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Seven Sins Expressed in Spanish

Spanish Pinpointed

In a day and age when the seven deadly sins are fully operative at home and abroad, it makes sense to include them in the language syllabus. Los siete pecados capitales, as they’re called in Spanish, crop up every now and again in conversation, even if not necessarily as part of a discussion on piety.

Pride. Of several words in Spanish that can be used to mean pride, orgullo is the most common and the most versatile, and it can have both positive and negative connotations. Orgulloso can apply to people who take pride in their work or in their children’s achievements, but also to describe those who are somewhat aloof.

Soberbia is synonymous with orgullo but usually denotes a greater degree of arrogance. Someone who is soberbio looks down haughtily on others and lets them know it both by actions and attitude. One catch: soberbio can also mean superb, for example in sports when referring to a great goal or some other skillful play. Un gol soberbio, or una jugada soberbia.

Another Spanish expression for pride is amor propio, literally self-love, which can be used when someone’s pride is hurt and they feel offended. It can also mean self-esteem (as can autoestima), vanity or conceit.

Lust. This one is fairly straightforward: lujuria. The adjectival form is lujurioso, and synonyms include libertino and lascivo. Spanish, like other languages, didn’t get the memo about gender equality, and expressions referring to the lustful have a habit of excusing as a peccadillo in men what is often roundly condemned in women. So mujeriego — philanderer or womanizer — has no direct feminine equivalent. Well, maybe promiscua. And even viejo rabo verdeold lecher sounds somehow less offensive in Spanish. (Note plural: los viejos rabo verde.)

Gluttony. Gula in Spanish. Glutton, someone who eats or drinks excessively, is glotón. The word tragón, from tragar which means to swallow, is far more usual in Mexico, although it is often used in a playful way, such as when a friend decides to go for just one more taco de carnitas. Someone may also say they ate an extra dessert “por gula,” –out of gluttony– perhaps just to try another flavor. “Por antojo” –out of whim or fancy– is a nicer way of putting it.

Anger or wrath. This is ira in Spanish, and the adjectival form is iracundo. Cólera is a synonym for anger or fury, with its adjective colérico, meaning short-tempered. In Mexico, coraje is commonly used to mean anger, which is generally given as its second meaning, the first being courage. (Here people more frequently use valor to mean courage.)  Hizo un coraje means he or she “flew into a rage,” or “threw a tantrum.” Someone who is in the habit of getting angry can be said to be corajudo.

Enojo is more akin to annoyance, and enojado means cross or annoyed. Enojón or enojona is closer to grouchy than irate or wrathful.

Envy. Envidia is a very common word in a country where material inequality is great and widespread. But “the sin of the have-nots against the haves,” strangely enough, seems to be more one of “the haves against the have mores.” Envidioso is the adjectival form, and “no seas envidioso” is a common retort to criticism, undue or warranted.

Greed. Codicia is generally used for the desire to amass worldly goods. Avaricia, like avarice, is synonymous with codicia but can also refer to greed in the sense of being stingy.  Avaricioso or avaro means miserly, and avaro is the word for miser (avaro can be a noun or an adjective). Other common words in Mexico for stingy are tacaño and codo. (Codo means elbow, and in this context supposedly illustrates the grasping action of the money-grubber.)

Codicia is used for greed when it is applied to covetousness, as in no codiciarás la casa de tu prójimo” — you shall not covet your neighbor’s house. But it doesn’t really apply to someone who is greedy for food: see gluttony.

Sloth. Most people leave this one until last. Pereza is the Spanish word for sloth. It also means laziness, although in Mexico flojera and flojo are more commonly used than pereza and perezoso.

An often-heard and impolite alternative for flojera is güeva, itself a sanitized version of hueva—the use of which will get you dirty looks. ¡Qué flojera! can apply to any proposed activity that requires more energy than you wish to expend, or reaction to something that you consider tedious or boring. It could be translated as “what a drag!”

Perezoso also refers to sloth the animal.

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