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The Ultimate Latin American Spanish Vocabulary List: 50+ Phrases for Getting Around

If you’re going on one of those classic tours of Latin America, you need the linguistic tools to make friends fast, flirt and have fun.

The good news: you don’t need to be completely fluent in Spanish.

In this post, you’ll get the ultimate Latin American Spanish vocabulary list so you can chat with locals, get around the country and fit in.

Plus, some grammatical differences with European Spanish.

Contents

Basic Latin American Spanish Vocabulary Words

Spanish Words from Argentina

  • Vos — Replaces as the informal “you” in Argentina, Uruguay, parts of Bolivia and Paraguay (It’s also used in places like Chile but is considered substandard there)
  • Con vos — With you (used instead of contigo)
  • Para vos — For you (used instead of para ti)
  • Pronunciation of Y and LL — Argentinians move their tongue up a bit and voice these letters so that they sound like the middle consonant in “pleasure”
  • Che — Dude (it can also be used for emphasis)
  • Macana — Nonsense, lies
  • Chango — Young guy

It’s important to note that vos has its own conjugations. Here’s an in-depth guide to them:

Check out these posts to learn more Argentinian Spanish:

Spanish Words from Bolivia

Learn more Bolivian Spanish here:

Spanish Words from the Caribbean

  • Mixing of R and L — Feel free to invert these consonants, as many Caribbeans do. Some say, for example, puelta instead of puerta (door).
  • Disappearing S’s — As in many other parts (particularly coastal parts) of Latin America, the S’s for most speakers are replaced by aspirated H’s.
  • Una fría — Beer (informal) (literally it means “a cold one”)
  • Tumba eso — Forget about it / Let the subject drop
  • Te pasaste de maquillaje — You’ve gone too far (literally, “you’ve overused your makeup”)
  • ¿Qué bolá? — What’s up?
  • Acere — Friendly
  • Jamar — To eat

Learn some more Caribbean Spanish vocabulary with these guides:

Spanish Words from Central America

  • Drop your S’s, and sometimes D’s — At the end of words, these consonants usually disappear in Central American pronunciation. The S’s can become just a puff of air, pronounced like H’s.
  • Chero — Friend
  • Chepe — Nickname for the city of San José
  • ¡Pura vida! — Cheers!, Hello!, Doing great! (Costa Rican)
  • Mae — Dude, Man (it’s now sometimes used for women too)
  • Jalar — To go (informal)
  • Ir jalando — To get going
  • ¡Upe! — What you shout outside someone’s gate to get their attention if they don’t have a doorbell

Here are more guides to Central American Spanish:

Spanish Words from Chile

  • ¿Qué onda? — How are you?
  • ¿Qué onda, microonda? — A very cheesy and childish version that literally means: “What wave, microwave?”
  • Huevón — Guy / Dude (some Chileans insert it into most of their sentences as a meaningless interjection)
  • The –ái and –í endings — In the informal second-person forms of the verbs you’ll often hear (but not see written, except possibly in text messages and the like) different endings than what you were taught in school

Verbs ending in –ar will often get –ái endings, as in bailar (to dance) → Bailái  (you dance).

Verbs ending in -er and -ir will get an –í ending, as with poder (to be able to) → Podí  (you can).

Notice how, even though it’s informal speech, it follows a standard rule of Spanish. Since these endings take the stress on the last syllable, the spelling changes that normally “corrupt” certain stressed vowels don’t happen here (it’s not puedí).

Check out this guide to learn more Chilean Spanish:

Spanish Words from Colombia

Learn more Colombian Spanish here:

Spanish Words from Ecuador

Explore more words and phrases from Ecuador with these posts:

Spanish Words from Mexico

You can find tons more Mexican Spanish vocabulary in this guide:

Spanish Words from Peru

  • Pe — Well, then (shortened version of “pues“)
  • Pitrimitri — Awesome
  • Pata — Friend, guy

Master more Peruvian slang words here:

Spanish Words from Uruguay

  • Ta — Yes, OK (shortened version of “está“)
  • Adobado — Drunk

Check out this post for more Uruguayan phrases:

Spanish Words from Venezuela

Learn how to sound even more Venezuelan when speaking Spanish with this guide:

 

Of course, there are so many more fun and ultra-local words and phrases (not to mention languages!) to discover in Latin America. Use an immersive program like FluentU to help you find even more in context through Spanish videos.

This post is meant to get your foot in the door and spark some interesting conversations with your new panas/compas/parces/cheros/aceres

Go meet them!

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