Central American Spanish

Discover how Central American countries, despite their differences, share many linguistic features that make them similar.

View of the city of Seville (1531) by Alonso Atribuido SánchezOriginal Source: Prado Museum

Who discovered the Americas?

The colonization was planned in Castile and managed from Andalusia, with the collaboration of the Canary Islands. Between 1492 and 1580, 35.8% of the population was Andalusian, 16.9% Extremaduran, 14.8% Castilian, and the remaining 22.5% of varying origins.

Portrait of a conqueror of the Indies (1530)Original Source: Prado Museum

In the 17th century, there was substantial diversity amongst the peninsular dialects, but there were few differences between Castilian and Andalusian Spanish, other than the pronunciation of the letters c and z, and the dropping of final consonants.

Guatemala (1850) by A. GuamemenOriginal Source: National Library of Spain

Other elements contributed to the process of conformity in the American linguistic variety. Firstly, contact with indigenous languages and, a few years later, with African languages.

Central America (1794) by Thomas JefferysOriginal Source: National Library of Spain

Mexico and Central America

One of the largest dialectal areas groups Mexico with most of the countries in Central America. It is an area with a large indigenous population who, to varying extents, all maintain their original languages.

Market in Guatemala (2022) by Michael JuarezFundación Antonio de Nebrija


The Spanish presence was strongly felt in Guatemala, subordinate to the Viceroyalty of Nueva España. The indigenous population was large and diverse, which hindered Hispanicization on a large scale, and the integration of the Spanish language was limited compared to the rest of Central America.

El Salvador (2020) by Galyna AndrushkoFundación Antonio de Nebrija

El Salvador

Salvadoran Spanish is very similar to the dialects spoken in the neighboring countries of Guatemala and Honduras. This is due to their similar demographic profiles, with similar colonial development, and all three have experienced stagnation following their independence.

Flag of El Salvador (2022) by Aboodi VesakaranFundación Antonio de Nebrija

It is the only Central American nation without a Caribbean coast, which has determined the destiny of this small country. Among the words most closely associated with El Salvador are: andén (sidewalk), chero or canche (friend), and cuilio (policeman or soldier).

Honduras (2020) by WollwerthFundación Antonio de Nebrija


Within its borders lies a complex mosaic of ethnolinguistic variation, archaisms, and the results of linguistic development. The regional characteristics of Honduran Spanish are shared with Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. They use the pronoun vos instead of .

Festival in Nicaragua (2020) by Roberto ZunigaFundación Antonio de Nebrija


Most of the Caribbean was never colonized by the Spanish, and today, this region falls outside of the scope of Nicaraguan Spanish. Its lexicon is largely comprised of Spanish elements and Nahuatl words used in Central America and Mexico.

Valley in Costa Rica (2018) by Luis QuinteroFundación Antonio de Nebrija

Costa Rica

Central Americans can easily identify the Tico accent, although this stereotype only applies to those from the central valley, where the country's main cities are found. It contains less Nahuatl elements compared with other Central American countries.

Costa Rican man (2022) by Ruben CFundación Antonio de Nebrija

The differences compared with Panama can be attributed to its colonial administration: Panama was part of the Viceroyalty of Nueva Granada, whereas Costa Rica was under the authority of the General Captaincy of Guatemala.

Credits: Story

With information from the Atlas of the Spanish Language in the World (Atlas de la Lengua Española en el Mundo) by Francisco Moreno, and Latin American Spanish (El Español de América) by John M. Lipski

Curator: Rodrigo Díaz

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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