If there’s something Argentines love as much as asado, mate, and dulce de leche, it’s talking.
It is part of the culture, it’s imprinted in their DNA.
If you’re going to be speaking Spanish with an Argentinean like me, learning the local lunfardo is crucial, as it prevails in casual conversation and is here to stay.
Sure, every country or region has its own slang but trust me when I tell you Argentines take slang to a whole new level. Not to mention their highly expressive body language, let alone facial expressions.
The two key elements that define Argentina slang are:
- the sh sound for the letter ‘y’ and the double ‘l’ (for example, posho instead of pollo, shuvia instead of lluvia, sherba instead of yerba, and so on).
- the use of the pronoun “vos” instead of “tú”.
It developed in the streets of Buenos Aires alongside the tango culture, in the prisons and lower-class neighborhoods in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as a way for the people to avoid eavesdropping police and guards.
Talk about being street smart!
Argentines have an honest and open way of speaking.
Do not be surprised to be called “turco” if you’re from or have Middle Eastern descent, “flaco” if you’re thin, “gordo” if you are heavy set, “lungo” if you are on the taller side, and “negro” if you have a darker complexion.
The list goes on and on.
They truly mean no offense, so none should be taken. Being called any of these is a sign of people liking and feeling comfortable around you.
Although political correctness is almost always frowned upon, it is very important to remember that certain words and expressions are only appropriate among friends.
You wouldn't call you doctor, teacher, or pastor any of these words. Use good judgement!
“Vos” Crash Course
Although it is used in low levels in other parts of South and Central America, Argentine Spanish claims the use of the pronoun “vos.”
It has its own conjugation, the only difference is with the pronoun “tú” being found in the simple present tense and the imperative form.
Generally speaking, with the exception of the verb “to be” (tú eres, vos sos) it all comes down to an accented syllable.
Take a look at this table to compare and contrast the two.
11 Important Argentina Slang Expressions to Learn
1. Che boludo
^^ Feel free to listen to the words being said above. ^^
If you get these two words down, you will be 25% closer to understanding a lot of the casual conversations.
Suddenly, they will start making a whole lot more sense. Che boludo are the pillars of the Argentine Spanish. They can be used together or separately.
Che can be mostly translated and used like “hey” or “dude” in English. However, it also has random uses and it often appears as a meaningless interjection.
Che, como está tu hermano? => Hey, how is your brother doing?
Che, ¡portate bien! => Hey, behave!
¡Che, Dani, vení! => Hey Dani, come here!
Dale che, apurate que vamos a llegar tarde.
Come on you, hurry up or we’re going to be late.
Uy, qué caro que está todo, che. => Wow man, everything is so expensive.
¿Cómo andan che? Hace mucho que no hablamos. => Hey, how is it going? We haven’t spoken in a while.
The literal translation of boludo is “big balled,” but its use has nothing to do with the size of anybody’s testicles.
It can have a positive or negative connotation.
It can be used as a term of endearment among friends (“dude” in English), but it can also be translated as “stupid.”
It sounds harsh but it really isn’t. Argentines take no offense, there is no taboo in the use of this language.
Political correctness won’t take you far in Argentina if you’re trying to communicate efficiently.
Che boludo, ¿a qué hora nos encontramos? => Hey dude, what time do we meet?
¡Hola boludo! ¿Cómo estás tanto tiempo? => Hey man! How are you? Long time no see.
Ay boluda, no sabés la cantidad de tarea que tengo. => Oh man, you have no idea the amount of homework I have.
Sos una boluda, te dije que te pusieras el despertador o te ibas a quedar dormida.
You’re stupid, I told you to set the alarm clock or you were going to oversleep.
¡Qué boludo, me olvidé las entradas para el cine! => What a dope, I forgot the movie tickets!
2. ¿Me estás cargando?
Here is where Argentina’s history of Italian immigration shines through.
When you are faced with an unbelievable or absurd situation in Argentina the words, “are you freaking serious?” won’t cut it.
It has to be accompanied by a facial expression (the bigger the better) and hands definitely have to be involved (touch your fingers to your thumb, palm up, and shake it vigorously).
If you can accomplish this you are almost another Argentine in the crowd.
3. ¡Qué quilombo!
From slaves’ quarters in the sugar plantations of Brazil, to the brothels of Buenos Aires, the word quilombo has evolved throughout time.
Nowadays, it is used to refer to a mess, a messed-up or complicated situation.
¡Qué quilombo que es la casa de tu mamá! => Your mother’s house is a mess!
El aeropuerto es un quilombo de gente.
The airport is a mess (of people).
A: Para llegar al banco tenés que ir derecho hasta la esquina, doblar a la izquierda dos cuadras, después a la derecha…
B: ¡Qué quilombo!
A: To reach the bank you have to go straight until you get to the corner, turn left for two blocks, then right…
B: So complicated!
4. No da
“No da” is a tough one to explain.
It can be used in a variety of ways. Its closest meaning in English ranges from “it is not appropriate” to “it’s not gonna happen,” to “there is no reason for it.”
Let’s look at a few examples so you can get the gist of it.
Ella tiene novio, no da que la invite a salir. => She has a boyfriend, it is not appropriate that I ask her out.
La ruta está con mucho hielo, no da ir y arriesgarme a que me pase algo.
The road is very icy, it is not advisable to risk it.
A: Vas a ir a la fiesta?
B: No. No da. Tengo 40 años y va a estar lleno de adolescentes.
A: Are you going to go to the party?
B: No, it is not necessary. I am 40 years old and it’s going to be packed with teenagers.
Frank: Paula, ¿querés salir conmigo?
Paula: No, no da.
Frank: Paula, do you want to go out with me?
Paula: No. It’s not going to happen/It is not appropriate.
5. ¡Qué bajón!
"¡Qué bajón!" means what a bummer or what a downer.
This one is as straightforward as they come.
Here are a few examples:
Tengo que pasar todo el fin de semana estudiando para el examen de química, ¡qué bajón!
I have to spend the whole weekend studying for the chemistry exam, what a bummer!
Es un bajón ir al banco a la mañana porque siempre hay una fila muy larga. => It’s a shame to go to the bank in the morning because there is always a long line.
The word pedo literally means “fart,” but it is used in many expressions that have nothing to do with letting out gas.
Here are just a few of them:
Estar al pedo => To be free, not to be doing anything, to have nothing to do.
Example: Estoy al pedo por dos horas así que voy a ver un episodio de mi serie favorita. => I have nothing to do for two hours so I’m going to watch an episode of my favorite series.
Estar en pedo => To be drunk. To be crazy.
Examples: No me acuerdo lo que pasó anoche, estaba muy en pedo. => I don’t remember what happened last night, I was too drunk.
A: Voy a manejar desde Alaska hasta Argentina.
B: ¡¿Estás en pedo?!
A: I’m going to drive from Alaska to Argentina.
B: Are you crazy?!
Ir a los pedos => To go very fast.
Tuve que ir a los pedos para no llegar tarde a la entrevista.
I had to go really fast to not be late to the interview.
De pedo => By chance.
Example: No estudié mucho para el examen, aprobé de pedo. => I didn’t study a lot for the exam, I passed by chance.
Ni en pedo => No way, not a chance.
Example: A: ¿Me acompañás al supermercado?
B: ¡Ni en pedo! ¡Son las doce de la noche, vamos mañana!
A: Would you come with me to the supermarket?
B: No way! It’s midnight, let’s go tomorrow!
Estar en un pedo => To get somewhere fast, soon, in a jiffy.
Example: Perdoname, me quedé dormido, pero no te preocupes, estoy en un pedo. => I’m sorry, I overslept but don’t worry, I’ll be there in a jiffy.
7. Ya fue
This one’s quite simple.
It means “screw it” or “forget it.”
A: Te llevo? ... B: No, ya fue, voy caminando.
A: Would you like a ride? ... B: No, forget about it, I’ll walk.
A: Te estuve esperando por cuarenta y cinco minutos.
B: Perdón, me quedé dormido. Llego en cinco minutos.
A: Ya fue, me voy.
A: I’ve been waiting for forty five minutes.
B: I’m sorry, I overslept. I’ll be there in five minutes.
A: Forget it. I’m leaving.
8. La posta
“La posta” in Argentine slang means the absolute truth.
La posta can also mean “for real” or “really.”
A: Decime la posta, ¿a vos te gusta el chico? ... B: Sí.
A: ¿Posta? ... B: Posta.
A: Tell me the absolute truth, do you like the guy? ... B: Yes.
A: Really? ... B: Really.
9. Estar a full
“Estar a full” means to be very busy. To be motivated. It’s to be very focused on something.
It even means to be working hard on something.
These are just a few meanings from this versatile phrase.
Let’s see some examples:
Clara está a full en el trabajo, no tiene tiempo de nada.
Clara is very busy at work, she doesn't have time for anything else.
Estoy a full tratando de terminar de escribir el ensayo para la clase de literatura. => I’m working hard trying to finish the essay for the literature class.
Estoy a full con este proyecto. => I am very focused on this project.
Argentines love to add this word at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of nearly every sentence.
It is used as a filler, very much like you would use the phrase “you know” in English.
Lo que pasa es que es un tema muy delicado, ¿viste? => The thing is, it is a very delicate subject, you know?
It can also be used as follows:
¿Viste que el otro día me encontré con Susana en la librería? Bueno, me dijo que fuéramos a cenar a su casa. => Do you remember how I ran into Susana at the bookstore the other day? Well, she invited us over for dinner.
¿Viste? Te dije que la película iba a terminar así.
Did you see? I told you the movie was going to end like that.
No lo puedo creer, ¿viste? Él ganó las elecciones. => I cannot believe it, right? He won the election.
This is another one of those words that can have about a hundred different meanings such as come on, yes, sure, hurry up, please, OK, etc and no meaning at all other than filling up space.
Spend just a little time in Argentina or visiting with Argentines and you will hear this one in just about every conversation.
It’s an essential one if you want to sound like an Argentine.
¡Dale, apurate que vamos a llegar tarde! => Come on, hurry up or we’re going to be late!
A: ¿Me das cien pesos para comprar un helado?
B: ¿Es realmente necesario?
A: Can you give me a hundred pesos to buy an ice cream?
B: Is it really necessary?
A: ¿Qué tal si vamos al cine esta noche?
A: What do you think about going to the movies tonight?
Dale, contame qué te dijo.
Come on, tell me what he/she told you.
Bueno, dale, nos vemos más tarde. => Ok, cool, I’ll see you later.
Everyday Words That Have Different Names in Argentina
Ready to unlearn what you’ve already knew?
Here are a few everyday Spanish words that have different meanings in Argentina.
Re - very, very much, a lot, really.
Me re gusta ese vestido. => I really like that dress.
Ese vestido es re lindo. => That dress is very pretty.
You can't forget about the versatile Spanish word "mal" which means "totally" in Argentina.
A: Me encantó el final de la primera temporada de la serie.
A: I loved the ending of the first season of the series.
Then, their is also "un bardo." which means a problem, a conflict, or a messed up situation.
You can use bardo as you would quilombo.
¡¿En qué bardo te metiste?! => What messed up situation did you get yourself into?!
Finally, guys and girls are not muchachos and muchachas, but rather pibes and pibas.
The city bus is not an autobús, but rather a bondi.
A T-shirt is not a camiseta but rather a remera.
The list goes on and on.
Don't feel like you have to know them all at once!
More Argentina Slang Words
Una mina - (una mujer) a woman
Una bombita - (bombilla) a lightbulb
La valija - (la maleta) the suitcase
La frutilla - (la fresa) the strawberry
La palta - (el aguacate) the avocado
El ananá - (la piña) the pineapple
El durazno - (el melocotón) the peach
El auto - (el carro) the car
El pochoclo - (las palomitas) the popcorn
El choclo - (el elote) ear of corn
Have You Mastered These Argentine Slang Expressions?
Granted Argentine Spanish can be quite overwhelming for the average Spanish student.
Not only is the slang itself unique (aren’t they all?) but also the use of the vos pronoun throws you off right from the start.
On top of that, intonation, gestures, and your overall body language plays a huge role as well.
But che, you made it through this article and you will be glad to have learned the basics in for your next trip to Argentina.
The Argentine vos will grow on you. As well as pedos and quilombos, all the peculiarities and insanities that this beautiful sublanguage has to offer.
You will soon find that it is very hard not to fall in love with Argentina itself.