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What does boludo mean in Spanish?

What does boludo mean in Spanish? I have the answer for you once again!

The short answer is that boludo is a colloquial term used in Argentina (and also Uruguay and Paraguay) to refer to a stupid person.

But although it might sound surprising, we don’t always use it as an insult. It can be a term of endearment, too!

Read this article and learn everything you need to know about this word.

First, a little bit about the origin of boludo in Spanish, in case you are curious about it…

The origin of boludo in Spanish

If you have made an association between boludo and ‘ball’ in English, you are closer than you think!

You just need to add an -s and you have the informal term used to refer to a man’s testicles.

In ancient times and in different cultures, it was usual to call men with big testicles ‘idiots’.

For example, in Italian there’s the word ‘coglione’ (colloquial term for ‘idiot’), which derives from ‘coglia’ (scrotum), which at the same time comes from vulgar Latin ‘cōlea’, derived from Latin ‘cōleus’ (testicle).

In Spanish, pelotudo appeared first (more about this word in the final part of this article), and boludo came afterwards.

So why did boludo really catch on in the Southern Cone?

Because people associated it with another adjective, boleado, which referred to people or animals caught or stunned by a boleadora, a type of throwing weapon used by indigenous people and gauchos.

Interesting and funny, right?

Now let’s see how to use boludo in Spanish!

What does boludo mean?

1) As an insult

Used to refer to a person who lacks intelligence, boludo as a noun translates in English as ‘idiot’, ‘moron’, ‘airhead’, etc:

El nuevo asistente es un boludo, no sabe nada.

Caí como un boludo. (= I fell for it like an idiot)

Check out this TV commercial released by an internet service provider in Argentina more than a decade ago.

The jingle qué bolú! (what an idiot!) makes fun of the men who made not very clever decisions in those different situations.

But as always, both the context and the intonation are important when the word is used in an interaction.

For example, in this video (min 00:23) you can see Lionel Messi (did you know him?) calling Gabriel Milito, a teammate and friend of his, boludo.

However, they are friends, and because of that information and Messi’s intonation and mannerism, we understand that he’s not insulting Gabriel.

In those cases, boludo translates as ‘dummy’, and there’s not really a bad intention.

But now contrast it with this video! A bus inspector repeatedly insults a TV journalist because he didn’t want to be interviewed!

Can you see the difference?

That one is a hilarious moment in the history of Argentine television, by the way! I will write more about the news TV channel Crónica and its particular reports one day… (update: I did it! You can read it here)

But now let’s continue with today’s topic!

Boludo can also refer to a really unpleasant person. In this case, boludo in English would be translated as ‘asshole’ , ‘douchebag’, etc:

El novio de Camila era un boludo, la trataba re mal.

You can also use boludo as an adjective, not only for people, but things in general:

¡Qué preguntas boludas hacés! (= What silly questions you ask!)

two friends joking around - what does boludo mean?
Mi amigo es un boludo, pero lo amo. Foto de Clem Onojeghuo en Pexels

2) As a term of endearment

As a term of endearment, boludo is used between friends and it just means ‘dude’, ‘bro’, or ‘girl’.

¿Qué hacés, boludo? ¿Todo bien? (= What’s up, bro? Everything alright?)

Boluda, no sabés lo que pasó el finde (= Girl, you can’t imagine what happened last weekend)

In this video (01:21), Juan Román Riquelme, a talented, now ex-soccer player, called Messi (a promising star in 2005) boludo when the journalist asked if they could play together: vos decí que sí, boludo, decí que sí.

If that vos decí sounds funny to you, read Vos in Spanish: what it is and how to use it!

Che, boludo: meaning

So what does che, boludo, that phrase that Argentines seem to say a lot, mean?

Since che means ‘hey’ (What does che mean in Spanish?), che, boludo is just a way to say ‘hey, dude!’.

End of the mystery!

But, as I said, the word pelotudo came first, and we still use it nowadays.

How should we use it? Let’s go there!

What does pelotudo mean? Be careful!

When we are really angry or upset, pelotudo is a much stronger word than boludo to mean that someone is an idiot or an extremely unpleasant person.

Of course, you can call someone else a pelotudo if you really consider that they are.

Check out this video! This is an iconic scene of Esperando la carroza, an Argentine comedy film from the 80s.

At 00:10 the character says ahí lo tenés al pelotudo (= there you have it, the dumbass), and he really meant to insult him.

You know that both the context and the intonation are important, but if you are just starting to get immersed into the Argentine culture, play safe and don’t call your friends that.

And that’s all for today!

Do you want to learn more Spanish?

I hope you have enjoyed this article about the meaning of boludo in Spanish!

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Thank you very much and until next time,

Kevin.

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