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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Spanish word of the day: ‘Patria’

Many people in Spain feel "patria" even though it's a particularly loaded sentiment to have in this country.

Spanish word of the day: 'Patria'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Wisegie/Flickr

Why do I need to know this word?

Well, today is Spain’s National Day, also known as el Día de la Hispanidad, and “patria” is at the heart of this celebration but also the cause of many of the country’s problems with separatism over the past century.

“Patria” is the Spanish word for homeland, fatherland or mother country. 

Spain’s Royal Academy defines it as either the place or country where one is born or the native or adopted land which human beings feel attached to either through legal, historical or emotional links. 

You may have heard the word “patria” recently as it’s the title of the new HBO series which deals with the taboo subject of Basque separatist/terrorist group ETA

“Patria” has some compound uses in expressions such as “morir por la patria” (die for your country), “patria potestad” (child’s custody) or “por amor a la patria” (for the good of the country) but the most important thing to know about this word is that it’s fairly loaded with symbolism given Spain’s history.

When should I use this word?

“Patria” is used to denote that emotional connection to a particular place you’re proud to belong to rather than just referring to your country of origin. 

So if you’re meeting someone for the first time, they may think you’re a fervent nationalist if you use “patria” to tell them where you’re from. 

It’s more standard to say “mi país de nacimiento” to refer to one’s country of origin or birth, in the same way as you wouldn’t expect to see the words “motherland” on a form you’re filling in. 

But if you’re talking to a friend about the fact that you feel a bit homesick, referring to “mi patria” won’t necessarily raise any eyebrows. 

All this may seem a bit ridiculous but in Spain being “patriótico” – whether it’s hanging a Spanish flag from your balcony or referring to Cataluña as “mi patria” – could lead to disapproval as political views regarding nationalism and separatism run deep among Spaniards.

This contrasts with a famous quote in the 1997 Spanish-Argentinian film Martín (hache) in which lead character Federico Luppi tells his son that “la patria es un invento” (the concept of the mother country is made up) after he asks him if he ever misses home. 

Could you give me some examples?

Tengo DNI español pero Catalunya es mi patria.
I have Spanish ID but Catalunya is my homeland.

ETA estaba dispuesta a matar por la patria.
Eta was willing to kill for the fatherland.

Nací en Irlanda pero después de 40 años aquí España es mi patria.
I was born in Ireland but after 40 years here Spain is my homeland.

Se divorcian pero han acordado compartir la patria potestad.
They're getting divorced but they’ve agreed to share custody of their kids.  

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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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