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?

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    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, 2020 at 15:24
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    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, 2020 at 15:48
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    @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, 2020 at 16:31
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    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. Apr 27, 2020 at 22:09
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    @user32264 That is your opinion. It's a matter of expression. Obviously, lower class people don't go around saying elegant. However, they have some very colorful phrases.
    – Lambie
    Mar 15, 2022 at 22:17

4 Answers 4


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

According to the DRAE:

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 give 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!


Wow, look at you, how handsome!

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    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? Apr 27, 2020 at 6:33
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    @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, 2020 at 6:56
  • Somebody called my shoes dapper recently. It was a person of the older generation admittedly.
    – mdewey
    Apr 27, 2020 at 13:41
  • Since when is elegant seldom used in English?
    – nopaltepec
    Dec 17, 2021 at 18:41
  • @nopaltepec Maybe you should address Charles with the @
    – RubioRic
    Dec 20, 2021 at 10:35

I was curious as well. Duolingo uses this particular word frequently. Every lesson has a sentence using it. Which seems to imply it is used often. There are other descriptive words for nice clothes and attractive people, duo is just giving you one word to begin with for learning purposes.

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    – mdewey
    Dec 18, 2021 at 14:48

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.

  • I'm Mexican, and I have never seen such usage. So, I'm guessing that it's a regional thing.
    – ViHdzP
    Apr 27, 2020 at 14:29
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    You said there's no English word with that meaning, but it really sounds like "classy" would fit the bill nicely.
    – JakeRobb
    Apr 27, 2020 at 14:44
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    I disagree - in English the word elegant means the same (in at least one context). as @URL mentioned, this additional meaning might be a regional thing.
    – blurfus
    Jul 14, 2021 at 17:52

In my opinion, in beginning Spanish, Duo Lingo tries to use some words that resemble english words, to facilitate fast learning. Elegante, teléfono, supermercado: elegant, telephone, supermarket, and so on. It allows one to see noun placement, verb placement, adjective placement, etc., by using easily identifiable words so as not to muddy the water so to speak. And, I agree that the word elegant is NOT used much in english conversation today, but we all know what it means.


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