Argentina travel guide




Argentina Travel Guide

Spanish Language


Lunfardo was developed at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century. Is not a language, not a dialect either, because of its lack of grammar and syntax. Is innately connected to tango, it is often considered as the language of Argentine Tango, both were born of the same people and for similar reasons, allowed them to communicate without being understood by authorities.

José Gobello, the most prestigious specialist in Lunfardo, offers a definition: "Vocabulary made up of words of different origin used by Buenos Aires people in opposition to the orthodox Spanish words". Lunfardo expressions have become part of the Spanish spoken in Argentina and Uruguay, some words have been recognized by the Real Academia de la Lengua Española

It is a mixture of Spanish, the numerous languages spoken by the immigrants who came to Argentina, African words brought by the slaves, and words from the languages of the indigenous people of Argentina, by example:
  • Papirusa (beautiful woman) comes from the Polish word "papiros" (cigarette), because many young women who came from Poland were smokers.
  • Cancha (courtyard, Field), Pucho (cigarette), are Quechua words.
  • Atorrante (tramp), came about after Drifters took up residence in large culverts on vacant land owned by A. Torrent.
  • Chinchibirra (beer), orsai (off side) and sanguich (sandwich), come from English.
  • Cocoliche (Argentine immigrants), is the name of a vaudeville performer who did just that.
  • Caficho (Pimp), was one of the first Lunfardo words.
  • Quilombo (whorehouse,to agitate), mandinga (curse), words of the African immigrants.
  • Bondi (bus), word from the Portugues.
  • Cana (policeman), comes from the French "canne", a baton.
  • Arrabal (a place for social outcasts), comes from an Arabic word for wall.
  • Fungi (hat, but mean "mushroom" in Italian), manyar (to eat, from Italian "mangiare"), Bancar (to tolerate, from the Italian "banca"), Cuore (heart), Amurar (to quit) or Biaba (beating) are Italian words too.
There are Spanish words with changed meanings:
  • Azotea (flat roof), in Lunfardo: "head".
  • Marrón (brown color), in Lunfardo: "anus".
  • Campana (bell), in Lunfardo is the accomplice who watches out and sounds the alarm when authorities arrive.
  • Crudo (raw), in Lunfardo: "naïve".
Some words were created by altering the order of its syllables ("vesre"):
  • Café (coffee), becomes feca.
  • Café con leche (coffee with milk), becomes feca con chele.
  • Noche (night), becomes cheno.
  • Macho (man), becomes choma.
  • Tango becomes gotan.
  • Barajas (playing cards), becomes garaba.
Like Tango, Lunfardo began in outside social circles, and now, Lunfardo words are an integral part of the everyday language of the porteños (Buenos Aires residents)

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