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I have read that duende can mean both a mythical creature or, metaphorically, a kind of magical sensation to something. What exactly does duende refer to in both senses? How would both of these senses be best translated to English?

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As you said, Duende has two basic meanings:

  • Mythical Creature Traditionally it refers to a mischievous spirit that inhabits a house. Now it's also used to refer to small creatures with magical powers; they usually are very skinny, have big heads, big eyes and long ears (also, Santa's Helpers are called "Duendes de Santa Claus").

  • Feeling It's almost exclusively used in Flamenco. It's a mysterious sensation that is very hard to define. More here.

Over all, it's a very complex word, it has a lot of history, and can be used in several sentences, and mean something different in each one, but it's always something special.

From the RAE and Wikipedia

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Good answer. I'd like to reinforce that duende meaning feeling is hardly used, if ever, when not refering to flamenco. –  MikMik Dec 30 '11 at 8:33
    
I edited the answer to make that more clear. –  Rellikiox Dec 30 '11 at 11:26
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+1 Now I know that duende was also used to signify a feeling. Until now, I had never heard the word used in a different context other than the mythical creature. –  Icarus Dec 30 '11 at 15:24

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