There are certain spanish words that have a different meaning in Argentina than they do in any other spanish-speaking country, so no dictionary or translation app will be of any help to understand argentine slang. That’s why we start building here our Brief Dictionary of Argentine Words (BDAW), a must-have compendium of words, with their definitions and sounds, ideal for any traveler who plans to visit the lands of Tango.
In this first installment we start with the words beginning with the letter A: from Agitar to Arrugar. For each word we explain its meaning and show a couple of examples. Below each example there's an audio clip you can click to hear how it is spoken in argentino, along with its meaning in english.
UPDATE - I've been told that many of these words are also common in Mexico, so if you change your route and turn to the land of tequila, this dictionary could also come in handy.
The normal translation of agitar is shake. But in Argentina it is commonly related to cheering or bullying activities, according to this two definitions:
Agitar: Cheer with enthusiasm.
Example: Vamos muchachos, no paren de agitar.
Meaning: Come on guys, don’t stop cheering.
Agitar: Incite, generate a climate of tension, bother, threaten.
Example: Le pegaron por que estuvo agitando desde que llegó.
Meaning: They hit him because he was bothering since he arrived.
Alto / alta (adjective)
The normal translation of alto (masculine) or alta (feminine) is tall. But this adjective is often used to express admiration for something, or to say that something is very, very big or really, really important.
Example 1: ¡Alta fiesta!
Meaning: What a party!
Example 2: Este tipo es alto boludo.
Meaning: This guy is very, very stupid.
Example 3: Alto quilombo se armó en la oficina.
Meaning: Such a big mess happened in the office.
When you hear an argentine guy you don’t know calling you “amigo”, you might think he is regarding you as a friend. Well... that is not always true. It is most often used as a call for attention, from someone who wants to ask for something (money, a cigarette, help of some kind, etc.).
Example 1: Eh, amigo, ¿tenés un cigarro?
Meaning: Hey, pal, can you give me a cigarette?
Example 2: Amigo, ¿tenés dos pesos pa la birra?
Meaning: Pal, do you have two bucks for a beer?
The term "aparato" is often used in a pejorative way to point at someone acting in a funny or ridiculous way, either by the way he or she dresses or acts. If you don’t wanna be called “aparato”, just try not to stand out by dressing awkardly or perhaps talking loud and in a funny way.
Example: Este tipo es un aparato, mirá cómo se viste.
Meaning: This guy is a piece of work, look how he dresses.
To chicken out, to flinch, to quail.
Example: Nunca había subido a una moto antes, pero era muy tarde para arrugar.
Meaning: I had never got on a motorcycle before, but it was too late to chicken out.
If you find any particular argentine words you don't know the meaning, please let us know by writing in the comments section below or sending us a mensaje by filling the fields at the right, and we will explain it as soon as we can.