Arriving in Argentina I have been faced with the most difficult shift in Spanish since Colombia. The biggest hurdle is that the pronunciation is different with yo becoming sho and LL moving from a Y sound to a SH sound. Then there’s lunfardo….
Argentine slang is so complex it actually has a name! I probably should be brushing up at a Spanish school but I am spending all my money on steak in Buenos Aires and learning Argentine Spanish on the street.
Everyday words completely change and I have been lucky to meet Michael‘s friend Chance early on. Chance is a tour guide here and I would be completely lost in the city without him. He knows everything about it, including what vocabulary I need to know right away.
Beginner Lunfardo Terms
Who thought eating could be so difficult! In each country I have noticed small differences but not as much as with lunfardo in Argentina:
Bacon was tocina but now is pancetta.
Butter was mantequilla but now is manteca.
Avocado was aguacate but now is palta.
Peach was durazno but is now melocoton although apparently it is the same in Mexico.
Hotdog is no longer salchicha but pancho.
And I learned that fiambre means deli meats and are very popular here.
Talking to and about people
Che is possibly the most famous lunfardo expression which is often used to say hey you and seems to appear mostly as a question such as hey where are you going.
Chabon is a casual way to say guy or dude.
Joya literally means a gem but people used it to describe others who have done something nice.
Gaucho also used to describe a guy who has gone out of his way to be a gentleman, in my case Chance has been un gaucho during my time in Buenos Aires.
Chamuyero (chah-moo-SHARE-o) is a smooth talker or a bullshitter. Not necessarily someone who wants to sell you something but this guy is talking you up to talk your pants off sometime in the future.
Talking about myself
Fiaca means tiredness or laziness. It’s when you feel like doing nothing and is most often used by people when they are at work the day after going out hard the night before.
A full means totally or absolutely.
Mango is a peso. You could say something costs 70 mangos and if you are broke No tengo un mango that you don’t have a single mango.
Trucha literally means trout but is used to describe a bad/poor quality fake and believe me there are tons of them here.
Cheto/a is used to describe something snobby because it is exclusive or expensive.
Good vibes and sexy nights
Buena onda is used all the time in Buenos Aires, everyone is talking about their onda. It’s how they describe people places and things, if you ask about a restaurant they may tell you the food was great but the onda was lacking.
Telo is not a slang word but one you should know. It is used to describe one of the many sex hotels you can rent by the hour. It is very common in this city as many young couples still live with their parents.
Forro is a condom.
Tapu is a slut and a very common example of the piglatin that Argentine’s use as it is normally puta.
According to Chance this is a good start, but I have a feeling this is just a fraction of what I need to know in the lunfardo lexicon.
If you’re planning a trip here check out Dan’s helpful Buenos Aires travel guide.
For more South American slang check out