chronic pain/fibromyalgia · culture/multiculturalism · hair · Hispanics/Latinos · Junot Diaz · Oscar Wao

The Oscar Wao Vocabulary Dictionary Glossary, You’re Welcome, Junot Diaz

I am sick of hearing people say they feel like they can’t understand “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” because of all those Spanish terms. Why didn’t Junot Diaz and his lovely publishers throw in some sort of glossary in the back? Just what were they thinking? We’ll never know.

Luckily for all of you, I paid my little sister to help me create one. I just wish I’d had her write down the context of all these words used in the book because I may or may not have the best definition, especially for slang words. Meanwhile, tada, the following includes definitions for most of the words used in the book.

I apologize for any misspellings and any definitions that are totally off. Feel free to comment and I’ll make changes!
(el) cuco: a mythical monster, a ghost, witch; equivalent to the boogeyman found in many Hispanic and Lusophone countries
Abrazo: hug
Abuela: grandmother
Acabar: to finish
Acabaron: finished
Alegre: happy
Algiuen: someone/somebody
Amor: love
Ande: to go, to travel
Aqui: here
Arroz: rice
Asesino: killer/assassin
Asqueroso: dirty person (masculine)                                                                                                                     
Azabaches: a fossilized form of wood that is black in color and is carved and polished into pieces of jewelry to protect against the evil eye
Azaroso: unfortunate, disgraceful person (masculine)
Bacalao: dried salt cod
Bachata: a genre of music that originated in the Dominican Republic in the early parts of the 20th century and spread to other parts of Latin America and Mediterranean Europe. It became popular in the countryside and the rural neighborhoods of the Dominican Republic. Its subjects are often romantic; especially prevalent are tales of heartbreak and sadness. In fact, the original term used to name the genre was amargue (“bitterness,” or “bitter music”), until the rather ambiguous (and mood-neutral) term bachata became popular. The form of dance, Bachata, also developed with the music.
Bailarina: ballet dancer
Barrio: neighborhood
Bebe: baby
Bella: beautiful
Bendicion: blessing
Bien: good
Blanquito: little white boy/male (diminutive)
Boca: mouth
Bochinche: gossip
Braceros: migrant worker, laborer
Brutas: stupid people (feminine)
Brutos: stupid people (masculine)
Buenmoso: handsome
Bueno: good
Burbuja: bubble, blister
Cabana: hut
Cabeza: head
Callejon: alley
Campesinos: country-dweller
Campo: countryside
Candela: candle
Capaz: capable
Capitalenos: people from the capital
Capitan: Captain
Caracol: snail, seashell, ringlet
Carajito: the most common way a Dominican would refer to a [male] child whose name he or she doesn’t know [often use offensively]
Caramba: exclamation of surprise or dismay, darn! heck!
Chacabana: type of shirt
Chancletas: slippers, sandals
Chica: girl
Chinos: Chinese people
Chulo: sexy guy
Cibaeños: northern Dominicans, from el Cibao
Ciclon: cyclone
Ciguapas: mythological creature of Dominican folklore. They are commonly described as having human female form with brown or dark blue skin, backward facing feet, and very long manes of smooth, glossy hair that covers their otherwise naked bodies. They supposedly inhabit the high mountains of the Dominican Republic.
Clavo: nail
Cochinos: dirty people (masculine)
Coje: take
Cojones: testicles, courage
Colmado: grocery store/corner store
Comeme: Eat me
Compañero: companion
Comparona: snotty girl
Comunista: communist
Con: with
Coño: (all inclusive) damn! F**k! Sh*t! [an interjection]
Corona: crown
Correa: belt
Cuarenta: 40
Cuero: slut
Cuidate: Take care
Culenado: ? (I believe it refers to the act of anal sex)
Culo: butt/ass (slang) [refers to the actual body part]
Dale: give
Dejame: leave me
Delincuencia: delinquency
Dentista: dentist
Desgraciado: disgraceful person (masculine)
Diablo: devil
Diaburlas: pranks
Diario: diary
Digas: speak
Dime: tell me
Dio: gave
Dios: god
Diosa: goddess
Dique: like
Dolores: pains
Doña: title of courtesy preceding a woman’s first name
Dos: two
Dulces: sweets, candies
Dura: hard (feminine)
Educado: educated
El: he
Ella: she
Encendida: passionate, burning, flushed
Entiendes: understand
Eres: are
Esa: her, that woman
Esponja: sponge
Esposa: wife
Esta: this, these
Esto: this
Exigente: demanding
Existe: exists
Fea: ugly (feminine)
Feminino: feminine (masculine)
Flaca: skinny female
Fua: bam!
Fuego: fire
Fuera de serio: out of series
Fuera: away, outside
Fuku: a curse (put on someone or something)
Fulano: that person, that someone
Gallear: to show off
Galletazo: great big slap
Gallo: chicken
Ganas: desires
Gente de calidad: quality people
Gordo: fat male
Gran: big
Gringo: white male
Guapa: handsome female
Guapo: handsome male
Haitianos: Haitians
Hamaca: hammock
Hambre: hungry
Hermanita: little sister (the suffix -ita automatically makes the word diminutive meaning “little” usually affectionately
Hija: daughter
Hijo: son
Hombre: men
Infierno: hell
Insuperable: insufferable
Jefe: boss
Jipeta: jeep
Jodas: usually used in the phrase “no jodas” which means “don’t  f$%k around” or “don’t play around”
Jodido: screwed (masculine)
Jodiendome: bothering with me
Junta: military government coalition
Jurona: savage animal?
Lambesacos:  suck-ups (literally: licks  [lambe] sacos [means “bags” but here referring to testicles])
Llamas: calls
Lo siento: I’m sorry
Madre: mother
Madrinas: godmothers
Madrugada: early morning, day break
Maestra: teacher
Malapalabras: bad words
Maldito seas: damn you, dammit
Maldito: maldito:
Malecon: street along the seawall
Mamahuevo: cocksucker (literally: sucks eggs-“eggs” referring to testicles)
Mami: mom, sexy girl
Maricon: faggot
Mariconsito: little faggot
Mas: more
Mataron: killed
Merengue: a style of Dominican music and dance. Partners hold each other in a closed position. The leader holds the follower’s waist with the leader’s right hand, while holding the follower’s right hand with the leader’s left hand at the follower’s eye level. Partners bend their knees slightly left and right, thus making the hips move left and right. The hips of the leader and follower move in the same direction throughout the song. Partners may walk sideways or circle each other, in small steps. They can switch to an open position and do separate turns without letting go each other’s hands or releasing one hand. During these turns they may twist and tie their handhold into intricate pretzels.
Mesera: waitress
Meteselo: Shove it
Mio: mine
Mirador: lookout
Monita: monkey girl
Moreno: dark-skinned male
Muchacha: girl
Muchachita: little girl
Muchacho: boy
Mujer: woman
Muy: very
Negra: black female
Negrita: little black female or affectionately black female
Nino: boy
No lo pareces: you don’t look it
Norte: north
Novio: boyfriend
Numero: number
Paja: straw
Palacio: palace
Paliza: beating, pummeling
Paloma: dove
Pan de agua: bread of water
Pana: corduroy
Pariguayo: weak man, coward
Parque: park
Paso: pass
Pela: beating
Peledista: (According to helpful commentator, Joe) a member of the Dominican Liberation Party. The PLD, as it is known in Spanish, is the political party of current president Leonel Fernandez Reyna.
Pendeja: moron, idiot (feminine)
Pequena: small (female)
Perrito: little dog
Pista: trail
Plantado: planted
Plataneros: people of the plaintain
Pobre: poor
Poco hombre: barely a man
Politicos: politicians
Pollo: chicken
Popola: female sexual organ
Prendas: jewelry
Preocupas: preoccupied
Primavera: Spring
Princesa: princess
Pueblo: people, village
Puerca: pig female
Pulperia: small grocery store
Pulpo: octopus
Puta: slut
Que dios te bendiga: God should bless you (response to “bendicion”)
Saca: to pull out
Sacrificio: sacrifice
Sancocho: to parboil, traditional soup/stew
Santa: saint
Santisimo: sacred?
Semana: week
Senora: woman
Senorita: young girl, young woman (can also refer to unmarried status as well as youth)
Serio: series
Sientase: felt like
Sindicatos: union, guild
Sola: alone (female)
Sueno: dream
Supermercado: supermarket
Surenos: southern
Taxista: taxi driver
Taza: cup
Tengo: have
Tesoro: treasure
Tetas: breasts
Tetua: big breasted female
Tia: aunt
Tienes: have, has
Tio: uncle
Todavia: still, yet
Todopoderoso: all powerful
Tormenta: turmoil, storm
Toto: derogatory term for vagina
Tranquilidad: tranquility
Tranquilisate: calm down
Traquila: tranquil female
Tu: you
Tuya: yours (feminine)
Una: one (female)
Unica: only (female)
Uno: one
Vayanse: leave!
Ven: come
Veras: you will see
Verguenza: disgrace
Vieja: old females
Viejos: old males
Zafa: to loosen
Zangana: (feminine) person who is carried away by everything they say and do not even know really refutes what is right or loose, clumsy and awkward person

26 thoughts on “The Oscar Wao Vocabulary Dictionary Glossary, You’re Welcome, Junot Diaz

  1. It’s just a shame how many people are complaining that they feel they’re not ‘getting’ everything in the book because they don’t understand the Spanish. There really should have been a glossary. It’s been helpful to hear all this feedback though since I want to use Spanish in my book and I want to make sure it is understood.


  2. Thank you so much for doing this. I really have felt I’ve missed a lot in the book so far. Without actually understanding the language, the effect of having all those Spanish-language phrases is just sort of cute but irritating. I can’t believe that’s the effect Diaz wanted.


  3. Peledista is a member of the Dominican Liberation Party. The PLD, as it is known in Spanish, is the political party of current president Leonel Fernandez Reyna.


  4. I just stumbled across your post when I was looking for a definition of “galletazo,” which nicetranslator couldn’t understand. Thanks so much for this! I was beginning to worry I’d miss half the book at this rate, since I’d already stopped to look up about ten things in the first 15 pages. Thank goodness my husband knows comic book characters, or I’d need those definitions, too.


  5. This is fantastic! I'm still only a third into the book and, while I'm interested in using a translating program to find out the Spanish meanings, I'd rather stay on the couch with my novel than go check the computer. It loses the flow. As soon as I found your glossary, I printed it out and stapled it into my book. I know it will improve my reading of the book now!

    Thanks so much for taking the time to create this and blog it for everyone to share! You're a champion!


  6. I'll be a senior in the fall and I'm reading this for AP Lit.

    I don't know any Spanish, I had my friend who took H Spanish 4 last year help me out. I find it helpful to have in-text citations.

    * * * * * * * *

    Azabaches: a fossilized form of wood that is black in color and is carved and polished into pieces of jewelry to protect against the evil eye
    “She wears azabaches and practices malapalabras when she thinks no one is listening” (329).

    Blanquito: white boy
    “…un blanquito with long hairy legs I met one night at Limelight” (61).

    Barrio: neighborhood
    “No one in her barrio could have imagined how much she hated school” (85).

    Brutas: stupid people (feminine)
    “I got on the plane and started crying. The other passengers must have thought I was crazy. I kept expecting my mother to hit me, to call me an idiota, a bruta, a fea, a malcriada, to change seats, but she didn’t” (210).

    Bacalao: dried salt cod
    “the little lizards that were everywhere, the roosters in the morning-followed shortly by the cries of the plataneros and the bacalao guy” (274).

    Ciguapas: mythological creature of Dominican folklore. They are commonly described as having human female form with brown or dark blue skin, backward facing feet, and very long manes of smooth, glossy hair that covers their otherwise naked bodies. They supposedly inhabit the high mountains of the Dominican Republic.
    “Bergen County's very own ciguapas: la primera was Gladys, who complained endlessly about her chest being too big…” (26).

    Culo: butt (slang)
    “I stood in front of the mirror naked and looked at my culo for the first time” (73).

    Chacabana: type of shirt
    “I felt sorriest for the viejo next to us. You could tell he had been visiting his family. He had on a little fedora and his best pressed chacabana” (210).

    Carajito: the most common way a Dominican would refer to a child whose name he or she doesn't know
    “from the richest jabao in Mao to the poorest guey in El Buey from the anciano sanmacorisano to the littlest carajito in San Francisco” (3).

    Mamahuevo: that cocksucker.
    I don't know the page number, but I know that Constantina the waitress is telling Beli to get over Jack Pujols.

    Pendejada:the closest word I can think of “pendeja” which translates to jerk/idiot. I know what you're talking about, it's when La Inca comes to the restaurant and Beli says to her, “Sorry, we're out of pendejada” because she's mad at her for not accepting her boyfriend (The Gangster).

    Surenos: southern
    “If we surenos know anything, it’s about fucking curses. My mom didn’t fuck with fukus or guaguas” (171).

    Pan de agua: bread of water
    I know what you're talking about. It was something like: “La Fea (Trujillo's sister/The Gangster's wife) ate girls like Beli like pan de agua”-something along those lines, the page is 139.

    I didn't get all of them, but I got what I could. Hope this helps!


  7. For those who don't know what pan de agua is (and if “water of bread” doesn't make sense to you), it is also called water bread. It is not unlike french bread only made in individual servings and is usually served with breakfast.



  8. Hey, nice work. Here are some corrections. It is not culenando but culeando, form the word culo (ass, butt, a–hole). It means to f–k and not necessarily through the back door but mostly regular sex.

    Comer regularly means eat, as in food, but it also means to f–k as well.

    If you looked up dique in a Spanish dictionary, it would most likely say it's a dike as in a levee. However, in Caribbean Spanish the /s/ or /z/ phoneme (which sound exactly the same by the way, that is as eses) is often elided so that dique is really disque, which itslef comes dicen or they say, it is said, word is, etc.

    Diaburlas is actually diabluras which comes from the word diablo or devil. It doesn't necessarily refer to egregiously evil or inhuman criminal behavior. Often it can have a mild to moderate connotation and even a distantly or implied positive one, especially among men when referring to sex.

    Fukú is not made up, though as Diaz says it is old school. Zafa does come from the verb to loosen, but it must be understood as loosening the curse that Fukú can have (see all the references to throat wringing). It is a very serious “knock on wood.”

    Fuera de serio has a typo. It is fuera de serie.

    To conclude, the verb coje, which literally means to take also means to f–k. Meter (meteselo in your glossary) very often means means to stick it in as in the male sexual organ or ripio. I haven't added any stress marks to the verbs for the usual reasons, but it's important to know Spanish conjugates it verbs, so that the the suffixes -se and -lo in meteselo refer to an unspecified person -se and an unspecified thing -lo. The context often, though not always lets us know who or what are the objects of the verb.

    Reading this novel is definitely very difficult. I am glad you have thrown many people a interpretative lifeline.


  9. Fukú is “bad luck”. Like when Dominicans don't say the name of Columbus, but isntead refer to him as “El Almirante” (The Admiral), “El Desgracia'o” (The Disgraceful) or simply “El Hijuepu' que nos descubrió” (The sonofab*tch who discovered us)…


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