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Black Friday and All the Spanish Vocabulary to Make It Awesome

The Bare-Essential Shopping Vocabulary to Add Some Spanish Flavor to Your Black Friday Experience

Black Friday or not, a basic shopping vocabulary never hurt anyone.

Photo credit: David Leo Veksler licensed cc by 2.0

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Black Friday isn’t as macabre as it might sound to our non-American friends. Far from its somber name, this is the day right after Thanksgiving when America celebrates capitalism in all its glory. It’s the day you ammo-up for the big shopping slugfest over otherworldly discounts and drool-worthy offers. This is the day you corner as much as you can, just so you have something to thank Providence for over the next year’s Thanksgiving dinner.

I mean, when does one have just enough? That’s ridiculous. When the discounts are this big, enough is never enough. So if you’re planning to survive the soul-churning stampede, here’s a quick lesson on words that could come in handy should you find yourself plundering a store in one of those Hispanic quarters in town. You never know, your efforts with Spanish might just impress the store management enough to offer you a welcome freebie, whatsay? Miracles, after all, do happen all the time!

Haggle Your Way through Black Friday…in Spanish

Haggling is arguably the most adventurous aspect of a complete shopping experience, Black Friday or not. Things are cheap, things are expensive, and with some luck, things are even free at times. This little piece of wisdom is enough to help you pick the three most important words you should start your Black Friday vocabulary shopping list with. If you’re still lost, the words are cheap, expensive, and free. Nail these and you’ll have a good starting point.

Caro

Meaning: Expensive

One might argue that expensive isn’t a word worth learning on a day like Black Friday but then, weren’t you just planning on surviving the day? I mean there’s life after Black Friday for most of us, right? And it literally pays to know how to say something is too expensive. Particularly while dickering with a vendor hell bent on making a killing off your wallet. So our word of interest here is caro. That’s expensive in Spanish. In order to remember caro, just think of a ridiculously expensive car you’ve been dreaming of buying ever since the Big Bang but couldn’t. The rhyme between car and caro is not an easy one to miss. By the way, expensive is also dear in English and it’s no mere coincidence that the word for dear in Spanish is cariño, which is derived from – you guessed it – caro.

Barato

Meaning: Cheap

With expensive out of the way, it’s time for cheap. After all, isn’t Black Friday all about everything going as cheap as it gets? That’s barato. The word sounds like the English verb barter because it derives from baratar, Spanish for barter. No idea what the linguistic game plan was with this etymology. But there are enough old people around to remind us of how things were dirt cheap in the good old days when a dime went farther than today’s Benjamin. That’s probably the whole idea – things were cheap back in the day and barter system was also a thing, again, back in the day. Use this analogy to bridge the concepts of cheap and barter and you will forever remember barato. Easy, wasn’t it? Etymology is the magic wand no vocabulary enthusiast should ever stop using.

Be grateful for that gratuity! Be grateful for that gratuity!
Daniel Lobo licensed cc by 2.0

Gratis

Meaning: Free

Although the odds of you ever getting anything for free even on Black Friday are beyond slim, it’s always a good idea to ask anyway. Who knows, it might just be your lucky day. In order to do so in Spanish, you need the word gratis. The word directly draws from the common ancestor that gave us words like gratuity and gratify. See a pattern there? Etymology, our knight in shining armor!

Before we move on, there’s one little aside you should keep in mind. Free serves two purposes in English. You’re free if you don’t cost anything. But you’re also free if you have nothing to do. While English makes do with the same word for both scenarios and lets the context do the heavy lifting of interpretation, Spanish doesn’t. Gratis only works when a cost or, more accurately, a lack thereof is involved. But when you’re unoccupied or independent, you’re libre. Libre and gratis are not interchangeable for obvious reasons. While gratis is easy to recall through gratify, libre is related to liberty.

Comprar is to shop and compras is the corresponding noun, shopping in English. How do you ensure the word doesn’t fall off your head?

The Act of Shopping

Now that you have a basic handle on the three most important shopping terms, it’s time to dig deeper. Shopping isn’t just about knowing if things are cheap. It’s also about buying them. Selling them. And also haggling over their price, if you will. Which is why now we’ll explore verbs like buy and sell and also words you might wanna have at hand while doing those things. Don’t let this overwhelm you because as always, we will learn not only the words but also mnemonic tricks to remember them. Stay braced.

Comprar

Meaning: To buy

Black Friday or not, shopping is a compromise. Not just figuratively, but literally. Let’s see how. The single most important verb in the context of shopping is, well, shopping. This one translates into comprar. Comprar is to shop and compras is the corresponding noun, shopping in English. How do you ensure the word doesn’t fall off your head? It’s simple, think of shopping as an endeavor full of compromises. You want something and then your wallet ensures you settle for something far less desirable.

We’ve all compromised on our wish lists at some point or the other, haven’t we? That’s inevitable unless your daddy’s name is Warren Buffet or Sam Walton. And these compromises can often be painful and hard to forget. Imagine having to settle for a cheap Chinese knockoff when you were hoping to afford the real deal from a real brand. It sucks, which is why compromise will help you remember comprar every time you go shopping. The two words sound so close they might even have historical ties, who knows!

Vender

Meaning: To buy

If someone’s buying, someone’s got to be selling too. Not all of us are lucky enough to have a work-off to celebrate our Black Friday indulgences. Some of us have to sit behind the cash registers to feed our customers’ appetite for shopping. And that makes sell a pretty important verb to know. Besides, sell and buy go together anyway, so it doesn’t hurt to learn them together.

To sell is vender and if you haven’t noticed already, vender sounds like vendor. Need I say more on this? A vendor sells! I am confident you’re not gonna lose this word anymore even if you tried hard. And this word-association isn’t mere coincidence. The two words do go back a long way. Both descend from a common Latin ancestor.

Despite looking like clones, the valor of Spanish has nothing to do with valor of English. The two words are absolute strangers to each other.

Costar

Meaning: To cost

The next super-important verb for the occasion is costar, Spanish for cost. This one hardly calls for any trickery given its obvious similarity with its English counterpart. Cognates much? Just be careful when using the word in a sentence because in Spanish, verbs must be conjugated in order to serve any purpose. And when doing so, the -o- of costar morphs into -ue-. That’s why we say cuesta (it costs) instead of costa and cuestan (they cost) instead of costan.

Cost as a noun is costo or coste, depending on what you’re paying for. Although more often than not used interchangeably, the two words do differ. Costo is what you pay for something. Coste is also what you pay for it – and then some. You see, coste includes the total expense incurred in acquiring the product or service in question, e.g., transportation, assembly, installation, etc. There’s also precio which, as you might have already guessed, is Spanish for price.

Another word you might wanna consider learning at this point is valor which translates into value. I know what you’re thinking. But no, don’t let the Devil fool you. Despite looking like clones, the valor of Spanish has nothing to do with valor of English. The two words are absolute strangers to each other. With that uneasy bit out of the way, let’s move on to valorar. In English, value can be used both as a noun and as a verb. To do that with valor in Spanish, you’ve got to add a verb-ending to it and make it valorar.

Regatear

Meaning: To haggle

Haggling is fun. Or annoying, depending on the final outcome. Your preferences notwithstanding, knowing this verb is a wise idea. The verb is regatear in Spanish. Unfortunately, regatear doesn’t have any living relatives in the English dictionary to help you with a memory hook. So etymology isn’t an option here. Let’s try word-association. Regatear sounds eerily like reggaeton, that genre of music. I don’t know if it’s your favorite genre but you’re most likely no stranger to it. Let’s exploit this similarity and string the two words together into a wacky image. Imagine yourself at a local music store that’s holding a huge Black Friday sale. Picture yourself haggling yourself over the latest release from a favorite reggaeton act, say, Daddy Yankee. Will you ever lose regatear now? I doubt.

Caja

Meaning: Cash register

Filled your cart with the loot? Then let’s head straight to the cash register. Caja is the word you’re looking for here. The word originally means box which should immediately make you think of the box-shaped cash-counter with the cashier sitting inside of it. Caja comes from the same Latin root that also gives us the very familiar English word cage. Cage, box, not totally unrelated, are they? So this time when you’re at the counter waiting to pay for your plunder, think of the poor cashier locked up in his cage, err…caja, unable to enjoy his Thanksgiving like the rest of America. Cashier, by the way, is cajero in Spanish. Needless to say, cajero is a derivative of caja, so remembering one will ensure you remember the other. Oh and cajero also translates into bank teller, cash dispenser, or ATM.

A rebate isn't always the same as discount but nobody's crucifying you for ignoring that fact. A rebate isn’t always the same as discount but nobody’s crucifying you for ignoring that fact.
CheapInMadrid licensed cc by-sa 2.0

Sale! Sale! Sale!

Discounts and price reductions are the very foundation of a brag-worthy Black Friday experience. That’s why no vocabulary themed around shopping is ever going to be complete without these words. Discount is descuento and price reduction is rebaja. The pedant in you might refuse to accept the two words as interchangeable because they aren’t.

Descuento is what you are offered on a case-by-case basis, say, if you’re a loyal customer or you’re buying in bulk. Rebaja, on the other hand, is what everyone gets when there’s a sale. The word is often used in plural as rebajas when a sale is being advertised. That being said, for all practical purposes, descuento and rebaja can be mixed up and almost always are. Descuento is easy to memorize as it already sounds and looks like discount. As for rebaja, try rebate.

When using rebaja in a sentence, you often stick an estar de to it. So to be on sale or to have a sale is estar de rebaja. Speaking of sale, you might also come across venta as another translation for the word. Although both rebaja and venta translate into sale, be very careful not to mix the two words up. While rebaja refers to a reduced price, venta is just sale in the sense of something being available for purchase. In other words, rebaja involves a price reduction whereas venta doesn’t have to.

So when you hear a house being up for sale, it’s venta and not rebaja. But when there’s a flat 40% off on that house, it’s a rebaja. Venta derives from the verb vender that we discussed above. Vender is what gives us vendedor meaning vendor. They’re all one happy family and should be easy to remember.

Final Thoughts

That’s far from all the words you’ll need on a shopping spree even on a regular day. But they’re certainly the most heavily used ones. What other words come to your mind in the context of shopping? Can you come up with your own innovative tricks to memorize them? I’d love to learn from you so please drop me a comment below and share your trickery with the rest of us. And most importantly, use whatever you learn. Words are meant to roll off your tongue, not rot away in your head. Black Friday or not, one could never stress enough the importance of a functional shopping vocabulary. So go ahead and shop till you drop…like a Latino!

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