top of page

3- Tango Terminology (PART 3 OF 4) L - Q

Updated: Oct 19, 2023

This list is part of an ongoing effort to educate and assist the friends and enthusiasts of Tango in their pursuit of the lovely dance called Tango.

Source: Steve Brown


Lapiz — Pencil: Tracing of circular motions on the floor with the toe or inside edge of the working foot, while turning or waiting on the supporting foot. These may vary from small adornments done while marking time to large sweeping arcs which precede the lady as she moves around the man in molinete. See Dibujo, Firulete and Rulo.

Latigazo — Whipping. Describes a whipping action of the leg as in a boleo.

Latigo — The whip; also used to describe the whipping action of the leg in boleos to front or back, when led with energy and speed. See Latigazo and Boleo.

Lento — Slowly.

Liso — Smooth, as in Tango Liso, an early term for Tango de Salon.

Llevada — From llevar - to transport; a carry; to take with: Occurs when the man uses the upper thigh or foot to “carry” the lady’s leg to the next step. Barridas interspersed with walking steps in which the man takes the lady with him across the floor.

Lunfardo — The Spanish/Italian slang of the Buenos Aires underworld which is common in tango lyrics and terminology.

Lustrada — From lustrar - to shine or polish; the shoe shine: A stroking of the man’s pant leg with a shoe. May be done by the lady or by the man to himself but is never done to the lady.


Marcar (also Marca) — From Marque; to plot a course; guide: To lead. La marca is the lead.

Media Luna — Half moon: A sweeping circular motion of the leg similar to a ronde in ballroom but always danced in contact with the floor, never lofted. Usually danced by the lady and often led with a sacada to the lady’s leg. May be used to bring the lady to an inside gancho.

Media Vuelta — Half turn, literally: Usually done when the man’s right foot and the lady’s left foot are free. The man steps forward outside right (3 of 8-count basic), leading the lady to step back left and collect, then side right across his center, and forward left around him as he shifts weight first to his center, then onto his right foot as he then pivots on both feet ½ turn with his partner, the lady pivoting on her left foot. Media Vuelta is used by itself to change direction or maneuver on the dance floor and as an entrance to many combinations.

Milonga — May refer to the music, written in 2/4 time, or to the dance which preceded the tango, or to the dance salon where people go to dance tango, or to a tango dance and party.

Milonguero (feminine; Milonguera) — Refers to those frequenting the milongas from the early 1900s to the present who were or are tango fanatics. A person whose life revolves around dancing tango and the philosophy of tango. A title given by other tango dancers to a man (woman) who has mastered the tango dance and embodies the essence of tango.

Milonguero Cross — A step in which the man leads the lady to step side left around him, reverses before she completes the step, and leads her back into the cross. Also known as ochos cortados.

Milonguero Style — A term originally given by Europeans and some North Americans to the style of dancing in a very close embrace; also referred to as confiteria style, club style, apilado style, etc. Usually used in the very crowded clubs frequented by singles in the center of Buenos Aires. Milonguero Style is danced in a very close embrace with full upper body contact, the partners leaning into each other (but never hanging on each other) while using simple walking and turning steps. This style relies on music of the more rhythmic type as characterized by orquestas like those of D’Arienzo or Tanturi. Also see Stephen Brown's Styles of Argentine Tango.

Milonguita — Questionably, an affectionate diminutive for the milonga. Milonguita is also a name used for the young girls brought from eastern Europe and France (Madame Yvonne) with the promise to marry a rich Argentinean, or the poor girls from the conventillos, all of whom ended up as a hostess’ or prostitutes in the tango bars.

Mina — A lunfardo word for woman. See Grelas, Paicas, or Pebeta.

Mira — From mirar - to look; see; observe; take notice: ¡Mira! Look at this. Observe.

Molinete — Windmill; wheel: A figure in which the lady dances a grapevine on a circumference around the man, stepping side-back-side-forward using forward and back ocho technique and footwork, as the man pivots at the center of the figure. This is a very common figure in tango which challenges both the man and the lady to maintain good posture, balance, and technique in order to perform it well. One of the central codes of tango.

Molinete con Sacadas — An exciting and more complicated form of molinete in which the man steps into the lady’s space, displacing her leg with his, and pivots on a new center to face her as she continues around him. Many combinations are possible.

Mordida — From morder: to bite; the little bite: One partner’s foot is sandwiched or trapped between the other partner’s feet. If the other partner’s feet are also crossed it may be referred to as Reverse Mordida. Sometimes called Sandwiche or Sanguchito.

Mordida Alto — A variation of mordida in which a dancer catches a partners knee between both of their own.


Ocho — Eight (pl. ochos); Figure eights: A crossing and pivoting figure from which the fan in American tango is derived. Executed as a walking step with flexed knees and feet together while pivoting, ochos may be danced either forward or backward and are so designated from the lady’s perspective. El Ocho is considered to be one of the oldest steps in tango along with caminada, the walking steps. It dates from the era when women wore floor length skirts with full petticoats and danced on dirt floors. Since the lady’s footwork could not be directly observed the quality of her dancing was judged by the figure she left behind in the dirt after she danced away.

Ocho Cortado — Cut eight: change of direction: Occurs when a molinete or an ocho-like movement is stopped and sent back upon itself. Typical in club-style tango where many such brakes are used to avoid collisions. Describes a movement done on either foot, pivoting forward of backward, and going either left or right.

Ocho Defrente — Ocho to the front: Forward ochos for the lady (i.e., crossing in front).

Ocho para Atrás — Ocho to the back: Back ochos for the lady (i.e., crossing behind).

Ochos Cortados — Cut eights: A common figure in Milonguero- or Club-Style Tango which is designed to allow interpretation of rhythmic music while dancing in a confined space. See Milonguero Cross.

Ochos en Espejo — Ochos in the mirror: The man and the lady execute forward or back ochos simultaneously, mirroring each others movement.

Orillero — Outskirts; suburbs.

Orillero Style — The style of dance which is danced in the suburbs, characterized by the man doing many quick syncopated foot moves and even jumps. See Seguidillas. Also see Stephen Brown's Styles of Argentine Tango.

Orquesta — Orchestra: A large tango band like those of the "Golden Age" of tango frequently referred to as "Orquesta Tipica."

Otra vez — Another time; repeat; do again.


Paicas — A lunfardo word for girl. See Mina or Pebeta.

Palanca — Lever; leverage: Describes the subtle assisting of the lady by the leader during jumps or lifts in tango fantasia (stage tango).

Parada — From parar - to stop; a stop: The man stops the lady, usually as she steps crossing back in back ochos or molinete, with pressure inward at the lady’s back and at her balance hand and with a slight downward thrust, preventing further movement. When properly led the lady stops with her feet extended apart, front and back, and her weight centered. The man may extend his foot to touch her forward foot as an additional cue and element of style or he may pivot and step back to mirror her position (fallaway).

Parallel Feet — The natural condition when a couple dance in an embrace facing each other, the man stepping on his left, the lady on her right foot, and then the man stepping on his right, the lady on her left foot, regardless of direction. The opposite of crossed feet.

Parejas — Couple: The two partners in a tango.

Pasada — Passing over. Occurs when the man has stopped the lady with foot contact and leads her to step forward over his extended foot. Used frequently at the end of molinete or after a mordida. The lady may, at her discretion, step over the man’s foot or trace her toe on the floor around its front. Pasada provides the most common opportunity for the lady to add adornos or firuletes of her own and a considerate leader will give the lady time to perform if she wishes.

Paso — A step.

Patada — A kick.

Pausa — Pause; wait: Hold a position or pose for two or more beats of music. See Titubeo.

Pebeta — A lunfardo word for young woman or girl. See Mina or Paicas.

Pecho — Chest.

Picados — A flicking upward of the heel when turning or stepping forward. Usually done as an advanced embellishment to ochos or when walking forward. See Golpes.

Pie — A foot.

Pierna — A leg.

Pinta — Appearance; presentation: Includes clothes, grooming, posture, expression, and manner of speaking and relating to the world. See Bien Parado.

Pisar — to step.

Piso — Floor

Pista — The dance floor.

Planchadoras — The women who sit all night at the milongas without being asked to dance. The main reason for that, is because they don't know how to dance well enough. Yes, it may seem cruel but one of the many tango lyrics actually says something like, "let them learn as a consequence of sitting all night."

Planeo — Pivot; glide: Occurs when the man steps forward onto a foot, usually his left, and pivots with the other leg trailing (gliding behind) as the lady dances an additional step or two around him. May also occur when the man stops the lady in mid stride with a slight downward lead and dances around her while pivoting her on the supporting leg as her extended leg either trails or leads. Can be done by either the man or the lady.

Porteño (feminine; Porteña) — An inhabitant of the port city of Buenos Aires.

Postura — Posture: Correct posture for tango is erect and elegant with the shoulders always over the hips and relaxed, and with the center carried forward toward the dance partner over the toes and balls of the feet. See Derecho and Eje.

Potranca — A young female racehorse: Sometimes used to refer to a beautiful long-legged Argentine woman.

Práctica — An informal practice session for tango dancers.

Puente — Bridge; See Carpa, Inclinada.

Punteo — Point; with the point; peck: Rhythmic toe taps to the floor done with the toe, or point, of the shoe while the foot is moving over the floor in a sweeping movement as in boleo or planeo. See Golpes.


Quebrada — Break; broken: A position where the lady stands on one foot with the other foot hanging relaxed behind the supporting foot. Sometimes seen with the lady hanging with most of her weight against the man. Also a position in which the dancer’s upper body and hips are rotated in opposition to each other with the working leg flexed inward creating a broken dance line.


156 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page