In addition to getting a lot of practice speaking Spanish during my two years in Colombia, I also got to do my fair share of eating. And while I’m incapable of mustering up much excitement for Colombian food in general, there are two categories of Colombian victuals that are decidedly good: fruits/juices and bread. The tropical fruits are abundant and simply spectacular; as for the bread, there’s a bakery on every corner overflowing with it. When I lived in Bogotá, I’d frequently be too lazy to cook and would scarf down big bags of fresh, hot bread all the time. Panes hojaldrados were my favorite. I admit that I’m a little ashamed to out myself as such a (former) bread glutton, but at least I got a useful word from my Pantagruelic ways: ñapa.

The ñapa is the little extra added to something, and its most common usage is the extra roll that a baker tucks into your bag. You know, a baker’s dozen. I learned this my first weekend in Colombia when I went with a group of people to Medellín. I took a bus with my friend Flavio, we stopped at a bakery beforehand to load up on bread, and he flashed a winning smile to charm the women at the bakery into throwing a little extra bread into the bag for us. He’d been sweet-talking them the entire time. He later explained the custom of the ñapa to me. It’s also sometimes called the vendaje or encime in Colombia. Although it was once very common for people to say Vecina, ¿me da ñapa? to the baker, the custom is slowly dying out as modernization kills those little intimacies between neighbors and economic stress puts a damper on generosity. A real shame, the decline of the ñapa. So, enjoy your ñapa while you still can! I should say here, though, that you probably shouldn’t ask for a ñapa unless you’re a regular patron and know the baker well. Otherwise, it could be taken as a little conchudo on your part–one must also know that they are never entitled to a ñapa. Thus, anytime you’re the recipient of one, consider yourself lucky.

La ñapa

Ñapa comes from yapa, the Quechua word for gift, which derives from yapay, or to give more. You didn’t know you were going to learn Quechua when you stopped by my blog today, did you? As you’d figure, ñapa is used in many parts of South America, and it’s also used in the Caribbean. It’s even used in English! How so? Ever heard of the word lagniappe? (You’re forgiven if you haven’t.) Well, it certainly exists, and I’ve certainly seen it . . . a time or two in my life. Apparently, it came into the rich Creole dialect mixture of New Orleans and there acquired a French spelling. It’s still used in the Gulf states, especially southern Louisiana, to denote a little bonus that a friendly shopkeeper might add to a purchase. By extension, it may mean an extra or unexpected gift or benefit. Lagniappe comes from la ñapa. Nifty, eh? I bet you didn’t even know that you knew a Quechua word. Not that it would be the only one in your vocabulary; let’s not forget lima (bean), jerky, condor, llama, and puma, among others.

One phrase I like is de ñapa. It means that something is said or done as a little unsolicited favor. It’s like, Oh, and one more thing. Oh, and since I’m on a roll. Oh, and since I’m so nice, here’s a little extra.

Nos vimos, hablamos, todo bien, no pasó nada, nos despedimos y de repente me dio un beso de ñapa.

We met up, talked, everything was good, nothing happened, we said goodbye, and then he decided to throw in a little kiss.

Has hecho muy bien con tus diez frases de inglés. Ahora te regalo otra, pues esta va de ñapa.

Good job with your ten English phrases. I’ll teach you one more just because I feel like being nice.

It can also be used negatively to mean “on top of all that” like y encima.

Los muchachos atropellaron a una anciana y de ñapa tuvieron la desfachatez de robarle 500 pesos.

The teenagers ran over the old lady and to top it off had the nerve to steal 500 pesos from her.

La ñapa

Although it had been a while since I’d heard or said ñapa, I was reminded of it last week while talking to a Puerto Rican patient. Well advanced in years, she told me that she felt that the portion of life left to her was a ñapa granted from above. O sea, she had lived a good, long life, more than enough to be grateful for, and she viewed any and all additional years added to that amount as an extravagant gift. I liked her way of looking at life. Myself, I hope I have many more loaves of bread to look forward to.

Did you know about la ñapa or its English equivalent, lagniappe? What is this called in your country? Would you be brave enough to ask the baker for una ñapa? Ñapa or no ñapa, bon appetit!


8 responses to “Ñapa

  1. ¡Hola!
    Muchas gracias, muy pero muy interesante.

    I know that people from the southern part of my country (the Caucasus) tend to do the same thing with fruits and vegetables. Traditionally they sell fruits and vegetables all over the country “en el mercados” and it seems like they have this tradition of giving extra lemon or apple or whatever to a customer that they want to be nice with or they like for some reason or they found to be very nice, pretty or funny (the last ones applies, if you go shopping with kids). Unfortunately I don’t know, if we have any special word for this action… ‘”pienso que no”

    Surprisingly my brother always gets this “ñapa”… we all think that it is because “el se parece de cara y de pelo a ellos :)”


  2. En México le llamaríamos “pilón”. Creo que ha caído un poco en desuso pero todavía hay vendedores que te dan un poco de mas, para que veas que son buena onda. :-)


  3. La ñapa es realmente una expresión típica de la convivencia. Por eso me gusta mucho. No tanto por el regalo. Pero sí por la atención. Nací en el Sur de Francia. Allí también existe la ñapa. En el idioma provenzal, se llama “bada”.


    • Sí, yo pienso igual. No me llama la atencion tanto por el regalo en sí sino por ser una costumbre que implica convivencia, confianza y conocimiento. Qué bueno saber que todavía se ve en partes de Francia, además de Rusia y México. Me encanta tener lectores tan internacionales.


  4. Very good post. Have you heard Escalona’s “El testamento,” a classic vallenato song. The last part says, “entonces, me tienes que llorar y de napa me tienes que rezar…” http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=rZ_5bY3Urns&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DrZ_5bY3Urns

    Sorry, no enne in the iPad :)


  5. Pingback: Mercado report | Vocabat

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