Amanecer for all seasons

For some reason, this old post on some of my favorite words in Spanish has been getting a lot of traffic lately. Those words are great, but unfortunately I don’t find many opportunities to work floripondio, acuatizaje, or gordinflón into conversations. (Despite our obesity epidemic, we Americans are pretty touchy about this being pointed out to us. Thus, you can only think gordinflón; you can’t say it. Unless you’re The Onion, of course.)

Some of the words on that list do get a lot of mileage in my daily parlance, though: words like mijo/mijaojalá, and pues. Today I want to write about amanecer, the second word on the list. He’s number two, but he tries harder than number one (inmiscuirse), and he’s infinitely more interesting. He’s also much more useful than, say, pluviosidad. Of course, I support beauty for beauty’s sake, so there’s nothing wrong with being beautiful and (practically) useless. We just get more opportunities to admire the loveliness of words like amanecer when they lend themselves more easily to the prose of daily life.

I’m sure you’re familiar with amanecer. It means to dawn, for the sun to come up. Amanecer as a noun means sunrise, dawn, daybreak.

Hoy amaneció a las 5:55. 

Today the sun came up at 5:55.

Rezo por ti cada noche, amanece y pienso en ti. (Shakira)

I pray for you every night; at dawn I think of you.

Después del concierto nos quedamos tomando vino hasta que amanecía.

After the concert we drank wine until it was beginning to get light out.

Image by °lorenalreves° via Flickr Creative Commons

Nunca alcanzamos a ver el amanecer juntos.

We never got a chance to watch a sunrise together.

Another very widespread usage of amanecer is to wake up, especially to talk about your location or how you feel. ¿Cómo amaneciste? is the standard question for this, and you ask it to your fellow household dwellers (partner, family) as you groggily pad about in the mornings. You can also ask close friends or coworkers if it’s still a.m. What is it asking? Poetically, how did you dawn? (You can, after all, tell people that they’re un sol–a sweetheart–so why can’t they dawn and dusk?) Really, it’s, how’d you sleep? How are you feeling this morning? Did you wake up on the right side of the bed? Rodney wrote a post on it a while back. Ojo, it usually sounds more like ¿Cómo ‘maneciste?

Describing how you feel:

Sudafed te tumba pero amaneces renovada. Es buenísimo.

Sudafed will knock you out, but you’ll wake up a new person. It’s amazing.

Amanecí bien, pero hoy salí bastante aburrido del trabajo.

I felt good this morning, but I left work today extremely unhappy.

En estos días mi niño me amanece enfermito y con una infección en los ojitos.

The past few days, my son has been waking up sick and with an eye infection.

amanecí duro

Describing where you are:

Amanecí otra vez entre tus brazos, y desperté llorando de alegría. (Chavela Vargas)

At daybreak I found myself once again in your arms, and I awoke crying tears of happiness.

Nos quedamos dormidos en el avión y amanecimos sobre Madrid. 

We fell asleep on the plane and woke up over Madrid.

In Colombia, they frequently say amanecer to mean to spend the night somewhere. Actually, I never heard this in Bogotá, but I heard it constantly in Medellín. Maybe it’s used in Bogotá as well, but I never noticed it. Although I lived in a more or less central part of Medellín, on the weekends I’d often go to Bello, a municipality to the north. Once it got late, the question was always whether to amanecer or not to amanecer; to just stay the night at the family’s house or head all the way back. I can’t find a single citation of this usage online, but I know it’s common in Colombia. Anywhere else? I love that rather than focusing on where you spend the night and perhaps using atardecer or anochecer, this usage instead focuses on where you spend the dawn. Mom, can I spend the dawn with Amy? Perhaps instead of a slumber party, we’d call it an awakening party. What’s better– to fall asleep by a lover’s side, or to wake up next to them? Which should we emphasize? Isn’t language rich? Living in Colombia and inhabiting this beautiful Spanish, I felt like I lived in a poem.

El sábado decidí amanecer en casa de mi familia, pues se me hizo tarde, además también estaba lloviendo.

On Saturday I decided to stay the night at my family’s house because it was getting late, and on top of that it was raining.

Voy a amanecer donde mi tía la noche antes del matrimonio.

I’m going to stay at my aunt’s place the night before the wedding.

Amanece, quédate a mi lado toda la noche hasta que llegue el día, reina de mi vida. (Doctor Krapula- Colombian band)

Stay the night, stay by my side all night long until day comes, my queen.

Image by olgaberrios from Flickr Creative Commons

Amanecer muerto is a way of saying that someone was found dead in the morning. Maybe they died in their sleep, or maybe they passed away in a less peaceful manner. It’s now lights out for them.

One must-know phrase–at least in Colombia and, it appears, Venezuela–is this one: amanecerá y veremos. Literally, it will dawn and we’ll see. Figuratively, pretty much the same. Tomorrow will come and then we’ll see. Let’s wait and see. Only time can tell. Seeing is believing. Amanecerá y veremos can be an innocent enough phrase that merely indicates that there’s no point in stressing out and that we’ll know the answers to our questions soon. It can also be a synonym, though, of a cynical attitude of indifference and apathy. Sort of a, Harumph! Oh yeah? Such and such politician said they’d do that? Time will tell, I guess, but I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you. It’s like an eye roll and a shrug, transcribed.

When checking in new patients at work, we have to ask them a litany of questions, one of which is something like, “Is there anyone in your life who threatens or abuses you?” (¿Hay alguien en su vida que le amenace o lo maltrate?) I always mentally trip over threaten, though, and have to sort through in a nanosecond whether it’s amenazar or amanecer, amenace or amanece (amanezca). Is there anyone in your life who dawns you? Would you like there to be? I know I would.

In case you were wondering, you can’t use amanecer to express that something dawned on you. If you have an aha moment, you’ll want to say se me ocurrió or caí en la cuenta.

So, do you concur with me that amanecer is as beautiful and fascinating word as what it describes? Definitely as worth it to learn as an amanecer is worth waking up early for.

7 responses to “Amanecer for all seasons

  1. Great piece, again. And again, I found myself laughing a lot while reading it. It’s funny that “llegar amanecido” implies that you were out partying. You wouldn’t say that someone is “amanecido” if the person stayed up studying or working. “Trasnochado” would apply to both situations, though, so if you are really tired and sleepy because you pulled an all-nighter studying, then you would say that you are “trasnochado.” You could, however, say that “nos amanecio estudiando” (kind of the opposite of “nos cogio la noche”).

    Another usage of the word is when you are not alert and somebody gets an edge because of it. I mostly remember hearing it in the context of sports, soccer in particular, but the expression in Bogota is commonly “se dejo madrugar.” Other people say, “se dejo amanecer.” So, somebody is passing the ball to a player who is not paying enough attention and an opposing player takes advantage and gets the ball. In other words, “camaron que se duerme se lo lleva la corriente.”

    And speaking about “amanecer” and partying, this is widely used. Here is a link to “Amaneciendo,” a classic “bailable” song:


    • Pero wow, qué comentariazo, por Diosssss. I love it. You’re quickly become one of my best commenters :)

      Laughing a lot? I’m glad to hear it. I wasn’t even trying to be funny. Thanks, I didn’t know that about llegar amanecido. Trasnochado, yes, and I’d like to give it its own blog post at some point. Se dejó madrugar, se dejó amanecer– me encanta.

      Camarón que se duerme se lo lleva la corriente– vea, con un refrán y todo. Ojalá a mí se me hubiera ocurrido. Bueno, camarón que se duerme amanece en cebiche, ¿sí o no?

      Siempre me ha gustado esa cumbia. ¡Gracias!

      By the way, did you “get” the title of this post? Did you catch the reference/allusion? If not, don’t feel bad– the other three friends I grilled didn’t either Ö


  2. No, I wasn’t even close to getting it. But now that you explained it with plastilina, I’d be ashamed if I didn’t. Good one.

    I guess the reason for my laughing when I read your blogs is that you write these expressions that remind me of actual situations. First, I imagine someone hearing them for the first time and going like… wha? And then I think of people actually saying those things and that makes me laugh. I guess you make me think of words in a way I didn’t think before. I wish I had some of the gift of writing that you have, and that I could come up with some good stuff.

    In the case of “amaneciendo,” this is kind of an easy target for me, and it is a matter of degree. See, when it comes to “trasnochado,” there are, let’s say, legitimate reasons to do it, like having to work or tending to an emergency. I guess you could also say “estoy trasnochado porque habia un perro ladrando que no me dejo dormir.” And then, there are reasons that might not be deemed so legitimate, like going out with your friends. Then you hear things like, “a ese tipo como le gusta trasnochar,” or “ve? por andar trasnochando.” But when you take the “trasnochada” up a notch and you don’t go to sleep before the sun comes up then the “amaneciendo” kicks in. You can, of course, go to an “amanecedero” (after-hours place), or be good and go to a “desayunadero,” and have something to eat before going to sleep. Also, there is always the possibility that someone brings a few people back to their house “a seguirla,” which is often not a great idea. The result, in any case, is that the sun comes up before you go to sleep.

    See how much I get out of your posts? :)


    • No need to be ashamed. I haven’t seen the movie, but my grandmother gave it to me as a gift a few years ago. Knowing me, I’ll watch it and then get another idea for a post :)

      Thanks for taking the time to explain the ins and outs of trasnochar and amanecer to me. I love amanecedero. You know, my ex was a major homebody, but next time I’ll try to find a novio that takes me to the amanecederos :)

      Thanks so much for your kind words!


      • Well, I don’t know much about amanecederos these days. It’s been a while, and things change, sometimes fast. As usual, you just have to know somebody who knows somebody….

        De ñapa, a few other good words (since you linked us to your older post about words in Spanish). First, related to this post, we shouldn’t forget that when you just can’t go to sleep the you are “desvelado.”

        From the lyrics of the cumbia, I see “algarabía” and from that I get “alharaca.” Finally, extending your series at the end of this post, we get amanecer, amenazar and amenizar.

        Enjoy the rest of your Monday :)


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