picture-of-uruguayan-flags-in-the-sand-on-a-beach

25 Uruguay Slang Words and Expressions for Visitors to This Latin American Paradise (With Audio)

Uruguay.

Just the name brings a Latin American paradise to mind, doesn’t it?

It’s socially appealing (nightlife, anyone?) and visually stunning (oh, those beaches!)—and if that isn’t enough, the cuisine is incredible!

It’s no surprise, then, that Uruguay is a heaven for expats and magnet for travelers. It is, quite honestly, South America’s quiet gem.

Whatever your reason for getting that Uruguay stamp in your passport, be sure to talk like a local with these 25 must-have Uruguayan Spanish words and popular local expressions!

Contents

1. Salado — Amazing, Awful (Lit. Salty)

The literal translation of this expression might be all about salt, but depending on the context, this expression can mean” tough,” “great,” or even “awful”! Definitely not the way an English-speaker might use “salty” as an expression!

The word is used to emphasize an attribute, either because it is extremely positive or extremely negative. Context will be key in order to understand the way this word is being used.

¡Tu hermano es un salado!; nos divertimos muchísimo con él. — Your brother is amazing! We had a lot of fun with him.

¡La película estuvo salada! No me gustó nada. — The movie was awful! I didn’t like it at all.

2. Bárbaro — Great (Lit. barbaric)

Barbarians don’t generally get good reputations, but saying ¡Bárbaro! in Uruguay means you’re in agreement with or in awe of something.

It’s the equivalent to “Great!” and it’s mostly used in Uruguay, though you’ll also hear it in parts of Latin America close to the country like certain provinces of Argentina.

¿Quieres ir a cenar a ese nuevo restaurante? — Do you want to go eat dinner at that new restaurant?

¡Sí, bárbaro! — Yes, great!

3. Ta — Yes, Okay

Ta comes from está , which means “it is.”

In this case, ta equals the American expression “okay.”

It’s just a general, all-purpose acknowledgement.

Traeme un café, por favor. — Bring me a coffee, please.

Ta. — Okay.

4. Nabo  — Turnip

Nabo is a fun word to use as a mild insult that implies stupidity. In other words, you’re saying someone has the brains of a turnip (or lack thereof!).

It’s very common and is meant as a light-hearted pseudo-insult, not a mean or offensive one. Even young children use this word in jest!

¿No ves que estás parado en un charco? ¡Nabo! — Don’t you see you’re standing in a puddle? Turnip!

5. ¡Bo!  — Hey!

There’s no absolute literal translation for this common expression. It’s similar to saying “Hey!” in English but only to the extent that it’s intended to get someone’s attention.

Imagine you’re in a crowded bar and want to get a cerveza  (beer). You’ve been waiting for 10 minutes but the bartender hasn’t seen you.

What to do?

Hold up your cash, raise your voice a bit and call, ¡Eh, bo!

This word actually comes from vos (you), which makes sense when you think about it: In this case, ¡Eh, bo! can be seen as a close equivalent to “Hey, you!”

6. Gurí  — Child

Gurí is a Uruguayan slang term for “child” that comes from the Guaraní language, which is spoken by native Paraguayans.

When it’s used in reference to an actual youngster, it’s fine. But when gurí refers to an adult, it’s an insult. And a pretty insulting one, at that! It basically means that the adult is acting childish.

And none of us want to hear we’re acting childish, do we? So while this one seems bland, it actually packs quite a wallop.

Vi a unos gurises jugando. — I saw some children playing.

No seas gurí; actúa como adulto. — Don’t be a baby, act like an adult.

7. Botija — Child, Boy, Girl

Just like gurí, botija is used for youngsters and children, so make sure not to use it to refer to adults!

However, unlike our previous word, which changes depending on the child’s gender (gurí for a boy, gurisa for a girl), botija stays the same for both boys and girls—just don’t forget to add an extra -s (botijas) if you’re talking about more than one kid.

Un botija está extraviado en el parque. — A kid is lost in the park.

8. Bondi  — Bus

In Uruguay, you won’t be waiting for el autobús  (the bus). Instead, you’ll be checking your watch and staring into traffic waiting for el bondi—the slang term for bus.

So if you’re looking for directions to the nearest bus stop, remember that very few locals actually say el autobús. Let them know you’re looking for el bondi and you’ll fit right in!

¿Dónde se para el bondi? — Where does the bus stop?

9. Chau  — Goodbye

Chau is derived from the Italian word ciao, meaning “goodbye.”

The fact that chau is used so widely in Uruguay shows that there was a significant effect on the country by Italian immigrants. Some even go so far as to say Italians helped found Uruguay.

There’s a surprising amount of culture and history behind this small word!

Me voy a trabajar. ¡Chau! — I’m going to work. Goodbye!

10. Fachero / Fachera — Good-looking/Stylish

Fachero/fachera is often used in Uruguay to describe someone as “good-looking.” It can also mean “stylish” in terms of fashion.

Mi amiga es muy fachera. Siempre sigue las últimas tendencias de moda. — My friend is very stylish. She always follows the latest fashion trends.

11. Boludo / Boluda — Idiot/Stupid

Like in Argentinian Spanish, boludo/boluda is most commonly used in Uruguayan slang to mean “idiot” or “stupid.”

¡Qué boludo! Anoche salió y dejó su celular en el auto. — What an idiot! Last night he went out and left his cell phone in the car.

12. Turro / Turra — Idiot/Stupid

Another very Uruguayan way to suggest a person isn’t the sharpest tool in the box is turro, which literally translates to “stupid” or even “jerk.” Use this word wisely to avoid running into trouble!

¡Tomás es un turro mentiroso! — Tomás is a lying jerk!

13. Guita  — Money

In Uruguay, guita is a slang term for “money.”

No tengo guita. ¿Me prestas cincuenta pesos? — I haven’t got any money. Can you lend me fifty pesos?

14. Mango  — Money

In Uruguay and across the Spanish-speaking world, there are countless slang terms used for money, as is the case in English. 

As well as the term guitamango is also commonly used to refer to the currency in Uruguay.

Mi hermano va a ahorrar unos mangos para comprar un auto. — My brother is going to save some money to buy a car.

15. Laburar — To work

If you’re looking for some guita, you’ll need to learn this verb. Like Argentina, Uruguay also uses laburar in place of trabajar  (to work).

Mañana tengo que laburar. — Tomorrow I have work.

16. Pibe / Piba  — Boy/Girl

In Uruguay, a young boy is commonly known as a pibe and a young girl is referred to as a piba.

In other Spanish-speaking countries around the world, the most common equivalents to these terms would be chico and chica .

¿Ese pibe va a tu escuela? — Does that boy go to your school?

17. Cheto / Cheta  — Posh

Cheto/cheta is a slang word that is used in Uruguay to say “posh.” It’s important to be careful with this word as it’s often used negatively. 

Ese cheto no dejó propina. — That posh guy didn’t leave a tip.

18. Cana  — Police/Prison

Cana is a slang term you should remember if you go to Uruguay, as it has two main meanings. 

The first meaning is “police,” as in both the force as a whole as well as an individual police officer, and the second meaning it can have is “prison.”

The standard Spanish equivalents of cana are policía  (police) and cárcel  (prison).

¡Bo, no te preocupes! ¡La cana ya está en camino! — Hey, don’t worry! The police are already on their way.

19. Chorro — Thief/Robber

Chorro is a Uruguayan slang term for “thief,” which in standard Spanish is called a ladrón . If you ever come across one of these when you’re in Uruguay, you’ll want to make sure you call the cana.

El chorro se fue corriendo con el bolso de la mujer. — The thief ran off with the lady’s purse.

20. Punga — Thief/Pickpocket

This one is pretty similar to chorro, except that punga is more commonly used for pickpockets or people who commit non-violent theft.

¡Creo que un punga me robó el celular! — I think a pickpocket took my cell phone!

21. Tachero / Tachera  — Taxi driver

In Uruguay, a colloquial term used to say taxista  (taxi driver) is tachero/tachera

Mi padre es tachero desde hace treinta años. — My father has been a taxi driver for thirty years.

22. Morfar — To eat

In Uruguayan slang, morfar is a verb used to say “to eat.” The standard equivalent of this verb would be comer .

 ¿Qué vas a morfar? Vamos a pedir unas empanadas. — What are you going to eat? We’re going to order some empanadas.

23. Morfi / Morfe — Food

As you may notice, both morfi and morfe come from the Uruguayan slang verb morfar (to eat) and are used to refer to food.

Juan me dijo que el morfi está listo. —  Juan told me that the food is ready.

24. Yeta  — Bad luck

Yeta is used to say “bad luck” in Uruguay and some other Spanish-speaking countries like Argentina and Chile.

¡Qué yeta que tengo! — What bad luck I have! 

25. Al toque  — Straight away

Al toque is used in Uruguayan Spanish as slang for “straight away.” This is used in the same way as inmediatamente  (immediately).

La embajada me pidió que le enviara unos documentos para la visa y lo hice al toque. — The embassy asked me to send them some documents for the visa and I did it straight away.

Uruguayan Spanish: What You’ll Hear in Uruguay

Although Spanish is the official language of the country, Español uruguayo  (Uruguayan Spanish) is slightly different from what most of us learn through mainstream language study.

Uruguayan Spanish is also referred to as Rioplatense Spanish, which is a dialect spoken near the gorgeous Río de la Plata Basin in Argentina and Uruguay.

There are two distinguishing features of Uruguayan Spanish you’ll want to keep in mind if you’re studying the local lingo or planning to visit:

  • Uruguayans use the voseo form of verb conjugation rather than the tuteo form. This simply means that vos (you) takes the place of the second person pronoun—instead of  (you). A few other countries use this conjugation variance, most notably Argentina.
  • Y and ll are both pronounced harder in comparison to other Spanish-speaking countries, giving them both a distinct “sh” sound. So when you hear them spoken, don’t be surprised! Your ear will become accustomed to the difference.

Of course, there are a few more regional variations in Uruguayan Spanish, most notably some common vocabulary you might not hear anywhere else.

A useful way to learn more Uruguayan Spanish is by consuming media from Uruguay. For example, on FluentU, you can find short clips relating to Uruguay and Uruguayan Spanish.

FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

You can try FluentU for free for 2 weeks. Check out the website or download the iOS app or Android app.

P.S. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month)

  FluentU Ad

If you’d like to learn more Spanish slang, check out these Spanish slang posts!

 

There are so many reasons for visiting Uruguay it honestly should be on most people’s travel wish-list!

Did you know Uruguay is the birthplace of the tango? ¡Es la verdad!  (It’s the truth!) Maybe you can plan a visit to take tango lessons.

Or perhaps you’re just jonesing to see the idyllic vineyards and taste some world-class wine?

Whatever your reason for heading to enchanting Uruguay, learning how to speak Spanish like a local will be a breeze with these 25 must-have Uruguayan Spanish words!

¡Buena suerte! (Good luck!)

And One More Thing…

If you've made it this far that means you probably enjoy learning Spanish with engaging material and will then love FluentU.

Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the Spanish language and culture over time. You’ll learn Spanish as it’s actually spoken by real people.

FluentU has a wide variety of videos, as you can see here:

learn-spanish-with-videos

FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts. You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used. If you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.

learn-spanish-with-interactive-subtitled-videos

Review a complete interactive transcript under the Dialogue tab, and find words and phrases listed under Vocab.

learn-spanish-with-songs

Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s robust learning engine. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.

learn-spanish-with-music-videos

The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It'll even remind you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning with the same video.

Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

Enter your e-mail address to get your free PDF!

We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe

Close