Expressions you’ll only hear in Uruguay

Argentinian and Uruguayan Spanish accents sound the same to most English-speakers. But when hear these expressions, you KNOW you're in Uruguay :)
By Karen A Higgs
uruguay expressions
Last updated on March 14, 2017
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…you hear these seven expressions like ALL THE TIME.

People from Montevideo and Buenos Aires have a similar accent when they speak Spanish*. As an English-speaker you can be forgiven for thinking that they sound exactly the same.

But some words and expressions are a dead give-away that the person you are speaking to is a Uruguayan.

Seven expressions to listen out for and know – you’re in Uruguay now.

Ta

Used in the same myriad ways an English-speaker uses “OK”. It is a shortened form of the word “está” meaning “it is”. Uruguayans pepper it throughout their speech.

Bo

Roughly translates as man or mate and is used similarly. It is the shortened form of “botija” which is a slang word for kid or kiddo. Uruguayans also use “che”, but Argentinians never use “bo”. Here you may hear the double-barrelled “che, bo!”, like hey, man!

Todo bien

Roughly translates as “it’s cool” or “don’t stress”. Typically used with bo and che! As in “Che, bo, todo bien!” It’s an ultra-flexible phrase Uruguayans use to shrug off an annoying or depressing situation like water rolling off a duck’s back. Its ubiquity illustrates their unruffled demeanour.

¡Vamo’ arriba!

Plays a similar role to “todo bien” and the two are often used consecutively. Someone did something to piss you off but you are going to let it go? Uruguayans say: Todo bien bo, vamo’ arriba. Can also be used to give someone encouragement.

¡Divino día!

I was in Buenos Aires recently and declared “¡Divino día!” or “Lovely day!” The Uruguayan with me gasped, you can tell you’ve been living in Montevideo for years, no one in Buenos Aires would ever use that expression!

Salado

A multi-use slang word meaning difficult, amazing, enormous, depending on the context. It’s literal meaning is salty.

¡FAAA!

This one just cracks me up. Basically these exclamations are used to express disbelief or astonishment. Kind of like No way! A variation is ¡PAAA!

* They pronounce the double “ll” and “y” like zzhh, so “uruguayo” (Uruguayan) is pronounced oo-roo-GW-EYE-zzhoh, not oo-roo-GW-EYE-yo as it would be in most of Latin America. (Btw, to the rest of Latin America, this accent sounds super sexy – perhaps a reason to learn Spanish in Uruguay?? 🙂 )

Extracted from: The Guru’Guay Guide to Montevideo

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16 Responses

  1. Muy linda reseña de los modismos coloquiales de Uruguay. Faltan un montón, sobre todo los que se dicen en el resto de los departamentos, no solo de Montevideo o Canelones. Te paso otros muy comunes de escuchar: ¡cuchame! (Escúchame)¿tamos?(¿Estamos de acuerdo?), ¡Ta’loco!(Exclamación de asombro), ¡tatequieto!(¡Quédate quieto!), ¡tabien!(Está bien). Saludos desde Punta del Este

  2. Sometimes, when I offer something like a coffee or greens from the garden, I get ‘bueno’ as an answer. In the beginning I tought that this sounds quite unpolite until I discovered that it was meant as ‘with pleasure’ 🙂

  3. One uruguayismo that took me by surprise when I lived there for about 1.5 years was “No” in response to “Gracias” instead of “No hay de que” or similar “textbook” responses. The friendliness of the speaker completely belied the apparent brusqueness of the response.

  4. Another Uruguayan expression for your list. When you ask someone for directions and they don´t know: “Pah, me mataste”, (you killed me!) meaning: I have no idea.

  5. Muchas gracias por tu comentarios a nuestros dichos y dialectos . Juro sacaste una carcajada con tu explicación …besos apretados de una Uruguaya y que tengas un bonito día .

  6. Hi Karen! Nice and interesting web site, watch out that Uruguayan flag is the other way round than the one shown in the picture..

    cheers

  7. Hi, Karen. I was in Montevideo last year and picked up some of the uniquely Uruguayan terms from your book. I was at the bus station in Concordia, Argentina, when the woman sitting next to me asked if I minded her smoking. I said “Ta” and she got quite excited thinking she’d met a fellow Uruguayan! The book was very helpful in other ways, too!

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