Culture,  Preparing

What Does “Vale” Actually Mean?!

Dear Katherine,

When you first arrive in Spain, you will begin to hear people say certain phrases on a regular basis. We have already talked about no pasa nada and explained what a guiri is, but another important word in Spanish vocabulary is vale (remember that the v is pronounced as a b in Spain, so you may also see it written as ‘bale’in text messages or other information communications). Within the first week or so you are in Spain you will hear this word more than you can count, but do you know what it means?

Vale from the verb valer

The verb valer means to value something and the value of something is its valor. Spanish people do tend to use the verb valer for various expression. For example, valer is used in the saying “vale la pena” (to be worth it). But does the vale that Spaniards use alone, as many times as possible in a sentence, have this same meaning? Maybe the roots are the same, but in today’s day and age, I personally don’t think that when vale is used in frequent conversations it still carries this meaning.

Vale because something is válido

Another word that vale can be tied to is válido which can be translated to saying something is valid (which in turn is connected to valer/valor because it does represent the value of something as being true). This could also make sense as a possible explanation for the use of the word vale because a lot of times when it is used people are accepting what you are saying to them or agreeing to a plan. For example, if someone asks if I want to meet for coffee at 11, a perfectly reasonable answer could be vale, which I guess can be interpreted as “that plan seems valid to me.”

Vale like okay

Potential etymology aside, the Spanish use the word vale is most frequently used similar to how we use ‘okay’ to confirm something in English—although they also do use ‘ok’ and ‘okey’ (Spanish interpretation of okay)as a more direct ‘translation.’ That is to say, anywhere that you could easily reply okay, you can probably use the word vale. At the same time, like we noted with no pasa nada, saying vale doesn’t really have negative implications that okay might have, it is just an acceptable way of saying ‘yes’ or ‘I hear you’ or ‘sounds like a good plan.’

How many times a day do you hear vale? Do you use it when you speak as well?

Let us know!

Sincerely,
Spain

7 Comments

  • Sincerely, Spain

    Thanks for your input Travis!

    In Granada, we have never really heard the term "vale" to mean "ticket." Could we ask where you use this? In other places in Spain? In other countries?

    We are glad you liked the article!
    Dani and Claudia

  • awy84@yahoo.com

    Yeah I have noticed that here in Barcelona Spanish people really over use the word ‘vale’ like it’s a new word they have just discovered, I will here it millions of times during the day, if I go outside now on the streets it will be literally seconds before I hear someone saying it

    • Sincerely, Spain

      Thanks for sharing your comment Alex!! It is so funny how things like this are normal for Spaniards but jump out at us! We wonder if your example is a bit like hearing native English speakers use the word "like" as that word seems to come up quite often (and many times unnecessarily) when we talk.

  • afj21@yahoo.com

    My wife and I were looking for apartments today and the realtor said, "Si, Vale" or just "Vale" or "Si" about 6,000 times. I found it funny how you said they try to use it as many times as possible in one sentence, it’s true. In the Rio de la Plata region, they use a similar word, "Dale", which is used with the same frequency as "Vale" and in the same exact context.

    • Sincerely, Spain

      Thank you for sharing your experience with us! We have found that once we started speaking Spanish more often, we also include it in our conversations continuously (or even speaking English these days!). It is also interesting to hear that a similar idea/word is also used in Argentina!
      Wishing you best of luck with the apartment search!
      Dani and Claudia

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