For members


Spanish phrase of the day: Año bisiesto

You might well hear this phrase in the next few days.

Spanish phrase of the day: Año bisiesto
Photo: Flickr

Why do I need to know año bisiesto?

Well to be honest you probably won't be using this too often – only every four years in fact.

What does it mean?

It means leap year, a year that contains 366 days instead of the usual 365 days. And it's a phrase you might be hearing over the next few days as 2020 is a leap year – Saturday marks the rare day of February 29th.

Unlike in the UK and Ireland, where it is traditional for women to propose to men on this day, there are no romantic traditions associated with the date in Spain.

But if you are brave enough to pop the question, (although seriously girls, it’s 2020 not 1920, so what are you waiting for?) bear in mind that it is not considered an auspicious day in Spain.

In fact Spain considers the leap year as a whole, and the itself day to be bad luck.

What do the Spanish say about it?

A few Spanish proverbs sum it up:

“Año bisiesto, año siniestro” – leap year, sinister year

“Año bisiesto y año de pares, año de azares”  – leap year and even year, random year

“Año bisiesto, ni casa, ni viña, ni huerto, ni puerto” – Leap year, no home, nor vineyard, nor orchard, nor port.

Happy Birthday Mr President!

Although you may consider it bad luck for those born on February 29th who only get to celebrate on their actual birth date every four years, it hasn’t done Spain’s Prime Minister any harm.

Yes, Pedro Sanchez was indeed born on February 29th in 1972 which makes him the world’s youngest serving Prime Minister at only 11.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


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 that was popularised by a 90s’ kids show on TV called Telebuten, but it’s now a rather outdated way of saying ‘cool’ in Spanish.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.


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.