A fan of afán

Just being facetious, of course. I’m neither for nor against afán per se; I simply liked the ring of that phrase. You know, just going for a catchy title to lure in the big spenders. Sometimes I’m very pro-afán; other times, I’m no fan of afán at all. What say you? Oh, did I miss something? Why, it seems a definition of terms is quite in order. All right, I’ll admit that just as I once had to plead for an explanation of afán, you guys are just as entitled to one. Aquí va. 

You know that to say hurry or rush, you reach for prisa.

Not so in Colombia.

In Colombia, the word you usually want is afánEl afán. I don’t know why they have to make things difficult, they just do. Fortunately, you’ll hear this word so often in Colombia that it will get drilled into you very quickly, leaving prisa to shiver out in the cold.

Siéntate y tómate un tinto conmigo. ¿O tienes afán? Sí, qué pena. Tengo much afán, ya me tengo que ir. 

Sit down and have a coffee with me. Or are you in a hurry? I am, unfortunately. I’m really in a rush, and I have to leave now.

Cuando tengas tiempito, me gustaría que habláramos sobre la novela. Pero tampoco hay afán, no importa cuando sea.

When you have some time, I’d like to talk about the novel with you. There’s no rush, though. It can be whenever.

Ojalá pudiéramos ir al bar con ustedes, pero estamos de afán. Es que cuadramos algo con la hermana de ella.

I wish we could go to the bar with you guys, but we’ve got to get a move on. We made plans with her sister.

¿Cuál es el afán? ¿Para qué tanto afán?

What’s the hurry? All this rushing about and for what?

“Es que voy de afán”, dice la mayoría de conductores infractores (Headline from noticiascaracol.com)

“I was in a hurry”, say the majority of law-breaking drivers

Here are two screenshots from the accompanying video:

Oh, those Colombians! Well, at least they’re honest.

So, as you’ve seen, three ways to say that someone is in a rush in Colombia are: tener afán, estar de afán and ir de afán. 

Perennially late, I was always tempted to tell taxi drivers that iba de afán, but I never did, afraid of seeming like a real jackass. I mean, who isn’t in a hurry? Who was I, some royal duchess? And, besides, what was I going to do in exchange for them going at an even more breakneck speed than usual? Pay double? Anyway, I usually had great and very colorful conversations with the taxi drivers. It would have been a shame to have cut them short.

A useful verb is afanar/afanarse. I usually heard it in the phrase: No te afanes. Sometimes it’s “Don’t rush; take your time” ; other times it’s more like “Don’t worry; don’t stress.” Often it’s a mix of the two.

Of course, prisa is understood in Colombia and occasionally used. But very, very occasionally, diría yo. 

The standard meaning for afán is eagerness, thirst, anxiousness, zeal.

And here’s a new one for me: apuro. I didn’t realize that it was another synonym for prisa and afán. I knew apurarse¡apúrate!— (also used in Colombia) and the other meaning for apuro, but I didn’t know it could also mean hurry/rush. Apparently it’s very Latin American, which is good, because that’s where I spend most of my time. Hm . . . hasta ahora me desayuno. Speaking of desayuno . . . I think that sounds like a great idea right about now. I’m off to rummage about for some.

What about you? Did you know about afán? Are you a fan? What other words and phrases for being in a hurry in Spanish do you know? If you’re a native Spanish speaker, anything to correct, clarify, comment on or concur with? How about ándale and dale caña? Those are two other phrases I wonder about.


13 responses to “A fan of afán

  1. It’s amazing to see how many things you now about us and how well you describe them :)

    Two common expressions using “afán”:

    Cada día trae su [propio] afán.
    Del afán no queda sino el cansancio.

    The first one is from the bible (Matthew, Chapter 6, verse 34) and it’s common here because the majority of the people is catholic. But they just say it, they don’t put it into practice :)

    Another way to use the expression “de afán”, in Medellín at least, is to rush a person.

    Suppose you’re about to leave your house, you’re late, you have a million things to do and your head is about to explode. You rush to the door and you hear someone saying, “¡Esperate, esperate! ¿Será que vos me podés [UN_FAVOR_AQUÍ]?”. You roll your eyes, your brain starts boiling, but you’re nice and say, “Bueno, dale, pero rápido”. The person goes for some papers, starts writing something but the pen runs out of ink, then she starts running all over the place looking for a new pen. One minute pass… two minutes, three minutes. Watching her, you start moving your head desperately. Four minutes pass, five minutes, and Kabooom! You shout:

    ¡De afán, de afán pues que me voy!


    ¡Bueno, bueno, de afán pues que me voy!

    It’s a rude expression, so understand what it means, but don’t use it, be nice :) In times of desperation, “Muérdase un codo”.

    I don’t know if you knew it, but “afán” has a sister word: acelere. So you can find her often with “afán”:

    ¿Cuál es el afán? ¡Deje el acelere!

    And you can say “acelerado/a” to any person who’s prone to be in a state of “acelere”.

    If you’re a fan of nuclear war reply, “¿Cuál es el afán? ¡Deje el acelere!” to, “¡De afán, de afán pues que me voy!”.

    Nos vemos,


    • You are too kind. I’m now beaming at your compliment. ¡Pero esto lo del lenguaje es lo de menos! That doesn’t really help me penetrate Colombian people and culture– for that, I listen to Andrés López and the guy from ¿Quién pidió pollo? for hours. That’s where I get all the real dirt ;)

      It’s nice to hear that I describe things well. That’s what I’m always aiming for.

      You know, I ran into those phrases online as I did a little reading up on afán. Good to know that they’re used and heard in real life. Thanks!

      Thanks for “de afán pues que me voy“. Haha, I AM nice. Most of the time :)

      Acelere rings a faint bell. I think I may have read it in a magazine interview once.

      Pues realmente no veo la hora de estar nuevamente en Medellín, cada vez que lo pienso me pongo súper feliz.

      Oh, one more thing– what about apuro, ándale and meter caña? Are those said down there? I never noticed them, but there are a lot of things I didn’t notice that were there all along.


  2. A note on apuro. You can hear it used as follows:

    ¡Apúrele pues que vamos a llegar tarde! (or apúrese)

    It’s similar to the use of “de afán”, but I don’t consider it a rude expression. For example, you may hear this expression from your mother when you’re late for school.

    I’d say we know “apuro” from books, magazines and television, but we don’t use it very often in contexts related to “el afán”. And it’s the same in contexts where “apuro” means “trouble”. For example, to say “I’m in trouble”, we don’t say “Estoy en un apuro”; we know what it means, but we don’t use that.


    • Thanks so much for the examples and explanations.

      Yeah, so what do you say for “en un apuro“? Estar en la olla and estar fregado are what come to mind, but I have some duditas


      • To say “estoy en un apuro” or “estoy en apuros”:

        Estoy embalao.
        Estoy en un problema el berraco.
        Estoy en un problema ni el HP.

        You’ll probably hear “lío” instead of “problema”, but not very often.

        You are “en la olla” when:

        You’re you’re broke or when you don’t have something important you need (water, energy, any tool, etc.). You could say, for example, “Quedaron en la olla después del tsunami”; “Pídame lo que quiera, pero no me pida plata, que estoy en la olla”; “¿No hay video beam? ¡Ah no, en la olla! ¿Cómo exponemos entonces?”.

        You don’t understand or don’t know how to do something. You could say for example to an engineering undergraduate, “¡No, hermano, si no sabe factorizar está en la olla!”.

        You’re “fregado”, or better yet “fregao”, when:

        You’re “en la olla”.

        You’re very sick. For example, “¿Cómo está Teresa? ¡Hmm, esa probre está fregada!”; “Amanecí fregao de la gripa, no puedo ir a trabajar”.


        • And don’t forget about “estar jodido”, which can be used in any place where “estar en la olla” and “estar fregao” are used.

          Also, don’t forget about “estar llevao”, which comes from “Estar llevao del Putas”. “El Putas” is a way to call the devil and is related to a myth: El Putas de Aguadas. This character is mentioned if many common expressions in Colombian Spanish.


          • Well, I always want to say jodido in Colombia, I guess because I just learned it from other countries, but it seemed to me that in Colombia it just means annoyed. I didn’t realize it had a stronger meaning as well. And no jodas is just stop messing around, cut it out, or you’re kidding, right?

            Yeah, I know del putas. But I didn’t know the phrase estar llevao del putas. I’m going to read about that myth. Thanks :)


        • Ni el HP… jajaja. I would have to be very relaxed y con MUCHA confianza to say that. I only cuss with my closest friends in English, and rarely at that. It is so much fun, though, in Spanish :)

          Está de más decirme que debe ser fregao y no fregado– soy muy perezosa para pronunciar las d’s, además siempre como las s’s. No hablo el español más bonito del mundo, jeje, pero así me gusta.

          (No sabía cómo escribir eso lo de las letras)

          I LOVE berraco, berraquera, berraque, emberracarse. It’s one of my favorite words.

          Great examples! Thanks! You are definitely my favorite commenter– shh! ;)


  3. It’s important to learn how to curse in Spanish, at least in my city. It’s very common among friends and family to use bad words not to insult, but to make jokes and to create strong interjections. Some expressions don’t sound natural if you don’t decorate them with one of these words.

    You can write “las des y las eses” :)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s