Go for It With Pa’lante

Here’s a Spanish slang word that packs punch

Colorful fountain in Peru
El Túnel de las Sorpresas (Tunnel of Surprises) in Lima, Peru.

Oleksandra Korobova / Getty Images

 

Pa'lante is not a word you will find in any standard Spanish dictionaries. Spanish teachers might even cringe upon hearing it. It is a Spanish slang word loosely translated as "onward," "go ahead," or "go for it."

Where Pa’lante Comes From

Pa'lante is a well-understood slang word apparently originally used in Caribbean Spanish-speaking areas and seems to be gaining popularity in other parts of the Spanish-speaking world. It's a shortened version of "para adelante," a fairly common phrase made up of the preposition para, often meaning "for," and adelante, an adverb (sometimes functioning as other parts of speech) meaning "forward." What is unique about this word and its use is that contractions and apostrophes are rarely used in Spanish. In fact, using apostrophes to indicate letters are missing is usually thought of as an Anglicism.

For some inexplicable reason, pa'lante is sometimes spelled as p'alante and is listed that way as slang in the Collins Spanish Dictionary. But the spelling of pa'lante is far more common. It is not listed in the Royal Spanish Academy Dictionary (known as DRAE for its Spanish initials), the language's most authoritative reference source.

Famous Word at Rallies

Pa'lante is something commonly heard at rallies usually used to rile up a person or group to action. As evidence of its burgeoning spread outside of the Caribbean, the word was used as part of a slogan at pro-Hugo Chávez rallies in Caracas, Venezuela: ¡Pa'lante Comandante! Chávez was the president of Venezuela from 2002 to 2013.

A literal translation of the rhyming phrase "¡Pa'lante Comandante!," would be something like "Forward, Commander!" although that direct interpretation does not capture the subtle connotation nor the colloquial nature of the phrase. El CotVmandante was a popular reference to Chávez.

In the context of rallies, other translations of pa'lante might be "go ahead," "onward," "go for it," "hang in there" or "keep on going."

Pop Culture References

Pop icon and Puerto Rican singer Ricky Martin brought the word mainstream in his 1995 musical hit, "María." A popular line from the song: Un, dos, tres, un pasito pa'lante Maria! The line translates to, " One, two, three, one little step forward, Maria!" The song topped the charts at the time and became Martin's first international hit single.

Before and after Martin, Spanish music artists have been using the slang word in music hits. Other famous titles with the word include "Echa Pa'lante," by Mexican recording artist, Thalia, made popular in 1997. The song was featured in the 1998 dance competition movie "Dance with Me" in a memorable scene starring Vanessa L. Williams and Puerto Rican singer Chayanne.

As an example of the word's use in song prior to Martin, Puerto Rican-American Latin jazz great, Tito Puente released a song, "Pa'lante," which he subtitled "Straight" in English. 

"Pa'lante con Cristina" (Pa'lante With Cristina) is a popular show on Telemundo, a U.S. cable TV network.

Related Phrases

One related phrase that is widespread is "echado para adelante." The sentence "Estamos echados para adelante" can mean something like, "We're all ready to go for it." Sometimes "echado para adelante" is shortened to something like "echao pa'delante." These phrases are not considered formal Spanish, but would most likely be used in the context of colloquial speech or familiar conversation. 

Pa'lante in Names of Programs or Groups

Pa'lante has become word often used in the names of organizations on programs to help convey they idea of progress. Among them:

  • Mujeres Pa'lante is a cooperative employment organization of and for the benefit of women. It is based in Barcelona, Spain.
  • Palante Harlem is a New York tax-exempt organization devoted to housing issues.
  • Echar Pa'Lante is a campaign devoted to the betterment of Puerto Rico.
  • Pa'Lante Pacífico is a philanthropic effort connected with the University of the Andes (Universidad de los Andes) in Bogotá, Colombia.
  • The Pa'Lante Afterschool Program is for elementary children in Allentown, Penn.

Key Takeaways

  • Pa'lante is an increasingly common Spanish slang word that isn't listed in most dictionaries.
  • Pa'lante is used to indicate concepts such as encouragement, enthusiasm, resolve, and progress.
  • The word can be found in song titles and names of organizations throughout the Spanish-speaking world.