Uruguayan Spanish conserves just a few remnants of the language of the country’s original inhabitants, Guaraní. A lot of the place names and words for native animals are of Guaraní origin, and here are a few more terms that have made their way into common speech (but you’re unlikely to hear outside of this area).

el gurí / la gurisa / los gurises = guy / girl / guys (both sexes)

el guacho / la guacha = boy / girl (in some contexts it also suggests a marginalised youth or orphan)

Lunfardo is the classic River Plate slang, particularly associated with tango. A lot of lunfardo has fallen out of use and is preserved only in tango lyrics; however here are a few terms that have survived and are used fairly commonly today.

un pucho = a cigarette butt

un pibe / una piba = a guy / girl

un palo = $1000

una luca = $1000

una luca verde = $1000 U.S. dollars

una gamba = $100

un mango = $1

Here’s a common slang word: pintar. Obviously it literally means to paint, but in colloquial speech it has several different uses.

Firstly, it can mean to happen or materialise, when referring to an event or opportunity:

Iba a ir a la fiesta pero al final no pintó. = I was going to go to the party but in the end it didn’t happen.

Ir a la playa en invierno no pinta. = Going to the beach in winter isn’t going to happen.

Secondly, it can take a personal indirect object:

Querés ir al cine? -No, no me pinta. = Want to go to the cinema? – No, I don’t feel like it / It doesn’t appeal to me.

Che, vamos al centro para ver el fútbol en la pantalla gigante – ¿te pinta? = Hey, we’re going to the centre to watch the football on the big screen – fancy it?

Finally, it can mean “appearance”: if some food or drink looks really good you say it has buena pinta:

¡Tiene buena pinta esa cerveza fría! = That cold beer looks real good!

Ese rubio tiene pinta de alemán. = That blond guy looks German.

And one more thing… Those of you who are battling to be able to roll your Rs won’t thank me, but it’s very common here to replace the word muy with re, which I think is short for realmente. So you’ll get phrases like, Es re linda tu hermana = Your sister’s really pretty.

 

Any questions? If you’re not sure about the content of today’s class or have something to add, leave us a comment below and we’ll get back to you. Your questions and comments will help other students too. Our Spanish immersion programs at La Herradura in Uruguay and Spain teach you an international form of Spanish, but the teachers are all native speakers and will offer guidance on local expressions and words.

Coming up next… Class 30: Conversation

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