From dawn till dusk

By bogotapost October 8, 2015
Spanish slang, Colombian Spanish

The amanacer, as some of you may know, can be as spetacular as this.

Katie Jacoby explains why, whether you spend your nights partying or sleeping, the verb amanecer will come in handy

Even if you’re not an early riser, you’re probably familiar with the verb amanecer. It means to dawn, for the sun to come up. Amanecer as a noun means sunrise, dawn, daybreak. It also has many figurative and idiomatic uses, so let’s look at some of them.

Hoy amaneció a las 5.55.
Today the sun came up at 5.55.

Después del concierto nos quedamos tomando vino hasta el amanecer.
After the concert we drank wine until it was beginning to get light out.

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, roommates) as you groggily pad about in the mornings or to anyone whom you saw the night before. What is it asking? Poetically, how did you dawn? Really, it’s how’d you sleep? How are you feeling this morning? Ojo, it usually sounds more like ¿Cómo ‘maneciste?

Describing how you feel:

La valeriana te noqua pero amaneces renovada. Es buenísima.
Valerian 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.

Describing where you are:

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.

El sábado decidí amanecer en casa de mi familia, pues se me hizo tarde, además también estaba lloviendo.
On Saturday I decided to spend 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.

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 can also be used figuratively to say that you woke up feeling dead.

Después de ese partido, amanecí muerto.
I woke up totally exhausted after that game.

Amanecer de malas pulgas (to wake up with fleas) means to wake up on the wrong side of the bed, that is, grouchy and in a bad mood.

Uy, el jefe amaneció de malas pulgas. No le vaya a pedir permiso hoy.
Wow, the boss really woke up in a foul mood this morning. Probably not the best day to ask for time off.

A useful phrase in Colombia is this one: amanecerá y veremos. Literally, it will dawn and we’ll see. Figuratively, let’s wait and see. Only time can tell. Seeing is believing. Amanecerá y veremos usually expresses a cynical attitude. Sort of a, 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.

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 me di cuenta or caí en la cuenta.

Amanecer is also very closely associated with being out all night partying (not so much if the person stayed up studying or working or was kept up all night by a barking dog). So, llegar amanecido (to work or home) implies that you were out partying. Amanecederos are illegal clubs that are open until the wee hours. If you’re in the mood to dance until the sun comes up, you can ask ¿Sí hay amanecida? at the door to find out if they stay open that late. At a motel, they’ll say, ¿Amanecida o solo el ratico? to ask if you plan to stay till the morning or only for a few hours.

If somebody says “nos fuimos de amanecida” to you in the middle of a dance party, it means that the rumba is so good that you’re all obviously in it for the long haul, i.e., this party and energy aren’t going to stop until the morning.

So, don’t you agree that amanecer is as beautiful and fascinating a word as what it describes? Definitely as worth it to learn as an amanecer is worth waking up early for.

Katie Jacoby is a Spanish-English translator and has been in Colombia for 3 years. Feel free to leave her a comment or ideas for future columns on her language website,