Papiamentu or Papiamento, the language I grew up with, my first language is only spoken on the so called ABC islands: Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao. This fact alone makes me a proud Papiamentu speaker. It means we, the ABC islanders are kind of special. Just imagine; a language that is spoken only on three tiny little dots of islands in the Caribbean and nowhere else in the whole wide world.


The word itself means “a chat” or “a talk” and comes from the word “Papia” which means “to talk” or “to chat”. Papiamentu to me is a mixture of Portuguese, Spanish , Dutch and English. Fact is however, that nobody really knows the exact origin of the language. Some speculate that it’s origins are based in the Cape Verdean islands, the Portuguese islands off the coast of Africa, once an important hub during the Atlantic slave trade.

Others say that since the language has a lot of similarities to Portuguese and Spanish that its origins must come from the Portuguese and Spanish conquistadors that discovered the islands. They left behind not only death and misery but also their languages which were then mixed with that form the indigenous indians or the original inhabitants of the ABC islands.

slave-monument in Willemstad
Slave Monument in Curaçao   *image taken from the internet

Whatever the origin, it is a beautiful language that made learning other languages fairly easier for us ABC islanders. It is very common for people from these islands to be fluent in at least four languages; Papiamentu, Dutch, Spanish and English.


So, you are planning a trip to one of either Aruba, Bonaire or my beloved Curacao? Even if your Spanish. Dutch or English will be widely understood , it might still be handy and fun to know some important words and phrases in Papiamentu. Bare in mind that each island has it’s own dialect. So to keep it simple I’m going to teach you some words in the Papiamentu spoken on beautiful Curaçao.


Class is now in session

/ doo she /

This is the most important word in the language. You will not only hear it a lot while on the ABC islands but you will also see it everywhere, on merchandise like t-shirts, caps and beach towels, billboards, tv. It’s everywhere. You can’t escape it.

Dushi means anything from sweet and nice to babe, gorgeous or darling. Girls, don’t be surprised to hear that word thrown your way while walking down the streets of Curaçao. It means you’re cute, sexy or beautiful. Take your pick. In a restaurant you might hear it used to explain how the food tastes or how sweet the ice cream is. Or to describe how nice someone or something is. It is without a doubt the most important word you need to know when visiting Curaçao.

The meaning of Dushi
*Image taken from the internet

/ bon dee ya /

Means good morning and is used as a greeting in the morning hours. Greeting someone before you ask them a question is very important in the Caribbean. Entering a store and asking for something without first saying hello is considered extremely rude.

/ bon tar dee /

Means good afternoon and is a form of greeting used in between noon and 6pm.

/ bo – noh – chee /

Means good evening or good night and is used after 6pm.

Mi Nòmber ta
/ mee  nòm – bur  ta /

Meaning: My name is

Kiko ta bo nòmber?
/ kee – koh  ta  bo nom – bur /

What is your name?

Mi tin hamber
/ mee teen ham – ber /

I am hungry

Unda ta …
/ oon – da  ta /

Where is …

/ daan – kee /

Thank you

/ ah – wah /


Mi gustabu
/ mee goo – sta – boo /

I like you. This is especially important for all you single people visiting the ABC islands any time soon.

Mi stimabu
/ mee stee – ma – boo /

I love you. Might come in handy for those vacation loves.

Mi ke un serbes
/ mee  keh  un  ser – bes /

I want a beer

Mi por haña un serbes?
/ mee  por  han – ya  un  ser – bes /

Could I have a beer?

Mi ta di bishita 
/ mee  ta  dee  bee – shee – ta /

I am visiting or I am a visitor

/ aa – yoh /


Mi ke bai un playa
/ mee  keh  baay  un  pla – ya /

I want to go to a beach

Mi ke bai landa
/ mee  keh  baay  lan – dah /

I want to go swimming

Bosnan tin WiFi?
/ bos – nahn  teen  why – fye /

Do you (plural) have WiFi?

Mi no ke 
/ mee  no  keh /

I don’t want

Bo ke baila?
/ boh  keh  by – lah /

Do you want to dance?

Kuantu p’e
/ kwan – too  peh /

How much for it?

E ta muchu karu
/ eh  ta  moo – choo  cah – roo /

It is too expensive

Kuminda kriyoyo
/ koo – mean -da  kree – yoyo /

local food

Yu di Korsou
/ yoo  dee  cor – sauw /

child from Curaçao. Used to refer to a person born and raised in Curaçao. You will find merchandise everywhere with the letters YDK, meaning Yu di Korsou.

Hibami aeropuerto
/ he – ba – mee  aēr – o – puer – toh /

Take me to the airport

Good to know

Now that you have the Papiamentu language somewhat under control, it is good to know a little about the people from Curaçao, especially if you are single and planning to have some fun.  The average Curaçao guy is not only charming, smells good and is a heck of a dancer but he is also vain and can at times take longer than you to get ready for a night out on the town. The average Curaçao girl is beautiful and well spoken and nothing is more important than her looks. Her nails are always done, her hair looks like she just stepped out of a salon (which she probably did) and heels and make-up are necessary accessories. By the life of me I don’t know where I went wrong but looking good is of absolute importance to the “yu di Korsou” and most are ready to go to the extreme to achieve it. We are also friendly and always ready to help, especially if you are a visitor. We will often go out of our way to help you with directions. All in all, we are “Dushi Hende” or Nice People.

Curaçao flag

Are you planning to visit one of the ABC islands soon? If so, what Papiamentu word or phrase would you like to know?

The opinions expressed above are my own. 

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  1. Hi! I’m from nyc and have landed in Curacao for my honeymoon. I’m loving it. People are kind and helpful and it is BEAUTIFUL. My question is what is the currency here called? I asked a few people and couldn’t make what they were saying lol in my defense traveling really tired me out this time. So what is it? Is it gilder or gulden orrr? I googled and that’s what it showed me but it seems to me people call it something else. Please straighten this out for me lol! Thanks for your wonderful writing, it has been useful to me:)

    • Riselle Reply

      Your comment made me chuckle. Yeah, the currency can be a bit confusing for outsiders. The official currency of Curaçao (and Dutch St. Maarten btw) is the Netherlands Antilles Florin or NAF. When speaking to tourists we call it guilders and in our language Papiamentu we call it Florin – pronounce Floreen. I hope this makes sense. Jeez, now I’m confused LOL

  2. I love this! Growing up, my dad spent years working in Bonaire, and his friends speaking Papiamento was my first real exposure to languages other than my own. It is one of the most awesome languages and more people should study it! Danki!!

  3. Gilda E Wiilliamson Reply

    Thank you!!!! wonderful information!!!!~

  4. I knew of Curacao but I must admit that before reading your article, I had never heard of the term “ABC Islands”. Thanks to you I will go to sleep a little bit smarter than the day before. Interesting fact: “awa” im Guadeloupean creole means “no” as in “nope” or “no way” and in Lingala it means “here”.

    • That is so interesting. I can’t wait to use “awa” on my next trip to Guadeloupe some time this year. I’m completely in love with your island. I think you should post a piece on the Creole spoken there 😉 Thank you for your comment and I’m glad my little piece helped make you smarter LOL

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