Origins of the Chabacano Dalaga Vieja

I once used the Chabacano word dalaga vieja while chatting with a friend who is a language enthusiast. This friend of mine speaks Spanish and Portuguese and knows some Tagalog. Just to see how he would interpret this word, I asked him what he thought it meant.

So what is a dalaga vieja? If you speak both Spanish and Tagalog, you would have probably guessed by now that this word is a noun meaning 'old maid' or 'a spinster'.

This word probably came from the Tagalog word for spinster which is matandang dalaga. Matanda in Tagalog means old and dalaga refers to a maiden. The Chabacano dalaga vieja is either a direct translation of the Tagalog matandang dalaga or the English old maid.

Other varieties of this word are soltera vieja and soltero viejo. Obviously, soltero viejo is the male version of a dalaga vieja.

The word dalaga is a curious one. I've seen this word used in the folk song Zamboanga Hermosa which is written purely in standard Spanish except for this one word. In the song, it looks like the word dalaga was used by the writer to affectionately and specifically refer to beautiful Filipino women in Zamboanga. However, I came across a Wikipedia article wherein the term dalaga is listed as a Spanish word loaned from Tagalog. The term is listed as well in the diccionario de la lengua española. In the book Vocabulario de la lengua Tagala, the term dalaga vieja is considered as Spanish. All this alludes to the possibility that the Chabacano dalaga vieja came from Philippine Spanish.

2 comments:

  1. Hola, Jerome!

    It is possible that the word "dalaga" is a Philippine term for a maiden, which perhaps was accepted in the diccionario de la RAE as a contribution of Philippine Spanish to its wide variety of lexicon together with the contributions of the dialectal variants of Spanish spoken in Spanish American. This does not mean, though, that "dalaga" is used in Standard Spanish, as they have their own equivalent of this word which is "doncella".

    César Jr.

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    1. Hi Cesar, Yes, it appears that dalaga is Tagalog but is somehow incorporated into the Spanish language in this country.

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