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?
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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:
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":
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:
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:
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.
Literally, it means worth, something of value.
It can also mean coupon, voucher, receipt, I.O.U, etc... So how does
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
To add insult to injury, you'll might also run into people that say