I am a native Portuguese speaker, where noiva means "bride" or "fiancée." So I was very confused when someone asked me if a girl was my novia, since she didn't have an engagement ring (thank goodness I didn't give her one. But I digress).

Only later I learned that novia can be translated as "girlfriend," "fiancée" and "bride." It seems like novia is the most common translation of "girlfriend," but what about the others? Should I refer to my fiancée as my prometida? What do people call a bride?

  • I've also noticed that, at least in Mexico, the family of a boy/girlfriend is referred to as "in-laws."
    – Flimzy
    Commented Dec 16, 2011 at 6:57
  • @Flimzy: it's also a common practice in Colombia. Commented Dec 16, 2011 at 13:14
  • FWIW, Chileans use the word pololo/a to mean boyfriend/girlfriend and novia implies a higher level of commitment (closer to fiancée).
    – Roman
    Commented Dec 16, 2011 at 17:06
  • @Flimzy I think "between" is more correct than "among" in this case: english.stackexchange.com/a/37640/5755
    – Orion
    Commented Dec 17, 2011 at 6:57
  • @NullUserExceptionఠ_ఠ: Interesting...
    – Flimzy
    Commented Dec 17, 2011 at 20:30

4 Answers 4


The usual translations are:

Girlfriend: Novia

Fiancée: Prometida

Bride: Novia

So the confusion could be about girlfriend and bride. Usually the difference is in the context of the sentence. If the speaker is speaking about a wedding it will refer to a bride (the wedding dress that she wears usually helps :) ).

But the article used sometimes can help, for intance:

La novia es muy guapa

In this case as it is used a definite article, it means that in the context there is only one "novia". This is the usual case of a wedding day, because there's only one bride (usually). So it's likely that the meaning is "bride", but it could mean "Girlfriend" in a situation where there would be only a girlfriend and by saying "the girlfriend" everybody would know we're referring to her.

Tu novia es muy guapa

In this case is not used a definite article but a possessive adjective. "I can have a girlfriend", but it's weird to say "I have a bride", so in this case we'd be referring to a "Girlfriend".

  • 2
    Exactly, the only place for novia as "bride" is when talking about the wedding, if not, you're talking about a girlfriend. And yes, fianceé is "prometida".
    – c4sh
    Commented Dec 16, 2011 at 13:02
  • 2
    As a cultural variation, in es-CL (Chile) the term "polola" is used for girlfrend and "novia" is used for bride AND fiancée. "Prometida" is also understood as fiancée, but is used only in formal writing or speaking.
    – David Lay
    Commented Dec 22, 2011 at 18:48
  • Is it true that the "strongest" term is prometida for a fiancee? I was told that in some Spanish-speaking cultures, if a woman wants to discourage "attention," she should wear only her engagement (and not wedding) ring. Apparently, a"jaded" married woman is considered "fair game" for a "proposition," but a (newly) affianced woman in the throes of love is not.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Mar 6, 2013 at 17:43

It varies by region/country. My experience in Chile was:

  • Polol@ meant boy/girlfriend
  • Prometid@ meant fiance
  • Novi@ could mean fiance or serious boy/girlfriend (roughly)
  • Espos@ meant spouse/wife/husband
  • Saying that two people were andando meant that they were interested and getting to know each other
  • Saying that two people were (or that one person was) pololeando meant they were dating
  • Saying that someone was prometid@ meant that they were engaged
  • Mi prometid@ was my fiance

Novi@, prometid@ and espos@ are generally pretty safe wherever you go, but understanding the intricacies you might hear in gossip (not suggesting you do that!) might require some time among the locals, or more research.

Note: I'm using @ here to mean o or a.

  • 4
    You should not use @. And if you would use it, its meaning is not that of "o/a", because it is read as "en" (commercial and technical) or "arroba" (measurement unit). Check Diccionario panhispánico de dudas (2005) de la Real Academia Española: «la arroba no es un signo lingüístico y, por ello, su uso en estos casos es inadmisible desde el punto de vista normativo; a esto se añade la imposibilidad de aplicar esta fórmula integradora en muchos casos sin dar lugar a graves inconsistencias, como ocurre en Día del niñ@, donde la contracción del solo es válida para el masculino niño.»*
    – Envite
    Commented Jul 15, 2014 at 5:27
  • In Spanish @ is not used in that way.
    – Krauss
    Commented May 24 at 6:32

In Mex/Spanish, «Novia» acutely refers to girlfriend and «Esposa» is the proper word for wife. In actuality, «esposa»=wife, «esposo»=husband and the direct translation of the two words in English are identical, 'spouse'.

There is also a colloquial Mexican term of endearment for wife which is «marida» which is a more familiar term amongst friends and relatives as opposed to a proper introduction done in public. I negated covering fiancee as that was well covered.


In our Cuban family, prometida is never used, but would be understood. It's tricky when writing to family about my kids boyfriends of girlfriends who are not engaged. I often switch it to the English boyfriend/girlfriend for those who know some English. The term we've coined amongst our family, is nonovio or nonovia for the boyfriend or girlfriend who is not a novia or novio --fiancee or fiance. Wish it was a real term... maybe we can spread it worldwide!! I understand that prometido would explain engaged/promised...but it still does not help to explain that when persons have novias/novios...but they are NOT engaged, (And might never be if they just decide to live together as seems to be more and more the norm!), without a lengthy explanation.

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