The Tango Lexicon

el abrazo: embrace (as in dance hold) 

abrir: to open

adelante: forward

adornos: embellishments

al costado: to the side

amague:  from amagar. To make a threatening motions. An amague is used as an embellishment: may be a beat (frappe) before taking a step

arrabal: outskirts, suburb

arrastre: a drag

arrepentida: a change of direction, in which one checks the movement forward or backward and reverses direction

atrás: backward

bailar: to dance

barrida:  sweep. A sweeping motion. One partner's foot sweeps the other's foot. Also called llevada

barrio: neighbourhood or district

boleo: from bolear, to throw. A boleo may be executed either high or low. Keeping knees together, with one leg in back, swivel on the supporting leg

bombilla: metal tube, "straw" to drink mate

los brazos: arms

calesita: or carousel, is a movement in which the man circles the woman as she stands on one foot. If done at a sufficient angle, she leans on him

caminar: to walk. The tango walk is very distinctive: the ball of the foot touches before the heel, and the torso and leg must move as a unit so that the body is in balance

caminata: a walk

canyengue: An older style of tango

la cintura: waist

compadre: A person living in the suburb, haughty, proud and brave

compadrito: typical character of the suburb, a bully and a braggart

Cómo no: Yes, please. (literally "How not?") 

corrida: a run

corte: cut, means cutting the music either by syncopating or holding several beats

el cuerpo: body  

cruzada: the cross.  A cruzada occurs when a foot is crossed in front or in back of the other

cruzar: to cross

los dedos: toes, fingers

derecha: right

derecho: correct

despacio/lento: slow/slowly

desplazamiento: displacement. see sacada

dibujo: drawing, sketch. A dibujo is done by drawing circles or other small movements on the floor with one's toe

doble tiempo: double time

enganche: hooking, coupling. Occurs when partner wraps leg around the other's leg

enrosque:  from enroscar. To coil, twist. For instance: while the follower executes a turn, the lead spins on one foot, hooking other foot behind the spinning foot

fantasia: fantasy or stage tango.

gancho: a hook

Gaucho: wandering horseman of the plains. Pampas' "cowboy"

giro: a turn

guapo: nickname for a corageous man; handsome

guiar: to guide, also to lead

gracias: thank you

izquierda: left

juntar: to join, bring together (as in, one's feet or knees)

lapiz: a pencil, ornament: drawing with the foot

llevar: to lead, also to carry

llevada:  from llevar. To transport (see barrida)

lunfardo: A slang used in Buenos Aires, often in tango lyrics

mate: tea drank as a stimulant which is very popular in argentina and uruguay

marcar: to lead

la marca: the lead

media vuelta: half turn

mirar: to look


  1. popular music of the pampa and the Rio del Plata 

  2. the name of the cheerful dance which PRECEDES tango in history. a fast paced version of milonga is still danced today at tango parties

  3. place were tango is danced, such as a dance party or dance hall


  1. person who frequents the milongas,

  2. their 'tango' lifestyle or

  3. a particular style of dancing

molinete: the grapevine step used on turns

ocho: a figure "eight", the criss-cross walking step often done by the follower; back ochos; forward ochos; ocho cortado (also known as ocho milonguero)

orillero: an older style of tango; literally "from the orilla", the outskirts of town or the curbside

parada: a stop, often a "sandwich"

paso: (s) step(s) 

patada: a kick

el pecho: chest

el peso: weight

el pie/los pies: foot/feet

las piernas: legs

pisar: to step

piso: floor

pista: dance floor

Por favor: Please

Portenio (Porteño): The term for a resident of Buenos Aires, which is a port city

rápido: fast

el ritmo: the rhythm

las rodillas: knees  

sacada: Displacing the partner's foot or leg using one's leg or foot

salida: the exit / start of sequence of steps.

salon: A style of tango from the 1940s

seguir: to follow

sentada: a sitting action

trabada: fastened. It is a lock step

uno más?: one more? 

una vez más: one more time

vals: The Argentine version of waltz with a three-count timing