Where did the term Molinete come from?

Tango-nerds argue about who is to blame for the term Molinete (the mill) coming in to use in Argentine Tango terminology instead of the more contemporary, and more generic, “giro” (turn). Some Argentine’s like to claim that Americans recently made up this term.  Although if Americans were to give the turn a name, it is would more likely be the existing ballroom dance term of “grapevine.”

Dances of To-Day pg142This excerpt from page 142 of “Dances of To-Day,” written in 1914 by Albert W Newman gives us a clue as to how long the term has been in use.  It shows “Molinette” (sic) already in use as the “Spanish” name for the turn.  The French name is shown as Le Moulinet; a term taken from earlier round dances.  The Grapevine is listed separately, with a Spanish name of El Vigne.

It is more likely that Argentines were using this term already, back in 1914.  The term may have been borrowed from older dances like the Minuet.  Its origin and use were probably forgotten before present-day, self-declared tango authorities started claiming that the term was never used by Argentines.


“But, TangoExchange,” you say, “this book was printed in the USA in 1914. How can we be sure that Argentines used the term Molinete in the early 1900’s?”

For more evidence, we have page 21 of “El Tango Argentino de Salón” printed in its second edition in Argentina in 1916. The first edition was printed in 1914.  This book contains an extensive description of the molinete, including diagrams.