I’ve been trying to find a very complete guide for Argentinian slang for a while, and since I couldn’t find one, I decided to write it myself. I’ve put up this list with the most important words and phrases you need if you want to get by in Argentina.
The Spanish spoken in Argentina, called español rioplatense, is heavily loaded with slang. It’s characterized mostly by its use of the form ‘vos‘ and the sh sounds in pronunciations. Some words like che, boludo, and re, are very distinctive of Argentinian Spanish.
A Small Introduction
The easiest and quickest way to identify an Argentinian is to listen at how they pronounce: in words with double L, such as calle (street), we use a “sh” sound (yes, like shushing) to pronounce them.
That said, in “cuidado con como cruzás la calle!” (be careful while crossing the street!), calle would be pronounced cashe. This also applies for the letter Y.
Another very important element of Argentinian Spanish is that in Argentina we don’t use the tú form to refer to the 2nd person singular in the grammatical form you. Instead, we use vos. The same way, instead of saying vosotros like Spanish do for the 2nd person plural, we use ustedes.
Now that you know the basics, let’s move on with the lunfardo (Argentinian word for slang) guide.
Lunfardo 101: Words
Boludo might be the most representative Argentinian word, because we use it most of the time. Boludo (fem. boluda) is very flexible, but you need to be careful when to use it. It’s a word that you can use to call or mention someone on a friendly or unfriendly way.
However, make sure to only use it with someone after you’ve built a certain level of trust.
You can tell when people use it as an insult because of their voice tone. It’s not the same to say:
‘Boluda, pasame la sal porfa‘ –> Hey, pass me the salt please.
‘Sos boludo? Mirá por donde caminás‘ –> Are you stupid? Watch out where you’re walking.
‘Che’ is another way of calling someone. It’s friendly and informal (like the rest of lunfardo). You can use it to say:
‘Che, vamos al cine esta noche?’ –> Hey, let’s go to the cinema tonight.
Pro tip: don’t over use che. It sounds very unnatural to say it the whole time. Instead you can say eu, which is a perfect synonym.
It’s a common expression to refer to a guy or a girl, usually adults and younger, but you wouldn’t use it to refer to an elder person. It’s also a way of saying ‘the guys’ and ‘the girls’, mostly to refer to a group of friends.
‘Hoy nos juntamos con los pibes. Sabés si las pibas vienen también? –> I’m meeting the guys tonight. Do you know if the girls are also joining?
‘Pelotudo’ is the stronger version of boludo. It doesn’t have the nicest connotation and you cannot really use it to call your friends like you would use with boludo, but it’s definitely still a word common to hear. I would say it verges more to the insult side, because I would’t use it with many people.
If you do you use it amongst people you trust, make sure your tone denotes joke and friendliness.
I love this word. Sure, it means ‘idiot’ or ‘asshole’, but again, if used nicely in the correct context, it does no harm. However, forro is very present in insults too. For example:
‘Esta forra me chocó el auto y ahora se está haciendo la boluda‘ –> This asshole crashed my car and is now pretended like nothing happened. See what I did there? I added boluda too because it fits perfectly. I’ll cover what hacerse el boludo/a means later in this post.
Re is this very amazing complement to emphasize things. If something is re copado, re pesado, re lindo, or re feo, it means that is very cool, very heavy, very cute and very ugly, respectively. Yes, re means very.
Another word that I love. You can use it to describe a person, an object or a situation that you find cool or pleasing. For example:
‘Conocí a Mica el otro día. Es re copada‘ –> I met Mica the other day. She’s very cool.
Posta is an amazing word used to assure or reassure something, like a combination of ‘true’ and ‘really?’. Like this:
‘Quién rompió esto? Posta que yo no fui’ –> Who broke this? I swear it wasn’t me.
‘Boluda, desaprobé mi examen. -Posta?’ –> Hey, I’ve failed my exam? – Really?
‘Mi amigo cocina las mejores pizzas del mundo, posta.’ –> My friend makes the best pizzas on earth, for real.
Mostly used between men, and has a nice connotation. Being a capo or groso means that you’re good at what you do.
‘Vamos a ver a Juan jugar al fútbol hoy? Es un capo‘ –> Should we go watch Juan play soccer today? He’s very good.
A friendly way to call someone, but mostly between friends. You wouldn’t use it outside of that. If you say, ‘dale guacho, vamos!’ it could translate as ‘hey, come on let’s go!’
Word to express that you’re happy, excited or satisfied about something, for example:
‘Me voy de viaje mañana, estoy chocha!’ –> I’m traveling tomorrow, i’m quite excited!
Being lazy or feeling lazy about what you have to do:
‘Uf, todavía tengo que hacer la tarea. Qué paja.’ –> I’ve still got to do my homework, (qué paja!)
Dale is a very versatile word that we use to agree, to finish a sentence, or just as a synonym of ok.
‘Vamos a comer? -Dale’? –> Do we go for food? -Sure.
‘Dale, acompañame al cine porfa’ –> Come on, come with me to the cinema please.
Lunfardo 102: Expressions
Now that you know the most important words of Argentinian lunfardo, let’s now build some expressions that are very used on daily life:
No da is used to say that something is not appropriate. Me pongo esto para la fiesta? – No, me parece que no da. –> Should I wear this to the party? No, I don’t think it’s appropriate.
When you want to say that something is meh, something not full in its potential, not at its best. It’s a very versatile word, you can use it to describe objects, situations, or even food.
–Cómo estuvo la cena de anoche? Y.. estuvo medio pelo la verdad. –> How was yesterday’s dinner? Well.. it wasn’t its best.
I love this word. It’s used to say something is messy and it applies in many situations.
Mirá la cantidad de autos que hay! Qué quilombo! –> Look at all this traffic! What a mess!
Qué quilombo esta habitación!!!! –> Look at the mess in this room!
ESTAR AL HORNO
To be in a messy situation that most likely involves you making a mistake. The literal translation is ‘I’m in the oven’.
–Me mandé una cagada en el laburo y no le avisé a mi jefe.. estoy en el horno. –> I made a huge mistake at work and haven’t told my boss.. I’m ‘in the oven’.
When something (quite bad) happened to you or someone, but it could’ve been way worse. The translation would be ‘it was quite cheap’.
– Viste que Juan chocó con el auto? -Si, me enteré.. el auto está destruido pero por suerte el no se hizo nada. La sacó barata. –> Have you heard that Juan crashed his car? – Yeah, I have.. the car is wrecked but thankfully nothing happened to him. ‘It was quite cheap’.
Que bajón is used to express sadness (or not really sadness, but something unhappy or uneventful). For example:
– Se suspendió el evento porque está lloviendo. – Uh, que bajón. –> The event got suspended because of the weather. – What a pity/what a shame/that’s bad.
Usually, every expression that starts with qué is used to emphasize the adjective that goes with it. Que copado (how cool), que fiaca (I feel lazy), etc.
ESTAR AL PEDO
Means to be free/have free time. Estás al pedo el martes? Podemos almorzar. Are you free on Tuesday? Let’s have lunch.
ESTAR EN PEDO
1st use: estar en pedo means to be drunk. Pretty straightforward right?
2nd use: Are you out of your mind? If someone proposes something crazy (and you know that they’re not drunk), you can reply with this expression. For example, if someone invites you to swim with sharks: estás en pedo? You can also use it as an affirmation: estás en pedo!
TOMARLO CON SODA
Tomarlo con soda means to take it easy, used for everyday tragedies (this means, nothing too serious). You wouldn’t say tomátelo con soda to your friend that has just lost their job, but you might say tomatelo con soda to your friend that just stained their shirt with food.
Something that us Argentinians are very used to doing. Mandar fruta means to invent something in different context.
–Te fue bien en el examen hoy? -No se, pero le mandé fruta y creo que voy a zafar. –> Did you do well on the exam today? – I don’t know, but I (mandar fruta/to invent stuff) and I think I’ll pass.
REMAR EN DULCE DE LECHE
In Argentina, people use remar en dulce de leche for a thousand things, because we’re used to doing it. It means to work really hard for something.
If you opened a new business and are struggling to keep it running, you’re ‘remando en dulce de leche‘. If you’re in love with someone and been trying to make them fall in love with you for a while without success, you’re ‘remando en dulce de leche‘.
Ya fue means ‘let it go’, or ‘that’s it’. You can use it when you’re frustrated with something, or to give an advise to a friend:
– Ya desaprobé el examen de manejo 5 veces… ya fue, no voy a intentar mas. –> I’ve failed my driving test 5 times now… that’s it, I won’t try anymore.
ESTAR A FULL
Used to explain that you or someone else are very busy. For example:
–Nos vemos mañana? Uh, no puedo.. estoy a full con el laburo. –> Shall we meet tomorrow? -I can’t.. I’m very busy with work.
NO TENGO UN MANGO
Very common expression that means ‘I’m broke’ or ‘I don’t have any money’.