I was in Panama about five years ago and there was a common deep fried street food called "biñuelo".

Of course there's a regular Spanish word "buñuelo" which means fritter.

So is "biñuelo" just the Panamanian regionalism for "buñuelo" or do they have both words and use them for slightly different things? It's common enough in Panama to see that it's not just a rare misspelling or mistake.

Or could "biñuelo" involve some kind of wordplay or have a totally different origin to "buñuelo" and just be similar by coincidence?

Where does "biñuelo" come from and how does it relate to "buñuelo"?

(It's not in the DRAE or other dictionaries I've checked but it's easy to find via Google, especially in the plural.)

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    I've been collecting unusual Spanish words in my travels for years. Now I have an excuse to dredge through some of them at last (-: – hippietrail Nov 17 '11 at 15:12
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    There's a Facebook page for "Señoras que dicen "biñuelos" en lugar de buñuelos..." The one post suggests the word is "valenciano" as opposed to "castellano". I'm not sure what, if anything, we can learn from that. – Jon Ericson Nov 21 '11 at 21:03
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    @JonEricson, we can learn not to trust things people post on Facebook ;) In valencià it's bunyol. – Peter Taylor Sep 26 '13 at 13:34

Biñuelo is an Extremaduran1 2 3 4 variant5 6 of the word buñuelo:

U: En el habla rústica se sustituye por e: mermuración, mermurar, y también por i: biñuelo.

Though not in the DLE, it appears in two older dictionaries:


  • 1895 ZEROLO

Biñuelo. m. Amer. En Colombia, buñuelo.


Its prevalence in Colombian (and Panamanian) Spanish is readily explained by the fact that many of the early colonisers of Colombia were of Extremaduran (and Andalusian) origin.7


1. El español de América, Angel Rosenblat, María Josefina Tejera (p.183)
3. Diccionario de palabras de mi infancia (Calamonte, años 50 y 60), José Luis Macías Rico (p.34)
4. Diccionario de Extremadura: Palabras usadas en Extremadura

IX. VOCES CORROMPIDAS. e. Por cambio de vocales, en virtud de asimilación y simpatía: bracelete, chiminea, infriar, chocozuela, culumpio, tutuma, fundillo, tubillo, tulundrón, añidir, biñuelo, ...

5. Diccionario abreviado de galicismos, provincialismos y correcciones de lenguaje, Rafael Uribe Uribe

En el vocalismo destaca sobre todo la fuerte tendencia a la supresión vocálica ... y a la constante inestabilidad del vocalismo átono (... «biñuelo», 'buñuelo').

6. Dialectología y folclore en Extremadura en el tránsito del siglo XIX al XX, Antonio Salvador Plans (p.820)

7. La América española. El apasionamiento escenográfico, 1730–1810, Silvia Arango (1990)

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It's just a deformation (pretty common in the jargon of Caribbean countries).

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    Is the change from "u" to "i" particularly common? Stack Exchange likes well fleshed out answers! (-: – hippietrail Nov 17 '11 at 15:34
  • Actually isn't that common (at least not for what I know). – Randolf Rincón Fadul Nov 17 '11 at 16:49
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    @hippietrail I searched Google Panamá and I always got back recipes for fritters. I also found a Peruvian blog with pictures of Biñuelos Arequipeños con miel (looked yummy). Colombians say that someone is a buñuelo when that person is really bad at performing some task. Soy un buñuelo para el fútbol (I am a really lousy soccer player). – Icarus Dec 21 '11 at 18:48
  • @Icarus, I'm from colombia. We don't use that al least not within the urban territories. It's used more to denote someone fat – Randolf Rincón Fadul Dec 22 '11 at 21:03
  • @RandolRincón-Fadul: I disagree with your claim that is not used to refer to someone very inexperienced "or at least not in the urban territories". It's quite the opposite: It's more common its use to denote inexperience than someone being fat. A quick Google search for "buñuelo colombianismo", for example, will retrieve a bunch of links showing that "buñuelo" is the equivalent of principiante, novato, neófito, bisoño, inexperto, etc. See this Wikipedia article of colombianismos: es.wiktionary.org/wiki/Wikcionario:Colombianismos – Icarus Dec 23 '11 at 15:11

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