I encourage Speaking Latino readers and followers to ask me Spanish slang questions through Twitter, Facebook, email, comments, etc. I am more than happy to try to help you unravel your Spanish doubts. In fact, I have lots of fun investigating the different questions that come up. And it’s also a great way for me to continue learning and to dust off some old skills.
One of my Twitter followers asked me a while back the following question: @JaredRomey Can you explain to me the meaning and various usages of “Órale”? You might notice in the tweet that this was asked a while ago; I didn’t just respond to him. I’m not that slow, I promise. It just took me a bit extra to put this post together. He had his answer a couple days after he wrote.
@JaredRomey Me puedes explicar el significado y los varios usos de "Orale"?
— Samuel Adamek (@samueladamek) August 13, 2012
What does ¡Órale! mean?
It is an interjection accepted by the Royal Academy of Spanish Language Dictionary (DRAE) as a colloquialism from México and it is used “to exhort.”
That definition seems vague and only is useful to know that the term is included in the Spanish language’s most important dictionary. I am in the process of collecting and investigating Mexican terms for the next Speaking Latino guide, that hopefully will be publish in 2013. I have checked what my reference sources explain about this expression and here they are:
1. Jorge Mejía Prieto in his book Así habla el mexicano defines the interjection ¡órale! as an “expression used to encourage someone to do a certain thing.”
2. The previous definition is basically the same given by DRAE, but Roxana Fitch in her book Jergas de habla hispana add two other meanings: interjection to express agreement and to indicate discomfort or surprise.
3. Diccionario breve de mexicanismos by Guido Gómez de Silva includes this expression under the term ora that is a contraction of ahora (now). So, ¡órale! is formed by combining ahora + -le. His definition can be summarized as “to exhort.”
4. The Diccionario de americanismos published by the Asociación de Academias de la Lengua Española pretty much gave us the same three meanings, but it includes an additional fact: the expression ¡órale! is also used in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador that, in my opinion, has to be related to their proximity to Mexico.
Example uses of ¡Órale!
With those three meanings of ¡órale! here are some real life examples used by Mexicans on Twitter:
1. to exhort, to encourage. In this circumstance similar expressions are “Hurry up” and “Lets go.”
Orale huevones! Ya apurense que esos vagones del metro no se van a llenar solos!!!!
— Gabs! Así! a secas.. (@G_a_b_s) September 13, 2012
2. to express agreement. A good equivalent expression is “OK,” “I got it” or “De acuerdo” in Spanish.
nos juntamos a estudiar en mi casa.??? va orale yo llevo las cervezas..
— Fer Calderòn (@Cp_fer) September 12, 2012
3. to indicate discomfort or surprise. A surprise expression in Spanish can be similar to “¡Genial!” or “¡Tremendo!”
¡Orale! Está bien chingón tu Nokia ¿En qué Oxxo la compraste?
— Forever Mamón ™ (@yuppiewill) September 16, 2012
Now you know when and how to use this spontaneous expression commonly used in Mexico. If you are fluent in Spanish and want to know more words from Mexico, I recommend Diccionario breve de mexicanismos by Guido Gómez de Silva that includes 5,400 entries and is sponsored by the Mexican institutions Fondo de Cultura Económica and Academia Mexicana. Please note, this book is only in Spanish.
I’m going to confess here that my Mexican Spanish is weak. It’s the first place I lived abroad while learning Spanish so I really don’t remember that much. At the time I was worrying about if I hablé, hablaba, “hablía,” habló, “hablieron,” hable, “habliera” or hablaré. I hadn’t yet been able to understand the subtleties of Mexican Spanish. So, if you have some insight into the many uses of ÓRALE, please share them in the comments below. And thank you for taking the time to share.
Check out these other Mexican Spanish Slang Word articles.