Considered by many to be the bane of good writing, adverbs get a bad rap in literary circles. Even Gabriel García Márquez famously shuns them, giving his translators quite the task. I use adverbs o̶c̶c̶a̶s̶i̶o̶n̶a̶l̶l̶y̶ at times, and I don’t think my speech in Spanish has an abundance of -mentes. When I learn really great adverbs in Spanish, though, I can’t help but be excited about getting an opportunity to use them, adverb tsk-tskers be damned. Here are two interesting Spanish adverbs I learned today and yesterday, adverbs so good they should easily vindicate their part of speech’s dishonor.

Fulminantemente: on the spot, without warning

¿Qué rayos quiere decir fulminantemente? (You’ll see in a moment how apropos this epithet is.) I read this word in a comment on a newspaper article. “. . . que sean despedidas de las universidades y sitio de trabajo fulminantemente.” They (people who sneak into the TransMilenio system without paying) should be kicked out of and fired from their universities and jobs on the spot. Wow, what a word. I didn’t know why, but something about fulminante made me think of fiery, sizzling, heat. I couldn’t connect it to any English word I know, though. As it turned out, fulminate is a word.

to fulminate

-to issue a thunderous attack or denunciation, to rail (against)
-to explode or detonate with noise and violence
-to thunder and lighten (new word for me–to lightning)


-to strike down, kill suddenly (an illness)
-to look daggers at sb, give sb a dirty look, à la “if looks could kill”, a death stare


-instant, immediate (adj.)
-sudden and fatal, fulminant (adj.)
-explosive, squib (n.)

Sudden Impact

Sudden Impact

I vaguely remember the verb fulminar from the time I read Roald Dahl’s The Witches in Spanish. (Las brujas) Yes, yes, here it is: La Gran Bruja recorrió la sala con una mirada fulminante. The Grand High Witch glared around the room. And, Los relucientes ojos de serpiente, hundidos en aquella espantosa cara corrompida, fulminaban, sin pestañear, a las brujas que estaban sentadas frente a ella. The brilliant snake’s eyes that were set so deep in that dreadful, rotting worm-eaten face glared unblinkingly at the witches who sat facing her. I’d forgotten the meaning of this word, but I retained the connotations of heat and intensity. Fulmen means lightning bolt or violent utterance in Latin.

the witches las brujas roald dahl

I guess I must have also heard about fulminated mercury in Breaking Bad. But none of these grazes with fulminate helped me when I tried to imagine what to fire someone fulminantemente meant. You fire/kick out/impeach/dump someone with the intensity of a lightning bolt. In a word, you zap them.

Pistola de fulminantes is a cap gun.

pistola de fulminantes cap gun

Arrobadoramente: enchantingly, entrancingly

I heard this in a lecture at an art colloquium on Friday. While arroba is @, the at sign, arrobar is to enchant, to enthrall. To send into an extasis, to enrapture. It can be in a mystic, spiritual or romantic sense. Arrobador or arrobadora is entrancing, enchanting, and so on and so forth. I’ll now be sniffing around for an opportunity to use this word.

arrobador perfume

Come across any punchy adverbs lately? Don’t be shy; nobody gets fulminated around here, at least not on lazy, rainy weekends.

10 responses to “Radverbs

  1. Another word I’d never heard before!


  2. I have to work really hard to find ones you don’t know!


  3. I don’t know if this is a sign of old age but I’d like to know if the new generation knows what “arroba” is. Clearly, the @ symbol is much older than the internet, just like the # symbol predates twitter by ages. I might be making a fool of myself and state the obvious, but here it goes. Arroba is a unit of weight and it belongs to the English system. The equivalences are:

    1 arroba = 25 libras
    1 quintal = 4 arrobas (100 libras)
    1 tonelada = 20 quintales (2000 libras)

    In the United States, which uses widely the avoirdupois system, the words for arroba, quintal and tonelada are quarter, hundredweight (or centum) and ton (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avoirdupois). In Colombia (and probably other countries), the actual weights are actually adapted to the metric system, using what could be called a “metric pound,” which has 500 grams. This is very convenient because then 1 kilogram has 2 pounds. One tonelada is understood to be a metric ton or 1000 Kg. This is in contrast to the usual English system where 1 pound (curiously abbreviated lb.) has 453 grams, and 1 Kg is, therefore, approximately 2.2 pounds — not very convenient numbers if you follow the metric system.

    More recently, it appears that the merchants in Colombia are beginning to run the predictable racket: use the English equivalences to measure their products. In that case, you buy a pound of something believing that you are getting 500 gm but you are getting only 453, about 10% less. I bet that few people notice. Very irritating and dishonest. It reminds me of the orange juice companies here quietly decreasing the size of the common carton from 64 oz (half-gallon) to 59 oz. Very hard to notice the different size of the container. Or the yogurt going from 8 oz to 6 oz. The prices, of course, didn’t change, just the quantity. In computers there is something similar going in when talking about storage units (Kbytes, Mbytes, etc.), but I am not going to get into that :)


    • I knew that an arroba was a unit of weight, but for some reason I had the impression that it was from the Middle Ages or something and no longer used. And I had no idea about the 500 v. 453 g. pounds. But even if I did catch this, I have zero idea how I would argue about that! (Not talking about language, here) Is there some law saying they have to stick to the larger amount? Could I threaten to report them? (to whom?)

      Also, had never heard about the avoirdupois system. Thanks for such an educational comment :)


  4. I’m sure there is a law about it. But now that you are reacquainted with things in Colombia you know where you can go to complain: a quejarse al mono de la pila. My brother likes to get into those fights so I might just tip him off. I have to get my information straight, as I just remember seeing things in a major supermarket that annoyed me (probably looking for bocadillos).

    The equivalences are approximate, as each measure system is based on some arbitrary standard unit, so an ounce is approximately 28.35 grams. A pound has 16 ounces so you get approximately 453.6 gm in a pound. The arroba and such are still very much in use, but you don’t see them because they are mostly used for agricultural products. But here is an idea, if you have not already done this: go the the Plaza de Paloquemao. That is quite an experience. First, it is beautiful to see all that fresh produce, all those colors. Second, you will find out that you can eat really well for very little money. It is truly amazing the amount of fresh food that you can get for a few thousand pesos. And then, you will get a lot of material for your blog. A bulto has about 4 arrobas (but this varies). Potatoes are commonly sold by the bulto. A carga is two bultos. Then they’ll sell you racimos, manojos, docenas… And they usually give you a ñapa. We just got too used to the supermarkets but the Market is worth visiting. Not as clean and organized as a supermarket, but it is not bad at all. Here are some good links for you:

    This one is great because it gives you a good tutorial of these measures; looks like it is designed for children: http://www.colombiaaprende.edu.co/html/mediateca/1607/articles-139580_archivo.pdf

    This one also tells you many of those words: http://www.eltiempo.com/archivo/documento/MAM-1503440

    And the last one, is just a real price list in a Central de Abastos. Note that they give the equivalences in Kg (note, for example, the curuba larga giving the equivalence of the arroba in rounded to the metric system: 12.5 Kg instead of 11.3): http://www.centroabastos.com/administrador/examples/BU0828.htm


  5. Yes, arroba is still very much in use. In fact, the might still use it in the supermarkets for things like sugar or rice, for which it is not uncommon to buy large quantities (next time I go I’ll check for arroba-sized bags). Thanks for the link to the Corabastos price list; I didn’t know they did that. Quite interesting to see some of their measures: atado, canastilla, bulto, guacal… (guacal is like a small crate made of cheap wood, generally used to pack delicate fruit).

    If you do go to Paloquemao, make sure you don’t go late. I think they start closing at 3 pm or so? Not exactly sure, but go in the morning. Also, they sell big plastic bags that are pretty strong (and reusable) for about one thousand pesos, in case you need something to carry stuff. Taxis line up for people that come out with their bags (they tend to be older and more beat up than average). BTW, the typical container used to go to the market is called un canasto de mimbre, a wicker basket.


    • Maybe I should just wait for a guided tour :)


      • I would give you the tour but the wait would be quite long, a few months. I have the feeling that we’ll hear about your outing sooner than that. Also, my qualifications as a guide are questionable at best :)


    • Look what I just read in El Espectador:

      “La estatua es bastante pesada, por lo que creemos que el habitante de la calle pudo tener ayuda de alguien más para poderla levantar, teniendo en cuenta que es una estatua hecha a escala de una persona normal, es decir de dos metros de altura más o menos y un peso que sobrepasa las tres arrobas”, manifestó a Caracol Radio el comandante de la Policía Metropolitana, general José Ángel Mendoza Guzmán.


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