The Slang and Lunfardo from Argentina
Spanish (or Castellano) in Buenos Aires is full of slang words and expressions. When you first get here it can be difficult, and even frustrating, to understand locals due to all the slang that is used. However, just learning the basic slang words will be very useful and help you in your everyday conversation throughout the city. Below is a list of some of the common words and phrases that I have learned and that have helped me to understand and communicate more effectively here in Buenos Aires.
Informal words commonly used by locals in Buenos Aires:
Che: You will hear this multiple times everyday. It is most commonly used as “hey”
Boludo: Used between friends like “dude/mate”. Che boludo = “Hey dude”. Can also be an insult so don’t say it to people you don’t know.
Quilombo: Used to describe something as a mess. It literally means whorehouse so it can also be used inappropriately. A good example will be “¡Qué quilombo el tránsito!” = The traffic is such a mess!
Chino: A chinese person or supermarket (a lot of them are owned by Chinese immigrants here). Sounds like a bad thing to say but it is used all the time without any negative connotations.
Cana: The police
Gordo/a: Used as a term of endearment. You can call your girlfriend or boyfriend gorda/gordo and instead of getting slapped it is an acceptable greeting.
Chamuyero: Smooth-talker, pick-up artist. Derived from the verb chamuyar: “To sweet-talk”
Mala muerte: “Bad death”, used to describe a place as really bad.
Chupamedias: Translates literally as “suck my socks”. It means that someone is sucking up to another. It is a noun and I still have a hard time using this one easily.
La Posta: Used to describe something as “The best”. For example: “El vino en Argentina es la posta!”
Mina o pibe: Mina = Woman, Pibe = Man/Dude/Boy
Previa: Drinks and a small gathering before going out. Pregame.
Boliche: Argentine term for the late-night dance clubs. ‘Discoteca’ is the but definitely considered too nerdy to use.
Frutilla: “Strawberry”, everywhere else in the Spanish speaking world they are called fresas
Porteño/a: Name of the local people from Buenos Aires, which is el puerto (the port)
Dale: Means “okay” as a form of agreement. Same as ‘vale‘ which is commonly used in Spain.
Un montón: Means “a lot” or a bunch of something (think mountain), used very frequently. For example: “Hay montón de gente en el subte.”
Plata: Name for money. “No tengo plata” = “I don’t have money”
Re- : Used before adjectives to emphasize them. It is like adding “very/really” before something in English. “Estoy re feliz.” = “I am really/very happy.” Argentines love to prolong the ‘r’ pronunciation to further emphasize the extent of ‘really’, like “rrr” = “reeeeaally”, “rrrrr” = “super”, “rrrrrrrrrrrrr” = “super duper” etc.
Copado: Another way to say “cool”.
Useful colloquial phrases and expressions for your everyday conversation in Buenos Aires:
Estar en el horno: to be in a stressful situation
Medio pelo: Average, mediocre
Me chupa un huevo: I don’t care
Estar en pedo: To be really drunk
Ni en pedo: As derived from the above phrase it means “I wouldn’t have done it if I were drunk”, so in short “No way!”. For example, A: ”
(tener) Buena onda: Good vibe, good energy, cool. It can be used to describe a person, a place or an event. Like, “Mi nuevo compañero Felipe parece una persona buena onda. Nos vamos a llevar bien.” = “My new colleague Felipe seems to be a cool guy. We are going to get along fine.”
Mira vos: literally means “Look at you!”. Used more loosely like “Check it out” or “wow” when you are impressed with something.
O sea: “I mean”
Puede ser: “It could be”, “We will see”
Tal cual: “Exactly (that)”. Used to agree with someone.
Viste: literally means “you saw?”, but used more loosely like “you see?”/”you know?”
Learning new colloquial words and expressions is definitely part of the fun while living and Studying Spanish in Buenos Aires. When you are in town, take advantage of the opportunity and don’t be shy to strike up a conversation with locals. Argentines are very friendly people and always eager to teach you one or two things about their speaking style.
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[Image credit: From the Argentinean Slang Book, Open Ceremony]