General Tango Terms
Canyengue Arrabalero, of low social status.
A way of interpreting or dancing tango
A reunion (party) where the people from the arrabal (the slums) dance.
The sound obtained from the double bass when the strings are hit rhytmically with the hand and the bow.
Candombe A type of dance danced by (originally) the descendants of black slaves in the Rio de la Plata region.
A type of african-origin music with a marked rhythm played on a "tamboril" (kind of drum).
The place where the blacks congregated to dance.
Tango Popular music from the Rio de la Plata region dating back to the middle of the XIX century. It was defined by a 2 x 4 beat until the decade of the '20s in the XX century, and a 4 x 8 beat thereafter.
A type of african-origin music with a marked rhythm played on a "tamboril" (kind of drum). dance where an embraced couple perform a series of (sometimes intricate) patterns primarily with their legs, to the rhythm of tango m
Direct descendant of the Candombe, Habanera, Milonga, and (by some tango scholars) the Tango Andaluz.
The place where the blacks congregated to dance to the rhythm of drums.
(Note: entire books and lives have been dedicated to the search for the ultimate definition or origin of the word "tango", i.e., this is only a minimal subset of the available definitions.)
Milonguero A man who likes to attend the milongas.
A person whose life revolves around dancing tango and the philosophy of tango.
Payador pueblero (traveling folk-music singer.)
A title given by other tango dancers to a man who has mastered the tango dance and embodies the essence of the tango.
Milonguera Female dancer (for hire) of the early dance halls, cabarets, and nightclubs.
A woman who likes to attend the milongas.
A woman whose life revolves around dancing tango and the philosophy of tango.
A title given by other tango dancers to a woman who has mastered the tango dance and embodies the essence of the tango.
Milonguita: A woman of loose morals, often times a prostitute.
Tango Liso A way of dancing tango characterized by its lack of fancy figures or patterns. Only the most "basic" tango steps and figures are utilized, e.g., caminadas, ochos, molinetes, etc. Ganchos, sacadas, boleos and other fancy moves (such as leaps, sentadas, and all acrobatics in general) are not done.
Tango de Salon A way of dancing tango characterized by slow measured moves. It includes all of the "basic" tango steps and figures plus some sacadas, giros, and low boleos. The emphasis is on precision. The dancing couple remains at a "proper" distance from each other, i.e., their bodies are *not* in a close embrace. This is what happened to the tango when the French and the English got a hold of it in the early part of the century (pre-World War I) :^) This is the style of dance that most people who run milongas wish people did, and the style most dancers wish the *other* dancers did... :^)
the terms 'Tango de Salon' and 'Tango Milonguero' seem to be interpreted differently by different dancers and teacher, so one should be aware that other people might think of something different when they talk about 'Tango de Salon'
Tango Danza Tango dance (in Spanish).
Tango for Export A way of dancing tango much derided by the milongueros of Buenos Aires. It's a tango without soul. This is a tango that plays well in the cabarets of Paris, New York, Berlin, or Tokyo because most of what made it a Porte~no dance (one that spoke directly to the soul of the Argentino) has been stripped away, leaving only the fancy moves and pseudo passion for the enjoyment of an exotic- loving public.
Tango Fantasia This a hybrid tango. An amalgam of traditional tango steps and ballet, ballroom, gymnastics, ice-skating figures, etc. This is what most people see when they buy tickets for a tango show. The moves include all of the basic tango moves plus, ganchos, sacadas, boleos of every kind, sentadas, kicks, leaps, spins, and anything else that the choreographer and the performers think they can get away with. The music played might not even be a "real" tango, i.e., it can be Jazz, a bastardized classical piece, etc. Alas, this is the style of dancing most prevalent at the milongas outside of the Rio de la Plata region. Usually badly performed by ill-behaved tango dancers and frustrated tango performers who insist in getting their money's worth at the milonga even if they have to kick, step, bump into, or trip every other dancer on the floor.
Tango Orillero Orillero means "of the outskirts". Thus, this was a style of dancing tango that was "outside" of the prevalent way of dancing. Nowadays, is more defined by its quick moves, kicks, and acrobatics. See "Juan Bruno" for more details.... ;-)
So far, the definitions for these general Tango terms are from Caran Fanfunfa (Thanks for your work!)
You are all invited to add further definitions to this list.


abrazo: embrace (as in dance hold).

amague: from amagar. To make a threatening motions. An amague is used as an embellishment either led or done on one's own and may be used before taking a step. An example of an amague may be a beat (frappe) before taking a step.

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

barrio: a district, neighborhood. .

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 .with a very sharp motion..A whipping action of the leg. Knees should be close together bend one knee in back of the other. .

cadencia: cadence: Any steps done in a rhythm of syncopation.

caminar: to walk. The walk is similar to a natural walking step but the ball of the foot touches before the heel. The body and leg must move as a unit so that the body is in balance. Walks should be practiced for balance and fluidity.

corte: cut. In tango corte means cutting the music either by syncopating or holding several beats. .

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

desplazamiento: displacement. Displacing the partner's foot or leg using one's leg or foot.

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

enganche: hooking, coupling. Occurs when partner wraps leg around the other's leg. >Leader displaces follower's feet from inside.

enrosque: from enroscar. To coil, twist. While woman executes a molinete, man spins on one foot, hooking other foot behind the spinning foot.

giro: turn. While woman does molinete, man turns on one foot placing the toe of the foot in front and executing a sharp turn.

Fantasia: stage tango, a showy flamboyant style of tango used for performance.

llevada: from llevar. To transport (see barrida).

media vuelta: half turn. Usually done when man's right foot and woman's left foot are free. Man steps forward with his right leading woman to take a back step with her left and then leads he to take two steps while turning a half turn.

milonga: may refer to music or the dance which preceded the tango, written in 2/4 time; or may refer to the dance salon or event where people go to dance tango.

Milonguero: one who frequents the milongas. Also a style of dancing during that during the 1940's and 50's.

milongueros: refers to those frequenting the milongas and considered tango fanatics.

molinete: Little windmill or fan. Molinetes are forward and back ochos (figure 8's) done in a circle. T he follower moves in a circle around the leader, doing a footwork resembling forward and backward ochos.

mordida: bite. One partner's foot is sandwiched between the other partner's foot.

ochos: eights. Pivoting forward or backward with the feet together during the pivot and extended during the step as in Figure eights usually executed with feet together (ankles touching) instead of one foot extended.

ocho atras: ochos backward

ocho cortado: Cut eight where the leader brings the woman feet back to a cross.

Orillero: outskirts. A style of dancing from the suburbs characterized by the man doing many quick, syncopated foot moves.

parada: stop: To move and stop a partner's foot by pushing their foot with your own.

pasos: Steps.

Pecho. chest. A style of dancing Tango common in Buenos Aires.  A close embrace tango with more of a chest to chest position.

Pista: dance floor.

resolucion: resolution.Ending of a common basic.

ritmo: rhythm. In tango, the rythem can 8 count or 4/4

quebrada: break. The woman is standing on one foot, often hanging her weight on the man. The other foot is relaxed, often slightly raised with the toe touching the floor.

salida: exit, or start. It's interesting that the word for the basic step (a place to start) should be a way to get out of a figure as well.

salida cruzada: the beginning of a pattern with a cross; i.e. side left crossing right foot behind left, or side right crossing left foot behind right.

Salón: A style of dancing for the milonga or small club, as opposed to stage tango or Fantasia.

sandwichito: One partner's foot is sandwiched between the other partner's feet.

seguir: to follow.

sentada: a sitting action.

sacada: a displacement, to move your partner's leg out of the way gently with your own. see desplazamiento.

trabada:fastened. It is a lock step - the step that the woman takes when man steps outside with his right foot and then straight forward left, together right. At this point the woman crosses and this cross is referred to as trabada. A cruzada - also called lock step.

Vals: a waltz done to tango music in waltz time.


peso, (el): weight.

piso, (el): floor

pista, (la): dance floor

preguntar: to ask.

piernas, (las): The legs

rapido: fast. Usually heard "mas rapido." or faster



Una pregunta, por favor: A question, please.

Una vez mas?: One more time?



axis: The center vertical line around which one's balance is maintained

carousel: The lead steps in a circle around the follower - keeping them on their own axis

pocket: Anytime the lead walks on outside of partner - either hip

syncopation: To modify rhythm by a shift of accents on a beat.

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