Extracto de Desde el tronco de un ombú

Ora enseñando los blancos dientes o dilatando las narices ...

Which is translated as:

Now showing his white teeth and flaring nostrils ...

Is "ora" a shortened version of "ahora"?

If so, when is one used and not the other?


1 Answer 1


Yes, according to the RAE dictionary, the use of ora with this meaning has its origin as a shortened form of ahora:



1. conj. distrib. ahora. Tomando ora la espada, ora la pluma.

So, it replaces ahora only with a specific meaning: when it's used as a conjunción distributiva. Note that this is a rather archaic use, so you'll probably find it only in old or literary writings.

One problem that remains is that this type of conjunctions normally have to appear in pairs, but in this sentence there is only one ora. Where is the other one? Let's take a look at the complete sentence:

Ora enseñando los blancos dientes o dilatando las narices, ya enarcando el cuello o dando una corveta, compele a su grey y la lleva al trazo de gramilla; se para de súbito, arroja un pequeño gruñido felino, y se pone a pastar.

Here the author is mixing ora with ya, which is another conjunción distributiva. It would have been more standard to say:

Ora enseñando [...], ora enarcando [...]


Ya enseñando [...], ya enarcando [...]

In English, now can be used in a similar fashion. Although not all dictionaries list this meaning, I found it in Merrian Webster:

4: SOMETIMES now one and now another

and Oxford:

now ——, now ——

At one moment ——, at the next ——:

a wind whipped about the house, now this way, now that

In summary: it is a shortened version of ahora, but only with a specific meaning, and it is nowadays almost never used except in poetry and literature.

Also, as the other answer mentions, ora can also be the present tense, third-person singular, of orar. It's not the meaning it has in this sentence, but keep it in mind if you find this same word again.

  • Interesante, dejame decirte que lo busque en el diccionario y no aparecio esa definicion en la pagina normal del drae, de panhispánico de dudas y del esencial, como legaste a esa parte se diccionario para aprender? Yo si leia y decia que no tenia sentido que el caballo orando en ese contexto. Ombú al parecer es un tipo de arbol. Desde el celular May 29, 2014 at 11:39
  • 2
    Sí, la interfaz del DRAE es bastante mala, pero si buscas en el diccionario normal la palabra ora te aparecen dos opciones: -or, ra., ora. y orar. Dentro de la primera opción está la definición que copié. El ombú es un tipo de árbol/arbusto típico de la Pampa argentina y de Uruguay, de donde es el autor. es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phytolacca_dioica
    – rsanchez
    May 29, 2014 at 11:51
  • Wow, I've never heard of this... it sounds too much like hora though for me to want to use it.
    – dockeryZ
    May 29, 2014 at 20:40
  • @dockeryz It always comes in pairs: Ora baila, ora canta. It does sound more literary than colloquial, but I could imagine some famous orator (no pun intended) using it in elevated language.
    – tchrist
    Jul 17, 2015 at 4:03

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