Argentina was isolated from other Spanish speaking countries in its early history. This resulted in there being some vocabulary that is unique to the country (that even native Spanish speakers may not know). Read about some of the words that are unique to Argentina.
The most Argentine word in existence is che, a filler word that was maladapted from Mapuche tribe’s language, and has since become widely used across the country. It’s commonly used to call someone’s attention, express surprise or emphasize a statement and it oddly seems to resonate with the English word ‘hey!’
Although used to a lesser extent in some neighboring countries, this term has become closely associated with Argentina as a result of its use by Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, who said the word so much on his travels that others began to refer to him as ‘Che.’ In its normal application, to address someone with the word ‘che’ is gender neutral.
Other vocabulary words one may hear for the first time in Argentina include:
- ‘piscina’ for ‘pool,’
- ‘departmento’ for apartment
- ‘vereda’ for sidewalk
- ‘bondi’ or ‘colectivo’ for bus
- ‘computadora’ for computer
Something heard in everyday language is the use of ‘re’ not only in its normal use as a prefix to verbs but in place of ‘muy’ (very) as in an Argentinean-ized phrase such as,
“(Vos) hablás re bien el Castellano.”
But Juan Domingo Perón, and his political movement Perónism has had the most marked influence on Argentina politics that last 75 years.
Argentinismos include many evocative political terms that divide the Peronists from the non-Peronists.
Gorila and facho are terms that gets thrown around a lot toward those who support ex-President Macri. The terms refer to someone who is a neoliberal, with facho/a meaning ‘fascist.’
Their opposite is a ‘zurdo/a‘ — someone who embraces Perónism, a Peronista in contemporary times usually supports the policies of ex-Presidents Nestór and former President and current vice President Cristina Kirchner, which makes them a Kirchnerista.
‘Trosko’ may also be used to refer to those politically on the left, in reference to the Marxist movement of Leon Trotsky.
Lower-class leftists who show up to protests because they are paid and famously given a choripan sausage sandwich for participating are called choripaneros by the ‘gorilas,‘ as Anti-Peronists are called.
‘Méndez’ is the name most Argentines use to refer to the ‘unmentionable’ ex-President Carlos Menem, whose privatization policies are frequently blamed for the 2001 economic crisis.
Special Argentine Food Vocabulary
When it comes to dining in Argentina, you can pretty much leave your Spanish dictionary at home — it won’t help much.
Essential vocabulary words in an Argentina traveler’s repertoire include the words medialuna (sweet croissant) and empanada (savory turn-over) and every time you see the word factura (a general term for pastries that also means receipt) you’ll be tempted to wander in that direction.
Similarly the most Argentine of all sweets is dulce de leche, a sweet milk paste that is eaten on bread, incorporated into pastry recipes or used to fill alfajores, a beloved shortbread cookie usually found by the check-out in virtually any convenience store.
(Check out our guide to Argentine desserts to learn more about Argentina’s sweets).
Similarly in Argentina the asado-style barbecue is a weekly tradition. The only problem is all the cuts of meat in Argentina have different names than in other countries. Even the salsa made of onion, peppers, tomatoes, garlic, oil and vinegar or lemon juice that is known as pico de gallo in Mexico and central America is called salsa criolla in Argentina.
Argentine Words that are Different than in the Spanish Dictionary
Along with these delicacies, there are some basic food items that have different names from regular Spanish.
One is butter, it appears in Spanish dictionaries as manteca, but is called mantequilla in Argentina.
When buying fruits and vegetables make sure you ask for frutillas instead of fresas for strawberries. Avocados are called paltas instead of aguacates, as in the rest of Latin America.
Additionally when drinking some birras (beers) at a bar, make sure you ask for maní instead of cacahuate to get some more peanuts at your table.
Some of the culinary specialties unique to Argentina include puchero, a vegetables and meat stew that is perfect for a cold night. Another not-to-miss dish is locro, a thick corn and meat stwer that is often eaten on patriotic holidays.(See our post ‘Culinary Quirks and Customs of Argentina‘ to learn all about the special foods eaten at certain times of day or on special holidays.)
Among the pre-Colombian food found in the Northern regions are two dishes that are rather similar: the tamale and humita, corn-based dishes wrapped in steamed corn husks, which are discarded before eating.
The main difference between the two is that a tamale generally is filled with meat or cheese in the center, while humita typical contains just a corn meal mix.
Best Books (paperback or Kindle) to learn Argentina Spanish
* we may receive an affiliate commission if you use outbound links on our posts, at no extra cost to you
- Argentine Spanish: A Guide to Speaking Like an Argentine: The Complete Lessons — A straight forward and easy-to-follow book that is a great resource for learning specific Argentine variations of Spanish
- Che Boludo, the Gringo’s Guide to Understanding the Argentines — Cleverly titled and a great guide for English speakers looking to learn the ins and outs of River Plate Spanish
→ Read ¿Spanish, Castellano, Lunfardo? to get an overview of Argentina’s Castellano
→ Read about Lunfardo, the River Plate Region’s Dirty Slang