Lunfardo is an argot of the Spanish language which developed at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century in the lower classes in and around Buenos Aires and Montevideo.

Many Lunfardo expressions have entered into the popular language and have become an integral part of the Spanish spoken in Argentina and Uruguay. A few have been recognized even by the Real Academia Española. Lunfardo is frequently found in the lyrics of tangos, supplying nuances and double-entendres with overtones of sex, drugs, and the criminal underworld. Lunfardo is, for all practical purposes, unintelligible to an average Spanish-speaking person from any other country.


Much of Lunfardo developed with the arrival of European immigrants, such as Italians, Spaniards, Greek, Portuguese, and Poles. It should be noted that most Italian and Spanish immigrants spoke their regional languages and dialects and not standard Italian or Spanish; other terms arrived from the pampa by means of the gauchos; a small number originated in Argentina's native population.

Most sources believe that Lunfardo originated in jails, as a prisoner-only argot. Circa 1900, the word "lunfardo" itself (originally a deformation of "lombardo" in several Italian dialects) was used to mean "outlaw".


Lunfardo words are inserted in the normal flow of Rioplatense Spanish sentences. Thus, a Mexican reading tango lyrics will need, at most, the translation of a discrete set of words, and not a grammar guide.

Tango lyrics use lunfardo sparsely, but some songs (such as "El Ciruja", or most lyrics by Celedonio Flores) employ lunfardo heavily. "Milonga Lunfarda" by Edmundo Rivero is an instructive and entertaining primer on lunfardo usage.

A characteristic of lunfardo is its use of wordplay, notably "vesre" (reversing the syllables). Thus, "tango" becomes "gotán" and "café con leche" (latte, café au lait) becomes "feca con chele".

Lunfardo employs metaphors such as "bobo" ("dumb") for the heart, who "works all day long without being paid", or "bufoso" ("snorter") for pistol.

Finally, there are words that are derived from others in Spanish, such as the verb "abarajar", which means to stop a situation or a person (e.g. "to stop your opponent's blows with the blade of your knife") and is related to the verb "barajar", which means to cut or shuffle a deck of cards.


* "Manyar" - To know / to eat (from the Italian "mangiare" -to eat-)
* "Morfar" - To eat (from French argot "morfer" -to eat-)
* "Laburar" - To work (from Italian "lavorare" - to work-)
* "Algo voy a cerebrar" - I'll think something up ("cerebrar" from "cerebro" -brains-)
* "Chochamu" - Young man ("vesre" for "muchacho")
* "Gurí" - Boy (from Guaraní -boy-) Feminine: "gurisa" - girl. Plural: "gurises" - kids
* "Garpar" - to pay with money ("vesre" for "pagar" which means to pay)
* "Gomías" - Friends ("vesre" for "amigos")
* "Fiaca" - laziness (from the Italian "fiacco" -weak-)
* "Engrupir" - To fool someone (origin unknown, but also used in modern European and Brazilian Portuguese slang).
* "Junar" - To look to / to know (from Caló "junar" -to hear-)
* "Pescar" - To know (from the Italian "capire") -to know-).
* "Percanta" - a woman

Modern Buenos Aires slang

Since the 1970s, it is a matter of debate whether newer additions to the slang of Buenos Aires qualify as lunfardo. Traditionalists argue that lunfardo "must" have a link to the argot of the old underworld, to tango lyrics, or to racetrack slang. Others maintain that the colloquial language of Buenos Aires is lunfardo—by definition.

Some examples of modern talk:

* "Gomas" (lit. "tires") - woman's breasts
* "Maza" (lit. "mace" or "sledgehammer") - superb
* "Curtir" (lit. "to tan") - to be involved in
**"Curtir fierros" can mean "to be into car mechanics" or "to be into firearms" ("see" Notes below)
* "Zafar" - to barely get by ("see" Notes below)
* "Trucho" - counterfeit, fake ("see" Notes below)

Many new terms had spread from specific areas of the dynamic Buenos Aires cultural scene: invented by screenwriters, used around the arts-and-crafts fair in Plaza Francia, culled from the vocabulary of psychoanalysis, or created by the lyricists of cumbia villera.

A more rare feature of the Porteño speech that may make it completely unintelligible, is the random addition of suffixes with no particular meaning, usually making common words sound reminiscent of Italian sirnames. These endings include -"etti", -"elli" "eli"), -"oni", -"eni", -"anga", -"ango", -"enga", -"engue", -"engo", -"ingui", -"ongo".

ee also



* "Zafar" is actually a standard Spanish verb (originally meaning "to extricate oneself") that had fallen out of use and was restored to everyday Buenos Aires speech in the 1980s by students, with the meaning of "barely passing (an examination)".
* "Trucho" is from old Spanish slang "truchamán", which in turn derives from the Arabic "turjeman" ("translator", referring specifically to a person who accosts foreigners and lures them into tourist traps). Folk etymology derives this word from "trucha" (trout), or from the Italian "trucco", something made fake on purpose. [ Reference (Spanish)]
* "Fierro" is the Old Spanish form of "hierro" (iron). In Argentine parlance, it can mean a firearm or anything related to metals and mechanics, for example a racing car.
* "Ortiba" is vesre for "batidor", an informer to the police.

External links

*es icon [ Diccionario del lunfardo]
*es icon [ Course description - Includes extensive bibliography]
*es icon [ What is lunfardo]
*es icon [ Lunfardo Dictionary]
*es icon [ Lunfardo etymology]
*es icon [ Defining Lunfardo]
*es icon [ Lunfardo's history]
*es icon [ Academia Porteña del Lunfardo]
* (English) [ "A Survivors Guide To Buenos Aires"]

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