If you’re planning a trip down to the magical land of breathtaking natural wonders where rivers of Malbec flow and passion seizes the heart, there are a few things to know before touchdown.
Argentina is both culturally and linguistically distinct from its Latin American neighbors, and it is important to take this into account.
When it comes to the Argentine dialect of Spanish, there are a few words and phrases unique to the country and region that are absolutely essential to know if you want to surpass the status of “tourist” and advance to “traveler.”
The word I would like to stress here in this post is without a doubt the most important word in the Argentine vernacular, and only a fool would forsake its use.
This word is so important that it nearly defines the sociolinguistic identity of the pueblo argentino, or the Argentine people.
The Single Most Important Word in Argentine Spanish
How could an entire blog post be dedicated to one single word you ask?
This word is powerful, and as the power of words endures the test of time, you will be grateful to have incorporated this gem into your lexicon.
It’s so important that an outsider who can master its proper usage and understand its linguistic significance will elicit nods of flabbergasted respect and reverence from the locals.
Now that everybody is excited and the energy is high, let’s get down to brass tacks.
The word is: boludo/a.
Now let’s say it all together, three syllables: bo-LU-do.
It literally means “person who has large balls” (and no, that’s not referring to balls used to play sports!), but stay with me.
This is important.
As arguably the most important word when considering the Argentine dialect of Spanish, boludo/a is loaded with humorous versatility, and the proper usage of this word goes a long way.
The word used in the proper context will do wonders, but it could also land you on thin ice.
So pay attention.
The first rule for using boludo/a is to only use it around individuals in your own age group, or around those with whom you have established a kind of bantering familiarity.
This is not a word you want to employ around your Argentine exchange-student-friend from high school’s grandmother, nor at the office.
7 Usages of the Argentine Spanish Word “Boludo”
Boludo/a typically takes three forms, which we will get to in due time.
1. Boludo with friends
The simplest and most common usage of the word boludo/a may be likened to the English usage of the word “man” or “dude.”
This usage only applies between friends, and could be misconstrued as an insult if the person you are talking is not yet comfortable in your presence.
¿Como estás, boludo/a? (What’s up man?/What’s going on?)
Boludo/a, ¿qué hacés esta noche? (Hey man! What are you doing tonight?)
2. Boludo as an insult
Boludo/a is also used to insult another person and expresses the same linguistic disdain as the English words “a**hole,” and “dumba**.”
My personal translation and arguably the most accurate in many cases, “putz” (a hilarious American English word derived from Yiddish used to denote a stupid, ignorant or clumsy person. Also used as an intransitive verb: “to putz around” denoting the worthless and unproductive activities of said stupid, ignorant or clumsy individual).
¿Qué te pasa, boludo/a? (What’s your problem man?)
In this case the word “man” carries more linguistic weight and is more like saying “a**hole.”
¡Boludo/a, olvidaste las entradas! (You dumba**/putz, you forgot the tickets!)
In this case, if the conversation is between two friends it carries less weight than calling someone a “dumba**,” and depending on inflection, situation and intensity of hand gestures, may be translated as “putz” or “fool.”
3. Boludo for talking to yourself
Another and rather common usage is the self-directed usage of the word.
¡Che, perdí las llaves! ¡Qué boludo/a! (Man, I lost the keys. What an idiot/putz!)
This usage comes naturally after a while, especially if you are accustomed to losing stuff and are constantly the source of setbacks and logistical issues among your Argentine peers.
4. Boludo when you’re really irritated with others
This usage is the same as the self-directed usage, though it is directed at a third-party.
Use it to describe the spiteful asador (the guy who cooks meat on the grill) who sent you out the worst piece of asado (BBQ); or in the following scenario—that maniac Argentine driver who almost crashed into you on the street.
¿Viste esta boluda? ¡Casi me chocó! (Did you see that a**hole/dumba**/putz? She almost crashed into me!)
Mirá este boludo, no sabe manejar. (Look at this a**hole/putz, he doesn’t know how to drive.)
Now moving on to my personal favorite use of boludo/a.
5. Boludo as a verb
In English we use verbs such as “to mess around,” “to horse around” or again, my favorite, “to putz around” to classify such loathsome behavior as watching “Seinfeld” and eating Doritos in your underwear when you should be doing work.
In Argentine Spanish, the verbal form of the word boludo/a is boludear, and it’s used to express pretty much the exact same thing as the English “to putz around.”
¿Qué hacés, boludo? (What are you doing man?)
Nada, estoy boludeando. (Nothing, just messing/putzing around.)
Now, as a verb, boludear functions in the simple present as follows:
6. Boludo as a more wicked verb
Another usage of the verb boludear may be likened to the English verb “to mess with,” or to in some cases “to lie” or “to cheat” depending on the context.
No me boludees. / Dejá de boludearme. (Don’t mess with me.)
Note: Depending on the context, the speaker could also be saying “You have got to be kidding me.”
No lo compré, estaba boludeándome. (I didn’t buy it, he was messing with me.)
Or in reality, “He was trying to screw me over.”
7. Boludo as nonsense
Furthermore, boludo/a can also be used to refer to any activity that is worthless, time-consuming or ridiculous in nature with the noun boludez.
For example, watching “Anchorman 2” could possibly elicit the following commentary:
Che, qué boludez. (Man, what a crappy movie.)
(Che is Argentine for saying “man” or as a way to grab attention, by the way.)
Although the speaker did not actually say that the “movie” was “crappy,” the word boludez infers that the movie is “crappy” or not worth the time, in the context of two friends watching “Anchorman 2” in their underwear covered in Doritos.
Son boludos/as, ¿no? (They are putzes, right?)
You can also consider boludez a synonym of tonterías (nonsense/foolishness), which becomes boludeces in the plural form.
¡Dejen de hablar boludeces! (Stop talking nonsense!)
Isn’t it a fun word? Let’s take a break here from the complexities of boludo and point out that there are other words that have many meanings and nuances, and you can discover them with FluentU.
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FluentU has a wide variety of videos—topics like soccer, TV shows, business, movies and even magical realism, as you can see here:
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Summary of Boludo Uses
The three forms of the word boludo/a we went over are outlined below:
In the form of a noun, boludo/a functions the same way as the English “man” or “dude,” or conversely as an insult similar to “idiot,” “putz” or dumba**.”
As a verb, boludear is used to describe the same as the English “to putz around,” and describes worthless or unproductive activities.
It is used to express the same as the English “to mess with” or “to cheat.”
In the boludez form, the word refers to any activity or thing that is simple or worthless.
It is also used to describe something that is nonsensical.
Argentine Spanish Freebie: Pelotudo/a
In certain cases, boludo/a can be effectively substituted with another magic and humorous Argentine word that—although less utilized—still deserves some credit.
The word is pelotudo/a which is used to refer to somebody who is slow, ignorant and stupid: like a putz.
So consider pelotudo/a a bonus word you can add to your Argentine vocabulary, along with its forms:
As you can see, pelotudo/a takes the same forms as the word boludo/a and operates similarly.
In certain usages of boludo/a, pelotudo/a (though interchangeable in a grammatical sense) could very well express something entirely different from what you’d hoped to say.
This could land you in trouble if used the wrong way, so check out these uses:
The rule to remember is that the word pelotudo/a always carries a negative connotation.
Pelotudo/a cannot be used in the same sense as a way to refer to your buddy/mate/pal, as is common with boludo/a.
Qué pelotudo/a sos. (You’re such an idiot.)
[Note: sos is Argentine for "are.”]
Mirá este boludo/a, está siempre pelotudeando. (Look at this idiot, he’s always putzing around.)
Dejá de decir pelotudeces, boludo/a. (Stop talking nonsense, you putz.)
Well, there you have it.
The most common usages of the most important word in the Argentine Spanish dialect, boludo/a, plus its always negative cousin, pelotudo/a.
I certainly hope those of you reading this took good notes, because this gem of a word could gain you acceptance and nods of astonished respect—or conversely, slapped or thrown out!
So remember, if you’re in doubt about the usage of a word, it’s important to ask others.
Ask local friends, or consult the all mighty internet.
At the end of the day people will respect you more for learning the little nuances of their language and culture.
Words are powerful. Use them, but use them correctly.
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