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In blue color, the Gran Buenos Aires where Cocoliche developed

Cocoliche [1] is an Italian-Spanish mixed language or pidgin that was spoken by Italian immigrants in Argentina (especially in Greater Buenos Aires) between 1870-1970. In the last decades of the 20th century has transferred/evolved in the Lunfardo.


Between 1880 and 1910, Argentina and Uruguay received a large number of Italian immigrants, mostly poor country folk who arrived with little or no schooling in the Spanish language and were even "semi-analphabets" in their Italian language.

As those immigrants strove to communicate with the local criollos, they produced a variable mixture of Spanish with Italian and Italian dialects, which was given the derogatory name Cocoliche by the locals.

Another example of a language influence is Cocoliche, which takes its name from Antonio Cuculicchio, a theater worker in the Podestá theater company established in Argentina and Uruguay towards the end of the nineteenth century. An Italian immigrant, Cuculicchio’s accent was apparently often mocked by others, giving rise to the comical caricature of a figure called “Cocolicchio”, representing a southern Italian. Cocoliche is a hybrid language that arose from the meeting of Spanish in Argentina and Italian brought to that country by immigrants around the turn of the twentieth century. The result was a pidgin — an oral form of communication that blended elements of two languages to foster communication between diverse groups of people, in some cases simplifying the grammar and lexicon of each language.

Italian proper never took hold very well in Argentina, especially because most immigrants used their local dialects, and were not proficient in the standard language. This prevented the development of an Italian-language culture. Since the children of the immigrants grew up speaking Spanish at school, work, and military service, "Cocoliche" remained confined mostly to the first and second generation of Italian immigrants, and slowly fell out of use. The pidgin was depicted humorously in literary works and in the Argentine sainete theater, e.g. by Dario Vittori.

The area where most Italian emigrants and their descendants spoke the "Cocoliche" was near the port of Buenos Aires, mainly in the "barrios" Belgrano and Palermo. These two areas where 70% speaking "Cocoliche" at the beginning of the 20th century.


Many Cocoliche words were transferred to the Lunfardo (a local Spanish dialect that some linguists think it is a mixture of Spanish and Italian dialects, like the "lumbardo" dialect from northern Italy). For example:

  • manyar (to eat) from Italian "mangiare" -> in Lunfardo: to eat.
  • lonyipietro (fool)
  • fungi (mushroom) -> in Lunfardo: hat
  • vento (wind) -> in Lunfardo: money
  • matina (morning) from Italian "mattina"
  • mina (girl) from Lombardo dialect
  • laburar (to work) from Italian "lavorare"
  • minga (nothing) from Italian "mica"
  • yeta (bad luck) from Italian "iella"
  • yira (to go for a walk) from Italian "girare"
  • salute (cheers) from Italian "salute"
  • fiaca (laziness) from Italian "fiacca"

Some of these words show a characterisc codialect evolution, for example in the case of manyar, the word manyar does exist with the same meaning in Spanish even though it is considered jargon and not proper Spanish, being the root from the occitane manjer and reinforced by the Italian mangiare

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Cocoliche", by Antonio Garbarino

External links[edit]