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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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  • I agree that sobaco is more informal and somewhat "vulgar", and axila is a more proper name. BTW, sobaco (or the word that sounds like it) means "dog" in Russian - probably just a coincidence. Nov 14 '17 at 13:20
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I am adding this summary following what was discussed in Juntemos en respuestas wiki las respuestas cortas específicas de regiones / Let's use community wiki to summarize set of short region specific answers. Feel free to edit to add the term used in your country or region.

Country Usage
Argentina Sobaco is much more informal, almost vulgar. You'd never hear it in a deodorant ad, or in medical speak.
Bolivia Sobaco is really vulgar. Better use axila.
Chile Sobaco is also almost vulgar and very informal.
Colombia Sobaco is also almost vulgar and very informal.
Cuba In Cuba we use both Axila and Sobaco. Sobaco is more informal than Axila.
Dominican Republic 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.
Ecuador Sobaco is more informal, I think it is better to say "axila".
Mexico Sobaco is vulgar and if you do use it, it is 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.
Panama Axila is the word that we use to refer to the armpit. Sobaco is used for people from the "Guetto".
Peru Sobaco is not very used, the usual form is axila for both formal and informal situations.
Spain Sobaco is more informal than axila.
Venezuela Sobaco is more informal yet used by the upper class. Axila is used in medical contexts.
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  • "Sobaco" is more informal, I think it is better to say "axila" (at least in Ecuador).
    – Sergio
    May 28 '12 at 23:16
  • In Panama city, "axila" is the word that we use to refer to the armpit. "Sobaco" is used for people from the "Guetto"
    – user2165
    Dec 6 '13 at 2:27
  • 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.
    – user2806
    Apr 11 '14 at 20:36
  • 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).
    – Delonix R.
    Jun 24 '16 at 14:29
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    @jacobo genial la adaptación a tablas, buena idea. En esta respuesta en Meta a Juntemos en respuestas wiki las respuestas cortas específicas de regiones / Let's use community wiki to summarize set of short region specific answers puedes encontrar una buena lista de las que tienen este formato. Apr 23 at 11:00
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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
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    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
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    In Chile "sobaco" is also almost vulgar and very informal.
    – dusan
    Jan 18 '12 at 1:10
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    It seems that "sobaco" has a connotation of vulgarity everywhere.
    – Albertus
    May 29 '12 at 7:43

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