Llanito or Yanito (pronounced [jaˈnito]) is a form of Andalusian Spanish heavily laced with words from English and other languages, such as Ligurian; it is spoken in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar.[1] It is commonly marked by a great deal of code switching between Andalusian Spanish and British English and by the use of Anglicisms and loanwords from other Mediterranean languages and dialects.[2]

Llanito is a Spanish word meaning "little plain". Gibraltarians also call themselves Llanitos.


Andalusian Spanish from the surrounding Campo de Gibraltar is the main constituent of Llanito, but it is also heavily influenced by British English. However, it borrows words and expressions of many other languages, with over 500 words of Genoese (Ligurian) medieval dialect (with additionally some of Hebrew origin).[3] Its other main language constituents are Maltese and Portuguese. It often also involves code-switching from Spanish to English. Some Llanito words are also widely used in the neighbouring Spanish town of La Línea de la Concepción (due to the influx of people from La Línea working in Gibraltar over many years).[4]

To some outsiders who speak either only English or only Spanish, Llanito may sound incomprehensible, as speakers appear to switch languages in mid-sentence, but to people who are bilingual in both languages, it can sound interesting and unique. One feature of the language is the pronunciation of English words with an Andalusian flavour. For example, bacon is pronounced beki; cake, keki (although these particular words are not prevalent today); and porridge is called kuecaro (a hispanicization of the brand Quaker Oats). Most Gibraltarians, especially those with higher education, also speak standard Spanish with either Andalusian or normative pronunciations and standard English of the British English variety.[5]

According to the Italian scholar Giulio Vignoli, Llanito originally, in the first decades of the 19th century, was full of Genoese words, later substituted mainly by Spanish words and by some English words.

Llanito has significant Jewish influence, because of a long standing Jewish population in Gibraltar. They introduced words and expressions from Haketia, a largely extinct Judeo-Spanish language spoken by the Sephardic communities of Northern Morocco, such as Tetuan and Tangiers and the Spanish exclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in North Africa.

Even though Llanito is seldom written, a Llanito dictionary, Diccionario Yanito, was published in 1978 by Manuel Cavilla, and in 2001 Tito Vallejo published The Yanito Dictionary. Including Place Names and Yanito Anecdotes.[6]

Core elements of LlanitoEdit

Although Llanito is largely based on the colloquial Spanish spoken in the Campo de Gibraltar, there are numerous elements beyond code-switching to English which make it unique. These are as follows.


  • Echegarai: Watchman or Guard. From English "Check Gate" influenced by the Basque surname Echegaray.
  • Focona: Gibraltar border with Spain. From English "Four Corners".

Calques from English to SpanishEdit

  • Te llamo pa' trás: Literal translation into Spanish of English phrase "I'll call you back". In standard Spanish, one would normally say "I'll return your call" (Te devuelvo la llamada", "Te devolveré la llamada").

The word "Liquirba" in Llanito means "Regaliz" in Spanish, stemming from "Liquorice Bar"

Calques from Spanish to EnglishEdit

  • Don't give me the tin: Literal translation of Spanish expression "No me des la lata", meaning "stop annoying me".
  • What a cachonfinger!: This is a humorous expression based on the Spanish word "cachondeo" which means "piss-take" in British English. The end of the word "deo" is how the word "dedo" (finger) is pronounced in colloquial Spanish, thus cachonfinger.

Local expressionsEdit

  • ¿Tú quién te crees que eres? ¿El hijo del Melbil? Literally, "Who do you think you are? The son of the Melbil?", as used when someone is acting with excessive self-importance. "Melbil" is a mispronunciation of Lord Melville.

Borrowings from third languagesEdit

Llanito words introduced into SpainEdit

Many Llanito terms have been introduced into the Andalusian Spanish dialect of the bordering city La Línea de la Concepción, where the resulting dialect is known as Linense. However, according to Gibraltarian linguist Tito Vallejo, a few words common throughout Spain may be of Llanito origin, notably "chachi" meaning "cool" or "brilliant" (from Winston Churchill) and "napia" meaning "big nose" from the Governor Robert Napier, 1st Baron Napier of Magdala. Churchill was associated with foreign imports from the United Kingdom which were highly sought in Gibraltar and, according to Vallejo, Lord Napier had a particularly big nose.[7]

However, linguists also propose chachi to be a contraction of the Caló term chachipén meaning "truth", since this language is the source of a significant proportion of Spanish slang.


The Gibraltar Broadcasting Corporation has also aired some programmes in Llanito including Talk About Town – a discussion series in which three presenters discuss local affairs, from the need to replace a street sign to important political affairs.

Pepe's Pot was a cookery programme/program which also used Llanito.[8]


A documentary film, People of the Rock: The Llanitos of Gibraltar[9] (2011) discusses Llanito speech characteristics, history and culture. Notable interviews include Pepe Palmero (of GBC's Pepe's Pot), Kaiane Aldorino (Miss World 2009), and Tito Vallejo (author of The Llanito Dictionary).


The official demonym of Gibraltar is Gibraltarians. However, the people of Gibraltar may also be referred to as Llanitos (female: Llanitas). This term is commonly used in the neighbouring towns of La Línea, San Roque, Algeciras and the rest of the Campo de Gibraltar, as well as in Gibraltar itself. When speaking in English, the people of Gibraltar tend to use the word Gibraltarians to refer to themselves but when speaking in Spanish they prefer to use the word Llanitos rather than the Spanish name for their official demonym, Gibraltareños.[citation needed]

The truncated term Llanis is also used by the people of Gibraltar, where it can be heard all around the territory and chanted in songs during the annual Gibraltar National Day.[citation needed]


The etymology of the term Llanito is uncertain. In Spanish, Llanito means "little flatland" and has been interpreted as "people of the flatlands". It is thought that the inhabitants of La Línea with important social and economic ties with Gibraltar, were actually the first to be referred to as Llanitos since La Línea lies in the plain and marsh land surrounding The Rock.

Another theory for the origin of the word is that it is a diminutive of the name Gianni: "gianito", pronounced in Genoese slang with the "g" as "j".[10] During the late 18th century 34% of the male civilian population of Gibraltar came from Genoa and Gianni was a common Italian forename.[11] To this day, nearly 20% of Gibraltarian surnames are Italian in origin. [12]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Culture of Gibraltar". Everyculture. Retrieved 2007-10-05.
  2. ^ David Levey (January 2008). Language Change and Variation in Gibraltar. John Benjamins Publishing. pp. 1–4. ISBN 90-272-1862-5.
  3. ^ "Gibraltar Ethnologue profile". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2007-09-21.
  4. ^ "Linense Dictionary". La Línea de la Concepción. Retrieved 2007-10-05.
  5. ^ A New New English: language, politics, and identity in Gibraltar
  6. ^ Ángela Alameda Hernández. The discursive construction of Gibraltarian identity in the printed press: A critical discourse analysis on the Gibraltar issue (PhD Thesis) (PDF). Universidad de Granada. p. 20. ISBN 84-338-3818-0. Retrieved 2008-10-13.
  7. ^ https://www.elmundo.es/elmundolibro/2003/10/06/no_ficcion/1065436977.html
  8. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pffC9la_pOc
  9. ^ http://grubstreetenglish.blogspot.com/2010/07/people-of-rock-llanitos-of-gibraltar.html
  10. ^ Vignoli, Giulio. "Gli Italiani Dimenticati"; Chapter: Gibilterra
  11. ^ Levey, David: Language change and variation in Gibraltar, page 24. John Benjamins Publishing Company.
  12. ^ Edward G. Archer (2006). "Ethnic factors". Gibraltar, identity and empire. Routledge. p. 36. ISBN 978-0-415-34796-9.

External linksEdit


  • Vallejo, Tito. "Online Llanito dictionary". Archived from the original on 2007-12-21.
  • Manuel Cavilla, OBE (1978), Diccionario Yanito (in Spanish), MedSUN (Mediterranean SUN Publishing Co Ltd) - Gibraltar