Experiencing carnival in Aruba is a total bucket list must-do. Whether you’re in it, or watching from behind the barricades, the festive vibes are absolutely contagious.
Step up your game and dazzle fellow Aruba lovers with your carnival knowledge by learning this colorful celebration’s lingo.
Discover 16 Papiamento words and phrases that are commonly used during Aruba’s Carnival season below!
Baricada – This Papiamento word is derived from the almost-identical Spanish word ‘barricada’, which means ‘barricade.’
🎭Festive fun fact: many Aruba carnival lovers that aren’t participating in the parades can be found behind the barricades dancing and enjoying the festivities. It is quite common for private organizations to host behind-the-barricade carnival viewing parties. Please do note that you’re not supposed cross the barricades once the parade has started. If you must cross the street, and there are police officers nearby, I’d advise checking in with them prior to jumping over barricades to get their ‘OK’.
Baila – This Papiamento word is derived from the almost-identical Spanish word ‘bailar’, which means ‘to dance.’
Bebida – This Papiamento word is derived from the identical Spanish word, which means ‘drink.’
Bula – This word can be translated as ‘to jump’. If you want to say ‘jumping’ in Papiamento, you would say ‘bulando’ or ‘bulamento’. This word is also used to refer to the verb ‘to fly’ when talking about traveling by plane.
🎭Festive fun fact: it is typical during Aruba’s carnival season for people to host ‘Jump Up’ events, especially schools, where a band or DJ will provide music for event-goers to join the ‘Jump Up’, aka carnival dance party.
Canta – This Papiamento word is derived from the almost-identical Spanish verb ‘cantar’, which means ‘to sing.’
Carnavalesco – This word is used when labeling something as being very carnival like.
Carnavalista – Used when referring to a true carnival fanatic. We definitely have A LOT of people in Aruba who proudly identify as being a Carnavalista.
Carosa – This is the Papiamento word for float. It is very typical that each carnival group has at least one float (some have many) that are decorated to match the carnival group’s theme for the season.
🎭Festive fun fact: some of these colorfully decorated platforms are pulled by a motorized vehicle, while others run on manual power as they are pushed by carnival lovers (often times dads get this task for the parade, especially if their kids are on the ‘carosa’).
Corona – This Papiamento word is derived from the identical Spanish word, which means ‘crown.’
10. Den Dje
Den Dje – This phrase directly translates to ‘in it’, but it is a popular term used during Carnival because ‘Den Dje’ is a special television program that is aired specifically during Aruba’s carnival season to keep the One Happy Island up-to-date with all things carnival.
Despensa – This word is used when wanting to ‘excuse yourself’. If you’d like to say ‘pardon me’, you would say ‘despensa.’ Since there is a large number of people who attend Aruba carnival events, it is quite common to have to use this term when moving around (or if you accidentally bump into someone while dancing, hehe).
Musico – This Papiamento word is derived from the identical Spanish word, which means ‘musician.’
Parada – This is the Papiamento word for parade.
🎭Festive fun fact: if you’re planning on enjoying Aruba’s carnival from the sidelines, aka behind the barricade, then you should know that once you see people scurrying away and police vehicles approaching, it doesn’t mean someone’s getting arrested. This is simply a real-life ‘notification’ that the parade is about to start!
Pluma – This Papiamento word is derived from the identical Spanish word, which means ‘feather.’
15. Prins y Pancho
Prins y Pancho – ‘Prins’ is a Papiamento word derived from the identical Dutch word meaning ‘prince’, and ‘Pancho’ is a name used to refer to a sort of jester. In Aruba, the ‘Prins y Pancho’ (aka Prince and Jokester) are the male versions of carnival royalty who get to hold the ‘key to carnival’.
🎭Festive fun facts: the ‘Prins y Pancho’ are the ones who get the honor of showcasing the selected carnival queen of the year after being informed by the competition judges of the winners. Thus, aside from the judges, they are the first to know who will be crowned. Also, in case you didn’t know, each year there are ‘Prins y Pancho’ competitions hosted where the participants are judged based on their comedic skills as a duo.
Reina – This Papiamento word is derived from the identical Spanish word, which means ‘queen.’
🎭Festive fun facts: Carnival queens are a very serious thing here on the One Happy Island. Carnival queens are kind of like the First Ladies of Aruba when it comes culture.
Hope you gained some new carnival knowledge, and get to practice your Papiamento during Aruba’s carnival season!