Che (interjection)

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Signature used by Ernesto Guevara from 1960 until his death in 1967. His frequent use of the word "che" earned him this nickname.

Che (//; Spanish: [tʃe]; Portuguese: tchê [ˈtʃe]; Valencian: xe [ˈtʃe]) is an interjection commonly used in Argentina, Uruguay, Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil) and Valencia (Spain), signifying "hey!", "fellow", "guy".[1] Che is mainly used as a vocative to call someone's attention (akin to "mate" or "buddy" in English),[2] but it is often used as filler too (akin to "right" or "so" in English). The Argentine revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara earned his nickname from his frequent use of the expression, which was perceived as foreign by his Cuban comrades.[2]


Che is an interjection of unclear origin. According to the Diccionario de la Lengua Española, it is comparable to the archaic ce used in Spain to ask for someone's attention or to make someone stop.[3] Che is now predominantly used in Valencia, Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay, with a similar meaning.[4]

Due to its spread in South America, alternative etymologies have been suggested by analogy with indigenous words:

  • In Tupi-Guarani, spoken by certain ethnic groups from Argentina to Brazil, che means simply "I" or "my."[5]
  • In the native Araucanian and Chonan language families of the Southern Cone, che means "man" or "people" and is often used as a suffix for ethnonyms in these languages (such as Mapuche, Huilliche, Tehuelche, and Puelche).[6]
  • In Kimbundu, spoken by Congolese slaves during colonial times, means "hey!", an interjection for calling someone.[7]


The first recorded use of che in Spanish America appears to be in Esteban Echeverría's short story The Slaughter Yard (El matadero), published posthumously in 1871 but set in 1838-9 in the Rosas era.

Che, negra bruja, salí de aquí antes de que te pegue un tajo—exclamaba el carnicero.[8]

("Hey, you black witch, get out of here before I gash you," said the butcher.)

Falkland Islands[edit]

In the Falkland Islands, che is commonly used by English speakers ("G'day che, how's things?"). It can also be written as chay.[9] The word is sometimes used to describe someone who is a particularly traditional Falkland Islander ("He's a proper che").[citation needed]


In Spain, che is widely used in Valencia and Terres de l'Ebre, Catalonia (written as xe), as an interjection. With the spelling "xe" in Valencian, its main use is to express protest, surprise or exasperation. Che! is one of the symbols of the Valencian identity to the point where, for example the Valencia CF is often referred to with the nickname "Che Team".[10]


In the Philippines, a former Spanish colony, che (also spelled cheh) is used as a means of dismissing another person or interrupting another person's speech, similar in context to the English expression "Shut up!".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mario Andrew Pei; Salvatore Ramondino, eds. (1968), "che", The New World Spanish/English English/Spanish Dictionary, p. 159
  2. ^ a b Tunzelmann, Alex von (2012). Red Heat: Conspiracy, Murder and the Cold War in the Caribbean. Simon and Schuster. p. 1955. ISBN 9781471114779.
  3. ^ "ce". Diccionario de la Lengua Española (in Spanish). Real Academia Española. Retrieved 9 November 2019.
  4. ^ "che". Diccionario de la Lengua Española (in Spanish). Real Academia Española. Retrieved 9 November 2019.
  5. ^ Antonio Ruiz de Montoya (1876), Vocabulario y tesoro de la lengua Guarani (ó mas bien Tupi), 2, Frick, p. 119b
  6. ^ Federico Barbará (1879), Manual ó vocabulario de la lengua pampa, Casavalle, p. 64
  7. ^ A. de Assis Junior, "Xê", Dicionário kimbundu-português, p. 376
  8. ^ See page 225 of the first uniform edition of Echeverría's works, ed. Juan María Gutierrez, Mayo, Buenos Aires, 1874, Vol. 5 [1], accessed 22 November 2015.
  9. ^ "Not-So-Urban Dictionary". Pengoing South. 2016-05-26. Retrieved 2017-11-09.
  10. ^ "Why are the Valencia players called 'Ches'?". La Liga. 10 July 2015. Retrieved 9 November 2019.

External links[edit]