Slang words in Argentina are varied and pervasive. You cannot have a conversation without hearing or using slang. If slang wasn’t used the language would seem very stilted and formal. I am sure it’s the same with most cultures but it’s particularly pronounced in Argentina.
The most well known form of Argentine slang is Lunfardo and like many things Argentinian, has Italian roots. The word itself comes from Lombardo, the language spoken in a region in northern Italy called Lombardia.
When large numbers of Italians emigrated to Argentina in the late 19th century they brought their language with them and incorporated it into their adopted language, Spanish. Until today Italian survives in many commonly used slang words.
Lunfardo was a handy way for the underworld to communicate with each other mixing both Spanish and Italian. It is similar in use to the “rogues cant”, a cryptolect (secret language) of Elizabethan Great Britain which was also used by thieves, beggars and hustlers to escape detection by prison guards and authorities.
It also has it origins in the tango culture and later words were added from other immigrant groups, the gauchos (cowboys) indigenous people and African slaves.
Some of the most commonly used Lunfardo words still in use today are:
Bondi: Bus (Autobus) “Tomamos el bondi” (Lets take the bus)
Che, boludo: Hey, dude! “Che boludo, vamonos” (Hey dude, let’s go) Famous argentine slang, which basically just means Hey! and together with boludo means “Hey man”. Although used alone can be very “gorsero” or rude
Feca: Coffee “Necessito mas feca” (I need more coffee)
Also used in terms like gapar > pagar (to pay) and ajoba > abajo (down)
This is a form of Argentine Pig Latin called ‘vesre' which itself is a ‘vesre' of al reves which mean backwards.
This is a scrambling of the word cafe, a sort of pig latin: ca/fe = fe/ca = feca
Fiaca: Laziness “Que fiaca que tengo” (I feel so lazy)
La Cana/ La Yuta: The police “La yuta! Corre!” (The cops! run!)
Laburar: To work “Me tengo que ir a laburar” (I have to go to work) Comes from the Italian lavorare
Mango: Buck, money, bill, currency “No tengo ni un mango” (I don’t have a single bill)
Mina: Woman “Que linda esa mina” (How pretty is that woman) from the Italian Femmina, the first part of the word cut out.
Pibe: Kid, boy/girl “Que pibe extraño” (What a strange kid) Might come from the Italian pive which means beginner
Piola: Intelligent, clever, cool “Esa mina es re piola” (That woman is very clever) putting “re” in front of a word adds emphasis. Straight from the Italian word piola, meaning someone cunning.
Some more popular slang terms:
Quilombo: a mess. “Tu dormitorio es un quilombo” (Your room is a mess) It also means whorehouse (not common) It possibliy originated from the term for a gathering place for slaves then also maybe the word for brothel, later to evolve into its modern meaning.
Previa: a small gathering for drinks before going out. A prefunc or pregame. “Vamos a tener una previa antes de irnos” (We’re going to have a pregame party before going out)
Pelotudo: Idiot “Como te olvidastes, sos un pelotudo” (How did you forget? You are an idiot) sort of rude.
Boliche: Night club “Nos enontramos en el boliche” (We’ll meet up at the nigh club)
Dale: Okay or hurry up. “Dale, dale” (Okay, hurry up) Same as “vale” in Spain
Copado: Cool “Que copado, el coche” (Your car is very cool)
Mala muerte: Very bad as a way to describe a place. Literally means “bad death” “El lugar era mala muerte, no habia nadie” (The place sucked, there was no one there)
Capaz: Maybe “Capaz voy, capaz no voy” (Maybe I’ll go, maybe I won’t)
Un monton: A lot “Habia un monton the gente en la fiesta” (There were a bunch of people at the party)
Porteño/a: Someone from the city of Buenos Aires. “Era porteña” (She was from the city)
Plata: Money “Preguntale a el, el tiene un monton the plata” (Ask him, he has a lot of money)
Buena onda: Good vibes, good energy, cool. “Ese chico tiene buena onda” (The dude is cool)
Puede ser: could be, we’ll see. “Alomejor, puede ser” (Maybe, we’ll see)
Tal cual: exactly, in agreement. “Tal cual, paso asi” (Exactly, that’s how it happened)
Cacho: a bit. “Para un cacho” (Wait a minute)
Bardo Bardero/a: A mess. “El tipo es un bardero” (That guy is a mess)
Canchero: Cool. “Que canchero que se cree” (He thinks he is so cool)
A full: To the max, for sure, certainly. “Si a full vamos a ir” ( Yes, for sure we’re going)
Escabiar: To drink alcohol “Vine a escabiar” ( I came to drink)
Ni en pedo: I wouldn’t do that even if I were drunk. (Similar to “You wouldn’t catch me dead doing _____ ) “Yo no voy, ni en pedo” (I wouldn’t go, even if I were drunk)
Chanta: Liar. “Que chanta, me dijo que estaba en casa” (What a liar he told me he was at home)
Gil: Stupid. “Que gil” (What a dummy)
Salame: Stupid: “Es un salame.” (He is so stupid).
Chamuyo/Chamuyero: Sweet talker, schemer, jerk. “Que chanta, chamuyo” (What a lying schemer)Also check out Argentina Slang