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Manges (/ˈmɑːŋˌɡɛs/; Greek: μάγκες [ˈma(ɲ)ɟes]; sing.: mangas /ˈmɑːŋɡəs/, μάγκας [ˈma(ŋ)ɡas]) is the name of a social group in the Belle Époque era's[1] counterculture of Greece (especially of the great urban centers: Athens, Piraeus, and Thessaloniki). The nearest English equivalent to the term "mangas" is wide boy, or spiv.[2]

Mangas was a label for men belonging to the working class, behaving in a particularly arrogant/presumptuous way, and dressing with a very typical vesture composed of a woolen hat (kavouraki, καβουράκι), a jacket (they usually wore only one of its sleeves), a tight belt (used as a knife case), stripe pants, and pointy shoes. Other features of their appearance were their long moustache, their bead chaplets (κομπολόγια, sing. κομπολόι), and their idiosyncratic manneristic limp-walking (κουτσό βάδισμα). A related social group were the Koutsavakides (κουτσαβάκηδες, sing. κουτσαβάκης[3]); the two terms are occasionally used interchangeably. Manges are also notable for being closely associated to the history of Rebetiko.


The three most probable etymologies of the word Mangas are the following:

  • From the Turkish manga "small military troop" via Albanian mangë.[4]
  • From the Latin manica (from the same root as Modern Greek μανίκι "sleeve") "hand-related" (cf. the sound change from the Latin manicus to the Spanish mango "handle").[5]
  • According to a more marginal proposal, its origin is from the Latin mango, -onis "dealer, trader".[6]

Mangas in popular culture[edit]

The stereotypical character of Manges became a central theme in several Rebetiko songs, such as "Του Βοτανικού ο Μάγκας" ("The Mangas of Votanikos"), "Ε ντε λα μαγκέ ντε Βοτανίκ" ("And of the Mangas of Votanikos"),[7] "Πού 'σουν μάγκα το Χειμώνα" ("Where Were You, Mangas, During the Winter"), and "Μάγκας βγήκε για Σεργιάνι" ("Α Mangas Promenaded").

Karagiozis shadow plays portray a recurrent character called Stavrakas, Σταύρακας.

In modern Greek language, mangas has become a synonym for "swash guy, swagger" or (in dialogue) simply "dude"; depending on context it may have more negative ("bully, henchman, hooligan") or more positive ("brave, crafty man") connotations.

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ The time period in Greek history that began during the late 19th century and lasted until World War I is called Προπολεμική Εποχή "Antebellum era" in the Greek Literature and corresponds to the European Belle Époque.
  2. ^ Petropoulos, Elias (2000). Songs of the Greek Underworld: The Rebetika Tradition. Saqi Books. ISBN 0-86356-368-6.
  3. ^ According to lexicographer Menos Filintas (Μένος Φιλήντας) their name comes from kottabos; according to the Manolis Triantafyllidis Foundation it derives from the surname of Dimitris "Mitsos" Koutsavakis, a notable mangas who lived in Piraeus: κουτσαβάκης.
  4. ^ Λεξικό της κοινής νεοελληνικής, Manolis Triantafyllidis Foundation, 1998: μάγκας.
  5. ^ Babiniotis, Georgios. Dictionary of Modern Greek (2nd edition), Athens: Lexicology Centre, 2002. ISBN 960-86190-1-7.
  6. ^ Andriotis, Nikolaos. Ετυμολογικό λεξικό της κοινής νεοελληνικής (Etymologiko lexiko tis koinis neoellinikis), Manolis Triantafyllidis Foundation, 1995.
  7. ^ The title is in mangika, μάγκικα, the sociolect/cryptolect of manges; see Alexandra Georgakopoulou, Small stories, interaction and identities, John Benjamins, 2007, p. 130.


  • Stasinopoulos, Epaminondas (Στασινόπουλος, Επαμεινώνδας). Η Αθήνα του περασμένου αιώνα (1830–1900) - Last Century's Athens (1830–1900), Athens, 1963 (in Greek)
  • See also the bibliography sections on rebetiko and rebetes, much of which also deal with the lifestyle of manges.