What Does "Vale" Actually Mean?!

Dear Katherine,

 You have to left and then right and then... (the correct response to someone giving directions is:  vale ,  vale ,  vale ). 

You have to left and then right and then... (the correct response to someone giving directions is: vale, vale, vale). 

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

 If someone asks you to go for a beer,  vale  is an appropriate affirmation. 

If someone asks you to go for a beer, vale is an appropriate affirmation. 

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.”

 When you borrow something, make sure to give it back, ¿ vale ?

When you borrow something, make sure to give it back, ¿vale?

 

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