In my last post, I said that puentes are part and parcel of the reality here. That got me thinking–what else is ever-present in this country? I had my answer pretty quickly: rain. When I lived in Bogotá, rain was a constant, and it mostly kept me housebound. Bleak skies coupled with the prospects of soaked shoes, squishy feet, and being crowded up against thousands of other shivering rats on public transport effectively killed most of my desires to be social. Here in Medellín, it’s much sunnier, but we’re entering the rainy season, and it turns out that even the City of Eternal Spring isn’t immune from its share of deluges. What to do when it starts to pour down? Escampar, quick!

According to the RAE, it comes from es + campo, dejar el campo. Leave the field. So, you’re picking lettuce, the sky darkens, fat raindrops start pummeling you, and what do you do? You run for cover. That’s one of the meanings of escampar— to take shelter during a storm. A sort of temporary camping out, if you will, to stay dry. If you’re in the street, you duck into a sidewalk café and sip a tinto while you wait for it to escampar. Oh, and here we are at the second usage of the verb–escampar also means to stop raining, to clear up. Pretty nifty, huh? I love learning words we don’t have any exact translation for in English. I guess I’m a little patas arriba today because I really should have introduced that second definition first, seeing as it’s almost universally used, whereas the seeking shelter one is regional (Colombia, Venezuela, and Central America, according to my sources). Do forgive.

So, escampar more generally means to stop raining. Colombian skies, Spanish skies, Argentinian skies…

And escampar also means in some countries to take cover while it’s raining.

I like how the word seems kind of like a sneaky combination of escape and scamper, don’t you?

Cayó un aguacero y pasó casi una hora antes de que escampara.

It started to pour, and it went on for almost an hour before it finally let up.

Uy, está lloviendo mucho, escampemos en la cafetería, de lo contrario terminaremos empapados.

Man, it’s raining hard–let’s wait out the storm in the cafeteria. Otherwise we’ll get totally soaked.

__________________________________________________ Non-natives, what’s your experience with this word? Had you heard it before? How have you heard it used? Where? If you’re a native Spanish speaker, anything to correct, clarify, comment on or concur with? 


5 responses to “Escampar

  1. Interesting word. I must ask the Spaniard I have classes with how it is used in Spanish.
    And, yeah, I agree that words which have no direct translation are interesting. On the other hand they can be a real pain in the neck, if you’re translating something. I could mention a few Polish words which have no equivalents (to my knowledge) in English and vice versa.


  2. I’m sure there are scads of Polish words you struggle to translate into English. Could you share one of the most interesting ones, or one that seems so important to you that it just baffles your mind that we don’t see the need for an equivalent in English?

    I’m on the fence about whether I can really consider this untranslatable or not. I mean, I just gave the translation above. I guess it’s just the fact that we don’t have one word for the concept like they do in Spanish. English is quite the wordy chatterbox, after all.

    Let me know what your Spanish professor says! As far as I know, it’s used in Spain, but increase my knowledge if necessary ;)


  3. Well, yeah, this word is not TRULY untranslatable, Still, if you were to fit the equivalent into a translation into English, you would have to think a minute how to put it into words. The problem gets worse if you have limited space (for example in the case of movie subtitles).
    I can think of many words in Polish that fit into the same category as “escampar”, but I would probably be hard pressed to find something REALLY UNTRANSLATABLE. Some culture-specific notions, perhaps. On the other hand, even they would probably turn out to be translatable altough I would need a sentence instead of a word :)


  4. Such a great word! I recently learned it myself due to all the rain here :(

    Here is an enjoyable article about other untranslatable words (untranslatable to me most often just means there is no parallel word for it, but generally the idea/experience is universal):


    • Hey Syd,

      Yeah, it was one of those words that, when I learned, I was like, Ohhhh… so there’s a word for that? Awesome. Especially handy since, as you mentioned, Bogotá is Rain Central :(

      I had seen that list before! Matador is a cool website. Share more interesting words as you learn them– I really love reading your observations on your blog, esp. language-related.


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