Saturday, November 2, 2013

Knowing The Difference Between Argentine Castilian And Latin American Spanish

Avoiding the language barrier isn't simply a matter of learning Spanish. You have to know the right kind of Spanish to speak when you’re in Argentina. Argentinians speak a form of Spanish known as Castilian. This means that there are some differences in the way certain words are pronounced and what their meanings are in comparison to other forms of Spanish. 

I’ve created a concise list of words that can be easily misinterpreted in order to help other fellow expats understand and avoid embarrassment during a conversation. Spoiler alert: Slang terms and curse words are also included here.  

Vos - derived from the Spanish term vosotros, meaning "you". Argentines don't use the word "tu" the way Mexicans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans or other Latin American countries do. In some rare instances, they will use "tu" as an emphasized version of the word “your”, like in this example, "tu Madre! (your mother), tu responsabilidad (your responsibility). 

Che - this term is used to grab someone's attention. Argentines do not say "HEY" or "OYE". 

Dale – this means “okay”, “go for it”, or “let’s do it”. It’s also used to tell someone to “GO!”
Omnibus/Colectivo - this term is used to identify a bus. Argentines don't use the word "guagua," which is commonly heard in Puerto-Rican and Cuban culture. 

Auto - term used to describe a car. Argentines don't refer to automobiles as "carro". 

Pendejo/a - while this term is considered offensive in most Latin American cultures, Argentines use this word to refer to a child or young adult. 

Mina - a street term used to refer to a woman. Its official reference is a landmine, or the lead tip of a pencil. 

Tipo – used to describe a man (or the term “guy”). It can also be used to refer to the word “type”, as in “a type of color”, (tipo de color). 

Pive - a term used to describe a young adult. "Che pive!" is equivalent to the term "Hey kid!" 

Bollo - for Argentines, this term refers to a roll of something like a roll of bread, yeast, or a piece of meat. On the other hand, if you were to say bollo to a Cuban or Puerto-Rican, this term would be a vulgar way of referring to a vagina. 

Coger - to most Spanish speaking countries, this word means "to grab". In Argentina, coger means to fornicate, or if you'll pardon my language, to f*ck.  

Boludo – a term used to describe an idiot or a moron. 

Chocha/o – In Argentina, this term is used to describe yourself or somebody else as happy (i.e. Estoy chochoEstoy chocha!, but to other Spanish speaking cultures, it could mean other things. For Puerto Ricans, this word is a vulgar representation of the word vagina.  

Quilombo – refers to a huge problem, a disaster, or a hot mess (figuratively speaking).  

Concha – Although to some Latin American countries, concha means a shell or a conch, for Argentines, this word is considered a vulgar way to refer to a vagina. Another equally offensive word that derives from Concha is the word “Conchuda”, which translates as the C word (c*nt) in English.  

Bosta - a vulgar term used to describe feces (sh*t). 

Este – In the States, I found that a lot of other Latinos would use this word to refer to another person (a friend, customer, stranger). “Este” means “this”. For Argentines, referring to someone as “este” or its female counterpart of “esta” is considered rude and insulting and will most likely result in an argument or possible physical altercation. 

Sos – Instead of eres. It means “you are” (i.e. sos un medico/you are a doctor) 
 Jamon - ham (Argentines don’t say puerco). Pancetta is a cheaper brand of ham sold in many supermarkets.

Palta – Avocado

Pancho – Hot Dog

Pochoclo – Popcorn

Fiaca - Feeling lazy

Huevon – A dumb a** or stupid person

Mango  Slang term used to describe money

Congelador - Freezer

Heladera - Refrigerator (Among Cubans, this is often referred to as Frigidaire)

Forro – Slang term for a condom. It can also be used as an insult, “sos un forro”, which translates to “you’re a condom”, but it has an impact similar to the phrase, “you’re a douche”, even though a douche and a condom aren’t the same thing.

Neumatico – The wheel of a car

Apolillar - Sleep

Julepe – Startled

Seso – Brain

Chiflado/Chiflada – A whack job or crazy person.

Pucho/Puchito – Cigarette butt or a small portion of something

Mamado or Chupado - Refers to someone that is drunk

Coche – Another term for car

Guita - Cash

Trucho – Counterfeit, fake, a knock off

Pelotudo – Idiot

Pito – Used to describe a whistle, but it is also a slang term for a penis.

Jeta – Face

Bombilla – Straw. Argentines don’t use the word “absorbente” to describe a straw.

Laburar – To work

Bancarse – To put up with someone or put up with a bad situation

Afanar – Slang term meaning “to steal”

Cana – Slang term meaning “cop”. The official definition is used to describe grey or white hair. 

Luca – 1,000 Argentine pesos

Embole – Bored, boredom

Pilcha – Used to describe an outfit/clothes 

Boliche – A dance club or a bar 

Paragua – Umbrella 

Morfar – to eat. Morfi is also used to describe the word “food”. 

Chango – Used to describe a supermarket cart 

Yankee – Term used to describe someone from the United States. Argentineans don’t generally use the word “Gringo” to describe an American. 

Yankeeland – United States 


Different Pronunciations 

Tenes - translates to "you have". This is how Argentines write and pronounce the word. On the other hand, other Latin American cultures may write and pronounce the word, tienes (notice the i before the first e in the word). Argentines don't say "tu tienes". They say "Vos tenes". On the other hand, they do use a variation of the word, “tiene” (has/is) but without the “s” at the end. El tiene hambre (He IS hungry), or El tiene que irse! (He HAS to go!) 

Queres - means "want". "Vos queres," is an example of how it would come to be used in Castilian. Most Latin American countries would pronounce it as "quieres", with the "i" after the "u". The only time you will see the word written in this fashion in Castilian is if it is written in this form, "Ella quiere (she wants)", or "El quiere (he wants)". Notice that the s at the end is missing at all times. This subtle change is the difference between Castilian and regular Spanish. 

Podes – refers to the word can, or it can easily mean can’t depending on how the word is phrased in a sentence. Vos podes (you can), No podes (you can’t). This term is written and pronounced as “Podes” in Argentine Castilian, whereas in other Spanish speaking countries, it is more common to pronounce the word as “puedes” (notice that the o has been replaced by ue). Argentines use this version only to pronounce the word “puede” (without the s), and only when using the phrase “puede ser” (can be, or could be), or “el/ella puede” (he/she can). 

***Business Terms – I’m putting the English terms first and the Castilian/Spanish definition second. Keep in mind that these next couple of words aren't necessarily limited to Argentina, but can help you when dealing with business or technical related matters (or if you're shopping for electronics)*** 

Businessman – Empresario 

Tax – Impuesto 

Computer – Computadora 

Laptop – Netbook 

USB Flash Drive – Pen Drive 

Keyboard – Teclado 

Printer – Impresora 

Printing – Imprimir 

Scan – Escanear 

Words Not Used In Argentina 
Avoid using words like “Orale”, “Oye”, “guagua”, “Andale”, “Arriba! Arriba!” as these are not words or phrases indigenous to Argentina. 

It’s important to keep these subtle differences in mind as they can have a huge impact in your business or social conversations with Argentinians. Now I've had a few trolls argue with me that there is no difference between the type of Spanish spoken in Argentina versus other Latin American countries, but as you can see, a lot of the words, save for a few of the business terms, are limited to Argentina (possibly Chile, Uruguay, and Paraguay). 


  1. You forgot "coger" which I tend to use too often when I'm there raising a few eyebrows along the way, but i can't help it...

  2. Ha! Ha! Ha! You're right! I need to add that to the list. Yes! We accidently said this to somebody at the Buenos Aires Airport when we arrived and the lady looked so shocked.