Argentine Spanish is strewn with words and colorful phrases from Lunfardo, a rich vocabulary born on the streets of Buenos Aires in the second half of the 19th century. Now considered a fixture of the Spanish language in Argentina (especially in and around Buenos Aires) and Uruguay, linguists cite the use of Lunfardo as a defining characteristic of the Rioplatense dialect. Add a dash of Argentine flavor to your Spanish vocabulary with the Transpanish blog’s ongoing feature highlighting some of the most frequently used terms in Lunfardo.
In Lunfardo, the word “quilombo” means a mess, scandal, uproar, disorder, or conflict. In the past, quilombo strictly referred to brothels or so-called houses of ill repute; however, as the term evolved, it began to be applied to disorganized or messy conditions or situations of conflict. Nowadays, quilombo is rarely used in its original Spanish sense of brothel/whorehouse.
It’s said that the origins of the word “quilombo” can be traced to the word “kilombo” from the African language Kimbundu. Use of the word dates to Argentina’s colonial era, when it made reference to a hideout, particularly for fugitive slaves.
Related words in Lunfardo:
noun or adj quilombero/a: troublemaker, rabble-rouser; rowdy, noisy, disorderly
noun bolonqui (the word “quilombo” with the syllables written in reverse)
verb quilombear: to cause a disturbance
¡Esta habitación es un quilombo! // This room is a mess!
The word “quilombo” appears in a chant frequently sung by fans at football (soccer) games in Argentina.
Si lo tiran a [insert team or player name here] al bombo, va a haber quilombo, va a haber quilombo.
Another popular chant includes the word “quilombera”:
Vamos, vamos, Argentina,
vamos, vamos a ganar,
que esta barra quilombera
no te deja, no te deja de alentar.