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Dick Gregory famously said of his childhood, "We weren't poor, just broke." Meaning, his family was chronically out of money. In German you can express the same thing as being "pleite."

What's a colloquialism for being broke or out of money in Spanish?

I'm looking for a word in the same register as broke: informal but not vulgar. A word is okay, or a phrase. Should be an adjective.


I'm not asking for a translation of the Dick Gregory quote; note that estar en la ruina is much stronger than broke. Broke is for when you've run out of money several days before your paycheck comes in.

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    In Spain you can use estar pelado. pelado: Dicho de una persona: Que se ha quedado sin dinero.
    – user14069
    Sep 2, 2017 at 16:29

1 Answer 1

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You say you need an adjective, but the one that comes to my mind:

quebrado, da. Del part. de quebrar.

  1. adj. Que ha hecho bancarrota (‖ quiebra de una empresa). U. t. c. s.

requires the copulative "estar", not "ser", and you won't be able to find the pair with "poor" I think you want to form:

  • No éramos pobres -- simplemente estábamos quebrados.

You also have prepositional phrases like "en la ruina" or "en la quiebra".

I hope this helps.

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  • Yes, quebrado is good -- it came to me a couple hours after posting. By the way I didn't mean I was trying to translate the Dick Gregory quote. I used it to show succinctly what I meant by broke. Anyway, thanks. Sep 1, 2017 at 3:52
  • En España no se diría quebrado, quebrar se usa para empresas pero no personas y nunca con el verbo estar. Usaríamos arruinado o la expresión "estar en la ruina" que indicas también en tu respuesta
    – user14069
    Sep 1, 2017 at 8:21
  • @blonfu Aquí también podemos usar "arruinado". Al igual que "quebrado", y tal vez aún más, "arruinado" se oye mucho para significar estar mal física o emocionalmente: Con el paso de los años, está arruinado. También tenemos el término (más legal) "fallida" para referirnos al estado causado por la presentación o determinación de una quiebra comercial.
    – Gustavson
    Sep 1, 2017 at 10:00

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