(Redirected from War of the Germanías)

Germanía (Spanish: [xeɾ.maˈni.a]) is the Spanish term for the argot used by criminals or in jails in Spain during 16th and 17th centuries.[1][2] Its purpose is to keep outsiders out of the conversation.[3] The ultimate origin of the word is the Latin word germanus, through Catalan germà (brother) and germania ("brotherhood, guild").[4]

Some documentation for it occurs in picaresque works as early as the Spanish Golden Century, such as in Quevedo's El Buscón.[5] Some writers used it in poetry for comical effect.[6]

After the arrival of the Romani people and their frequent imprisonment, germanía incorporated much vocabulary from Romany and its descendant, the caló jargon.[7] As time passed, several words entered popular use and even standard Spanish, losing their value for secrecy.[2] Germanía survives today in the cheli jargon.

War of the GermaníasEdit

The term germanía ("brotherhood" in Catalan—compare with Galician irmandade and Spanish hermandad) originated from the name of a revolt against the local nobility in Valencia, Spain during the sixteenth century. Subsequently, the term referred to the argot used by these communities and, eventually, it referred to improper argot.

Use in literatureEdit

Characters in the original Spanish version of Arturo Pérez-Reverte's Captain Alatriste series make use of germanía. Pérez-Reverte gave a speech on the subject of germanía to the Real Academia Española de la Lengua after they invited him to join the academy for the work he had done on the series.[8]

Other jargons based on SpanishEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Bloom, Harold; Bloom, Sterling Professor of Humanities Harold (2010). Miguel de Cervantes's Don Quixote. Infobase Publishing. p. 70. ISBN 978-1-4381-3343-0.
  2. ^ a b Rey, Agapito (1946). "Review of Poesías germanescas". Hispania. 29 (4): 634–636. doi:10.2307/333740. ISSN 0018-2133. JSTOR 333740.
  3. ^ Borrow, George (1906). The Zincali; an account of the Gypsies of Spain. London. p. 366. hdl:2027/hvd.hwjv16.
  4. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Hermandad" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 13 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 365; see lines two and three. Catalonia it is written germandat or germania. In the form germania it has acquired the significance of "thieves' Latin" or "thieves' cant,"
  5. ^ Christopher J. Pountain, A History of the Spanish Language Through Texts (Routledge, 2000), 159.
  6. ^ Terry, Arthur (1993-11-11). Seventeenth-Century Spanish Poetry. Cambridge University Press. p. 156. ISBN 978-0-521-44421-7.
  7. ^ Borrow, George (1906). The Zincali; an account of the Gypsies of Spain. London. pp. 377–80. hdl:2027/hvd.hwjv16.
  8. ^ Barbara Hoffert, "Q&A Arturo Pérez-Reverte", Library Journal, p. 77, 2005-4-15, translated to English by Carmen Ospina.

External linksEdit