La Chuleta

The word chuleta in Spanish has several meanings. In Spain besides meaning a meat “chop” it also means “cheat sheet,” or a person who is a flashy type, cool at doing certain things, or a showoff. This is probably why a cheat-sheet in Spain and Venezuela is called chuleta and not hoja de apuntes para hacer trampa, a more literal translation. The meaning of this word as cheat-sheet comes into the Diccionario de la Real Academia in the 1950s. In Chile chuleta also means a “sideburn”.

But what is really interesting is that cheat-sheet has so many different ways of being said in Spanish. Ours is una cultura picaresca pretty much in all 21 countries where Spanish is spoken (I include Puerto Rico because although it might not technically be a country, it most definitely feels like its own country).  Our culture is indeed so picaresque that I remember one Latin teacher I had in high school expected us to cheat at the tests. “You’re dumb not to cheat” he would say, “and dumber if you get caught,” he’d add. That is how I passed Latin in High School by the way.

I have made a list here of how to say cheat-sheet in all the Spanish speaking countries. I don’t think this list even exists in any dictionary, reference book or in the internet. To compile it, I consulted with numerous translators and professors in Spanish speaking countries:

Argentina: Machete. Bolivia: Chanchullo (Occidente); Copie (oriente). Chile: Torpedo. ColombiaComprimido, copialina, pastelCuba: Chivo. Costa Rica: Forro. Ecuador: Polla. El Salvador: Copia. Filipinas: Código. Guatemala: Chivo. Guinea Ecuatorial: Chuleta. España: Chuleta. Honduras: Chepie & Copia. México: Acordeón. Nicaragua: Copia. Panamá: Batería. Paraguay: Copiatín & Copiatini. Perú: Plagio. Puerto Rico: Droguita. República Dominicana: Chivo. Uruguay: Tren & Trencito. Venezuela: Chuleta.

I’ve included the Phillippines because the Tagalog and other Phillipino languages have been influenced by the Spanish language tremendously. In the Tagalog código is spelled kódigó. In Tagalog the K has replaced the Spanish c (when preceding the a, o and u only) and qu in most instances.

man sitting on a chair and writing on a tablet

Photo by Ivan Samkov on

My father tells me when he was a young student he would see very elaborate chuletas, some of them were rolled up with a rubber band so they could remain small and be scrolled easily during a test.

Machete in Argentina is a very important element of the Gaucho culture, the knife. Batería is probably used in Panamá because when you cheat during a test you are in a sense recharging your battery. Chepia in Honduras is from the Honduran verb chepear, which means to copy. Perhaps the Peruvian plagio is the most straight-forward and honest word. Polla in Ecuador is pronounced the same way as Poya, which in Spain is vulgar way of describing a man’s penis. Chivo means kid or goat. A Cuban interpreter told me that perhaps el chivo te berrea las respuestas (reveals the answers to you). Berrear also means to bellow, bawl, scream and shout. Chanchullo means an easy, profitable source of livelihood or a swindle.

close up of meal served in plate

Photo by Chevanon Photography on

One dish that I loved when I lived with my parents was chuletas de cordero lechal, which means “baby lamb-chops.” This is a dish that used to be de temporada (seasonal) in Spain but that now is available most of the year. When cooked at home they are usually fried at high temperatures until golden brown. They are best if fried in aceite de oliva para freir (not the virgin kind) and some ajo machacado (smashed garlic). If served in a park or in the country side they are usually cooked a la parrilla  (grilled/broiled) and accompanied only con ensalada y pan, since they are small and a normal serving can be as much as 10 or 15 chuletas per person.

Copyright © 2009 By Jorge L. Carbajosa


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2 Responses to “La Chuleta”

  1. Ignacio Says:

    Interesting stuff. It seems obvious you like food! Only one comment about the term country (and whether Puerto Rico is one or not). I think it might be better to use the word nation (though there we have also things like the indian nation) or state (officially recognized legal states) as a legal entities, no? Country in Spanish generally expressed as “pais” and I think Puerto Ricans consider themselves as a “pais” (or even just use the word island, going to the island, etc). In English you also have the word country as a “land” (like the Germans, who speak of countries as Laender), and that extends to country hicks, country side, etc. Anyway, it gets quite messy and blurry, I know. In any case, most Puerto Ricans I think would recognize that they are not living in an independent state-nation but are culturally a “country” or in Spanish a “pais”.

  2. Eduardo Says:

    Excellent article, Jorge
    Perhaps you should mention that Chuleta may come from chulo.
    Un abrazo

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