Great human migrations and the process of globalisation means that more and more people now live in a bilingual or multilingual reality. One of the clearest examples of a multilingual society is Gibraltar, with its English and Spanish speaking population – but additionally the little known Llanito dialect.

Gibraltar is situated in Cádiz, Andalucía, in the south of the Iberian Peninsula and bordering Spain. England has sovereignty over Gibraltar and currently is home to over 35,000 people of diverse origins, including British, Spanish, Genoese and Sephardic Jews, among others. The very varied cultural background of Gibraltarians and their proximity to the Spanish-speaking territory has always had a great influence on the linguistic situation of the Rock. Even though the linguistic situation of the Rock has always been complicated, and Spanish continues to be spoken, English is actually the official language of the territory.

This means that most Gibraltarians are bilingual in English and Spanish, but they additionally speak Llanito: a linguistic variety that emerged because of the intense contact between English and Spanish. Llanito is not only the name of this interesting linguistic phenomenon, but also the way Gibraltarians affectionally and colloquially refer to themselves. This curious combination of languages is the result of 300 years of coexistence between British and Spanish cultures. In the words of David Levey, author of Language Variation and Change in Gibraltar, El Llanito is fundamentally “a spoken Spanish-dominant variant, which incorporates English lexical and syntactic constituents as well as some unique local lexical items.”

One of the main features of El Llanito is the code-switching (natural transitions from one language to another). This characteristic has a great importance to Gibraltarians as it reinforces their feeling of identity. It is a native form of expression that helps inhabitants of the Rock to distinguish themselves from British and Spanish citizens.

Below are some of the most curious words and expressions that Llanito Spanish have adopted from English:

LlanitoEnglishSpanish
MeblisMarblesCanicas
RolipóLollipopChupachups
Quequi / PanquequiCake / Plum cakePastel / Tarta
Estar libreBe freeEstar de vacaciones
Dar un liftGive a liftLlevar en coche
Darse un washiHave a washDarse un baño

Celia Rodriguez, Academic Lead (French & Spanish) at Dragons Teaching


See Llanito in action!