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Today I learned that the cliché/archetypal whistle that some cartoon characters make when they see a beautiful girl is called wolf whistle.

A wolf whistle is a distinctive two-note whistled sound made to show high interest in or approval of something or someone, especially a woman viewed as physically or sexually attractive. [...]

According to Adam Edwards of Daily Express, the wolf whistle originates from the navy General Call made with a boatswain's pipe. The General Call is made on a ship to get the attention of all hands for an announcement. Sailors in harbour would whistle the General Call upon seeing an attractive woman to draw fellow sailors' attention to her. It was eventually picked up by passers-by, not knowing the real meaning of the whistle, and passed on.

For a better clarification about that sound, see this 4 seconds cartoon.

Does this kind of whistling have a name in Spanish? I doubt that is literally translated as "silbido del lobo", but that could be the case.

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    Today I learned, too. :-) – Charlie Nov 15 '18 at 8:04
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In one of my favourite Bond movies, The living daylights (1987), the wolf whistle plays an important role in the final confrontation of Bond against the very bad guy. Long before that, at the start of the movie Q is talking with Bond about a gadget:

Q: The actuating signal is personalized.
James Bond: What's my code?
Q: Most appropriate: a wolf whistle.

In the European Spanish translation of the movie they used the expression "silbido insinuante". To me that's a great translation, as in Spanish the verb insinuar means:

  1. prnl. coloq. Dar a entender aisladamente el deseo de relaciones amorosas.

It's funny that in the movie the whistle is finally used for another, equally valid purpose.

I have not found many examples of this same expression, but there are some:

Los novios se sonrieron, antes de entretenerse en un largo beso. Cara hizo una mueca al oír un silbido insinuante a sus espaldas.

Original: The couple smiled at one another and moved together for a long, lingering kiss. Cara winced as someone behind her wolf-whistled.

Fiona Higgins (translation by Jofre Homedes Beutnagel), "The mother's group" (2012).

And another one:

Mina movió la cabeza indicándole que la siguiera y obediente, ambos se encaminaron a donde Anahí, quien ya se encontraba sola en el pasillo, frustrada por ser ignorada. Escuchó un silbido insinuante y notó que Mina se le acercaba con una abierta sonrisa de completa diversión.
—No te burles así de mí, Mina —ordenó la joven sintiéndose humillada.
—No es burla, es apreciar la belleza.

BorealisSpiral, "Rescatando a un Corazón" (2015).

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I'm not a native Spanish speaker, nor an expert on "wolf whistling," but this is, honestly, the first time I've seen a question in the queue here at Spanish StackExchange that 1) hadn't already been answered by a number of people with more knowledge than I and 2) seemed like something I could take a stab at.

For starters, and similar to the Spanish translation you suggested (silbido del lobo), I did see this translated as "lobo silbato." So, I started to do some searching for both phrases. One of the first things I came across was this video here:

Lobo ahuyando y silbando

But the searches of online newspapers and books I took a look at, didn't leave me with the impression that either of these phrases went much beyond the most literal meanings.

I looked up "wolf whistle" on Tureng, and it returned:

wolf whistles and translates it as "piropos."

Collins translates it as "silbido de admiración".

With the phrase "silbido de admiración," I do finally start to see some examples in online newspapers that at least make this look as if it is a somewhat common translation for "wolf whistle." Here's an example:

"Ayer sin ir más lejos, un camionero le había dedicado un largo silbido de admiración mientras corría con el semáforo en rojo ... El silbido había ido dirigido inequívocamente a ella."

"Yesterday without going any further, a truck driver had dedicated a long wolf whistle to her as he ran the red light ... The whistle had been directed unequivocally at her."

El secreto de mi marido: Hay verdades que no deberías descubrir nunca

"... oyó un tremendo silbido de admiración a su espalda y se dio media vuelta para reprender al culpable. El culpable resultó ser un precioso loro ..."

"... she heard a tremendous wolf whistle behind her and turned around to reprimand the culprit. The culprit turned out to be a beautiful parrot ..."

Una cuestión de confianza

Those two examples come from authors who don't appear to be native Spanish speakers, however. I did also come across this example:

"Ojea a la mujer contento y se vuelve en un silbido de admiración, prodigada al cuerpo bien empacado en un traje, ..."

from Literatura puertorriqueña del siglo XX: antología by Mercedes López-Baralt.

Despite some evidence that a somewhat literal translation of "wolf whistle" may be used by Spanish speakers, I have a feeling that there's some colorful phrases in Spanish that may be more of what you're looking for. What those might be, I don't know, but I'll be sure to keep my eye on this question to see how this gets answered. Thank you for asking it.


I should add that I have much more often heard the term "cat call" instead of "wolf whistle," but what's the difference? Well, it depends on who you ask or which sources you consult, but here's what OxfordDictionaries.com will tell you:


Right click the image and open it in a new tab to see it better.

As you can see from the image above, there's a slight difference in meaning. In summary, I'd say "catcall," which Collins translates as just "silbido" and which Tureng has several different translations of (e.g., pito, rechifla, silbo, ...), is often considered pejorative whereas "wolf whistle," is not, as far as I know. Even though the very word "wolf" might carry with it a tone of something sinister or predatory, I've never known it to be considered as pejorative as "catcall" can sometimes be.


For the record, "wolf whistle" and "dog whistle" are two completely different things.

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  • In the UK I have only heard the term wolf whistle, I would not know what a cat call was. – mdewey Nov 15 '18 at 11:38
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    +1. Piropos no me parece la mejor traducción es demasiado general. "Silbido de admiración" es bastante buena, aunque puedo imaginarme otro tipo de silbido, con un tono ligeramente distinto para expresar admiración (uno de una nota, en lugar de dos, como tiene el wolf whistle"). En cualquier caso, buen trabaj ode investigación. – Diego Nov 15 '18 at 14:11
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It's remarkable how I know exactly what melody of whistling you are referring to being from the other side of the planet. I guess we all learned that from american cartoons. The thing is, I don't think there's a spanish name for that specific whistling. "silbido de admiración" is still too generic, it's not specific of THAT whistling done to women, and i'd say, a forced translation in lack of an exact term. "Piropo" on the other hand, refers to phrases said to women in similar circumstances but not to the whistling.

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