¿Qué onda?

If you are going to be in Argentina for any length of time, “onda” is a word that you will need to know ¿qué onda? in order to know what’s going on.

It it is a multipurpose word. If we translate it literally, it means waves or vibrations, but, depending on its context, the meaning changes. For example, you meet a special someone, you hang out a few times, maybe you even steal a few kisses, and then, you do the typical “wait three to four days to call him or her” thing that most game players play. Not 24 hours into your hard-to-get strategy you get a text that reads like this:

“Hace 2 días que no me llamás. ¿Qué onda?  Game over. Someone is pissed and they want answers. Now.

But, take scenario number 2 for example:

You meet a guy in the hostel you are staying at in Buenos Aires. He mentions he just got in after spending the last month in Rosario learning Spanish and you want to know more so you say, ¿Qué onda Rosario, es una linda ciudad? What about Rosario, is it a pretty city?

So, let’s review. You can use ¿Qué onda?:

  1. When you are bit pissed and you want to ask someone what’s up.
  2. When you want to ask about a person, place or situation.

But that is not all folks, la onda, by itself, means cool or hip. A person, place, or thing can have la onda, for example, Spanish in Rosario tiene toda la onda. And buena onda pretty much means good vibes and can be used for just about any cool, awesome, amazing, or friendly, person, place or thing.

Let’s say your friend tells you they got a big raise at work, you can reply “¡Qué buena onda!” Or maybe you met someone who’s really cool or super buena onda. Or the coffee shop down the street is so inviting that you find yourself wanting to hang out there all day because tiene buena onda. You get the idea.  So, buena onda is something either are or have.

In this case, all things good have their polar opposite, so if a person, place, thing, or situation, is uncool or just plain shitty, we would use mala onda. Let’s say your friend got fired from their job, you can reply with “Qué mala onda.” Or maybe you smile and wave to your neighbor who scowls rather than return your salutation because she is mala onda.  

Finally, to do something de onda means to do a favor for someone. So, if you meet someone off couchsurfer and they take you around the city and let you sleep on their couch without charging you because they are doing it de onda, that person is super buena onda.

And if you want to know ¿Qué onda? studying Spanish at Spanish in Rosario, just shoot us an email. We are super buena onda and are always open to answering your questions de onda – info@spanishinrosario.com


A collaborative work by

Stephanie Cariker and Vanessa Galban