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SPANISH WORD OF THE DAY

Spanish Word of the Day: ‘Incendio’

You’re probably familiar with this word but do you know how it’s different from ‘fuego’ (the Spanish word for fire)?

spanish word of the day incendio
To refer to a forest fire or wildfire in Spanish, you should say 'un incendio forestal'. Photo: THIBAUD MORITZ / AFP

The word fuego is probably one of the first words that Spanish language learners learn. 

It’s the most general word to refer to fire, as in the product of combustion.

It can be used when asking someone for a lighter (¿tienes fuego?), or the fire that burns on a bonfire or a campfire (el fuego de la hoguera), the flames of a fire (las llamas del fuego) and even in the sense of gunshots when someone shouts ‘hold your fire! (¡Alto el fuego!).

And it’s also the first word people will exclaim if a fire breaks out – ¡Fuego! (Fire!).

But when a fire is out of control, Spanish speakers rarely use the word fuego to describe this conflagration (yes, that’s a formal way of referring to an extensive fire in English). 

Instead they will call it un incendio (a fire) or el incendio (the fire). If it’s a wildfire or forest fire, they call it un incendio forestal.

That’s not to say you can’t use el fuego to refer to the fire in the general sense, but technically speaking if it’s a fire that’s broken out in a building or a forest fire that’s raging you should use the word incendio.  

There’s also the verb incendiar, to burn down or set fire to, in the active sense of someone choosing to burn something which sees the flames spread. You can also say prender fuego.

Or in the passive sense, as in a forest catching fire, incendiarse.

An example of the word ‘incendio’ in the Spanish press, with the headline reading “Spain’s fires leave two dead and more than 30,000 hectares destroyed”.

Examples:

Un incendio forestal en Barcelona ha arrasado miles de hectáreas de bosque.

A wildfire in Barcelona has destroyed thousands of hectares of forest. 

Los bomberos intentaron apagar el fuego en un edificio de la Gran Vía pero al final el incendio se cobró tres vidas.

The firefighters tried to extinguish a fire in a building on Gran Vía but in the end the blaze claimed three lives. 

Es un pirómano, ha incendiado un hermoso bosque porque le gusta ver cómo las cosas arden. 

He’s a pyromaniac, he set fire to a beautiful forest because he likes to see things burn.

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SPANISH WORD OF THE DAY

Spanish Expression of the Day: ‘Darle la vuelta a la tortilla’

Flipping a Spanish omelette is an artform, but this is also an expression which has nothing to do with your culinary skills.

Spanish Expression of the Day: 'Darle la vuelta a la tortilla'

Spaniards love to refer to food in their idiomatic expressions, even when what they’re talking about has absolutely nothing to do with grub. 

We actually have an article which covers nine of these amazing foody expressions (which we’re sure you’ll enjoy after today’s Spanish Expression of the Day).

But what’s more quintessentially Spanish than una tortilla de patatas (omelette with potatoes)?

If you’ve ever made one, you’ll know that one of the hardest moments is when it comes to turning the omelette for the other side to cook. Some people carefully slide it onto a plate before placing it down again on the other side in the frying pan, whereas the more confident chefs will flip the tortilla directly from the sartén (frying pan). 

READ ALSO: How to make a classic Spanish tortilla de patatas

So what does the idiomatic expression dar la vuelta a tortilla mean?

Dar la vuelta a tortilla, or darle la vuelta a la tortilla in its more common reflexive form, refers to when you turn a situation around, from negative to positive.

So if a football coach encourages his players to darle la vuelta a la tortilla when they’re 2-0 down, he’s not asking them to put their aprons on and get cooking, he’s egging them on (pun intended) to make a comeback.

If a business deal is about to fall through, but your killer presentation manages to convince the investors to commit to the project, that means you’ve managed to darle la vuelta a la tortilla.

Or if a couple whose relationship is on the rocks is able to darle la vuelta a la tortilla, it means that they make up and avoid the break-up. 

In its literal sense, the expression translates to ‘flipping over the omelette’ or ‘turning the omelette around’.

Often we can trace back the origins of certain Spanish expressions and find interesting stories, but on this occasion it wasn’t Miguel de Cervantes who came up with this saying whilst cooking up a mean Spanish omelette, with onions of course. 

READ ALSO: Daily dilemmas – Is Spanish tortilla better with or without onions?

Darle la vuelta a la tortilla is a colloquial expression but it can still be used in all types of situations as it isn’t rude or derogatory.  

You can also say darle la vuelta a algo (turn something around), but why wouldn’t you want to use the tortilla expression if it’s fit for all purposes?

Examples:

¡Vamos equipo! Vamos a darle la vuelta a la tortilla y remontar el partido.

Come on, team! Let’s turn things around and make a comeback in this match. 

La reunión se puso cuesta arriba, pero supimos darle la vuelta a la tortilla y los inversores han comprado nuestro producto. 

The meeting was looking like an uphill battle, but we were able to turn things around and the investors bought our product. 

La situación se puso fea y parecía que iba a haber una pelea, pero Alberto con su labia pudo darle la vuelta a la tortilla.

Things weren’t looking good and it looked like there was going to be a brawl, but Alberto and his gift of the gab were able to turn the situation around.

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