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Top 10 Argentinian slang words you need to know

Argentina shares borders with Brazil, Chile, Bolivia and Paraguay, which means that, geographically speaking, it is separated from many of the other Spanish-speaking countries. This is important for understanding why Spanish from Argentina is a bit different from that of other countries and how the influence of Portuguese and Italian (from the massive immigration at the beginning of the 20th century) shaped Argentine Spanish.

With that being said, let's take a look at some of the most popular Argentine slang words and terms:

 

1. Guacho  (Meaning: Orphan)

It’s a term that seems to come from wakcha in Quechua, the language spoken by the indigenous people in Cuzco, Perú. In Argentina and many other countries, it’s a derogatory word used to describe someone who has lost both their parents.

No, no, no, no tiene padres, es guacha. -¡Padre!

No no, no, she hasn't got parents, she's a bastard. -Father!

Caption 11, Muñeca Brava 1 Piloto - Part 1

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2. Mina (Meaning: Girl)

The term comes from the old lunfardo [criminal slang tango composers used in many of their lyrics] and contrary to what most people think it’s not a derogatory term although it’s not a word you’d use in environments of respect such as your workplace, university or at a doctor’s office.

¿No viste esa mina?

Did you see that chick?

Caption 35, Muñeca Brava 1 Piloto - Part 6

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3. Dar bola (Meaning: Pay attention) 

The origin of the expression is unclear. The most widely accepted story is that comes from the 1920s in Argentina, when students playing hookey would go to the bars to play pool. Since most of them were new players, and the risk of them tearing the green felt surface of the pool table increased with every kid who arrived, the waiters were given the order “not to give them balls” which was also a way to “ignore” them. So today, used in its negative form, it means “to ignore” and used in its affirmative form it means just the opposite “to pay attention”.

Pero si a vos no te dio bola. ¿Qué te importa?

But she didn't even look at you. What do you care?

Caption 7, Muñeca Brava 1 Piloto - Part 7

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4. Boludo (Meaning: Fool, idiot, dude)

Boludo is a former insult that has been misused so much that it has become something else. The origin of this word (that can be used as an adjective or noun) lies in the term bolas (balls) and yes, someone boludo is someone with big balls. It’s not clear why it has been used to describe a fool, though. However, in Argentina almost every informal sentence has the word boludo or boluda in it. It has become a way to address someone you are very, very familiar with.

Sí, pero a veces se cae uno a la tierra, boludo, y camina.

Yes, but sometimes one falls to the earth, idiot, and walks.

Caption 39, Muñeca Brava 48 - Soluciones - Part 4

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5. Chirusa (Meaning: Vulgar woman)

It’s an old term that has its origins in the 1920s. It's a derogative way to call women of lower classes and/or those women whose lack of manners make them look like someone from a lower class. There’s a Tango song called “Chirusa” about a poor woman who fell in love with a rich man who was only toying with her. In Muñeca Brava, Milagros is considered a chirusa because of her status as a maid at a manor full of rich people.

¿Qué es chirusa? Y, se podría considerar una mujer vulgar.

What is chirusa? And, it could be considered a vulgar woman.

Captions 45-46, Carlos y Cyndy Comentario sobre Muñeca Brava

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6. Bailanta (Meaning: Club/Discotheque)

The bailanta is a discotheque where they play cumbia, and other kinds of tropical music. In Argentina, people who go to the bailanta are considered of a lower class. As it happens in the episodes of Muñeca Brava, Mili goes to the bailanta because she likes the kind of popular music they play there and also the social environment of the place.

 

You can see that Ivo is disgusted by it because he comes from a wealthy family and probably goes dancing at other discotheques where they play electronic music or other kinds of tunes associated with a higher socio-cultural level.

Tranquilizate. Vamos a la bailanta, loco.

Calm down. Let's go the club, man.

Caption 71, Muñeca Brava 18 - La Apuesta - Part 2

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7. Colectivo (Meaning: Bus)

The origin of the word colectivo comes from the early days of taxicabs. When, because of the economy, taxis became too expensive for a large portion of the population, they put in place a sort of carpooling service where two or more strangers would share the ride and split the cost. As more and more people began sharing the same taxi, transportation companies saw this trend as an opportunity and built larger taxicabs which they called colectivo coming from the word “collective” since they transported a group of people in them.

 

In Argentine slang, another way to refer to the colectivo is bondi. Since the colectivo is one of the least expensive ways to travel, a recently founded airline in Argentina named themselves “flybondi” and offer low-cost flights within Argentina.

No crea, ¿eh? En bondi, eh... en colectivo, llego al toque.

Not really, huh? By bondi [slang for "bus"], um... by bus, I get here in a jiffy.

Caption 32, Muñeca Brava 47 Esperanzas - Part 6

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8. Che (Meaning: Hey)

Argentinians use the word che in almost every sentence. It's an interjection with no specific meaning, used to get someone's attention. It is unclear where the word comes from, although there are several theories. Some people say it comes from the Mapuches indigenous people, in whose language che means “person”.

 

Another theory suggests it comes from the sound someone makes when they want to be heard, very similar to the “pstt” but more like “chh”.  Che is used during conversations (never in formal speech) the same way you would use the word “hey!” or at the end of the sentence, as a tag, in a conversation.

Che boluda... ¿qué te pasa? Estás como loca hoy.

Hey silly [potentially insulting, not amongst close friends]... what's up? Today you're like crazy.

Caption 3, Cuatro Amigas Piloto - Part 3

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9. Rajar (Meaning: To fire someone / To leave)

Rajar connotes urgency. When people use rajar at the moment of firing an employee or when they ask somebody to leave, the idea is to do it “immediately.” Let's see an example:

"La voy a hacer rajar". "Rajar", ¿qué significa? Significa "la voy a hacer echar". -Mmm.

"La voy a hacer rajar." "Rajar," what does it mean? It means "I'm going to get her fired." -Mmm.

Captions 72-74, Carlos y Cyndy Comentario sobre Muñeca Brava

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10. Arrugar (Meaning: To get scared / get cold feet)

The term arrugar literally means “to wrinkle”. In the context of physical combat, when one of the fighters gets scared, insecure or for any reason doesn’t want to fight, you can easily compare their body language to the action of wrinkling. Today in Argentina the term is used for any situation, not only physical combat. It’s mostly used when somebody dares another person to do something and they agree at the beginning but change their minds at the last minute.

Vine porque tengo muchísimas ganas de cobrar mi apuesta. ¿Qué apuesta? ¿No me digas que arrugaste?

I came because I'm eager to collect my bet. What bet? Don't tell me you're backing out?

Captions 10-12, Verano Eterno Fiesta Grande - Part 8

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Wiht this last term, we have arrived to the end of this lesson about top Argentinian slang and idiomatic expressions. Now that you’re ready to walk around the streets of Buenos Aires we want to leave you with a final challenge. Do you understand the meaning of the following sentence?: 

 

¡Che, boludo, ese colectivo nos lleva a la bailanta! No arrugues ahora, que vamos a conocer muchas minas.

 

We hope you enjoy this lesson and don’t forget to send us your feedback and suggestions.

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