“Arroba” is the Spanish word for “@” (the at symbol).
It is believed to have originated from Arabic, describing a unit of weight and has been used across the Iberian Peninsula since the 16th century.
Today, “arroba” has two main uses in modern Spanish. Firstly and most obviously as part of an email address, and then also as a means to describe a mixed gender group or an individual where the gender is unimportant.
Before we look at these two uses in more detail, some of you might have guessed that there is in fact a Spanish verb “arrobar” meaning to enchant
or to entrance.
Therefore “arroba” is indeed a conjugation of this very verb meaning: it enchants
or it entrances
. However, this is not the word we are going to look at today. @ when sending email
It is certainly very handy for any newcomer to Spanish to be able to say their email address out loud. However, the chances are unless you have come across the word “arroba” before, you would struggle to be able to do so, as the more common translations for at
wouldn’t make much sense. Here then, are four common symbol names that may come up in an email address outside the usual alpha-numeric characters.
|Spanish ||English ||Symbol |
|“arroba” ||at ||@ |
|“punto” ||dot ||. |
|“guión” ||hyphen ||- |
|“guión bajo” ||underscore ||_ |
Many experienced internet users will be accustomed to seeing email addresses written with all the symbols replaced with words, usually in an attempt to stop email addresses being harvested by spam bots. monkey (arroba) spectrummonkey (punto) com @ used as a letter of the alphabet
Due to the symbol’s appearance, it can sometimes be used to express the letters O and A at the same time. Indeed, @ does look a lot like a letter a
inside of a letter O.
As such, it can be used to indicate both masculine and feminine words at the same time. For instance: “niñ@s” could be written instead of “niños y niñas” (boys and girls)
Whilst the use of @ doesn’t appear very often in official writing, it is commonplace in situations such as help wanted signs. For instance: “Necesitamos camarer@s” (We need waiters).
Officially, when describing a mixed group of people, one should use the masculine plural form. This however makes it impossible to make a real distinction between a truly mixed group of people, or simply a group of males. The @ symbol affords us a way to make it clear that we are referring to both males and females without needing to clarify that: “Necesitamos camareros o camareras”. Conclusion | En conclusión
Today, many purists may still argue that using the masculine plural form should continue to be the correct way to reference mixed groups, and that it's mostly feminist-friendly publications that are encouraging the use of this @ symbol. Although it’s hard to say if people use this symbol more to be politically correct, or more out of convenience?
Whatever your view on this is, it’s hard to argue against using it and you should certainly expect to see it. With the advent of texting and our constant desire to express things with the least number of characters possible, the use of @ seems like an excellent shortcut, whilst giving the sense that modern Spanish continues to evolve with the times.