Some people say Spanish is one of the hardest languages to learn. It’s probably not so much about the level of difficulty (it’s a Romance language after all) but the innumerable variations that exist between every country. Spanish is one of the most fluid and elastic languages, because words can mean different things depending on context, tone, city, country, social class, and age. You might think it’s impossible to keep up, but you’ll do just fine with this handy guide on Uruguayan Slang.
This is a very common expression and you will hear it a lot since it’s used to call someone’s attention. It’s the equivalent to “che,” a word used mostly by Argentinians but also some Uruguayans. In addition to calling someone’s attention, people also say “bo” where the other person’s name would go in a sentence, kind of like some people say “mate” or “man.”
Example: “Bo! Come here!”; or “What’s up, bo?”
This means “ok” or “fine.” It’s used a lot as a response, to either a question or a statement. It is also used as a question, mainly as a way to affirm a statement, and some people have it so implemented in their vocabulary that they use it all the time out of habit.
Example: “I’ll do you a special offer” “Ta!”; or “We’re going to the market, ta?”
Also a multi-use term, this can mean “alright” or “ok” as an answer, or “come on,” “go on,” “hurry up.” It is one of the most used words in Uruguay because it expresses willingness and agreement, or hurry.
Example: “Should we eat?” “Dale!”; or “Dale, let’s go!”
It means either to joke around or bother, depending on the situation. The most common use is “to joke around,” for example when someone is playing a practical joke on another person or lying about something on purpose, as a joke. It is also used a lot as a sign of disbelief. When someone is angry at another person they also use “joder.”
Example: “The boss is cooking pancakes for pancake day!” “Really?!” “No! Te estoy jodiendo!” (No, I’m kidding!); or “I got a promotion yesterday!” “Me estas jodiendo? Congratulations!” (Are you kidding? Congratulations!”; or “No me jodas mas!” (“Stop bothering me!”); or “Jodete!” “F*** you!”
You use that term for things that are very boring. It can be used for a situation, a person, a movie, play or band, and even as a personal state.
Example: “This class is un embole,” “Ana is un embole to be around,” “This movie/play/concert was un embole!”; or “Estoy embolado/a” (“I’m bored”).
“Bondi” is a more colloquial word for “omnibus,” which means “bus”.
Example: “I’m gonna catch the bondi,” “the bondi is coming,” “Are you going by bondi?”
Depending on the context, “salado” has incredibly flexible meanings, which can be very confusing as sometimes they contradict. Salado can mean “hard” or “difficult,” “amazing” or “astonishing,” “enormous,” and literally “salty.”
Example: “This fish is so salado!”; or “That test was salada”; or “this mountain is salada”—does that mean the mountain is hard to climb, it’s amazing, or enormous? Or all of those in one? No one knows! You have to take it as you wish to interpret it.
You will hear “ito” used as a suffix for practically everything. It literally means “small” and is used a lot in an endearing way. It can even be used with the word small, to mean very small!
Example: “Oh my god look at that perrito chiquitito” (“Oh my god look at that very small doggie”); or “Can’t you stay un ratito?” (“Can’t you stay a little while?)
This expression literally means “all good,” but is better translated as “it’s cool” or “don’t stress.” It’s typically used as a reply to shrug off any bad situations or disappointments, but also as a question to literally ask if things are “all good.”
Example: “Sorry I can’t make it today.” “Todo bien”; or “Todo bien?”
These are all terms for children, although they can be used on adults, either sarcastically or endearingly. You can call someone a child in a sarcastic way, because they’re acting like one, or endearingly if you are personally close with the other person.
Example: “How are the gurises?” (“How are the children?”); “You are such a chiquilin”; or “What’s up, botija?”
This means “Great!” and it’s only used in Uruguay, since it means “barbaric” in other countries in Latin America. Uruguayans use it as a reply, or to express contentment. Don’t forget that it has the opposite effect in other countries though!
“Do you want to go running?” “Barbaro!”; or “How was lunch?” “Barbaro!”
This one is used as a prefix to mean “very.” A less common variation is “recontra.”
Example: “The food is re rica” (“The food is very delicious”)
“Chau” comes from the Italian word “ciao,” but unlike “ciao” it is only used as a goodbye. Say that to any Uruguayan and they will appreciate it.
Example: “Chau, gracias!”