Del ár. hisp. law šá lláh 'si Dios quiere'.

  1. interj. Denota vivo deseo de que suceda algo.

Ojalá comes from the Arabic if God wants it or God-willing but is now defined without reference to a divine figure.

Is it now entirely secular or does it still carry a divine connotation? When someone reads or hears the word do they still read or hear a religious aspect? Would a non-religious person use the word seriously?

Some English corollaries:

Godwilling - the NOAD definition does not mention God ("used to express the wish that one will be able to do as one intends or that something will happen as planned") but I, as a native English speaker, still very much hear this as a reference to a divine figure and would not use it seriously without religious belief.

Goodbye - like adios it literally means, etymologically, God be with you. It has, however, lost all religious connotations.

Which is more true of ojalá?

  • 2
    Not only it has lost its religious connotations, I dare say that most people does not know it has a religious origin. I am not a religious person and I use it in both colloquial and formal contexts.
    – Charlie
    Nov 15, 2016 at 22:01
  • I would say that even people who refuse to say adiós, using salud instead, because they are aware of their original religious meaning and want to avoid it, would have no problem using ojalá.
    – Gorpik
    Nov 16, 2016 at 8:07
  • 2
    Which raises the interesting question of what Spanish speaking followers of Islam say instead when speaking about future events. Anglophones say insh'allah which means if God wills it.
    – mdewey
    Nov 16, 2016 at 14:46
  • @mdewey that's a very interesting question. I imagine though that they would then just stick with the Arabic and say inshallah as well
    – Unrelated
    Nov 16, 2016 at 14:47

1 Answer 1


No, it does not.

In both 1780 and 1817 the dictionary defined it as:

interj. Quiera Dios, asi sea. Úsase siempre para expresar el deseo que tenemos de que suceda alguna cosa que se apetece ó pide con ansia. Utinam.

In 1884 it changed to:

interj. con que se denota vivo deseo de que suceda una cosa.

And starting in 2001 it is as follows:

  1. interj. Denota vivo deseo de que suceda algo.

That is, it initially had a religious connotation (Quiera Dios) but it has evolved into something popular and cultural.

This could also be the case of Jesús as to say bless you when sneezing. Neither in Spanish nor in English does this have a literally divine meaning.

  • +1. Explained better, impossible. Nov 17, 2016 at 2:57
  • 1
    I believe ojalá is said to be "grammaticalized", i.e. it's not an idiomatic expression anymore but a grammatical marker. IIRC language learners are told that the verb goes in the subjunctive mood in n cases, one of them being simply "after ojalá". :)
    – pablodf76
    Aug 2, 2018 at 22:48
  • Your argument was very convincing until you added the parenthetical remark about Quiera dios. The answer would be strengthened by removing this. In Mexico, at least, there are plenty of people with a deep-seated folk-level religiosity do mean it literally when they say, "Si Dios quiere" when talking about, for example, managing to pay the electric bill tomorrow. Aug 4, 2018 at 2:23
  • 1
    @aparente001 oh, I see. Feel free to change it to make it more Mexico-compliant (in Spain it is rare to feel such power of God for everyday situations).
    – fedorqui
    Aug 6, 2018 at 14:34
  • 1
    @fedorqui - very nice phrase, Mexico-compliant. // Check if my edit went too far, please. Aug 6, 2018 at 15:37

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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