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The Spanish of Uruguay 101: Slang, Expressions, & More

When I was searching for a Spanish dialect to learn (about 3 years ago) I stumbled onto the Uruguayan dialect and fell in love so quickly!

From the beautiful pronunciation to the lovely people & culture of Uruguay and their Mate-drinking habits. This country grabbed my interest and it still holds a dear plce in my heart.

Are you ready to learn what makes the Uruguayan (Rioplatense) Dialect one of the greatest!? Let’s jump right into Uruguayan slang, expressions, and grammar 101!

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Summary of the Spanish of Uruguay

Amongst many others, these are the 3 most important Uruguayan words you should know:

  • Bondi - Bus

  • Bo/Vo - Bro

  • Mango - Money

On this list we have many common expressions, here are 3 of the most commonly used:

  • Es lo que hay valor - What can you do about it…

  • Al mango - As fast as possible

  • Ser bien de bien - Be a good person

Read the full article to learn all of the Uruguayan Spanish Slang, Expressions, Grammar, and Pronunciation! Enjoy!

Table Of Contents

The Spanish Slang/Vocabulary of Uruguay

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Bo/Vo - Bro 😎

This word is spelled two different ways depending on who is writing it. But in Uruguay, this is used like “Bro” in English - or just like “Che” for example in Argentina. Ex:

Ey bo ¿Me podés pasar la salsa picante?

(Hey bro, can you hand me the hot sauce?)

Bondi - Bus 🚌

This word is also one which is utilized in Argentina, and it just means “Bus”. For example:

Mamá ya voy! Hoy iré en bondi

(Mom I am leaving! Today I’m going by bus)

Championes - Shoes 👟

This word usually refers to running shoes. Whereas your dress shoes for example wouldn’t be called this, your Nikes would.

Eh bo ¿Sabés si traje mis championes en tu carro?

(Hey bro, do you know if I brought my shoes in your car?)

Barra - Group of friends/Gang 🧍‍♀️🧍🧍‍♂️

This usually is just used to say “A group of friends” but it can also mean a gang. For example:

Tú estás solo aquí? No bo vení acá, quiero presentarte a mi barra

(You’re alone here? Nah bro come over here, I want to introduce you to my buddies)

Melón - Head 🧏‍♂️

This makes sense for a lot of English speakers, I have heard people refer to the head of somebody else as a “melon”. This is decently common here in Uruguay too. For example:

Sí se cayó y se golpeó el melón

(He fell and hit his head)

Güacho - Young person 🧑

A gaucho in Uruguay is a kid or young man. For example:

Ey güacho, vení acá

(Hey kid, come here)

Pavada - Stupid thing 👎

This word is just like the standard-Spanish word “Tontería” meaning something stupid. For example:

No escuché a lo que dijo, todo fue una pavada

(I didn’t listen to what he said, it was all ridiculousness)

Mango - Money 💵

Yup, mango means money… Lol, I’ll leave it at that. Example:

No puedo salir esta noche, no tengo el mango para hacerlo

(I can’t go out tonight, I don’t have the money to do it)

Afanar - To rob ‍🔫

In Uruguay, Afanar takes the place of Robar in the day-to-day speech. For example:

Me afanaron los championes

(They robbed me of my shoes)

Ñeri - Friend 👭

This is a little bit like the word Bo, meaning bro. For example:

Hey ñeri ¿Podés pasarme la sal?

(Hey bud, can you pass me the salt)

Uruguayan Expressions/Sayings

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Mi paisito - My little country 🤏

This is an expression that's used to refer to Uruguay. The literal meaning is My little country - which is pretty fitting considering the size of Uruguay.

I put this on the list because it makes sense, and you’ll definitely hear it if you’re listening to somebody talk about Uruguay in a good way. For example:

Mi paisito es hermoso, y ha logrado mucho más de se podía esperar

(My little country is beautiful, and it has achieved much more than what could have been expected)

Es lo que hay valor - What can you do about it… 🤷‍♂️

This phrase is used to say that there is not much you can do about a certain situation and that it will have to be dealt with regardless.

For example, if you have wanted to buy a phone that costs $600, but your budget is $400, you might get a $350 phone you didn't want and say…

¡Es lo que hay valor!

(It is what it is!)

Al mango - As fast as possible 👏

This phrase is used in Argentina too! Its literal meaning is “To the mango” however, it means something more like “As fast as possible”. For example in the sentence:

No tenemos mucho tiempo ¡hoy trabajamos al mango!

(We don’t have much time, today we will work as fast as possible!)

A caballo regalado, no se le miran los dientes - A gift should be appreciated, not inspected 🙏

This phrase literally means “To a gifted horse, don’t look at the teeth” and the metaphoric meaning of the expression is that gifts shouldn’t be valued on their monetary value - In short, be grateful.

¡A la pucha! - F*** it 😏

This is a vulgar phrase, I'm just teaching you it so you know the meaning, we probably shouldn't use this if were aren't with close friends. For example:

Yo no voy a pasar al décimo grado… eej, a la pucha

(I’m not gonna pass to the 10th grade… ehh f*** it)

Eso va a pasar el día del golero - That’ll never happen 🥅

This phrase literally means “That’ll happen on the goalkeeper’s day” which is a joke because there is no “Goalkeeper’s Day” / a day to commemorate goalkeepers.

So basically that’ll never happen lol. For example:

Algún día voy a ser dueño de una gran empresa - Sí eso va a pasar el día del golero

(One day I’m going to be the owner of a big company - Yeah that’ll happen on goalkeeper’s day)

Ser bien de bien - Be a good person 👌

Somebody might tell you - “Go to this barber he’s a great guy and an excellent barber, he’s good of good”. This means he possesses tons of good qualities. For example:

Ese pibe sabe comportarse - Sí es bien de bien

(That kid knows how to behave - Yeah he’s a really good kid)

¿Sos hijo del vidriero? - Are you the son of the window salesman? 🤨

This is a funny expression used when someone is blocking the view of somebody else.

For example, if you are standing in front of the TV while an Uruguayan is trying to watch their football, you might hear this one.

¿Sos hijo del vidriero? Estoy tratando de ver esto

(Are you the son of the window salesman? I am trying to watch this)

Romperla - To do really well 👏

If somebody says “You broke it!” this expression means “You did extraordinarily well!”. For example, if you cooked dinner for your friends and it’s unbelievably delicious they might say:

Bo la rompiste, me moriría feliz después de comer esto

(Bro you killed it, I would die a happy man after eating this)

¡Divino día! - Good day! 👋

This is a very unique Uruguayan phrase, it’s easily understood by all - but other than a happy Uruguayan, I have never heard it be said.

The literal meaning is “Divine Day!” and is used for example if you’re walking on the street and you see a happy mid-aged lady, she might say “¡Divino día!” meaning “Good day to you!”.

Pronunciation of Uruguayan Spanish

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There are two main differences in the pronunciation of Spanish in Uruguay, the sound of LL/Y, and the sound that the S makes. Let’s go over both of these in detail!

The LL and Y in Uruguayan Spanish

The most important thing you should know about Uruguayan pronunciation is the way that they say the LL and Y.

Whereas the most common way to pronounce these letters is either like the Y in Yoda, or the J in Joe - Here in Uruguay, it sounds like the Sh in Shoes. For example:

Yo estaba hablando con ella cuando yo recibí una llamada… (Standard Spanish)

Sho estaba hablando con esha cuando sho recibí una shamada (Uruguayan Spanish)

(I was speaking with her when I got a call…)

The Aspirated S in Uruguayan Spanish

Commonly, the S (like in many other dialects) is aspirated. This happens when instead of pronouncing the S like we do in English, it's pronounced as a breathy H. For example:

Espero que todo mejore pronto, es que no quiero que estés enfermo (Standard Spanish)

Ehpero que todo mejore pronto, eh que no quiero que ehté enfermo (Uruguayan Spanish)

The Use Of Voseo In Uruguay

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The Voseo used in Uruguay is the same used in most of Argentina, Chile, Guatemala, Nicaragua, etc. It is the most common form of Voseo and is extremely easy to understand once you get the rules.

If you are unaware of how to use Voseo, check out this article I did on how to use Voseo where I explain everything you need to know.

But to give you a taste of how Voseo works, here are some of the differences in Conjugations that exist.

The Present Tense

Whereas conjugations for “Tú” sometimes are a bit confusing, for Vos they are usually super straightforward. For example instead of Pensar becoming Tú piensas, it becomes Vos pensás. Here is the explanation.

To conjugate for Vos, just remove the R from the verb ending, add an accent mark to the last vowel, and add an S to the end. Just like this

| Entender - R = Entende | Entende + ´ = Entendé | Entendé + S = Entendés |

Take a look at the chart below which showcases how Voseo conjugations look vs Tuteo conjugations.

A chart to help the reader understand how to use Vos in the presente tense

Not too bad right? I remember being scared at first about Voseo conjugations but the truth is, it’s easier than Tuteo conjugations, and it sounds awesome in the day-to-day speech!

Imperative Conjugations

The imperative case is used to command people, for example when I say “Run!”. These conjugations change slightly, but those changes make sense.

[Venir] Instead of saying | Ven, meaning “Come” - you say Vení

[Escuchar] Instead of saying | Escucha, meaning “Listen” - you say Escuchá |

[Mirar] Instead of saying | Mira, meaning “Look” - you say Mirá |

If you want to understand exactly how to learn to use Voseo in 5 minutes, check out this article I did on the subject where we go over where it’s spoken, how to use it, and the similarities and differences between Voseo and Tuteo.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Is Uruguayan Spanish Different?

Uruguayan Spanish is quite different and is considered a dialect of Rioplatense Spanish, the same Spanish spoken in Argentina. This version of Spanish is characterized by: its use of Vos instead of Tú, LL & Y sounding like SH, and an Italian-like accent in some cases.

Are The Uruguayans Spanish or Portuguese?

Uruguay was colonized by the Spanish, but about 44% of the population is descended from Italians.

What Language Do Uruguayans Speak?

Uruguayans speak Rioplatense Spanish but in the north of the country there are small populations that speak Portuol, a Portuguese-Spanish hybrid.

Why Is Uruguay So Special?

Uruguay is special due to their economic stability being the best in the region. Furthermore, in Uruguay one doesn't need to worry about earthquakes or other destructive natural disasters.

The most special thing about Uruguay, other than it's beautiful architecture, culture, gastronomy, and Spanish dialect, is their people. Go to the beach on any day and you'll find a nice Uruguayan to talk to and share a cup of their infamous Mate (tea) with.

Conclusion: The Spanish Spoken In Uruguay

The Spanish of Uruguay has a lot of unique features including its expressions, slang, and use of Voseo in place of the more standard Tuteo.

Whereas many of its qualities are unique, it shares a ton of similarities with the Dialect of Argentina, which along with the Dialect of Uruguay is considered by linguists as the same Rioplatense Dialect.

If you are looking to learn the Uruguayan dialect let me tell you that it is a wonderful decision, you’ll be well understood by most Spanish speakers in the world.

You'll also have a beautiful accent that is highly loved among many natives all across Latino America.

If you want to get a free lesson with a Uruguayan tutor, click here and Italki will give you a free $10 credit when you schedule your first lesson within 48 hours!

It was fun discussing this with you, see you again soon.

¡Hasta luego!

- Ben


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