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I am a native Portuguese speaker, where noiva means "bride" or "fiancée." So I was very confused when someone asked me if a girl was my novia, since she didn't have an engagement ring (thank goodness I didn't give her one. But I digress).

Only later I learned that novia can be translated as "girlfriend," "fiancée" and "bride." It seems like novia is the most common translation of "girlfriend," but what about the others? Should I refer to my fiancée as my prometida? What do people call a bride?

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I've also noticed that, at least in Mexico, the family of a boy/girlfriend is referred to as "in-laws." –  Flimzy Dec 16 '11 at 6:57
    
@Flimzy: it's also a common practice in Colombia. –  Gonzalo Medina Dec 16 '11 at 13:14
    
FWIW, Chileans use the word pololo/a to mean boyfriend/girlfriend and novia implies a higher level of commitment (closer to fiancée). –  R0MANARMY Dec 16 '11 at 17:06
    
@Flimzy I think "between" is more correct than "among" in this case: english.stackexchange.com/a/37640/5755 –  Orion Dec 17 '11 at 6:57
    
@NullUserExceptionఠ_ఠ: Interesting... –  Flimzy Dec 17 '11 at 20:30
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3 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

The usual translations are:

Girlfriend: Novia

Fiancée: Prometida

Bride: Novia

So the confusion could be about girlfriend and bride. Usually the difference is in the context of the sentence. If the speaker is speaking about a wedding it will refer to a bride (the wedding dress that she wears usually helps :) ).

But the article used sometimes can help, for intance:

La novia es muy guapa

In this case as it is used a definite article, it means that in the context there is only one "novia". This is the usual case of a wedding day, because there's only one bride (usually). So it's likely that the meaning is "bride", but it could mean "Girlfriend" in a situation where there would be only a girlfriend and by saying "the girlfriend" everybody would know we're referring to her.

Tu novia es muy guapa

In this case is not used a definite article but a possessive adjective. "I can have a girlfriend", but it's weird to say "I have a bride", so in this case we'd be referring to a "Girlfriend".

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Exactly, the only place for novia as "bride" is when talking about the wedding, if not, you're talking about a girlfriend. And yes, fianceé is "prometida". –  c4sh Dec 16 '11 at 13:02
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As a cultural variation, in es-CL (Chile) the term "polola" is used for girlfrend and "novia" is used for bride AND fiancée. "Prometida" is also understood as fiancée, but is used only in formal writing or speaking. –  David Lay Dec 22 '11 at 18:48
    
Is it true that the "strongest" term is prometida for a fiancee? I was told that in some Spanish-speaking cultures, if a woman wants to discourage "attention," she should wear only her engagement (and not wedding) ring. Apparently, a"jaded" married woman is considered "fair game" for a "proposition," but a (newly) affianced woman in the throes of love is not. –  Tom Au Mar 6 '13 at 17:43
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It varies by region/country. My experience in Chile was:

  • Polol@ meant boy/girlfriend
  • Prometid@ meant fiance
  • Novi@ could mean fiance or serious boy/girlfriend (roughly)
  • Espos@ meant spouse/wife/husband
  • Saying that two people were andando meant that they were interested and getting to know each other
  • Saying that two people were (or that one person was) pololeando meant they were dating
  • Saying that someone was prometid@ meant that they were engaged
  • Mi prometid@ was my fiance

Novi@, prometid@ and espos@ are generally pretty safe wherever you go, but understanding the intricacies you might hear in gossip (not suggesting you do that!) might require some time among the locals, or more research.

Note: I'm using @ here to mean o or a.

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In Mex/Spanish, «Novia» acutely refers to girlfriend and «Esposa» is the proper word for wife. In actuality, «esposa»=wife, «esposo»=husband and the direct translation of the two words in English are identical, 'spouse'.

There is also a colloquial Mexican term of endearment for wife which is «marida» which is a more familiar term amongst friends and relatives as opposed to a proper introduction done in public. I negated covering fiancee as that was well covered.

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