Spanish word(s) of the day: ‘Toque de queda’

You’ve probably heard these words in the news recently as Spain is planning to impose more restrictions to slow down its second coronavirus wave.

Spanish word(s) of the day: 'Toque de queda'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Wisegie/Flickr

Why do I need to know these words?

If you live in Spain, the chances are that “el toque de queda” is soon going to become part of your daily life.

“Un toque de queda” is of course how you say ‘a curfew’ in Spanish.

Right now, most regions in Spain are considering imposing a “toque de queda nocturno” – or night-time curfew – as a means of stemming the spread of the coronavirus, given that the total number of infections have just reached one million, higher than any country in Europe other than Russia.

Where does the expression come from?

The expression “toque de queda” has its origins in the medieval practice of “couvre-feu”, the act of putting out fires and other lights in old timber houses to prevent a blaze from sweeping through the village as everyone slept at night.

Typically, the village church would chime the tower bell at 8 o’ clock as a reminder.

The French “couvre-feu” became ‘curfew’ in English after William the Conqueror made the practice law in England.

The Spanish expression “toque de queda” doesn't refer to this nighttime fire-extinguishing habit in the linguistic sense, but rather to the need to stay put at home (The Italian word for curfew for example does refer to fire – “coprifuoco”).

The “toque”, which in its most literal sense is understood as a touch, ring or tap, refers to the chiming of the bells to announce the start of the curfew.

And the “queda” to the restrictions (“queda” is now a very formal and uncommon way of saying “quiet” or “still”).

So it seems that the Spanish expression for curfew developed more recently, when curfew came to mean a limitation on movement outdoors between certain times.

Interestingly, “queda” on its own can also be a noun meaning 'curfew', but most Spanish people use the full “toque de queda” to refer to a curfew.

Headline in La Vanguardia newspaper reads “The two Castilles, Andalusia and Valencia ask for a curfew”

Can I have some examples?

Acaban de decretar un toque de queda en Granada.

They’ve just ordered a curfew be imposed in Granada.


¿Tienes idea de cuándo van a levantar el toque de queda?

Do you know when they’re going to lift the curfew?


España entera está bajo el toque de queda.

The whole of Spain is under curfew.


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Spanish Word of the Day: Chungo

This adjective is essential slang talk in Spain, a word with lots of meanings, all of them fairly negative.

Spanish Word of the Day: Chungo

Chungo is a colloquial way of saying that something is difficult, dodgy or bad. 

It can be used to describe a variety of scenarios and it’s a great way of talking like a native Spanish speaker. 

You can talk about the weather being chungo if there are ominous black clouds up ahead.

If you’re stepping into a dodgy neighbourhood, then watch out because it’s un barrio chungo

If you bought a hairdryer at the rastro (flea market) and it doesn’t work properly, then it’s clearly chungo, and the seller is just as chungo.

Maybe you’ve just sat an exam with complicated questions, you’d call it un examen chungo.

Or if you don’t feel very well, then you’re the one that is chungo

There’s even an expression to say that things aren’t looking good – la cosa está chunga.

All in all, chungo is a very versatile adjective that you can incorporate into most daily speech even though it’s colloquial. 

Here are some examples to help you get used to using chungo.


Está el tiempo un poco chungo, mejor no vamos a la playa.

The weather isn’t very good today, it’s best if we don’t go to the beach. 


¡Ojo! Es un tío bastante chungo así que no te fíes de él.

Be careful! He’s a pretty dodgy guy so don’t trust him. 


Le has comprado un perfume muy chungo a mamá por el Día de la Madre.

You’ve bought Mum a really crappy perfume for Mother’s Day.


El barrio de El Príncipe en Ceuta es muy chungo, ¡ten cuidado!

El Príncipe neighbourhood in Ceuta is very dodgy, be careful!



Me encuentro un poco chungo, con mareos y nauseas. 

I’m feeling a bit bad, I’m dizzy and nauseous. 


¿Dama de honor cuando el novio es tu ex? ¡Qué situación más chunga!

Maid of honour when the groom is your ex? ¡That’s an uncomfortable situation!


¡La cosa está chunga! El Barça tiene que marcar cinco goles para clasificarse.

Things aren’t looking good. Barça have to score five goals to qualify.