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What is the best Spanish translation for the English adjective "haunting" (as in "a haunting melody")? WordReference gives three options: evocador, inquietante and inolvidable. Do any of these really convey what the English word does (something enthralling, beautiful, somber/sad)? What are the differences between these three words?

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"Evocador" pretty much covers it, to be honest I have never heard someone refer to a melody like that (I'm from Mexico), we usually talk about what the melody evokes rather than of its evocative qualities. – Chepech Mar 23 '12 at 18:36
up vote 8 down vote accepted

It would help a broader context of the sentence, but I guess "cautivadora" covers most of what "haunting" originally conveys, and it's common to hear the phrase "una melodía cautivadora" - "a haunting melody".

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The most appropriate adjective is "estremecedora", because it meets all the characteristics of the adjective "haunting".

Meaning of "estremecedora": to remove (something like a tremor) something inside someone deeply. In this context "melodía estremecedora" gives way to be something beautiful, something enthralling and somber / sad.

To explain the differences in the three adjectives you mentioned:

  • Evocador: That evokes a thing of the past or remembering to another by their relation or resemblance.

  • Inquietante: lack of tranquility, discomfort (to be uncomfortable with something or someone).

  • inolvidable: something that is impossible to forget. (I think the latter has nothing to do with what you want, really)


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A possible of translation is obsesionante, whose nearest English equivalent would be obsessive

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In what sense would a melody be obsessive? – jrdioko Apr 5 '12 at 19:44
@jrdioko: If a melody "bothers" you day and night, it could be "obsessive," or at least "obsesionante." – Tom Au Apr 5 '12 at 20:22

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