If you’ve ever dreamt of sipping mate on the streets of Buenos Aires, or simply want to decode the secret language of tango lyrics, you’re in for a treat! Welcome to the spicy world of Argentinian slang, where language dances to its own beat. In this article, we’ll dive headfirst into the vibrant streets of Argentina, where every chat is just an excuse to have a drink. Whether you’re planning a visit or you’re just curious about the exotic Spanish of the Southern Cone, get ready to have some fun.
Why Learn Argentinian Slang?
Argentina, the land of sizzling steaks, enchanting tango, and scenery that even Mother Nature would post on her Instagram, is more than just a travel destination. At its core is a spirited people who’ve crafted a special linguistic sauce: Argentinian slang. From the buzzing boulevards of Buenos Aires to the breathtaking Andes, this slang mirrors Argentina’s soul – intense, playful, and deeply proud. Dive into the street talk, and you’ll stumble upon a language that embodies the Argentine vibe.
As someone who’s been living in Argentina for more than 10 years, I can say learning slang isn’t just about blending in. It’s like cracking a code that reveals a love for friendship, barbecues, and soccer. It’s your golden ticket to explore Argentina from the inside, forging bonds with locals on a level deeper than Messi’s free kicks. As you toss in a casual che during chats and master piropos (compliments), you’ll definitely feel at home. So, get ready to share mate with newfound pals and groove your way through every corner of Argentina.
10 Common Argentinian Slang Words
These 10 classic words and phrases will help you sprinkle some Argentinian flavor into your conversations.
The Argentinian slang word boludo is a versatile term that’s a bit tricky to translate directly. It can shift from playful to downright offensive, depending on the vibe and tone of the moment. In a more lighthearted or friendly setting, boludo is often used to playfully tease or call someone “dumb” or “silly” in a joking manner. However, when used with an aggressive tone or in a confrontational context, it can be offensive and equivalent to calling someone an “idiot”. So, when using or responding to this word, read the room and handle it with care.
No seas boludo, vení con nosotros a la fiesta – (lighthearted / friendly) Don’t be silly, come with us to the party.
¿Sos boludo? ¡No puede ser que no lo entiendas! – (offensive) Are you an idiot? I can’t believe you don’t get it!
The Argentinian slang word quilombo is like chaos’s close cousin, showing up when things get wild and unruly. It’s a way of describing a situation that’s gone haywire, kind of like calling it a “mess” or “disaster” in English. It can also be used to describe a difficult or problematic situation, such as a complicated problem or a troublesome event. Just remember, this word is best used in a laid-back atmosphere or informal chats – it might raise an eyebrow in fancier settings.
If a party gets out of control and things become chaotic, you might hear someone say: “¡Esto es un quilombo!” (This is a mess!)
After the party, you see the house and say: “¡Qué quilombo!” (What a mess!)
The Argentinian slang word guita is the informal word for money, just like saying “bucks” or “cash” in English. This term pops up in everyday conversations when money matters come into play. Guita keeps it simple and doesn’t stir any financial fuss. It’s the go-to word in Argentina when money enters the conversation among friends.
No tengo suficiente guita para salir esta noche – I don’t have enough money to go out tonight.
Es demasiada guita por un auto usado – It’s too much money for a second-hand car.
The word posta is used to confirm that something is true or real. It’s like saying “for real” or “seriously” in English. When someone drops a posta in a conversation, it’s like they’re emphasizing the truth or authenticity of what they’re saying. Posta is your sincerity card in laid-back chats with pals, making sure everyone’s on the same page. It can also be used to seek confirmation or to express disbelief in a friendly and colloquial manner. It’s a versatile spice that adds emphasis to statements and questions in Argentinian Spanish.
If someone tells you a surprising fact, you might respond with “¿Posta?” (Seriously?)
Te voy a contar la posta – (I’ll tell you the truth)
The Argentinian slang trucho is used to describe something that is fake, counterfeit, or of plain low quality. It’s similar to calling something “phony” or “bogus” in English. When people use trucho in a sentence, they’re blowing the whistle on something that’s not genuine or authentic. It can be used to describe fake IDs, counterfeit products, or anything that is not what it appears to be. It’s the casual word you drop when you’re unmasking a fraud in Argentina, and everyone will get what you mean – no detective skills needed!
If someone bought a knock-off designer handbag on the street, they might say, “Esta cartera es trucha” (This handbag is fake.)
Esta licencia de conducir parece trucha – This driver’s license seems fake.
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6. Bajar un cambio
The phrase “bajar un cambio” literally translates to “lower a gear” or “downshift”. However, in colloquial usage, it means to calm down, slow down, or take it easy. It’s similar to saying “take a breather” or “chill out” in English. When someone tells you to “bajar un cambio” in Argentina, they’re handing you a golden ticket to relax, leave the stress behind, and handle life with a cooler, calmer vibe. It’s often used in situations where someone is getting overly worked up, stressed, or agitated. This phrase is widely used in casual conversations and is a way of promoting a more relaxed and less confrontational atmosphere. It’s the passport to smoother conversations in Argentina, where everyone’s invited to kick back and enjoy the ride.
If someone is getting angry during an argument, a friend might say, “¡Bajá un cambio!” to encourage them to calm down and take things less intensely.
A: Me estoy volviendo loco con tanto trabajo. – I’m going crazy with so much work.
B: Bajá un cambio, o te vas a enfermar. – Take it easy, or you’ll get sick.
7. Estar en el horno
The literal translation of “estar en el horno” is “being in the oven.” It’s like a metaphorical bake-off, where the oven represents a tricky situation. It’s similar to saying “being in a jam” or “being in a tough spot” in English. When someone says this phrase in Argentina, they’re sharing their bumpy ride through a challenging or problematic situation. This phrase is often used to describe life’s unexpected hurdles for which there’s no apparent solution.
If someone is running late for an important meeting and is stuck in traffic, they might say, “Estoy en el horno” to say they are in a tough situation due to the traffic.
“Se nos acabaron los insumos para el fin de semana…estamos en el horno” – We’ve run out of stock…we’re in a tough spot.
8. Ir a los bifes
The Argentinian slang “ir a los bifes” literally translates to “go to the steaks.” It’s all about getting to the meaty part of the conversation, cutting to the chase, and saying, “Let’s get down to business” in plain English. When someone says “ir a los bifes” in Argentina, they’re like the director of a movie yelling “action” – it’s time to focus on what truly matters. It’s often used when people want to skip the small talk and address the most important or relevant part of a conversation or situation. This phrase is commonly used in informal conversations and reflects the straightforward and pragmatic nature of Argentinian communication.
If a group is discussing a project, and someone feels that they’ve been talking about irrelevant details for too long, they might say, “Bueno, vayamos a los bifes,” indicating that it’s time to concentrate on the essential aspects of the project.
Muchachos, no tenemos mucho tiempo así que vayamos a los bifes. – Guys, we don’t have much time, so let’s cut to the chase.
9. Buscarle el pelo al huevo
The slang phrase “buscarle el pelo al huevo” translates to “looking for the hair on the egg”. It means to nitpick, overanalyze, or be overly critical about something insignificant or unimportant. It’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack. It’s similar to saying “split hairs” or “make a mountain out of a molehill” in English. When someone says “buscarle el pelo al huevo” in Argentina, they describe a situation where someone is excessively critical or pedantic about a minor issue. It’s the usual term for those moments when someone takes minor matters way too seriously.
Let’s say some friends are chatting about where to grab dinner. If one of them dives into analyzing every menu item, the ambiance, and the location down to the last detail, others might just say they’re “buscándole el pelo al huevo.” It means they’re being super picky about something that doesn’t need that much attention.
A: Si te fijás, el último botón de esta camisa es un poco más pequeño. – If you look closer, the last button of this shirt is a bit smaller.
B: Dejá de buscarle el pelo al huevo, me parece que está perfecta. – Stop splitting hairs, I think it’s perfect
10. No dar pie con bola
The phrase “no dar pie con bola” translates to “not giving foot with the ball”. It means that someone is unable to make sense of a situation or is completely lost and confused. It’s similar to saying “not making heads or tails of something” or “having no idea” in English. When this phrase joins the conversation in Argentina, it’s like a neon sign flashing “confusion alert”. It’s often used when someone is struggling to grasp a concept, follow a conversation, or make sense of a complex situation.
If someone is explaining a complicated math problem, and another person can’t understand it at all, they might say, “Che, no doy pie con bola” (Dude, I’m completely lost).
Pobre chico, es la tercera vez que inscribe esta materia. No da pie con bola – Poor kid. It’s the third time he has taken this course. He can’t make heads or tails of the content.
Tips for Learning Argentinian Slang
In my opinion, the best way to Speak Spanish with Argentinian slang is to practice with an exchange partner. Apps like Tandem can make learning slang a lot of fun. You can also hire an Argentine tutor in italki who can explain the nuances of idiomatic expressions. You might also want to take a look at this Spanish app guide to see other apps that can help you practice.
So, there you have it, amigos. Argentinian slang is your gateway to the heart of this vibrant culture. These words and phrases aren’t just sounds; they’re the key to fitting right in. Whether you’re eating asado with pals or diving into a heated soccer debate, this slang is your secret weapon. So, go ahead, embrace it, and let the adventure begin!