It is widely known that the Spanish of Buenos Aires, also called “Rioplatense” is different from the Spanish that is spoken in other parts of Latin America and in Spain, with different terms used for certain things (an avocado, in most places known as aguacate, is a palta here, for example, and bacon is pancetta, instead of tocino). Then there is this accent (the soft ‘y’ is pronounced ‘sh’ in Argentina, which means calle (street) sound like ‘cashe’ instead of ‘caye’, as it does for example in Spain). And then there is the Argentine slang, which is a different thing entirely. You may take a class with a combination of Spanish and Culture to get deeply into it.
The first thing to know is that Argentine slang can refer to two different things: Lunfardo, which refers to the street slang that was created by prisoners in the late 19th century so that prison guards wouldn’t be able to understand them, and which soon after spread among the lower classes of society. Lunfardo is mostly created by using vesre, which means reversing words (revés becomes vesre = reverse; backwards). So for example café con leche becomes feca con chele, pizza becomes pazi, perro (dog) becomes rope, mujer (woman) becomes jermu, and so on.
Lunfardo is not to be confused with modern slang though, which refers to informal words that have found their way into day-to-day conversations between friends, but are less common in written Spanish. When you arrive in Buenos Aires, you will hear Argentine slang words all the time, and if you want to fully understand the context of a conversation or remake that is being made in a conversation, it is important to learn the most common Argentine slang.
Here are ten Argentine slang words that you will definitely hear while you learn Spanish in Buenos Aires:
Che is the most common Argentine slang word, used on a daily basis to say ‘Hey’ or ‘What’s up’.
Example: Che, ¿me pasás la sal? – Hey, can you pass me the salt? ¿Che, cómo andás? – Hey, how are you?
Boludo can be understand as ‘dude’, when used among friends, but also be a mild insult, to say someone is an idiot or fool, so be careful in which context boludo is used.
Example: Che, boludo! – Hey, dude!
- Chabón/chabona (feminine)
Chabón means dude or guy, or dudette as the female version.
Example: ¡El chabón me ofendió! – That dude offended me!
Mango is used for money, or Argentine Pesos.
Example: Cuesta cien mangos. – It costs one hundred pesos. No tengo un mango. – I don’t have a single peso.
Quilombo means mess, chaos, and is used to describe chaotic situations.
Example: Qué quilombo es el tránsito en Buenos Aires! – What a chaos is the traffic in Buenos Aires! ¡Qué quilombo! – What a mess!
The actual translation of pedo is fart, but it has a plethora of meanings when used as a slang word and is used frequently. Ni en pedo (“Not even if I were drunk”, “No way in hell!”) is probably the most common one.
Example: Vives en una nube de pedos. – You live in a dream world. Estas en pedo – You are drunk. Hablás al pedo. – You’re talking trash.
Fiaca refers to laziness – when someone feels like doing absolutely nothing.
Example: Todo el día he tenido fiaca. – I’ve been feeling lazy all day long.
- Pibe / Mina
Pibe and mina are the colloquial terms to say boy and girl in Argentina, similar to Chabón/chabona. These words are also used for actual kids.
Example: ¡Che, pibe! – Hey, boy! ¡Que linda mina! – What a pretty girl.
- A full
A full means ‘absolutely’, ‘totally’, ‘a lot’, ‘to the maximum’.
Example: Si, a full vamos a la fiesta! – Yes, we’re totally going to the party! ¿Cómo fue la fiesta? A full, che. – How was the party? It was packed, man.
- Buena Onda
Buena Onda literally means good wave, and is a term that is used to describe ‘good vibrations’, or simply a good vibe. It is used to describe people, places, or the atmosphere of something, so you always want to make sure you have a ‘buena onda’.
Example: Tu amigo tiene muy buena onda. – Your friend is really cool.