Skip to content


Definition of Tumbao

Tumbao, in its most generalized use, is to have grace and style when speaking, dressing, and especially when walking , while conquering and stealing glances while doing it.

This expression became fashionable in many Latin American countries, mainly in Cuba, thanks to the singer Celia Cruz, with her song “La Negra has Tumbao” .

It is also an abbreviation of “lying down”, which means knocked down or tilted.

The origins of this expression may be related to the “tomb” which is a drum widely used in salsa, merengue and Cuban timba.

Tumbao in Music

Among Afro-Cuban musicians, it is the basic rhythm that is played on bass, which is based on montuno, mambo, salsa, Latin jazz, among other musical genres. This rhythmic pattern consists of a syncopated rhythmic cell .

In drumming circles, it is the basic rhythm played on the drum in the genres mentioned above.

Likewise, if a musician says that something has tumbao it means that it has flavor, “swing”, the “feeling”, or that rhythm that makes you want to dance and enjoy.

Uses in Latin America

In Latin America, this word also means to be robbed or scammed. In this case, it becomes a verb: “I think my cell phone has been knocked over.”

Although it can also be used as an adjective: “Mauricio’s laptop was stolen, he was knocked out.” It is possible that it is related to the origin of its abbreviation “lying down”, being the person “knocked down” for having passed a negative event.

In Puerto Rico it is also used to refer to someone’s butt. For example, in the phrase “You see the tumbao”.

In turn, in popular culture, it refers to the person or young member of the family who decides one day not to get out of bed and remain in this way for the rest of his life.