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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Spanish Word of the day: ‘Duende’

Our Spanish word of today is truly magical!

Spanish Word of the day: 'Duende'
Photo: nito103/Depositphotos

You may not use this word every day but “duende” is quite an unusual but interesting word for advanced Spanish learners to know!

Supposedly derived from “dueño de casa”- “owner of a house”, it is rather difficult to nail down when it comes to its meaning.

Where do we start?

The word duende itself essentially is a magical creature or spirit: it can be either classified as an elf, leprechaun, or even a goblin. So if you’re a big Tolkien fan, then it will definitely need to be on your vocabulary list.

  • Yo no creo en los duendes ni en las hadas.

I don’t believe in elves and fairies.


Photo: AFP

Things become a little more abstract when we talk about Duende as a term used traditionally in flamenco and other activities that evoke Spanish fiery passion, like bullfighting. It refers to the mystical and powerful heightened state of emotion and expression that the performer gives off that draws in the audience.

  • ¡Qué duende tiene Lola Flores!

Stemming from that, nowadays, in some parts of Spain, duende is used more simply as an adjective, meaning that someone is charming or alluring.

  • Tiene mucho duende y siempre te lo pasas bien con él.

He’s got lots of charm and you always have a good time with him.

Check out our other word of the day posts

This word of the day has been contributed by LAE Madrid, the leading Spanish academy in Madrid. Accredited by the Insitituto Cervantes, it offers Spanish courses for all levels and also has Spanish classes for kids and familiesRead their blog for more Spanish!

 

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SPANISH WORD OF THE DAY

Spanish Word of the Day: ‘Chachi’

Who would’ve thought that there’s a word used all the time in Spain that has something to do with Winston Churchill? Or so the story goes. 

Spanish Word of the Day: 'Chachi'

Chachi is a colloquial way to express approval for something or someone, in the sense of it/them being cool, awesome or great.

It’s mainly a word used by young people in Spain, so saying it to your bank manager or boss may raise an eyebrow or two, but it’s in no way derogatory or rude.

There’s even the expression ¡Chachi piruli Juan Pelotilla! that was popularised by a 90s’ kids show on TV called Telebuten, but it’s now a rather outdated way of saying ‘cool’ in Spanish. 

Chachi is certainly a rather bizarre sounding word and Spain’s Royal Academy actually has it recorded as deriving from chanchi (which nobody uses).

Linguists are not 100 percent certain about the origin of the word but there are two very interesting theories. 

The first is that chachi was first coined in the southern coastal city of Cádiz during World War II, at a time where hunger among locals and contraband at the port were both rife.

Smuggled goods from nearby Gibraltar were considered of the utmost quality as they came from the United Kingdom, and the story goes that Gaditanos (the name for people from Cádiz) referred to these bootlegged products as ‘charchil’, in reference to UK Prime Minister at the time Winston Churchill.

Over time, charchil became chachi, a slang word which (if the story is true) came to mean ‘cool’ across Spain.

Other philologists believe that chachi comes from Caló, the language spoken by Spain’s native gipsy or Roma population. 

Chachipé or chachipen reportedly means ‘truth’ or ‘reality’ in this language spoken by 60,000 people across the Iberian Peninsula.

This could’ve been shortened to chachi and gone from being used like chachi que sí/claro que sí (of course) to chachi to mean ‘cool’.

Whichever theory is true, chachi is a great word to add to your arsenal of Spanish vocab. 

There’s also the Spanish word guay, which has a very similar meaning to chachi; we reviewed it here.

Examples: 

Carlos es un tío chachi. 

Carlos is a cool guy.

¡Pásalo chachi!

Have a great time!

La verdad es que es juego de mesa muy chachi.

The truth is it’s a very cool board game.

¡Qué chachi! Van a hacer un concierto en la plaza.

How cool! They’re going to hold a concert in the square.

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