Chicago & MichiganItaly ParisSpainKey West CubaAmerican West

Speak like an aficionado. Toss some of these phrases into your vocabulary and you’ll sound just like Papa! To listen to some common bullfighting words and phrases, click on the links below.

Abono: A subscription ticket to a series of bullfights

Aficionado: One who is an expert on bullfighting and usually very passionate about it. Hemingway was an aficionado.

Billette: Ticket

Capa: Cape; the proper name for the bullfighter’s cape is capa de brega; it is usually called a capote.

Corrida de toros: A bullfight (literally: running of the bulls). Matadors face toros bravos. Most commonly, these bullfights consist of three matadors facing two bulls each.

Corrida bufa: Comic bullfight

Faroles: A dramatic pass where the matador kneels on the ground and spreads out his cape in front of him. When the bull charges, the matador swings the cape around to his back over his head and the bull charges by him.

Ganadaria: The family line of the bulls. A bull ranch

Indulto: The act of sparing a bulls life in reward for extreme bravery. These bulls are often used to breed.

"La Virgen de la Macarena" Title of the traditional song, the paso-doble, played at the beginning of bullfights

Mano a mano: Special situation where two matadors go head to head (literally hand to hand) facing bulls one after another to show superiority over each other. Hemingway covered such an event in a piece for Life magazine in 1959. His article on the Ordonez – Dominguin mano a mano bullfight was a 10,000-word piece that later was published in book form as "The Dangerous Summer."

Matador: A professional bullfighter. Not all bullfighters are matadors. A novillero (junior matador) becomes a matador at a special ceremony called an alternativa. The ceremony can take place anywhere in Spain, but it must be confirmed in the Plaza de las Ventas in Madrid.

Muleta: Smaller red cape used in the last stage of a bullfight.

Picador: Man on horseback who stabs the bull in order to weaken it before the matador faces it. Picas, or lances, are placed in the back of the bull. The horse are protected from goring by mattresslike pads covered in leather.

Plaza de toros: Bull ring; also arena, anillo, redondel

Hemingway and second wife, Pauline (front row, left side), enjoy a day at the arena.

Ruedo: The area inside the bull ring where the matador faces the bull

Sol: Sunny side of the bull ring; a long day in the Spanish sun makes these the cheap seats.

Sombra: Shady side of the bull ring; seats are a lot more expensive here.

Temporada: The bullfighting season last from April through October.

Tercio: Stages of a bullfight. The corrida is divided into three tercios.

Toros bravos: Brave full-grown bulls between the ages of four and seven years

Traje de luces: Literally: suits of light. The elaborate and ornate outfit that a matador wears in the ring. Most weigh on average between 15 and 20 pounds. The matador has an assistant (mozo de espadas) who helps him get dressed and hands him his cape and sword during the corrida de toros. Sometimes it takes several men to help the matador get into the very tight pants that are part of the uniform.

Veronicas: Lower, slower cape passes that begin a bullfight


Photo Credits: Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection/John F. Kennedy Library.