Tango dance steps lexicon header

Anyone who learns Tango Argentino is confronted with Spanish words for dance steps, musical styles and manners. Many terms cannot be easily translated into English. Our Tango Lexicon, which translates and explains the most common words, will help you here.

Tango dance steps, styles, figures and more

Lexicon tango dance steps hug
El Abrazo - the embrace, the basis of Tango Argentino

Tango dance steps and typical terms from AZ


Hug: Embrace. This is how every tango begins - before the first dance steps!
Adorno: Ornament; embellishment
Amateur: enthusiastic (about) - for example about Tango Argentino
Amague: Feint; faked dance step that is dynamically interrupted.
Piled up: The dance partners lean against each other with their chests.


bailar: to dance
Bailarín / a: Dancer
barrida: "Sweeper"; sweeping motion; the partner's foot is moved with your own foot
Base: Abbreviation for paso basico (Basic tango step)
Boleo: >Volley


Pitching: from cabeza (Head); traditional technique for prompting dance partners using eye contact and nodding from a greater distance
Calecita: Carousel, rotation around a fixed point
walk: to go, the way of going
Candombe: Style of music and dance, one of the origins of Argentine Tango, which comes from the descendants of black slaves in the Río de la Plata region. The music is of African origin, with a typical rhythm.
Canyengue: tango music-Style, originally comes from the way of playing or beating the double bass in tango. Dance style: in close embrace, the dance steps go sideways in the direction of the dance.
Caricia: Caressing. The foot touches the partner's leg,>Lustrada
Clase (de Tango): Course, lesson in learn to dance tango
Códigos: Customs and rules at a milonga
Colgada: dance steps and poses caused by tilting; the couple's feet are connected, an axis is shared while the torsos move away.
Compás: Beat like the beat in music
Corrida: from correr (run) a small number of fast dance steps.
Corte: Cut, a turning point in dance
Cortina: curtain. A piece of music that is always played for about a minute between two>Tandas is played.
crossed: crossed; (basico cruzado) the crossed system in which man and woman put the same legs (i.e. right or left) at the same time.
Cunita: Cradle step


Dissociation: Separating; twisting the upper and lower body in opposite directions
Definición: Sequence that completes a figure


Eje: Axis, the controlled body axis, an important basic element of dance
Enrosque: Screwing the upper and lower body when turning / screwing of the free leg in the back or front when turning on one leg (enroscar: to screw).
Entrada: Entrance - entering into the dance steps of the other>sacada
Espejo: Mirror - dance steps in which both partners mirror each other's movements.

Lexicon Tango dance steps lively
Sweeping high voleo


Firulets: Flourishes; Generic term for decorations that are carried out with the free leg on the floor in order to interpret the music or to attract attention.


Gancho: Hook; the free leg hooks around the partner's leg. Is triggered by contact of the legs.
Giro: Rotation>Molinete.


Pencil: Pencil - use the toe of your free leg to draw an ornament on the dance floor.
Lustrada:“Shoe cleaner” - wipe back and forth on your partner's pant leg with the inside span of your free leg,>Caricia


Medialuna: Crescent-shaped sequence of steps is "painted" on the floor. After a sacada the woman draws a line on the floor.
Look: Make eye contact when prompting to dance
Windlass: Rotation in which the couple walks around each other, a combination of backward ocho, side step and forward ocho.
milonga: 1. Very rhythmic style of music (2/4 time). Clearly African influences; is considered the "mother" of Tango. The dance steps are different from tango. 2. Tango dance evening; Place to dance tango
Milonguero: (female: Milonguera) Person whose life revolves around dance and the philosophy of Tango - and who often goes to milongas to dance.
Milonguero style: (estilo milonguero) Dance style practiced in full dance halls in close embrace. The dance partners have constant upper body contact, the dance steps are rather small.


Ocho: Eight; one of the oldest tango dance steps, in which a figure eight is “painted” on the floor with the feet (combination of >Pivot and step).
Ocho adelante: Forward ocho, ocho atras: Backward ocho


Parada: Bus stop; the man stops the woman with the hug and foot contact and gives the woman the opportunity to “seduce” him with decorations. This character takes his time within the music.
Pasada: Step over, the partner's leg is stepped over with elegant or sophisticated dance steps. Walking past the partner.
Paso: Step, dance step
Pista: dance floor
Pivot: Cones; Turning on the spot around its own axis on one foot.
plano: Flat circles / semicircles of the foot on the floor.
Postura: posture, attitude
Practice: Exercise milonga; Opportunity to practice and experiment

Tango musicians: names you should know

The most famous musicians, composers and orchestral conductors who shaped tango. (Click on name = link to Wikipedia)


Quebrada: Fracture; the breaking or surprising bending of the axis or the line of motion.


Ronda: The dance round at a milonga (tango dance event). It is always danced counter-clockwise in 2 tracks next to each other.
roll: Decoration in which a circle is drawn on the ground with the tip of the foot.


sacada: Man or woman step into the partner's trail and thus take their old place. This can be done without touching (> Entrada), done with little or even strong touch, so that the woman's leg flies or a > Gancho arises.
Starting Line: first part of the basic dance step. Get out of the standing.
Salto: Jump
Saludo: Greeting; Decoration, the free leg is bent and lifted.
sanguchito: called also sandwich or Bite . The partner's foot is pinched between your own feet.
Sendada: Sitting pose of the lady on the man's body, usually on the knee.
Solada: Dissolving the dance posture. The partners are left alone for a moment and come back together again.

More famous musicians from the golden era of tango


Tanda: a section of music, usually from three or four similar tangos, valses or milongas. After a Tanda the dancers can easily separate again. Between Tandas usually a>Cortina played.
Traspie: Stumbling step; Before changing the weight, the foot is put on extra, so that a kind of stumbling effect occurs. These dance steps are used particularly frequently in the milonga (Milonga Traspie).
Tango al reves: Shadow position. The leader is behind the following, with his chest against her back.
Tango de salon: Tango style that you dance in the salon, on the milonga.
Tango fantasy / escenario: Tango style for the stage, especially
danced for the audience. With special effective sequences, jumps and acrobatic lifting figures.
Tango Nuevo / Neotango: Tango style which has developed from the Tango de Salón. has developed. He breaks up old forms/the embrace and reinterprets well-known figures and dance steps. The axis is often played with, so that the dance partners become “off balance” for a short time.
Tango Nuevo is also the name for the new concert tango that Astor Piazzolla developed in the last century and which is not necessarily suitable for dancing.


Vals: Tango derived from the Viennese waltz in three-four time. The fastest, very flowing special form in Tango Argentino.
volcano: the man briefly tilts the woman out of her axis in order to make her vertical again in a circular motion. Here, her free leg describes a circle that ends with crossing forwards or backwards. (Forward or backward Volcada.)
Voleo, also Boleo: (spoken voleo) - comes from the Boleadoras. These helped the gauchos catch cattle. Three balls, arranged like a star on a lasso, are thrown and wrap around the animal's legs. A similar, rotating movement is made by the woman's free leg in the tango dance, when the man interrupts her ocho movement and leads it in the opposite direction.
Voleo bajo: low voleo
Voleo alto: high voleo (one of the more “dangerous” dance steps on a full Milonga!)


Zapatos de Tango: Tango shoes, dance shoes specially made for tango

Learning Spanish

Could this little tango dictionary be an inspiration to learn the Spanish language? 

The language school Living Sprachen offers lessons specifically for the Spanish from the Río de la Plata spoken in Argentina and Uruguay.

Owner and language teacher Iani Haniotis comes from Montevideo and works in Munich and Nuremberg. Online lessons are also possible! Of course, Living Sprachen also offers courses or private lessons for European Spanish. In addition, the lessons can be combined with cultural and leisure activities.

Learn Spanish and experience culture: The German-Hispanic Society eV Munich promotes cultural, economic, scientific and human relationships between Germany and the Hispanic world.

The Instituto Cervantes is the world's largest institution for teaching the Spanish language. It also does cultural work with films, lectures or concerts.


Cover photo: Gabi and Gustavo Gomez, photographed by Lisa Franz. Other color photos: Thomas Lackner, Unsplash, Alagalomi


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