Fundeu BBVA's Spanish Word of the Year

by John Bascombe on Thursday, January 9, 2014

Fundeu BBVA's Spanish Word of the Year

The 2013 Word of the Year: ESCRACHE

A number of new and curious words have made interesting appearances on the Spanish linguistic landscape in recent years including wasapear (to send text messages using the cell phone app WhatsApp) and auto-foto. These terms made the candidate short list, but Fundeu BBVA ended up selecting escrache  as their 2013 word of the year. 

The Fundeu BBVA is an organization that works together with the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE) and whose main mission is to promote what they deem as proper Spanish usage in the media. The group was looking for a word that had recently come into the mainstream and was relevant in terms of its usage to describe recent current events. Escrache, in reference to an organized demonstration in front of the homes of politicians and other public figures, seemed to meet those qualifications.

The Argentine and Uruguayan media used the word frequently in the 1990s to describe many demonstrations held to protest crimes committed by dictatorships. Escrache has recently found its way across the Atlantic and into Spain’s popular media, which makes use of the word to describe protests organized by Spain’s Mortgage Victims Platform, a social group that fights against home evictions.  

Escrache’s origins in Argentina likely come from the Genovese scraccâ meaning to spit, or the Italian schiacciare meaning to smash or crush. English speakers however will immediately associate escrache with the word scratch, and Spanish speakers in places with heavy English language influences (like the US) use escrache to describe a scratch. It’s a completely different usage of the word, which makes it even more interesting and added value to its candidacy as Fundeu BBVA’s word of the year.

 Although the RAE’s dictionary does not include the word, it does provide an entry of the verb escrachar as a colloquial Argentine word that can mean either to break, destroy, smash, or oddly enough, to take a photograph of somebody.

This is the first year that the Fundeu BBVA has selected a word of the year, and it’s not the only organization to do it. The American Dialect Society has been announcing words of the year in English since 1991. Not! meaning “just kidding” was 92’s woty. Both Webster and Oxford dictionaries have them too. This year, “selfie” beat out “twerk” and “bitcoin” to become Oxford’s word of the year.

The “most beautiful Spanish word” survey

The Cervantes Institute has launched several online surveys in recent years in search of the most beautiful word in Spanish. The surveys, which coincide with el Día del Español celebrations (which happen in mid June), are open to anyone who wants to participate, and thousands of internet users from around the world compete.

Amor” won in 2006 but had stiff competition from words with appealing meanings like paz or libertad, and words that sounded attractive such as libélula, albahaca and susurro. In 2011, a word nominated by the celebrated actor Gael García Bernal was elected over other nominations such as sueño, flamenco and alegría: his word was Querétaro, a word with indigenous origins and likely means either “island of the blue salamanders” or “place of reptiles”.

So what do you think is the most beautiful word in Spanish? Which do you think should be the word of the year?

Keywords: spanish dictionary,bbva,spanish words,beautiful words,words in spanish,word of the year


1 » Diana Caballero (on Saturday, January 11, 2014) said:

For me "escrachar" is when something breaks. For example "Se me escrachó la computadora"

2 » Tandem Madrid (on Wednesday, January 15, 2014) said:

A really interesting article! I would have gone with wasapear, as I hear people use it all the time.