In this guide, you will learn important expressions, greeting, common Argentinian phrases and slang vocabulary. You will discover why Argentine Spanish is deep, rich, and full of interesting turns of phrase. One major factor in the development of the Argentine accent and colloquial use of Spanish is the fact that immigration from Italy and other European non-Spanish speaking countries accounts for a large percentage of the population today. Argentine culture is a mix of Spanish traditions, Italian traditions, and of course the different native cultures such as Mapuche, Tehuelche, Guaraní. And let’s not forget the famous gauchos of the pampas (countryside).
The Tango, sensual dance with nostalgic words, holds deep cultural importance too. Its impact on the language can’t be understated. Tango introduced slang or “lunfardo” to the street language of Buenos Aires. Tango was born among the lower classes of both Buenos Aires and Montevideo, Uruguay. The dance is an expression of the fusion of elements from the Afro-Argentine and Afro-Uruguayan cultures, authentic criollos, and European immigrants.
The culture of a country is often expressed best through its informal vocabulary
⚠️ Before we go any further, I should point out something that will save you embarrassment. When visiting Argentina, take care when using the verb “to take”. In the Spanish of other Latin American countries and Spain, “coger” is used when talking about taking the bus or grabbing something. That simple word, used in the wrong context, will get a big laugh among Argentinians. In Argentina, it means “to have sex”. Many Spanish books will only talk about the former usage. Don’t commit social suicide by announcing that you want to have sex with an object!
Argentinians are very warm, close and familiar, and they build trust with each other easily. It’s not uncommon to spend an entire day at a friend’s house, or even multiple days. This is all normal behaviour in Argentina. As soon as you get to know somebody, their mother will adopt you as a new son or daughter.
In the culture of drinking maté, a herbal caffeinated, infused beverage, sharing is central. While drinking this simple beverage of hot water and maté herbs (similar to tea), everyone shares the straw.
These rituals of sharing, and the easy forming of close personal connections, have influenced the informal language.
Table of Contents
Argentine Informal Greetings
It’s important to emphasize just how important the act of greeting is in Argentina. It’s pretty much expected that you kiss someone on the cheek at the beginning and at the end of a conversation. However, in some regions of the country, it’s common for men to greet each other with a handshake, and women with a cheek kiss.
Most conversations will start with someone asking how their family is doing, or the dog, or your house. “Oh, you changed that beautiful bookcase that you wanted to remove”. A tip is to be friendly and familiar (not formal). It shows Argentinians that you care about them and that you are interested in their lives.
So let’s start with some examples of informal greetings.
|“Hola, ¿cómo estás?”||Hey, how are you?|
|“¿Que contás?”||Whats up?|
|“¿Qué hacés? / ¿Qué onda?”||What are you doing?|
|“¡Buenas!”||Hello! / Hi!|
|“¿Qué es de tu vida?”||How it’s life going?|
|“¿Todo bien, boludo?”||What’s up dude?|
We have to talk about this word if we’re going to discuss typical conversations in Argentina Boludo is a common expression to refer to someone in a very colloquial way. The literal translation is “someone with big genital parts”. But in common use, it’s not mean in a flattering way. When you describe someone as “un boludo”, you don’t consider them to be cool. They are silly, dumb, an idiot, or possibly even an asshole. But you can also use the term in a friendly, joking way with friends. The subtle variations depend on how you express them and to whom is directed.
“Dale, boludo” means something like “hurry up, silly boy”. But if you say “sos un boludo” it’s more aggressive and is an insult. Watch out! this expression it’s only accepted with a very close friend or a relative. Using it with someone you don’t know can get you in trouble.
|“¡No boluda, no sabés lo que me pasó!”||No girl, you don’t know what happened to me!|
|“¿Dónde estás boluda?”||Where are you, girl?|
|“¡Dejálo! Es un boludo.”||Leave him, he is an asshole.|
|“¿Vamos boludo?”||Let’s go buddy?|
|“Boluda, no puede tratarme así.”||Girl, he can’t treat me that way.|
|“¡Qué boludo!”||What a dumbass!|
|“Me olvidé las llaves como un boludo.”||I forgot the keys like an idiot. As I said, “boludo” may be insulting, but it’s not always the most aggressive either. If we’re talking about insults, the Argentinians have a long list of them.|
|“Andáte a la mierda”||Go fuck your self|
|“La concha de la lora”||The parrots pussy (literal translation). Fuck! (most common equivalent in english)|
|“Sos un forro”||You are a moron|
|“Chupáme un huevo”||Suck me a ball|
Now it’s time to turn the page and think about how to greet in a formal situation. Many foreigners move to Argentina for work or study (education is public and free). These environments require another type of approach, at least people get to know you (which won’t take too long in Argentina).
Let’s look at some examples.
|“Hola, ¿cómo estuviste?”||Hi, how are you doing?|
|Buen día, ¿cómo estás?”||Good day, how are you?|
|“¿Qué tal?”||How are you? / What’s up?|
|“Disculpá, ¿puedo hacerte una consulta?”||Excuse me, can I ask you a question?|
When you meet someone for the first time
Hola! Mi nombre es Alex, soy de Inglaterra y estoy en Buenos Aires por un intercambio estudiantil.
Hi! My name is Alex and I am from England. I’m here in Buenos Aires for a scholarship.
As you see it’s not a huge difference between formal or informal greetings.
It’s respectful to use usted (formal “you”) when you refer to someone important, like your boss or a business partner. They might quickly ask you to use “vos” or “tu” but start off with usted. If they want to change to the more familiar form of address they might say por favor, tuteame which means “please talk to me in an informal way”. Here some examples with USTED:
– Buen día señorita, ¿cómo se encuentra?
Good day misses, how are you?
– Le debo una disculpa
I owe you an apology
Remember you use the pronoun le (le debo una disculpa) instead of te (te debo una disculpa). Everyone on a first name basis treats each other informally.
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How to ask for something
It’s very useful to know some local ways of asking for help, ordering in a restaurant, or asking for directions. Buenos Aires it’s a great city with plenty of cool neighborhoods and interesting places to visit. Palermo, Recoleta, Colegiales, and Chacarita are full of young people, gastronomic treats, and shopping. Those barrios (neighborhoods) are located in the heart of Buenos Aires, near subways, trains and major avenues that will take you through the rest of the city.
Getting to these suburbs from the more touristy, but typically Porteño neighborhoods, of San Telmo and La Boca requires navigating the public transport. At some stage, you will need to ask how to get somewhere? You’ll definitely want to visit downtown to feel the “city porteña” full of people working and see the beautiful avenues. But how to get there? Asking for directions is sometimes a stumbling block for Spanish learners. And when you’re visiting a big city, it seems that everyone is in a hurry. But don’t worry—Argentinians will try to help you. Here are some simple and common phrases to take with you in your notebook (or language phone app)
|“Disculpame, ¿te hago una consulta? ¿Sabés dónde está la entrada al subte?”||Excuse me, can I ask you a question? Do you know where the subway entrance is?|
|“¿A cuantas cuadras queda la avenida Santa Fe?”||How many blocks away is Santa Fe avenue?|
|“¿Sabe cómo llegar al museo Malba?”||Do you know how to get to the MALBA museum?|
|“Disculpa, ¿dónde puedo cargar la SUBE?” (SUBE is the Argentine metrocard)||Hey, where can I charge the SUBE?|
|“Tengo que ir para Once, ¿sabés si la zona es segura?||I have to go to Once, do you know if it is a safe area?|
Someone said food?
Without a doubt, pizza, beer and empanadas are the Argentinian national anthem. Food is the core of each meeting, or social gathering. Pizzas are known for having generous mozzarella and diverse toppings. So if you want a big cheese pizza go straight to the point. When the waiter arrives, you could say…
“Una grande de muzza con una cerveza de litro, por favor”
A big mozzarella pizza, with a bottle of beer please
As I mentioned, Argentines share everything, even beer. You can directly buy one-litre bottles to share in most restaurants or cafes. It’s an amazingly friendly place to be.
Argentinian sayings / lunfardo / slang language
Argentina is a country built by people of various different cultures. Colloquial expressions and common phrases are a mix of the languages of these places and peoples. On one hand, Argentina has the influence of European Spanish from Spain. On the other hand, colloquialisms derived from the interaction of city dwellers, native people, and gaucho culture have blossomed. This mix of cultures creates the famous Lunfardo, the name of slang in the Spanish form of the Rio de la Plata ( La Plata river). Note that Lunfardo is very much the same in Argentina and Uruguay, two countries on either side of the river.
For example, “laburo” which means work, comes from the italian word “Lavoro”. The samefor “birra” the italian word for beer. There are about 6000 expressions in Lunfardo in use today. “Pibe” which means boy, and “mina” for a woman are common ways to describe people. Porteños (the word to describe people from the city of Buenos Aires) can be charming and persuasive, and sometimes their chatty, over-confidence can lead people to describe them as “chamuyeros”. A chamuyero is someone who says whatever needs to be said to achieve their goal. A guy who lies, and talks himself up to impress a girl, might be called a chamuyero.
“Che”, a word that may be familiar to people who have never visited Argentina, has many uses and meanings. You will hear it a lot. Che can be added to a particular sentence to give it importance, as in “Dale, che!” (Come on!).
It can be used to start a conversation, “Che, como andas?” (Hey, how are you doing?)
You can also use it to call someone’s attention “Che, me traes la cuenta?” (Hey, could you bring me the check?)
Expressions you must know to truly understand Argentine Spanish
En pedo is used when you go out to have some drinks and get drunk.
– No podes creer lo que me pasó! Salí con unos compañeros de la universidad y me puse re en pedo!
You can’t believe what happened to me, I went out with some college friends and got really drunk.
¡Ni en pedo voy! refers to something you would not do, even when drunk.
|Un picadito.||A soccer match.|
|Los pibes.||The guys.|
|Aguanta.||Hang on, or wait a minute.|
|Que mala leche.||Bad luck, or bitchiness.|
|No me cabe una.||I don’t like it at all.|
|Ahicito no más.||There, super close ( without much specification). This expression is more commonly used in the countryside.|
|La gilada.||The crowd, or the people in a negative way.|
|Mas claro echale agua.||It’s obvious|
|Acá el que no corre, vuela.||Here, who doesn’t run, flies.|
|Siempre buscando la quinta pata al gato.||You are always complaining.|
|Pegame un tubazo.||Call me.|
|Anda a cobrarle a Magoya.||Nobody is going to pay you.|
|No hay tu tía||There is no excuse.|
|Le tira los galgos.||Someone is hitting on someone.|
|¡De toque!||Easily or close in distance.|
|¡Dale, no más!||Yeah, let’s do it.|
|Uh me colgué.||I got distracted.|
|A ponerle garra.||To put energy into something.|
|¡Que quilombo!||What a mess!|
|Tomar el bondi.||To take a bus.|
|Chamuyo.||Lie or to persuade.|
|¡Que zarpado!||That´s edgy.|
|Haceme la segunda.||Can you do me a favor?|
|¡Me re cagaron!||I have been busted! / I was tricked!|
|Me cabe.||I like it.|
|Que rata que sos.||You are really cheap / miserable.|
|No seas ortiva.||Don’t be an asshole.|
Argentina is more than just Buenos Aires
While Buenos Aires is the capital and center of commerce and politics, the language of the rest of this huge country has differences to that of the language used by Porteños. The expression “Argentina no termina en la General Paz!” is used to make clear that Argentina is much more what is inside of the limits of Buenos Aires City. And it is really accurate.
Argentina is the 8th largest country on earth, and is filled with different landscapes, from glaciers, to desert, from jungle to the pampas. Many different cultures spread across its highly diverse geographical territory. This of course translates into different uses of the language, and singular accents. In many parts of argentina is common that people don’t enunciate the final “s” in some words
¿Que hace? Vamo pa lo del Juan? What are you doing? Let’s go to Juan’s place?
Furthermore, some regions have a very distinct accent. The people of Cordoba, in central Argentina, favor a particular pronunciation of vowels in the syllable preceding the stressed syllable. The accent of Mendoza, a province in west argentina and the region of Cuyo, is often distinguished by how locals pronounce the double “rr” as “sh”. For example, tierra (Land, earth) is pronounced tiesha.
I hope you enjoyed this post and will visit Argentina soon!
For even more Argentinianisms, lunfardo, slang, and hilarious local words, check out the Argentinian Dictionary Instagram account. It’s not only entertaining but a great way to learn Spanish and understand how expressions are formed.
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Boludo. 'Boludo' is often heard following 'che,' such as “Che, boludo!” Together they mean, “Hey, man!” but by itself boludo can be a term of endearment or an insult, depending on how it is applied. When used with friends, it is an amicable term, and can be thrown in at the start of end of any sentence.Why do Argentines speak Spanish differently? ›
You may wonder why Spanish in Argentina developed a different intonation. The main reason for this lies in the country's history of immigration. Between 1870 to 1960, approximately two million Italians immigrated to Argentina, undoubtedly influencing and altering the accent of Spanish in Argentina.How is Argentinian Spanish different? ›
In terms of pronunciation, Argentinian Spanish generally features a variation on the “ll” and “y” sound. Normally this sound is about the same as the English “y” as in “yellow”, but in Argentina it takes on the sound of the “s” in “measure”.What does Opa mean in Argentina? ›
opa [m/f] BO AR UY derog. dumb person. 10. Colloquial.How do Argentines say hello? ›
When greeting for the first time or in a formal setting, Argentines generally shake hands and give a slight nod to show respect. The 'abrazo' is the most common greeting among friends and family. This consists of a handshake and an embrace.Is Argentina Spanish difficult? ›
The only difficulty for learners who want to explore Argentine culture is that Spanish in Argentina is quite different from other dialects. If you're not used to it can be difficult to understand.What is the Spanish in Argentina called? ›
Rioplatense Spanish (/ˌriːoʊpləˈtɛnseɪ/), also known as Rioplatense Castilian, is a variety of Spanish spoken mainly in and around the Río de la Plata Basin of Argentina and Uruguay. It is also referred to as River Plate Spanish or Argentine Spanish.How do Argentine people talk? ›
While Argentina's official language is Spanish, Argentina has enjoyed so much international migration that Arabic, Italian, German, English, and French are also spoken—at least in pockets throughout the country. There are also over one million speakers of various tribal languages, including Quecha and Guaraní.Why do Argentines talk like that? ›
The Spaniards brought their language to the country when they arrived to Argentina in 1536, and Spanish became widely spoken in the centuries that followed. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, large waves of European immigration to Argentina had a strong impact on the local way of speaking.Can Argentinians understand Spanish? ›
Whilst Argentines understand the Castilian Spanish form, which is also used throughout Latin America, they do not use it. Interestingly, and often confusing for learners of Spanish, the Argentine 'vos' form also has its own set of conjugations, depending upon the verb.
Piña (pineapple) becomes ananá, aguacate (avocado) is palta and melocotón (peach) is durazno.Why does Argentinian Spanish sound like Italian? ›
This is simply because of settlement of a large number of Italian immigrants to Argentina. Italians began arriving in Argentina from 1857 to 1940, totaling 44.9% of the entire postcolonial immigrant population, more than from any other country (including Spain, at 31.5%).What ethnicity are most Argentinians? ›
European (mostly Spanish and Italian descent) and mestizo (mixed European and Amerindian ancestry) 97.2%, Amerindian 2.4%, African 0.4% (2010 est.)Why do Argentines speak Spanish and not Italian? ›
In spite of the great many Italian immigrants, the Italian language never truly took hold in Argentina, partly because at the time of mass immigration, almost all Italians spoke their native regional languages rather than Italian, precluding the expansion of the use of Italian as a primary language in Argentina.What does Changa mean in Argentina? ›
Noun. changa f (plural changas) small job; odd job. job of a porter. part-time job (Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay)What does Cheta mean in Argentina? ›
CHETO/A = FANCY (adjective, noun)
Ella es muy cheta, siempre compra cosas de marca. She's really fancy, she always buys stuff from nice brands.
bárbaro: great, cool.What does Wacho mean in Argentina? ›
26) Wacho. This Argentine slang is best described as a term for a “rascal”, or a mischievous individual. It's normally meant in a well-intentioned way, and so you can use it with friends, or even kids.What does Chota mean in Argentina? ›
Maybe you already know, but in the "Rio de la Plata" at least (basically, Uruguay and Argentina), chota is a quite popular slung for referring to the male sexual organ.How do Argentines say beautiful? ›
Lindo/linda is more common in Latin America than Spain (and is also very common in Brazilian Portuguese). It's similar in meaning to bonito/bonita: it can mean “beautiful”, “pretty”, “lovely”, or “nice”. In Latin America you can also use lindo as an adverb. For example, ella canta lindo means “she sings beautifully.”
Finding people who speak English in Argentina won't be an easy task. This is especially true if you travel to smaller, more rural areas. Though Buenos Aires is a big city with a higher chance of people understanding basic English, it would still be advisable to know some basic Spanish.Can Mexicans understand Argentine Spanish? ›
Of course. The way each word sounds may be different, even drastically but it the vast majority of the time they will understand each other. Keep in mind that Spanish is an incredibly varied language and they may often need to clarify certain things.What should you not say to an Argentine? ›
- #1: “I don't eat red meat” ...
- #2: Tengo mierda.
- Miedo = fear, but mierda? ...
- #4: Soy Americano. ...
- #5: “I hate how it's so dirty here/the food is so tasteless/there's no Wal-Mart… ...
- #6: Voy a coger un taxi. ...
- #7: “I don't like staying out late” ...
- #8: Me gusta Juan/María.
'Dale' is a very commonly used word here in Argentina. Like the Spanish word 'vale', it basically means 'OK'. It is often used to agree with someone, and is a good word to use if you want to show someone that you've understood something.What percentage of Argentina is Spanish? ›
|Ethnic Groups||White (mostly Spanish and Italian) 97%, mestizo (mixed white and Amerindian ancestry), Amerindian, or other non-white groups 3%|
|Languages Spoken||Spanish (official), Italian, English, German, French, indigenous (Mapudungun, Quechua)|
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|Year||Foreign born||U.S. born|
Zarpado. In Argentina, zarpado is often used to mean “cool.” That being said, zarpado can also refer to someone who has stepped out of line, so use it with caution.How do males greet in Argentina? ›
Greetings Shake hands upon meeting someone and when you leave. Women and men may greet each other with a kiss on each cheek and also by shaking hands. Greet the most senior person present first to show respect.Are Argentinians touchy? ›
Physical Contact: It is common for Argentines to be quite tactile as they communicate.What is considered offensive in Argentina? ›
Most Argentines eat with a knife in the right hand and a fork in the left hand. Using a toothpick in public is considered bad manners. Blowing one's nose or clearing one's throat at the table is also considered poor manners. Eating on public transport is seen as poor etiquette.
1. Greetings. Kissing on the cheek when greeting hello and goodbye is part of Argentine culture. When Argentines enter a room, every single person, stranger or family, receives one kiss on the right cheek.What was Argentina called before the Spanish? ›
On July 9, 1816, Argentina was declared an independent country under the name of United Provinces of the Río de la Plata.What are the top 3 languages spoken in Argentina? ›
While Spanish is the dominant language in Argentina, there are many other languages spoken in Argentina. They include Italian (second most spoken language in Argentina), Quechua (mainly spoken by Bolivian immigrants who settled in Northern Argentina) and Guaraní (mainly spoken in the province of Corrientes).How do you say condoms in Argentina? ›
But in an Argentine bedroom, forro usually refers to a "condom," as it does in this line from the show Disputas.What does Chabon mean in Argentina? ›
Chabon: a guy, a dude (Ex: Me gusta ese chabon./translation: I like that guy.) Copado/a: someone or something cool (Ex: Es una amiga muy copada./ translation: She's a very cool friend.)What does Pibe mean in Argentina? ›
Pibe/Mina. “Pibe” and “Mina” are colloquial terms to say boy and girl in Argentina, and they are most commonly used to describe someone who is slightly immature. Example: ¡Che, pibe! –Hey, boy!Why do Italians move to Argentina? ›
Italians began to flock to Argentina in the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, mostly for economic opportunities or to escape devastating wars.Are Argentinians of Spanish descent? ›
Since a great portion of the immigrants to Argentina before the mid-19th century were of Spanish descent, and a significant part of the late-19th century/early-20th century immigrants to Argentina were Spaniards, the large majority of Argentines are at least partly of Spanish ancestry.Is Argentina Spanish different from Mexico? ›
Spanish spoken in Argentina and Mexico is mostly differentiated by slang. They have in common the use of the ustedes form, instead of vosotros like in Spain. Mexicans don't use the form vos, which Argentinians do, but rather they use tú. The pronunciation is also quite different between countries.What percent white is Argentina? ›
Abstract. Argentina is a predominantly European descent country, and prides itself on its Spanish and Italian roots. Unlike many other Latin American countries, 97% of Argentina's population is White.
The most common ethnic groups are a mix between Spanish (including Galicians and Basques), Italian and Native American. It is estimated that up to 30 million Argentines, up to 62.5% of the total population, have Italian ancestry, wholly or in part. There are also some Germanic, Slavic, Irish and French populations.Are Argentinians Muslims? ›
Argentina is a predominantly Christian country, with Islam being a minority religion.What percent of Argentina is Italian? ›
Over 60% of Argentina's population has Italian heritage! With such a large Italian population in Argentina, it's no surprise that many Argentine surnames or last names sound Italian.Who lived in Argentina before the Spanish? ›
Argentina - History & Culture. Along with numerous nomadic tribespeople, two main indigenous groups existed in Argentina before the European arrival. In the northwest, near Bolivia and the Andes, was a people known as the Diaguita, while further south and to the east were the Guarani.How much of Argentina is Italian? ›
The arrival of Italians from the 19th century to late 20th century constitutes the most important wave of immigration in Argentina. Descendants of these immigrants are now estimated to make up for up to 60% of the total population.How do they say cool in Argentina? ›
Zarpado. In Argentina, zarpado is often used to mean “cool.” That being said, zarpado can also refer to someone who has stepped out of line, so use it with caution.How do people in Argentina say awesome? ›
Copado/a means cool or awesome. You can slide in a “qué copado” in any instance to sound more local.What is Argentina known for? ›
Argentina is known for its passion for soccer, Mate culture, and love for Tango. With stunning natural landscapes in Patagonia to vibrant city life in Buenos Aires, the country offers a unique experience for travelers. Argentina is also famous for its quality wine, delicious food, and world-renowned landmarks.What do you call a girl from Argentina? ›
Argentine is listed as the correct demonym: she is an Argentine.What does Piba mean in Argentina? ›
In Argentina, this is how young people are called in affection. Spanish from other regions could be equivalent to “muchacho” or “muchacha.” In English, it is like “girl” or “boy.” Example: “Conocí un pibe encantador en el baile”
In Mexican Spanish, chulo/chula is the word you're looking to use if you find something (or someone, but in a kind, non-sexual nor romantic way) really pretty. Use it to compliment a part of someone's outfit or to tell someone you think they look cute today.
choto [adj] PR. cowardly (person)Why do Argentines say vos? ›
One of the key grammatical differences between the Spanish of Argentina and other varieties of the language is in its use of vos as the second-person singular personal pronoun. Vos is also used in scattered other areas, particularly in parts of Central America. In these areas, vos completely or partially replaces tú.What is the national drink in Argentina? ›
Maté is becoming increasingly popular and can be enjoyed at any time of day, on its own or as a blend. But did you know that it is THE national drink in Argentina, and that it is consumed as part of a unique ceremony?What is Argentina proud of? ›
Argentine culture is a blend of European customs and Latin American and indigenous traditions. Argentines are quite proud of their nation and its blended heritage as well as their ability to rise above adversity. They are also proud of their talents in many fields.