Posted by: Emilie | April 6, 2010

The Meaning of Puchica


Since I renamed my blog, several people have asked me, “What does puchica mean?” For those of you who have already tried, you know that you will not find this word in any Spanish dictionary in existence, because it’s not actually a Spanish word. Here in El Salvador, they have their own special form of slang, and its name is caliche.  Caliche are actually words from the native language (now spoken by less than 1% population here) that have been mixed into everyday speech. For example, chompipe (turkey), pisto (money), chucho (dog), and chiches (breasts) are all Caliche words. My favorite, however, is puchica.

Let’s begin with pronunciation. The proper pronunciation of this gem of a word is POO-chica, with what I can only describe as a resounding emphasis on the first syllable. I know, I know, it looks like if should be pu-CHI-ca. Resist the urge to say it that way. That’s gringo-speak.  (Side note: If you come visit me and pronounce it that way, I will absolutely deny any knowledge of, or connection with you.  And possibly leave you for the maras to rob.) The beauty of this fascinating little mishmash of syllables is its versatility. It can be used in every situation from, “The chicken bus ran over my favorite goat” to “That’s the most beautiful sunrise I’ve ever seen”. However, because of this very merit, it’s a little difficult to pin down one concrete definition for it. I think it’s best to merely describe it as an expression of wonderment and/or surprise. As I’ve said, it’s a very flexible word. Allow me to give a few examples:

Scenario 1: The bus driver (who is a bolo) is passed out from last night’s zumba. (And we’re not talking about a fun, latino-rhythm aerobics class. We’re talking a bender to end all benders.) Therefore, the bus is late, and/or not coming at all. (In a tone of aggravation.) “Puchica!”

Scenario 2: My new home looks like it was ripped from the pages of a tourism brochure. It boasts a waterfall, river, mountains, coconut trees, mango trees, hammocks, and (of course) Pedro the parrot. My reaction? (In a tone of hushed awe, drawing out the first syllable.) “Puuuu-chica!”

Scenario 3: I have a meeting with the local ADESCO to discuss good hygiene habits. The meeting is at 3, and the first person comes in at 3:45. Knowing that this is standard “Salvadoran time”, I wait a bit longer, thinking more will come soon. At 4:15, the president of the ADESCO strolls in and says, “Oh! I thought you knew! The church has a prayer meeting now. No one’s coming.” Information which I could have gotten when we planned the meeting together yesterday… (Rolling my eyes at the typicality of this situation.) “Oh, puchica…”

 I think you get the idea. Now, I command that you go forth and spread the good word. Use puchica in everyday situations. Confuse your friends and neighbors. Teach them about the word puchica and its many practical uses.

And for heaven’s sake…it your bus driver’s a bolo don’t just puchica him. Get off the bus. Trust me. 🙂



  1. It sounds like the el salvadorian version of the f-word. Americans use it a noun, adjective, verb, preposition, you name it. Only its a curse word, yours does not seem to be seen in this context though…

  2. Puuuuchica! que buena explicacion! What a great explanation!

  3. Hi! I am studying in El Salvador and was looking for a good definition of puchica to give my classmates in the States. I love yours!

  4. My parents are from Ecuador. They use the word puchica. My guess is this word comes from a base indigenous language common to most latin american indigenous groups. In Ecuador the indigenous language is quechua. Any information would be helpful. Thanks!

  5. Um, a lot of these caliche words are in fact Spanish, as is puchica; in fact, the only one I can confirm as indigenous is chompipe. The reason you won’t find puchica in a dictionary is because it is slightly vulgar slang. But your usage notes are fabulous so run with it.

    And Cesar: there are no indigenous languages distributed across the entire territory from El Salvador to Ecuador. One of the amazing things about indigenous peoples is how diverse languages were in even a small area: El Salvador alone was home to a minimum of three indigenous language families, unrelated to each other (Pipil in the Uto-Aztecan family; various Lenca languages, which are now known to be Macro-Chibchan; and at least one Maya language on the extreme west. And, probably more…)

  6. Oh, puchica. I forgot to say what puchica is slang for. It is a transformation of “puta”.

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