in knowing them.

What does Palo mean in Cuban? ›

PALO generically refers to a stick, like a broom stick, a pool stick or baseball bat-type stick.

What is meant by Papi Chulo? ›

Papi chulo ("cute daddy" in Caribbean Spanish) is a Spanish term of endearment for males.

What do Mi Papi Chulo mean? ›

What does papi chulo mean? In Latin-American Spanish slang, a papi chulo is an attractive man. While the term originally names a pimp, it has broadened to refer to a ladies' man.

What does Pepito mean in Cuban? ›

Pepito is a masculine name of Spanish origin, meaning “Jehovah increases.” What was once an adorable pet name has now blossomed into a stand-alone title. Pepito comes from the name Jose, the Hispanic form of the Hebrew Joseph.

What does Morena mean in Cuba? ›

Morena means brown-haired. They call me rubia.” I could see how she'd be confused. She was right, Spaniards do use morena and rubia to refer to someone's hair color.

What does Yuma mean in Cuba? ›

"La Yuma" is Cuban street lingo for the United States, and "Yumas" can be Americans or foreigners from any non-Spanish speaking country. Many trace the term to "3:10 to Yuma" the cowboy classic based on an Elmore Leonard short story that arrived here after it hit U.S. theaters in 1957.

What does Jaja mean in Cuban? ›

An exclamation of disappointed, reluctant or exasperated/annoyed agreement.

What is Zaddy in Spanish? ›

This is the equivalent of an English-speaking person calling their partner “daddy” or “zaddy,” but it is generally used to refer to an attractive man. The term papi chulo is a masculine phrase and is used exclusively to refer to men.

What does Mijo mean in Cuban? ›

Mijo is used just like mija, meaning “my son” among family or elders or “buddy” among close male friends.

What does TIA mean in Cuban? ›

noun. aunt [noun] the sister of one's father or mother, or the wife of one's uncle.

What does Mami mean in Cuban? ›

A colloquial and child's form of the Spanish mamá, mami literally means “mommy” in Latin-American Spanish, especially in the Caribbean.

What does pucha mean in Cuba? ›

feminine noun. Cuba) (= ramo) bouquet.

What does mango mean in Cuba? ›

Mango. Mango, in Cuban slang, is used to express that someone is very hot in a sexual way. Mango is a fruit so the word doesn't mean the same among Spanish speakers, this is only for Cuba.

What does Puro mean in Cuba? ›

A Spanish term for a cigar. Modern usage refers to a cigar blended with tobaccos from a single country. All Cuban cigars use 100 percent Cuban tobacco, so all Cuban cigars, according to modern usage, are puros.

What does Lupa mean in Cuban? ›

In Spanish Baby Names the meaning of the name Lupe is: Wolf.

What is Bollo in Cuban? ›

Bollo is a bun, popular in Latin America, made from corn, yuca or potato. Variations are eaten in Colombian cuisine, Cuban cuisine ( Tamal de maíz solamente ) and Panamanian cuisine. Corn and yuca bollos are an indigenous food of the Caribbean coast of Colombia and Panama, where they are boiled in leaves.

What does Lupita mean in Cuba? ›

Meaning:River of the wolf. The Spanish name Lupita builds the cute suffix -ita onto the familiar name Lupe, and these names come from the name Guadalupe.

Can you say Guapa to a girl? ›

Guapa(o) is, most of the time, used for young people and especially for men (i.e., the masculine form guapo, at least in some regions). Guapa can be used for females and it isn't considered weird or uncommon, but bonita for females is preferred over guapa, just as guapo is preferred over bonito for males.

How do you say pretty girl in Cuban? ›

If you say “chica bonita,” it means “beautiful girl” and is pronounced “cheek-ah boh-neat-ah.” This would be a more informal way to say the phrase. You may hear Spanish-speakers mix this word with English, as in the phrase “Hey, bonita!

What does Lola mean in Cuban? ›

girl, the ~ Noun.

What does Blanquita mean in Cuban? ›

feminine noun (Caribbean) cocaine.

What does Papa Sita mean? ›

You must have Googled it . Btw it is a Spanish word means handsome or attractive it is an adjective.

What is Cuba's slogan? ›

Republic of Cuba República de Cuba (Spanish)
Motto: ¡Patria o Muerte, Venceremos! ("Homeland or Death, We Shall Overcome!")
Anthem: La Bayamesa ("The Bayamo Song") 0:53
Cuba shown in dark green.
Capital and largest cityHavana 23°8′N 82°23′W
45 more rows

What is a common greeting in Cuba? ›

1. Greetings. You probably already know that “Hola” is the Spanish word for hello. This is quite sufficient for greeting someone in Cuba, since it's a fairly informal society.

How do Cubans say what's up? ›

¿Que bola? This is by far one of the most popular Cuban phrases. Its most literal translation is "What's up?" It's very informal and typically used among friends.

How do Cubans greet each other? ›

They shake hands upon greeting someone and farewelling them. Men often exchange friendly hugs (abrazos) and it is also common for both men and women to greet friends and family with a hug and a kiss on the cheek.

What are 3 things Cuba is known for? ›

Cuba is famous for its cigars, its rum made from sugar cane, its ladies, Salsa and other Cuban dance styles, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, 1950s-era cars, Spanish-colonial architecture, Cuban National Ballet, Buena Vista Social Club and Guantanamo Bay.

What is the Cuban flower? ›

The White Mariposa or Butterfly Jasmine (Hedychium coronarium) is Cuba's national flower.

What does De Pinga mean? ›

(informal) amazing ⧫ terrific (informal)

What does Papi mean in Cuba? ›

Papi is a colloquial term for “daddy” in Spanish, but in many Spanish-speaking cultures, particularly in the Caribbean, it is often used as a general term of affection for any man, whether it's a relative, friend, or lover.

What do Cubans call their friends? ›


Acere is a term of friendship, similar to “dude”, “buddy”, or “mate”. You wouldn't use it in more formal settings, but you'll hear it often among friends. This word originally comes from the Efik language of Nigeria and isn't found in other Spanish dialects.

What should you not say in Cuba? ›

Don't talk about politics

If you strike up a discussion about politics or the government you'll likely make people uncomfortable, and you could end up being reported to the police for being a subversive foreigner.

How do Cubans say bro? ›

Definition: Que bola (usually written sans accent marks) is Cuban for “What's up man, how's it hangin'?” Asere is the Cuban word for “bro.” Just to be clear: Asere que bola is to Cuba as Che boludo is to Argentina or No mames wey is to Mexico as “Hella awesome dude” is to California.


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