Bo·​ri·​cua bȯ-ˈrē-kwə How to pronounce Boricua (audio)
variants or less commonly boricua
plural Boricuas also boricuas
: a native of Puerto Rico or a person of Puerto Rican descent
Rita Moreno has been making headlines in the entertainment industry for over 70 years. The Boricua is one of a handful of people who have won an Academy, Emmy, Tony, and Grammy …Mitú
Boricua adjective
or less commonly boricua
Boricua words/literature
Living in this world capital also enabled him to maintain a close cultural proximity with his Caribbean homeland—he never forgot that he was boricua. F. Suro
  • sometimes used postpositively
    an artist Boricua

Word History


borrowed from Spanish boricua, from Boricua, name for Puerto Rico, alteration of Boriquén, Borinquén, of indigenous origin

Note: According to the Puerto Rican scholar Cayetano Coll y Toste, the variant Boricua is unknown before the 19th century, perhaps first appearing in a Spanish version of the geographical dictionary of Jean-Antoine Letronne published in 1844 (see "Vocabulario de palabras introducidas en el idioma español, procedentes del lenguaje indo-antillano," Boletín histórico de Puerto Rico, tomo 8 [1921], p. 294-351). Coll y Toste assumes an earlier Borique, presumably based on a manuscript version with a lost or unnoticed tilde marking the final nasal consonant. The same tilde issue may be responsible for another early variant, Borinquén. The form Boriquen first appears on the world map (mappa mundi) of Juan de la Cosa, drawn about 1500. Letters written by the physician Diego Alvarez Chanca, who accompanied Columbus on his second voyage, attest Burinquén and Burenquén. The word is presumed to have been taken from Taino, the dominant Arawakan language of the Greater Antilles. Despite Taino's poor state of attestation, attempts to etymologize the word have not been lacking. By assuming that each syllable is an independent lexical morpheme, and attempting to deduce the meaning of the morphemes by their putative occurrence in other geographic names, Coll y Toste came to the conclusion that the name meant "tierras del valiente señor" ("lands of the brave lord") (Colón en Puerto-Rico: disquiciones histórico-filológicas, [San Juan], 1894, p. 138). This method of analysis seems arbitrary, and the etymology must be regarded as fanciful. A more recent hypothesis sees Borinquén as "the People's Homeland" (Julian Granberry and Gary S. Vescelius, Languages of the Pre-Columbian Antilles, University of Alabama Press, 2004, p. 9). However, the authors seem to view Taino place-names in almost the same manner as Coll y Toste, as a sort of syllabic code made up of easily interchangeable tokens; so, for example the name Dabiagua is analyzed as da + bi + ya + wa "Southern Wild Far Country," and Damajagua as da + ma + ha + wa, "Southern Middle Up-Country" (p. 75). As little reference is made to the toponyms or derivational morphology of better attested Arawakan languages—and given that such a system seems remarkable for any attested language—the Granberry-Vescelius etymology cannot be taken seriously either.

First Known Use

1953, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of Boricua was in 1953

Dictionary Entries Near Boricua

Cite this Entry

“Boricua.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Feb. 2023.

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