The Meaning of Yeta

Argentine Spanish is strewn with words and colorful phrases from Lunfardo, a rich vocabulary born on the streets of Buenos Aires in the second half of the 19th century. Now considered a fixture of the Spanish language in Argentina (especially in and around Buenos Aires) and Uruguay, linguists cite the use of Lunfardo as a defining characteristic of the Rioplatense dialect. Add a dash of Argentine flavor to your Spanish vocabulary with the Transpanish blog’s ongoing feature highlighting some of the most frequently used terms in Lunfardo.

In Lunfardo, the word “yeta” refers to a jinx; something or someone who brings bad luck. Experts in Lunfardo believe that the word “yeta” is derived from the words “jettatura” and “jettatore” of the Neapolitan dialect of Italian, meaning “evil influence” or “a man whose presence brings harm or bad luck to others.” Given that the word “yeta” initially gained popularity with the working class, it’s difficult to say when its use became widespread among all Buenos Aires residents; however, the first instances of this slang term in the written word crop up in 1915.

Related words in Lunfardo: enyetar, yetar, yetado, yetadura

In addition, jeta occasionally appears as an alternate spelling of yeta.

Usage examples:  Victims of bad luck might exclaim, “¡Qué yeta!” instead of “¡Qué mala suerte!

The word “yeta” turns up in the lyrics of the tango “Preparate pa’l domingo” by José Rial and Guillermo Barbieri.

Preparate pa’l domingo si querés cortar tu yeta;
tengo una rumbiada papa que pagará gran sport.
Me asegura mi datero que la corre un buen muñeca
y que paga, por lo menos, treinta y siete a ganador.
Vos no hagás correr el yeite, atenete a mis informes;
dejá que opinen contrario “Jornada” y “La Razón”.
Con mi dato pa’l domingo podés llamarte conforme…
Andá preparando vento; cuanto más vento, mejor.



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