Spanish Word of the Month: Onda

Sometimes the sound of a word makes it beautiful; other times, its meaning makes it stand out. Whether you love the Spanish language for its flavours or you love it for its richness and depth, there are words that abound for all of us to savour. Like any language, Spanish has regional particularities and a different style wherever you go, whether its downtown Buenos Aires or in Granada. As one of the most spoken and understood languages on earth, you will find people all over the globe speaking Spanish and giving it their own style wherever you go.

In this blog series, I want to explore some of my favourite words in Spanish, their meanings and why I love them so all of you can enjoy too. The first job of a translator is to love language – all languages – and to want to share that beauty with the rest of the world. Everything follows from this passion that I hope to embody every day of my career.

Word: Onda

Origin: Argentina

Meaning: Vibes or waves

Example: Tu amigo tiene muy buena onda. – Your friend is really cool.

Just like in English, someone or something can give you good vibes or bad vibes, so too in Argentinian Spanish can they have buena (good) or mala (bad) onda. We all know what vibes are – it’s just a feeling you get from a situation, where you can trust your gut that something is either amazing or cool, or about to go sour. Argentinians use this word to describe visceral personal responses to people, place, events and the like. You can also ask someone “¿Qué onda?” to get their opinion on what someone or something is like, in their view.

Interestingly, you will also find people using this term as part of the phrase de onda which means to do a favour for someone (good vibes shared all around) and en buena onda which means to do something in good faith (or with good vibes). If you want to emphasize how good something is, you can follow the Argentinian colloquialism and add re- to the adjective. For example, if you want to say “She is really cool,” you would say “Es rebuena onda”.

In other instances, it doesn’t translate literally into English as vibes or coolness but represents a kind of shared understanding. For example, estar fuera de onda translates into “to be out of the loop” (or even, not on the same “wavelength”) and estar en la misma onda translates into “to be on the same page”.

Until next time and good vibes all around!

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