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In Argentina I often hear the word (or prefix?) 're' meaning 'very/real/really'

Some examples are:

La prueba fue re difícil

La película era re chota

Estoy re bien

  • Is 're' an abreviation of another word? (Maybe realmente?)
  • Is 're' used anywhere else apart from Argentina?
  • Are there any rules regarding the use of 're'?
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2  
re = muy = very –  César Jan 13 '12 at 14:33
1  
Archi-requete-recontra-riquísimo. –  Alfredo Osorio Jan 13 '12 at 18:57
    
It's as common here in Uruguay. –  Bruno Stonek Jan 16 '12 at 21:39

5 Answers 5

up vote 7 down vote accepted

It's a prefix. This is what RAE says:

re-. (Del lat. re-). 1. pref. Significa 'repetición'. Reconstruir.

  1. pref. Significa 'movimiento hacia atrás'. Refluir.

  2. pref. Denota 'intensificación'. Recargar.

  3. pref. Indica 'oposición' o 'resistencia'. Rechazar. Repugnar. Significa 'negación' o 'inversión del significado simple'. Reprobar. Con adjetivos o adverbios, puede reforzarse el valor de intensificación añadiendo a re- las sílabas -te o -quete. Retebueno. Requetebién.

In the uses you provide, it's the third meaning, where it's used to intensify the adjective.

I think in Spain "requete-" is more used than "re-", at least in some cases. In fact, if I hear someone say rebueno I automatically think they're from America.

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As a sidenote, sometimes in Argentina, requete- is used as a more emphatic version of re-. In the popular reasoning, it makes sense that it is bigger since it includes the word. :P –  Alpha Oct 9 '12 at 22:32

Are there any rules regarding the use of 're'?

First, as said in other answer, it's a prefix, not a word.

It should be used only colloquially, in casual speak. It's emphatic and slightly childish. In general, you'll prefer 'muy'.

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This is very common in Mexico as well it is considered very improper but it is used very often in social situations to *re*enforce and *re*mark a word. The most common is

El examen fue redifícil

to say it was not just hard but (rehard) and it just as absurd in English as it is in Spanish.

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Is 're' an abreviation of another word? (Maybe realmente?)

Sometimes it's used as recontra, especially if used as stand alone word. Not sure of the etymology, my first thought would be bidding in contract bridge where one of translation of double and redouble is contra and recontra. But that just my impression, could be totally wrong.

A derivative of re- is requete- sometimes used to indicate something even more intense, than re-.

Is 're' used anywhere else apart from Argentina?

Yes, it's very typical in Mexico,it is used in other Latin-American countries (eg. in Peru).

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1  
In Perú we usually use recontra, re is really uncommon –  César Jan 13 '12 at 15:18

I am not a native speaker but...

some other answers seem to be confusing re- as a prefix and re as a word, a slang equivalent of 'muy' (= very). As an example in context (from Gaturro, referring to a smartphone) " ¡¡Está genial, re cool, re moderno!! "

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