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I took a basic module in Spanish and I am very interested in the words feliz and felicidad. Whenever I search for feliz it just brings me back to 'happy'. I think culturally and linguistically, they are different. I want to do a semantic analysis between feliz and 'happy' & felicidad and 'happiness'. Could someone help me out?

  • This might be of interest: Concepts of Happiness Across Time and Cultures – ukemi Feb 11 at 12:45
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    I have no idea what a semantic analysis could mean, imply or requiere but I don't think there is any difference because those are the exact translations. Happy=Feliz and Happiness=Felicidad. Could you clarify what is your need? – DGaleano Feb 11 at 18:21
  • Through my personal research, I have found that the Danish word for 'happiness' is not the same as the English 'happiness' because of cultural differences. I think that because English and Spanish have entirely different cultures, there may be subtle differences between 'felicidad' and 'happiness'. – Dennis lul Feb 11 at 20:04
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If you want to understand subtle differences, what might be helpful would be to look at usage. The most common words that are often equivalent to the English "happy" are:

  • contento

  • feliz

  • alegre

"Alegre" could describe a happy-go-lucky sort of person. For example, "Juan is a happy person," "Juan es alegre."

"Contento" is often more transitory than "feliz." Thus, "ser" is often used with "feliz," and "estar" is often used with "contento."

This is a minor point, but it might help you: "Feliz" is used for wishing people a happy birthday or a merry Christmas.

"Feliz" could describe something more abstract, for example "a happy outcome." "Contento" would only be used for people or animals.

You can look at more sample sentences by putting "happy" into linguee.com. That's the short-cut approach. The more time-intensive, but more thorough, approach, is to look at the dictionary entries for the relevant words, in a dictionary that gives lots of usage examples.

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This answer is meant to be an extension of aparente001's answer.

The English word happy is very similar to but not exactly the same as feliz because happy actually encompasses the three terms that were mentioned before: feliz, contento, and alegre.

It is possible, for example, to use the phrase "I want to be happy" to express three phrases that have closely related meanings but are actually different:

Quiero ser feliz.
Expresses a desire to be happy, in the abstract sense of the word. The person would like to attain happiness and fulfillment.

Quiero estar contento.
Expresses a desire to be in a state of happiness, in the explicit sense of the word. It also has similarity to the cognate of content but, unlike where English's content implies a state of contentment or I daresay acceptance rather than happiness, in Spanish contento refers to the state of happiness.

Quiero ser alegre.
Expresses a desire to be a person that is cheerful. Cheerfulness is closely associated with a state of happiness and with being happy and fulfilled, but is reflective of personality rather than state of being or sense of fulfillment.

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I absolutely agree with @DGaleano, there is no mayor difference semantically between feliz and happy. It's the most common translation used. But let's check what the dictionaries have to say about that.

According to the DRAE

feliz

  1. adj. Que tiene felicidad.

  2. adj. Que causa felicidad.

  3. adj. Dicho de un pensamiento, de una frase o de una expresión: Oportuno, acertado, eficaz. Dicho, ocurrencia, idea feliz.

Let's replace felicidad by its meaning

  1. adj. Que tiene grata satisfacción espiritual y física.

  2. adj. Que causa grata satisfacción espiritual y física.

  3. adj. Dicho de un pensamiento, de una frase o de una expresión: Oportuno, acertado, eficaz. Dicho, ocurrencia, idea feliz.

And now let's copy the definitions for happy that appear in the Cambridge Dictionary

  1. adj. Que tiene grata satisfacción espiritual y física.
    feeling, showing pleasure or satisfaction
  2. adj. Que causa grata satisfacción espiritual y física.
    causing pleasure or satisfaction
  3. adj. Dicho de un pensamiento, de una frase o de una expresión: oportuno, acertado, eficaz. Dicho, ocurrencia, idea feliz.
    (of words or behaviour) suitable

And

Happy is also used in greetings for special occasions, expressing good wishes:

Happy birthday!
Happy New Year!

just like feliz

¡Feliz cumpleaños!
¡Feliz Año Nuevo!

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