What is Lunfardo?

Argentine Spanish — By

Surely at some point you have seen or heard about Lunfardo. You probable saw something about it when looking up Argentine slang, or you read about it at some point in a guide book, or heard it mentioned somewhere. What is it exactly?

Perhaps the most accurate definition is that it is collection of terms that were brought over by the immigrants. Lunfardo surfaced during the massive immigration in the early 1900s, and was the result of many different groups of immigrants that were trying to communicate in a new language. The lunfardo was the slang that developed from this mash up of different words. Although it is mainly made up of Italian terms, Lunfardo is not all Italian. It is comprised of words from African languages, Portuguese, Quechua, and other native Latinamerican languages. Although some people researchers believe that Lunfardo first emerged as a language of communication between delinquents, others believe this to be false. They claim that it was the language of the immigrants, which in general were people of a low social class. The immigrants communicated using many Lunfardo terms, and although some were delinquents, but many were not.

The fact that Lunfardo was mainly used by immigrants meant that it was viewed negatively by the middle and upper class residents. However, as the years went by, the terms began to be heard on the radio, which, as would be expected, led to the use of the same terms by the residents listening to the radio, including middle and upper class residents. It slowly became the slang no just of the lower class, but of all residents of Buenos Aires.

Today, Lunfardo refers to the slang spoken by the Argentines. The terms and expressions are very interesting and often quite humerous. You will hear many of them on a daily basis in Argentina, from the young to the elderly, and throughout all socioeconomic groups.

For a list of the most common terms and phrases, check out our page on Argentine Slang. The page provides descriptions and examples of the terms, so you will know how they are used in the sentences. This particular page is only the most common terms, as the full list of Lunfardo is quite extensive.

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1 Comment

  1. Frankie Star says:

    It always fascinates me how languages evolve, What is low class slang at one point in time becomes commonplace. WE have seen this happen a lot over here in the uk in the last 20 – 30 years there has been a big change in the words used and the meaning of those words.

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