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.
The Lunfardo term “yirar,” in its simplest form, means to meander, to wander or to go for a short walk out and about without necessarily having anywhere to get to in mind. It’s possible that the term is derived from the Italian verb “girare,” which literally means to wander along the streets.
In order to really catch the gist of the verb “yirar,” it is important to emphasize the difference between this Lunfardo expression and other related terms in the Spanish language, including “pasear,” “dar una vuelta” and “andar,” for example. The most important feature of the verb “yirar” is the fact that it is undeniably linked to a feeling of laziness. It describes the acts of a person who doesn’t really have a direction in mind; someone who isn’t interested in hurrying to do anything or to get anywhere. “Yirar” is a Lunfardo term distinctly associated with a sloth-like character.
During the 1840s in Paris, it was fashionable to wander around the city as slowly as possible. Whimsical characters and whimsical people were looked upon fondly and the French term, “flâneur,” was used to affectionately describe such people. Parisians were encouraged to indulge themselves in this sloth-like nature. It could be argued that “yirar” is Argentina’s Lunfardo response to “flâneur.”
The term “yiro” is most commonly known as an alternative word for “prostitute,” as it relates to the idea of someone who hangs around on the streets without seemingly having anywhere to go, anything to do, or any schedule to maintain. However, it is possible that the term might also be used to refer to people who wander around without direction in the hope of encountering something interesting at random; people who like to leave certain things to chance and who find planning of any kind quite restrictive.
Are you one of those people who likes to “yirar” on occasion?