5

I'm using Duolingo to learn Spanish. One of the first words that it taught me was "elegante." I'd consider this a quirk of Duolingo, but when I learned French in high school "élégant" was also a fairly early vocab word.

Do native Spanish speakers say "elegante" often or at least more than native English speakers say "elegant?" In English, outside of certain contexts (an "elegant" math proof), the word is used sparingly and, more often than not, ironically. When would it be appropriate to use "elegante" in Spanish?

  • 2
    For what its worth, as a native English speaker and fluent Spanish speaker, I don't see that elegant is rare or special in English. I certainly wouldn't assume it is being used ironically. It is a perfectly common word, what makes you think it's rare in English? – terdon Apr 27 at 15:24
  • 1
    I would say that "smart" is often used in English with this meaning. At the workplace.stackexchange they often advise to dress smart at interviews, where in Spanish they could have advised to "ir elegante" (o "ir bien vestido"). – Pere Apr 27 at 15:48
  • 1
    @Pere Perhaps that's the case in certain regions? I've heard smart used that way in British English a lot, and I think in Australian, but never in American English. In any case, I think that's the right approach here-- being a cognate is a poor guide to word use in another language (cue stories about embarazada...) – Upper_Case Apr 27 at 16:31
  • 1
    I was also thrown for a loop when Duolingo taught me "elegante" so early on. It's almost never used in english except as programmer jargon or describing high-society (effeminate) dress/decor. I did get some laughs at all the repetition of "Mi padre es elegante", imagining my dad was Elton John. – user1169420 Apr 27 at 22:09
9

I don't know about native English speakers' use of elegant, but we Spaniards use elegante pretty much. It's a common word, more employed in relation with dressing but also used in the science field in the sense that you pointed.

According to the DRAE:

elegante
3. adj. Dicho de una persona: Que tiene buen gusto y distinción para vestir

For example, when you put extra care in dressing because you have a party, a wedding, or an official reception, if someone wants to make you a compliment, he/she probably would said:

¡Qué elegante!

I'm not sure about the exact translation in English but it probably is:

What a fancy suit/dress!

or

Wow, look at you, how handsome!

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    If It really functions like the English "fancy" then I can see it being an important vocabulary word. While "elegant" is seldom used in english, "fancy," "sharp," and "nice" are used frequently to describe a person's dress. Outside the scope of the question, but are there other words than "elegante" that are frequently used to describe dress in Spanish? – Charles Hudgins Apr 27 at 6:33
  • 2
    @CharlesHudgins I think that "elegante" is the most universal word in Spanish speaking contries. There is a lot of ways of saying it depending on the region or the country. For example, I think that in Mexico you could say: ¡Qué chido! (I'm from Spain, I'm not 100% sure). You should ask a different question to get more regionalisms or variants. :-) – RubioRic Apr 27 at 6:56
  • Somebody called my shoes dapper recently. It was a person of the older generation admittedly. – mdewey Apr 27 at 13:41
1

There is no english word with the same meaning as elegante used in spanish. Here, -as the definition implies, it means a person of good taste and demeanor, not necessarily limited to the clothes he/she is wearing, but extending to the effect the person has on others. "Que elegante estás" means that the person is dressed tastefully and that his/her demeanor is such as to provide a feeling of satisfaction of being in that company or setting. "Que fiesta tan elegante" means what a fine and distinguished affair. Fancy or handsome do not capture the complete meaning of the word as used in the spanish language.

| improve this answer | |
  • I'm Mexican, and I have never seen such usage. So, I'm guessing that it's a regional thing. – URL Apr 27 at 14:29
  • 2
    You said there's no English word with that meaning, but it really sounds like "classy" would fit the bill nicely. – JakeRobb Apr 27 at 14:44

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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