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"Armpit" in English can be translated as either sobaco or axila in Spanish. Is each term used in different regions, or are they both used across the Spanish-speaking world? What is the difference, or are they exact synonyms? If they are synonyms, which is more common?

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up vote 15 down vote accepted

In Colombia both forms are used about equally. I prefer axila since is a more technical term and sobaco is perhaps used more often when referring to animals. There's a Colombian saying that goes like this:

Estoy más pelado que sobaco de rana (I don't have a dime on me.)

Again, sobaco is more colloquial and axila is more formal/technical and they refer to the same part of the body on both, animals and humans.


In the Dominican Republic, sobaco is also used to refer to someone with bad odor on his armpit. See this dictionary of Dominicanismos by Colonial Tour and Travel

If you visit the Dominican Republic and someone tells you "tú tienes sobaco," is very likely that the person isn't referring to your body parts but rather urging you to take a shower and get a hold of a deodorant as soon as possible.


In several countries the word sobaco is considered vulgar and unsophisticated.

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+1 in Spain "sobaco" is also more informal than "axila". The armpit of the animals is not a very common topic of conversation here so I don't really know if we would say "sobaco" for it :D – Javi Jan 17 '12 at 19:04
In Perú sobaco is not very used, the usual form is axila for both, formal and informal situations. – Ricardo Jan 17 '12 at 21:27
In Argentina "sobaco" is much more informal, almost vulgar. You'd never hear it in a deodorant ad, or in medical speak. – leonbloy Jan 17 '12 at 22:39
In Chile "sobaco" is also almost vulgar and very informal. – dusan Jan 18 '12 at 1:10
That was the word I was looking for. I think in Perú, "sobaco" is also almost vulgar. @Icarus: maybe you should add than in some countries "sobaco" is not the polite way to refer to "armpit". – Ricardo Jan 18 '12 at 7:15

"Sobaco" is more informal, I think it is better to say "axila" (at least in Ecuador).

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In Panama city, "axila" is the word that we use to refer to the armpit. "Sobaco" is used for people from the "Guetto"

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In Mexico it applies the same as in other countries. "Sobaco" is vulgar and if you do use it, its when someone has bad odor in their armpits (te huele el sobaco, hueles a sobaco). Axila is when you are actually referring to the armpit as a body part.

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In Bolivia "sobaco" is really vulgar. Do not use it there. Way better to say "axila", for both humans and animals (even though the term is rarely used in animals).

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The update regarding the Dominican Republic is incorrect. "Sobaco" has the same meaning and connotations that in other Spanish speaking countries. "Axila" is the more ethical and formal, while "sobaco" is more informal.

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What do you mean by "ethical"? – Diego Oct 8 '15 at 17:02

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