Spanish Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for students, teachers, and linguists wanting to discuss the finer points of the Spanish language. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I've been watching a Spanish telenovela to practice my Spanish comprehension. I was hoping Español de España would be easier for me to understand, but no such luck. The word vale is used a lot. When I looked it up, it said it was common in Spain for OK. I couldn't find out what was the literal meaning of the word. Is it just a conjugation of valer or slang?

share|improve this question
up vote 11 down vote accepted

The term was originally used to say "Good bye", "greetings" or any other valediction (by the way, it's worth to note "valediction" comes from "vale" and "diction": to say good bye). This meaning dates back to Latin:

Vale "farewell!," second person singular imperative of valere "be well, be strong" (Etymonline)

Already existing in Latin, it was used in Spain a couple of centuries ago to say "good bye" to someone and to close a letter. It's interesting to note that the last word of Don Quixote is "Vale":

...pues no ha sido otro mi deseo que poner en aborrecimiento de los hombres las fingidas y disparatadas historias de los libros de caballerías, que, por las de mi verdadero don Quijote, van ya tropezando, y han de caer del todo, sin duda alguna. Vale.

Fin.

Later on, "vale" obtained the connotation of closing something, as when leaving. According to the CVC forum, the academic Fernando Lázaro Carreter explains in his book El dardo en la palabra that the term was used some time ago (around the 70's) to tell someone to stop doing something. Then, the term gained its new meaning:

Se ha forjado sobre el ya vale (o, simplemente, vale) con que pedimos que se interrumpa una acción en curso: «(Ya) vale de bromas»; «No eches más, vale»; «Vale, no sigas». De este empleo [...], se ha extendido al moderno.

From there, it isn't hard to imagine how the meaning of "vale" as a interjection shifted from "closing", "ending" or "conlusion" to mean "agreement". When dealing, the second part may say "vale" to what the first part proposed, thus saying that the deal is sealed or closed. Hence the meaning of "vale" as "okay".

In conclusion, the term developed from Latin valere or Spanish valer, but nowadays it's lost the meaning of being "valuable" or "worth", so it shouldn't be considered a form of the verb "valer", but rather a mere interjection:

Vale 1. interj. U. para expresar asentimiento o conformidad.

EDIT: Interestingly, there seems to be an alterantive meaning, just as common as the aforementioned, that the RAE does not include. As Lázaro Carreter explains (see link above), vale is also used as an interjection to interrupt an ongoing action or express there's enough of something, commonly found embedded in other expressions such as así vale, ya vale or vale ya, and previous to the sense commented here. Such meaning doesn't fit with the idea of "agreement" or "conformity". Whether this second sense of the term is related to the verb valere or valer (i.e., being enough value of something) or not, is hard to tell.

share|improve this answer
    
Completely agree with one exception, "vale" is an interjection but I don't think the original meaning of "valuable" it's lost. Actually, the expressions "Vale, no sigas", "No eches más, vale" or "(Ya) vale" are used in many contexts where they could express "there's already enough value". For example, when filling some recipient in a commercial transaction. It express agreement, but because there is enough value. "No eches más, vale" could be translated as "Stop now, there's already enough value" It's subtle, but still there. With the expression "ya vale de bromas" is even more evident to me. – FranMowinckel Jan 31 at 17:06
    
@Fran That's right. However, I think that usage of "vale" is linked to the definition explained in the link (to interrupt an ongoing action), rather than the fact of there being enough value. The line between them is blurry, nevertheless. I'll update my question accordingly. – Yay Jan 31 at 18:38
    
Yes you're right, it's blurry. However, to stop an ongoing action you could just say "para". If you say "vale", it also stops the action, but it also "somehow" provides a reason why you should stop it. In my opinion it's closer in meaning to "basta" ("Ya basta/vale, ¿no?") or "está bien". Anyway, great answer. – FranMowinckel Jan 31 at 18:54

Literally, it means worth, something of value.

It can also mean coupon, voucher, receipt, I.O.U, etc... So how does vale come to also mean okay? I don't know exactly, but I can speculate. :)

English has a plethora of etymologies for Okay so it's worth noting that it's probably harder to translate Okay into Spanish. For what it's worth, I think that the word savvy is closer to vale but only in it's pirate context

To add insult to injury, you'll might also run into people that say sale instead of vale. I have even heard them used together sale vale. Then again, those instances came about at the end of a question? I'm not sure if you can get away with just saying Sale as if you were saying OK to a statement.

share|improve this answer
    
Interesting. I was checking for savvy and it's an informal way to say entendido. +1 for that. – Ustanak Jan 31 at 13:47
    
This is about another "vale" word. vale1 from 'valere' like "farewell" is not the same as vale2 from 'valer' like "voucher". Not even vale3 used in Dominican Republic. Just check DRAE at dle.rae.es/?id=bHhdVQk|bHhmzcU|bHjoyrZ – Envite Feb 1 at 19:26

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.