Mi Buenos Aires Querido

Language of Argentina

Tango Illustration / População Argentina / Población argentina / Argentina Culture

Cómo olvidarte en esta queja,
cafetín de Buenos Aires,
si sos lo único en la vida
que se pareció a mi vieja…
En tu mezcla milagrosa
de sabihondos y suicidas,
yo aprendí filosofía… dados… timba…
y la poesía cruel de no pensar más en mí.

Cafetín de Buenos Aires
(Tango by E. Discepolo, M. Mores – 1948)

What language is spoken in Argentina and why is it special?

Argentina’s official language is Spanish, or Castellano (Castilian) as Argentines prefer to call it. To a lesser extent, some indigenous languages such as Guarani or Quechua are also spoken in specific regions of the country.

See below the key peculiarities of the Castellano spoken in most of Argentina and Uruguay:


The use of the pronoun “vos” instead of “tu” (you) is one of the most typical characteristics of the Argentine speech, although in some regions the use of “tu” has been preserved.

Furthermore, the use of “vos” leads to conjugating verbs in a more regular way compared to traditional Spanish. Taking the verb “poder” as an example, “tu puedes” becomes “vos podés” (you can). Taking “tener” as an example, “tu tienes” becomes “vos tenés” (you have), and so on. The main exception is the verb “ser”, in which “tu eres” becomes “vos sos” (you are).

“Y” and “LL”

The pronunciation of letters “y” and “ll” in most of Argentina is close to the “sh” sound in English, as opposed to the “yi” sound that is typical in mainstream Spanish.

For instance, “calle” (street) sounds like “cashe” instead of “cayie“, and “ayuda” (help) sounds like “ashuda” instead of “ayiuda”. In other regions of Argentina, the same letters may be pronounced quite differently.

Some very typical Argentine words


The interjection “che” is commonly used in Argentina as a way of referring to another person, with no specific meaning, but indicating some closeness to the listener. It can be loosely assimilated to English expressions such as “hey” or else “man”, “dude”, “bro” and the like.

A common sentence could be “Che, ¿nos vemos el sábado?” (Che, will I see you on Saturday?).


On the other hand, the transformation of the pejorative term “boludo” or “boluda” into a friendly vocative is a much more recent phenomenon. While its use is even more informal than the use of “che”, it’s still very typical in Argentina.

One example would be the classic greeting “¿Qué hacés, boludo?” (What’s up, boludo?) or still the combination of both interjections in the same sentence, such as in “Che, boluda, contame cómo te fue en el viaje” (Che, boluda, tell me how did your trip go).


Simply put, the prefix “re” is used together with adjectives and is equivalente to “muy” (“very”, “really”). It can also be further emphasized as “recontra”.

Some examples are “Esa canción es re triste” (“This song is very sad”), or “El bar estaba recontra lleno” (“The bar was really packed”).

Lunfardo, aka the Argentine slang

Amar Garpa Buenos Aires BA Paste Up Guille Pachelo

Buenos Aires street art with the phrase “Amar garpa”, which is reverse Lunfardo for “Love pays off” (via BA Paste Up)

Lunfardo is the urban slang of Buenos Aires and is quite widespread in most of Argentina and Uruguay. To a lesser extent, some expressions have also reached Portuguese-speaking neighbor Brazil due to cultural influence.

Born in the end of the 19th century, Lunfardo’s origins blends with the origins of tango. Both have been influenced by the same marginal environment of low-end neighborhoods due to the forced coexistence between immigrants and the local population. Lunfardo’s structure was build upon the replacement of terms in Castellano by other terms appropriated from foreign languages and dialects, whose meaning was often altered.

A support element of Lunfardo is known as “vesre” (“revés”) or reverse Lunfardo, which consists in inverting the syllables of certain words. For instance, “tango” becomes “gotán”, “mujer” becomes “jermu”, “pagar” becomes “garpar”, and so on.

Essential Dictionary of Lunfardo and argentine slang
afanar; un afano
to steal/rob; a robbery
atorrante (atorranta)
shameless; cheeky, slacker, layabout
bajónnegative situation, hangover, depression
berretadirt cheap
un cachoa slice, a bit
la cana; un canathe police; a cop
curroodd job, easy money
chabón (chabona)
guy (girl)
smooth talk, bragging
chantashameless; crook, bum
chorro (chorra)
thief, thug
very boring
fasocigarette; weed joint
fulero (fulera)
gamba; una gambaleg; a hundred pesos
gaucho (gaucha); gauchada
helpful person; favor
gilstupid person
guacho (guacha); guachada
ill-intentioned person; mean action
¡guarda!watch out!
guitamoney, dough
laburar; un laburo
to work; a job
una luca; una luca verde
a thousand pesos; a thousand US dollars
macana; macanudomistake; nice
un mangoone peso, a buck
milicosoldier, military serviceman
minayoung woman, girl, chick
morfar; la morfito eat; the food
ortiba, ortiva
killjoy, spoilsport
un palo; un palo verde
a million pesos; a million US dollars
pibe (piba)
boy, kid (girl)
piolasmart; handy, convenient
quilombomess, confusion
timbagambling, game of chance
truchofalse, cheesy
viejo (vieja)
dad (mom)
the police
zafarto wriggle out of something; to be enough to get by