The Top 10 Slang Words and Expressions You Need to Know Before Visiting Argentina

Planning a trip to Argentina? Get ready for an adventure that goes beyond stunning landscapes and tango rhythms. This popular South American destination is not just visually and musically enchanting but also a culinary haven, overflowing with affordable wine and some of the best steak in the world. It’s a rising hotspot for digital nomads and expats too, offering a perfect blend of work and play. It’s also a paradise for hikers, boasting diverse landscapes from the Andes to Patagonia.

But to truly savor the Argentine experience, you’ll want to spice up your vocabulary with some Argentine slang.

In this post, we’ve got the lowdown on the ten slang words and expressions that will make your journey smoother and more fun. From the friendly “che” to the mouthwatering “asado” and the go-to “mate,” these words aren’t just linguistic tools—they’re your ticket to unlocking the heart of Argentina. These words will turn your trip into a conversation, a taste, and a cultural immersion you won’t soon forget. Get ready to blend in, connect, and make memories that go beyond the ordinary.

The Essential Two Words for Communication in Argentina

1. Vos: The Word to Address Anyone

Picture this: you’re strolling down the lively streets of Buenos Aires when you meet someone who asks you, “¿y vos de dónde sos?” (And you, where are you from?)

The second-person pronoun most commonly used by Spanish speakers is “tú.” However, as a legacy of the colonial era, the less-known “vos” is also used. In some Latin American countries, both are used depending on the context. But iIn Argentina, you will exclusively hear “vos.”

As you can see, the word comes with a unique conjugation style, injecting a touch of flair into everyday conversation. So, instead of the usual “tú eres” (you are), you’ll find yourself listening to the snappy “vos sos.” And when it’s time to discuss work, it’s not “tú trabajas” (you work) but the rhythmically catchy “vos trabajás.”

Sure, you can stick to the familiar “tú,” when speaking, but understanding “vos” is like unlocking a secret code to the local accent and dialect. It’s not a must, but trust us—you’ll encounter it everywhere.

2. Che: The Heartfelt Expression That Bonds Locals in Argentina

When someone in Argentina calls out “che,” don’t fret—they’re just using a distinctive Argentine vocative. It’s equivalent to saying “oye” (hey) in other Hispanic countries. “Che” is deeply ingrained in Argentine identity, heard in phrases like “che, ¿una peli?” (Hey, how about watching a movie?) or the famous “che, boludo!” (Hey, idiot/buddy) This term can either be an insult or a friendly call, depending on the context and intention. Don’t take it personally!

If locals want to get someone’s attention on the street, you might hear “che, pibe” (Hey, boy!) or “che, piba” (Hey, girl). If at any time you don’t feel like doing something, just say “che, qué fiaca!” (Hey, what a lazy mood!). Or if you suddenly find yourself in one of those typical scenes in Buenos Aires, the political demonstrations, feel free to say “Che, qué quilombo!” or “Che, vamos a ver qué pasa” (Hey, let’s go to see what happens).

The origin of “che” has sparked various theories. Some suggest it stems from the Valencian interjection “ce,” used to grab attention. Another theory traces it back to the Mapuche language (from southwestern Argentina), where “mapu che” means “people of the land.” An intriguing idea links it to Guaraní language (a language native to Paraguay), where “che” means “mí.”

The Essential Four Food Words for Argentines

3. Mate: The Infusion That Speaks Argentina’s Language

Whether gathering with friends or “estando al pedo” (having nothing to do) at home, Argentinians cherish the ritual of drinking mate. This iconic South American infusion is a staple in Argentina, served in a small pot filled with yerba mate, lightly moistened with a splash of hot water for sipping (similar to herbal tea). It has a distinct bitter taste, which many consider the authentic experience. However, it’s common to customize it with sugar, honey, coffee, mint, or various other flavors.

Some restaurants include “mate” in their infusion menu, offering a delightful way to try it. Alternatively, you can purchase your own “mate” set and embark on a personal tasting adventure. For a quintessential Argentine experience, imagine a friend asking, “Che, ¿unos mates?”—an invitation to share in the magic of this energizing drink.

4. Asado: Unraveling the Grill and Thrill Argentine Experience

The Argentine love for meat is legendary, so one word you need to know is “asado.” When someone says, “che, ¿hacemos un asadito?” (Hey, should we have a barbecue?), they’re talking about a barbecue.

Alternatively, “asado” may refer to the meat cut, often ribs.

Argentinians prefer their meat well done, but feel free to ask for your preferred cooking point. And be sure to pair your delicious “asado” with a glass of “vino tinto malbec,” a red wine that, despite having a rough start in France, has become South America’s best. And don’t be surprised if your friend who has had a lot of wine says, “ya estoy en pedo” (I’m already drunk).

5. Choripán: A Must-Try Street Food in Argentina

Within Argentina’s vibrant culinary landscape, “choripán” emerges as a must-remember term. This street food classic, a grilled chorizo sandwich made with crunchy bread reminiscent of a baguette, makes a grand entrance at “asados” (barbecues). It’s also the main dish at football events, its taste elevated by the accompaniment of “chimichurri” or “salsa criolla” – the quintessential meat sauces. If you are a meat lover, “no da” (it is not a good idea) to leave the country without trying it.

The Essential Word to Talk about Money in the Argentine Spanish

6. Plata: Navigating the Argentine Vernacular of Money and Wealth

“Plata” is the main word used for “money.” in Argentina. Literally, it translates to silver, which is one of the metals used to create coins. In the colonial era, the silver taken from Bolivia was transported to Spain via Buenos Aires, along the coast of the Rio de la Plata.

However, if you want to sound even more local when talking about money, you can use “guita.” For example, “Che, boludo, no tengo guita,”Experts think it comes from the German “witta” or from the French “guiter,” which means to watch. After all, money is something you need to keep an eye on.

Another similar phrase you might hear is “No tengo un mango” (I don’t have any money). Why is the word mango used to represent money? There are two theories.

One is that it comes from “lunfardo,” which was the slang originally used by the lower-class people of Buenos Aires in the early 20th century. In that context, “marengo” was used to talk about ill-gotten money. Another theory suggests that it refers to the handle of a frying pan and not the fruit. Without the handle, you can’t use the pan, so you have nothing.

The Essential Two Words about Transportation in Argentine Slang

7. Navigating with Colectivos in Argentina

Argentinians don’t take the bus; they take “el colectivo,” which translates to “collective” in English. It is the primary mass transit system in the country, along with the train, subway, taxis, and apps like Uber, Didi, and Cabify. Ask for “la parada del colectivo” when looking for the bus station.

Buenos Aires also features the “metrobus” system with specific corridors for buses that traverse the city via major avenues in a crowded urban environment with somewhat fast-paced traffic. With ‘Cuándo SUBO’ app (When do I get on), track your bus in two easy steps—select your line or stop and check real-time arrivals. Save favorites, and set reminders. Remember, “el colectivo,” “el omnibus,” “el bus,” and even “el micro” are interchangeable terms for the same mode of transportation.

9. Subte: Navigating Buenos Aires Beneath the Surface

Buenos Aires is the only city in Argentina with a subway. While most cities refer to it as “el metro,” in Buenos Aires, it’s known as “el subte,” short for “el subterráneo” (the underground). This is a crucial term to remember, as many “porteños” (people from Buenos Aires, named after the port “el puerto”) may not recognize the word “el metro.”

To use public transport, you’ll need a “sube” card, which works on “el colectivo” (bus), “el tren” (train), and “el subte.” You can purchase and top up the card at “kioscos” or grocery stores found throughout the country. Don’t hesitate to ask locals for guidance; they’ll be happy to help.

The Key Two Clothing Words in Argentina

9. Remera: Exploring Argentine Style Through T-Shirts

Spanish vocabulary varies widely across Hispanic countries, and the same holds for clothing vocabulary. If you’re someone who enjoys collecting T-shirts as souvenirs or to showcase your travels, in Argentina, you’ll be looking for a “remera.” While “camiseta” is a recognized term in Argentina, it’s specifically used for sports T-shirts.

So, when buying a T-shirt or jersey of your favorite football team, you’d ask for “una camiseta.” For non-sport-related shirts, use “remera.”

10. Zapatillas: Walking the Streets of Argentina in Style

Argentine cities are highly walkable, and all you need is a comfy pair of “zapatillas” (sports shoes), commonly referred to as “zapas.” This is true even in a city as large as Buenos Aires, which boasts an extensive public transportation system. Argentinians are generally informal, so you can confidently attend a fancy party well-dressed with your trusty “zapas.”

However, if a hot day catches you in this country, a pair of “ojotas” (flip flops) will come in handy, especially if you’re heading to “la pileta,” the word used to describe a pool. Keep in mind that Porteños pronounce the “ll” as “sh,” a distinct feature known as “yeísmo rehilado.” So, don’t be surprised if you hear “zapatisha” instead of “zapatilla” or “sho” instead of “yo.” It’s a unique pronunciation found in the Rio de la Plata region.


While countless words encapsulate Argentine culture, we’ve carefully selected these ten words and phrases as essential building blocks for an immersive experience. From the heartfelt “che” to the sizzling “asado,” each term is a doorway into the vibrant soul of Argentina. So, before you embark on your adventure, embrace these linguistic companions and discover the extraordinary in the everyday. ¡Hasta luego! (Until next time!)

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