In this section of the website you'll find a dictionary of most-widely used flamenco terms. If you would like to contribute to the content, please feel free to do so here

 A

A

 

 

  • Afillá- a type of flamenco voice which is hoarse and earthy.
  • Aire - a description of the expressiveness, atmosphere or general character of a Flamenco performance.
  • Alante - the front of the stage
  • Alboreas - a song and dance form which is of pure gypsy origin. Traditionally, Alboreas is sung only at weddings, being considered unlucky during other occasions. Thus, it is basically a gypsy wedding song performed to the compás of bulerías. The word "alba" means daybreak or dawn, which may signify that Alboreas were originally sung at dawn or as a symbolic representation of the dawning of a new life.
  • Alegría or Alegrias - a joyful song and dance form in compás of twelve beats normally played in the key of A Major. The origin of this dance is found in the jotas of Cadíz located in Southern Spaintraditional folk music of Aragon, brought to the Andalucian region by soldiers during the War of Independence in the early Nineteenth century. The main characteristics of this Flamenco style are the richness of its guitar accompaniment, the intricacy of the dance, the emands of its difficult rhythm and the lively sound. Alegría is a descendent of the Soleá family. The words "alegría" (which is singular) and "alegrias" (which is plural) are commonly interchangeable and mean the same thing.
  • Alegrías Por Rosas - sometimes known simply as "rosas", this is an Alegrias normally played in the key of E Major, which is typically somewhat slow and rather melancholy in melody.
  • Alzapúa - a playing technique which uses the right hand. The thumb is used to play down-and-up strokes across one or a group of strings in combination with apoyando single notes. It may be that this technique developed as an imitation of the manner in which the medieval Arabic 'ud (a form of lute) was played with a wooden plectrum.
  • Ambiente - atmosphere or ambience.
  • Anacrusis - one or more steps which may be heard immediately prior to the main accent of a phrase (such as in a four-step redoble).
  • Andalucía - a regional area located in Southern Spain which consists of eight provinces. Andalucía is generally accepted to be the traditional birthplace of the art of Flamenco.
  • Anular - the ring finger and a right-hand guitar notation symbol indicated by a lower case "a".
  • Apagado - a muting technique on the guitar which may be accomplished with either hand and is used to cut the sound short. Apagado is also referred to as "parado", which means "stopped".
  • A Palo Seco - anunaccompanied singing style, except for palmas other rhythmic accompaniment.
  • Apoyando - a guitar term which means to play notes using the classical style "rest stroke". All picado passages are played apoyando.
  • Aro - used to describe the curved side of a guitar. It literally means a "hoop".
  • Arpegio or Arpeggio - a chord whose notes are played in succession as opposed to simultaneously, a chord broken up into a series of single notes.
  • Arrastrao - or Paso Arrastrao - a type of brushing step used in the second copla of Sevillanas.
  • Arrastre - a guitar playing technique by which the ring finger isdragged up the strings from treble to bass.
  • Atrás - the rear of the stage.
  • Ay - lament, duquela, fatigue. If you do 'ay' well, it hurts.

 B

B

 

 

  • Bailaor- male dancer
  • Bailaora - female dancer
  • Baile - dance
  • Bamberas - an Andalusian folk song of medieval tradition which may be Celtic in origin. Bamberas is one of the more obscure Flamenco song forms
  • Barrio - district. For flamencos, barrio represents their entire lives, it's the university for flamencos.
  • Boca - The literal meaning of the word is mouth. With relation to Flamenco it means the soundhole of the guitar.
  • Bolero- although not considered to be a component of Flamenco, Bolero nonetheless played an important role in the evolution of some of the more familiar dance forms. The word comes from the verb volar which means to fly
  • Bout - body of the guitar
  • Braceo - movement of the arms during the dance, including the continuous movement of one or both arms passing from one position to another
  • Bulería or Bulerías - a high-spirited song and dance form which originated from Jerez De La Frontera in Southern Spain and is believed to have evolved as a faster version of Alegrías. This developed, as did Soleares, from a simple style. However, unlike Soleares, Bulerías has a fast and lively rhythm, full of fun and frivolity. In fact, it remains the fastest in all Flamenco and considered by some to be the most difficult. Bulerías provides an enormous scope of improvisation on the part of dancers, singers and guitarists, being very flexible in rhythm and open to sudden bursts of spontaneity and melodic variations. Bulería is wild, frenzied and lively, while still containing the core of sorrow that is almost always present in any form of Flamenco. It occupies a central position in any dance or guitar repertoire and is often reserved as the flamboyant final number in a performance. The word comes from the verb burlar which means to joke
  • Bulería Por Soleá - a slower variation of Bulería

 C

C

 

 

  • Cabales - Flamenco experts. Also a flamenco palo of Siguiriya family - fast and rhythmic it is usually performed at the end of Siguiriya for a drammatic finale.
  • Cabeza - the head of the guitar.
  • Cadenas - footwork combination in triplets, beginning with the golpe of one foot followed by the heel of the opposite foot and then returning to the beginning foot.
  • Café Cantante - a coffee house which features Flamenco shows. These establishments originally began with Flamenco cante but eventually evolved to encompass all forms of Flamenco. The late 1800s are said to be the "golden age of the Cafés Cantantes.
  • Cajón - a Flamenco rhythm box, a percussion instrument similar in design to an empty wooden box (cajón in Spanish means a crate or a drawer). The cajón was most likely developed in coastal Peru during the early 1800s by dock workers that used empty crate boxes as drums.
  • Calé - means gypsy in Caló.
  • Caló - Romani language used in Iberian Peninsula, which is basically Andalusian Spanish with a large number of Romani loan words.
  • Campanas - musical section of Zapateado which imitates the sound of bells.
  • Campanilleros - traditionally, Campanilleros are sung during religious processions which begin at dawn and are accompanied by the ringing of small bells. Though not strictly associated with Flamenco, they are frequently sung and played by some artists as a part of their repertoire.
  • Caña - a Flamenco palo which is closely related to Soleares and may even have been its predecessor. Caña is usually cante jondo in nature and generally accepted as one of the oldest Flamenco forms. It is considered amongst the most pure and beautiful.
  • Cantaor - male singer.
  • Cantaora - female singer.
  • Cante - song or singing.
  • Cante Chico - the third of the three general classification of Flamenco songs. It is lighthearted, festive, folkloric and somewhat frivolous in presentation. The name literally means little song.
  • Cante Flamenco - Flamenco song.
  • Cante Grande - the first of the three general classifications of Flamenco songs, the so-called basic songs which are considered to be the earliest forms of Flamenco. By nature, this is a profound form which is also Cante Jondo. The name means important song.
  • Cante Intermedio - the second of the three general classifications between Cante Grande and Cante Chico. The name literally means middle song.
  • Cante Jondo - deep song or style of singing which covers both the dark and the serious aspects of Flamenco, often seeming harsh and primitive to the untrained ear. Jondo style songs are passionate and profound, usually delivered with much powerful emotion by the performer.
  • Cantiñas - a family of song forms from Cadiz which include Alegrias, Romeras, Mirabras, Rosas and Caracoles. It is thought the word originally described medival songs from Galicia in Northern Spain.
  • Capo - abbreviation of capotasto, a transposing device fixed across the strings of a guitar to raise the pitch. By tradition, its purpose is to pitch the instrument to a singer's voice.
  • Caracoles - a long and dance form from Cantiñas family. The name literally means snails and it is lighthearted in nature. This song style first appeard in Cadiz and became very popular in Madrid during the 19th century and is rhythmically identical to Alegrias. Caracoles is usually danced with a fan.
  • Carceleras - a type of Tonás, originally sung by incarcerated gypsies held in the prisons of Andalucia. It is one of the oldest Flamenco song forms describing the singer's loss of freedom and life in jail.
  • Careos - a type of passing step used in the fourth copla of Sevillanas.
  • Cartageneras - toque libre song form which is Fandangos-based and takes its name from the area of Cartagena. It is one of the songs known as Cantes de Levante and is believed to have evolved from Tarantas.
  • Cejilla - Spanish word for capo. Ceja means little eyebrow and the traditional cejilla bears a curved top (which resembles an eyebrow) to accommodate the wooden tightening peg.
  • Chuflas - equivalent of a shuffle, used in footwork, when the foot lifts from behind or the side and strikes the floor with a golpe while the other foot simultaneously slides along the floor. Chuflas also refers to a song and dance form which is carefree in style, somewhat similar to Tanguillos, with the emphasis on spontaneity and humor.
  • Cierre - closing step
  • Colombianas - song and dance form with a style which was influenced by Colombian folk music and South American rhythms.
  • Compás - beat, rhythm, meter and measure. The basic element of Flamenco rhythm. Specifically, it is a recurring pattern of accented beats analogous to a bar of music which dictates the unique rhythmic structure of any given song form.
  • Contestacíon - type of a desplante, literally means an answer. A section of dance executed during singer's respiro. After the singer finished the first line of a letra he/she traditionally may take a respiro (a break in singing, literarlly meaning a breath) and the dancer will use that time to answer the singer with strong visual/rhythmical progression usually involving footwork. Contestacíon is traditionally 1 compás in length but may be 2 or more depending on dancer's preference.
  • Contra Tiempo - syncopated or counter rhythms. Contra Tiempo can be produced by stamps of the feet, accompanied by palmas executed by an  individual performer or in conjunction with others.
  • Copla - a verse from a song. Copla is also used to describe the various sections of Sevillanas and Fandangos.
  • Cuadro - a group of Flamenco performers which includes dancers, singers, and guitarists.

 D

D

 

 

  • Danza Mora - Flamenco style which was influenced by the Moors of North Africa as well as the Arabic style of music and dance. It literally means Moorish Dance and is normally played with the sixth string of the guitar tuned to the key of D.
  • Debla - Toná with religious overtones.
  • Desplante - dance steps which indicate an approaching break, as in desplante por bulerias which is performed after the llamada. Desplante may range from several steps to numerous compás, depending upon the choreography involved, and is usually considered a climactic point in the performance.
  • Duende - the soul force which is said to inspire the art of Flamenco. It has also been described as the trance-like fixation or haunting feeling experienced while watching a Flamenco performance. Essentially, duende is an inner spirit which is believed to be released as the result of the performer's intense emotional involvement with the music, song, and dance.
  • Duquela(s) - (frequently used in plural form) Synonimous with fatigue artist experiences while singing. Comes from caló (gypsy language). Not to be confused with pain. Singing with full fatigue. Fernanda de Utrera is a good example of a singer that "canta con duquela".

 E

E

 

 

  • Entrada - the entrance of the dancer or the beginning of a performance.
  • Entendido - what is needed to really understand Flamenco. The best part of Flamenco is improvisation and it cannot be understood just by learning the scores. For the best of Flamencos, two and two can equal four or it can equal four and a half, and the best part is understanding that both are correct.
  • Escobilla - section of dance dedicated to footwork. The steps often resemble the sweeping motion of a broom (escoba literally means a broom). Originally, escobillas referred to the small brushing steps which allowed dancers to display the beauty of their feet. Today, escobilla refers to an extended sequence of footwork combinations designed to demonstrate the proficiency of the dancer.

 F

F

 

 

  • Falda - skirt.
  • Falseta - a melodic progression played by the guitarist.
  • Fandango - Andalucian folk song and dance whose roots go back as far as the Arab invasion in 711 A.D. It is believed to have derived from the Jota, a lively paired dance from Aragon located in Northern Spain. Almost every region of Andalucia has its own version of fandangos (including the city of Huelva which claims to be the form's original birthplace and one of Spain's flamenco capitals). There are two types of fandangos: Fandango Grande or Fandango Libre or (the jondo type which is also sung and played without compás) and Fandaguillos (regional versions that are played and sung within fandango compás).
  • Fandango Grande - an abstract song form which evolved as a serious version of the original fandangos. It is sung without compás and may also be referred to as Fandangos Libres or Fandangos Naturales.
  • Farruca - a spectacular dance, traditionally performed by men, in 4/4 time, which was originally a song or chant from the Northern Region of Galicia. It is generally accepted that Andalucian gypsies adopted the Farruca and then changed it to suit their own tastes. It is often considered to be one of the more modern forms of Flamenco and usually played in the key of A Minor. Although the rhythm is strong and strictly defined, some passages begin slowly and gradually build up speed, particularly in the final stages of the dance. Originally performed only by males, women have also executed the dance with great effect (albeit dressed in a man's costume). The Farruca is never sung in the pure Flamenco idiom and, as a dance or a guitar solo, is considered to be a very drammatic piece.
  • Flamenco - the generic term which applies to the body of music, song and dance customarily associated with Andalucian gypsies. It originated in Southern Spain and has been described as the folk art of the poor. The word may also be used to define a Flamenco performer or aficionado. It is generally believed that the roots of Flamenco evolved from a combination of Indian, Arabic and Spanish cultures, with later influences from the Gregorian musical system of the Christians and possibly even the liturgal music of the Jews.
  • Flamenco Puro - a term which is generally applied to mean genuine or traditional Flamenco.
  • Floreo - hand movements of dancers.

 G

G

 

 

  • Garrotin -  a song and dance form which is sensuous and happy. Much like the Farruca, it originated in Northern Spain and has slow sections with sudden stops and starts which frequently build to a furious pace. Traditionally performed with a hat.
  • Gitana - Spanish for female gypsy.
  • Gitano - Spanish for male gypsy.
  • Glissade - to glide.
  • Golpe - from Spanish verb golpear, which means to beat. When referred to footwork it represents a movement when the full sole of the shoe strikes the floor. When referencing musical aspect, it refers to the guitarist striking the guitar with his ring finger while playing.
  • Guajiras - a song and dance form which is influenced by Cuban rhythms. Guajiras was brought to Spain in the XVI century by the returning conquistadors. It is a rather impudent dance form normally played in the key of A Major. It is considered an uplifting Flamenco and often features a classy showpiece in the sole guitarist's repertoire. As a dance, it is traditionally a women's dance (guajira literally means a Cuban peasant girl) and is almost always performed with a fan.

 H

H

 

 

  • Hondo - deep and profound.

 J

J

 

 

  • Jaberas - a song form which is an offshoot of Fandango Grande. Jaberas is closely related to the Malagueñas and is supposed to be a toque libre without compás and is undanceable.
  • Jaleo - Utterance or shout of approval and encoragement, recognition of the duende.
  • Jondo - a variation of hondo, which is most often associated with flamenco singing.
  • Juerga - a flamenco party or jam session.

 L

L

 

 

  • Letra - the lyrics of a song or a section of dance equivalent to a verse of a song.
  • Levante - a geographical area which stretches from Almeria in Eastern Andalucia up to Valencia. This area gives its name to what is called Cantes De Levante, which include Minera, Taranta, Murciana, and Cartagenera.
  • Livianas - a song and dance form, the song having evolved from being a Toná Liviana (without accompaniment or compás) to a style with guitar accompaniment performed to the compás of Siguiriyas.
  • Llamada - a call. Can be a dance movement or musical progression, both rhythmically similar, and serve as a way for a dancer or musician to signify a begining or end of a section of dance or music.

 M

M

 

 

  • Malagueña - both free and rhythmic form of flamenco music and dance. Malagueñas originated in Malaga (Southern Spain), hence the name. Malagueñas are danceable, lighthearted songs which evolved from the Verdiales and possess a similar rhythm and structure. Considered by some sources to be a descendant of the Fandango family, Malagueñas became very popular in the Café Cantante circuit during the late XIX century and was not originally a form of dance. Malagueñas are often performed with castanets.
  • Manton - an emobroidered shawl with long fringe. It was originally known as Manton De Manila due to its origins in Manila.
  • Marcaje - dance steps designed to mark time, usually incorporates a lot of movement and little to no percussive sounds of the feet. It is designed to emphasize rhythmic progression presented by music or singing (during the letra).
  • Marcando - movements of a dancer during letra.
  • Martinete - a Toná, originally sung by gypsies who worked in a forge. As a traditional song of blacksmiths, Martinete is often accompanied by the sound of a hammer, or martillo, striking the anvil.
  • Milonga - song form originated in Argentina and is similar in some respects to the Farruca. The song modulates from minor to major at certain times and its melody is reminiscent of the Argentinean tango.
  • Mineras - one of the palos in Cantes De Levante. The name derives from minero, meaning miner, and deals mining themes. It is related to Tarantos, another palo from Cantes de Levante, heavily influenced by themes of mining.
  • Mirabras - a palo from Cantiñas family. In many ways it is similar to Alegrías.
  • Muñeca - wrist. Also refers to hand movements typical of the art of flamenco.
  • Murcianas - another palo from Cantes De Levante family.

 N

N

 

 

  • Nuevo Flamenco - name given during the 1980s to a younger generation of flamenco artists who were influenced by other contemporary and traditional forms of music, jazz in particular, but also rock and pop, as well as the South American mix of salsa and rumba.

 P

P

 

 

  • Palillos - castanets, also known as castañuelas. A small pair of wooden plates held together in one hand which are clicked in order to provide rhythmic accompaniment during a dance. Palillos are not used in pure flamenco.
  • Palmas - rhythmic hand clapping which is used to accompany flamenco song and dance.
  • Palmeros - flamenco musicians responsible for hand clapping during flamenco music.
  • Pasada - a pass, as in passing a partner during the course of a dance. De Pecho means to pass chest-to-chest. De Espalda means to pass back-to-back.
  • Paseo - a walking step which connects two sections of a dance. The dancer may walk around striking poses without losing the timing in the steps. Paseo also refers to the opening ceremony at a bullfight.
  • Payo - a term used to describe a non-gypsy.
  • Pellizco - small spontaneous gestures, mimicries or whimsical movements employed by a dancer to heighten the effect of a dance. Literally, pellizco means a pinch, nip, or small bit, and the phrase is used in flamenco to describe actions which are spicy, saucy, juicy, flirtatious or light and humorous.
  • Peteneras - a cante which is outside of mainstream flamenco. The name derrives from Andalucian folklore and is believed to be a corruption of the word patenera, who originally sang the cante and came from Paterna de la Rivera (near Jerez de la Frontera). Playing of the petenera is considered by the superstitious to be unlucky. The general mood of this form is one of sadness due to its associated legend which tells aof a beautiful young prostitute Dolores who died a violent death at the hands of one of her lovers. Every year in July, the people in the village of Paterna pay homage to this form of cante and to Dolores by hosting a national Peteneras song competition.
  • Peña - a flamenco club.
  • Picado - flamenco guitar playing technique, by which the musician plays scale passages by alternating the index and middle fingers. Pickado is normally executed apoyando - with rest strokes.
  • Pitos - finger-snapping used to accompany flamenco song and dance. Pitos may be in either regular or counter time.
  • Planta - the sole or ball of the foot and the sound produced by it.
  • Polo - a flamenco form which derives from the Soleares family. It has a distinct melodic line.