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What is the most idiomatic English translation of the Spanish phrase a simple vista? Does it mean "at first glance," or does another expression fit better?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

If you look up the word vista in the RAE dictionary, you'll find that a simple vista and a primera vista (literally, "at first glance") are the same, and they mean the same as "at first glance".

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And what about "at first sight"? – César Jan 10 '12 at 14:22
This thread seems to say it means "to the naked eye" more than "at first glance." – jrdioko Jan 16 '12 at 22:37
@jrdioko that is because a simple vista can mean both. When "simple vista" is "vista" plus the modifier "simple", it means "to the naked eye" (like when seeing Jupiter). However, when it's the expression "a simple vista" it means "at first glance", and you can use the synonym "a primera vista" (like when having a look at something). So you see "simple" can mean "without aid" or "without detail" depending on the context. – JoulSauron May 29 '12 at 11:05

The best translation I can think of is "to the naked eye". It refers to something you can see without the help of auxiliary devices such as a microscope or a pair of binoculars. Of course, it can also be used metaphorically.

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