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.

Soltera vieja meanwhile, is just another word for Dalaga Vieja. In this version, the Tagalog word dalaga was substituted by its Spanish equivalent.

The word dalaga is a curious one. I've seen this word used in the folk song Zamboanga Hermosa which is written purely in Spanish except for this one word. In the song, it looks like the word dalaga was used as a proper noun (in the role of a common noun) so I have always assumed that the writer may have used this term to affectionately refer to beautiful Filipino women. 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 so this alludes to the possibility that the term Dalaga Vieja is a Philippine Spanish term.

In Spanish, an old maid is called a solterona and a bachelor (who is likely not to marry anymore) is called a solteron.


  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.

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