Spanish Language/Varón vs Hombre


QUESTION: What is the difference between Varón and Hómbre? When can you call someone Varón?

ANSWER: Hi Hank,

Interesting question!  The truth is, that for the most part, "varón" and "hombre" are synonyms, both referring to "humans of the male sex."  You might hear phrases like "ropa de varones" or "ropa de hombres" for men's clothing.

However, sociolinguistically, there are some differences that you can tease out, always depending on what community of speakers you are talking about.  For example, if you read Spanish, you can read this debate on the subtle differences between the two terms here:

Here are some of the differences/subtleties:
1) "Hombre" refers usually to adult (or possibly young adult) males, while "varón" can also be used to refer to babies and children (Ej: Mi bebé será varón.  or  Mi hijo va a un colegio de varones.)

2) "Varón" is sometimes thought of as being either more elegant, or more old-fashioned, and used more by older speakers.  (For example, the bathroom might be labeled as being for "varones" in a restaurant.)

3) Sometimes a "varón," or someone who is described as "muy varón," is a man/boy who is seen as particularly macho or masculine.  

You will notice in the discussion above, though, that there are varieties in usage by country and region, so there is no one answer that can tell you exactly what the differences are between the two words.  Just keep your ears open and pay attention to how you hear it used in the context where you will be using your Spanish.

I hope this is what you were looking for and let me know if I can help you further.



---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: so how would you translate this sentence: "Varón, pa'quererte mucho" ?

I guess you are talking about the lyrics from the tango "Milonga sentimental"?  In the context of the song, I think he is singing to a woman who has left him, and when he gets to that line, he saying that he is "A man who really loves you."  Since he is contrasting himself, as a man, with the fickle woman he loves who has forgotten and betrayed him, he might use the word "varón" to highlight his maleness/masculinity.  Also, I imagine that "varón" just sounds better in the song than "hombre" would.  

Are you trying to translate it just to understand the lyrics?  In that case, I think what I wrote above works.  If you are trying to translate it so that you can sing the song, but in English, then you'll have to look at the rhythm, etc. to see what sounds best!  

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Brandee Strickland


I can answer questions about the Spanish language itself, as I studied Spanish academically and also spent a significant amount of time living in Chile (as a teacher of English). I can also help with issues of translation, and with interpreting slang or other cultural anecdotes. As an experienced teacher, of both EFL and Spanish, I can answer questions as well about teaching, classroom practice, and the use of technology.


I am a native speaker of English but have studied Spanish since a young age, as well as living in Chile for 5 years. I learned Spanish as a student myself, and have also taught introductory and intermediate level Spanish courses both privately and at the University level. At the graduate level, I have studied linguistics and sociolinguistics, as well as focusing on language teaching and the use of technology in the classroom.

University of Calgary, Canada; Universidad de Concepcion, Chile

Strickland, B., & O'Brien, M. G. (2013). A Review of the Literature on Technology in Second and Foreign Language Learning. Calgary: University of Calgary. Strickland, B. (Summer 2012). Communities of practice in the language classroom: Theory and reality. ETAS Journal. Strickland, B. (2009). De Gardner a Bajtin: La comunicacion mediada por ordenador y su impacto en la clase de lenguas. University of Calgary (Canada), ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing. MR54572. Strickland, B. (2009). El mito de Narciso en la poesía española de los Siglos de Oro. Espéculos: Revista de estudios literarios, 40.

I have an undergraduate degree in Spanish and Psychology from Bowdoin College in the U.S. I completed an M.A. in Spanish and Second Language Acquisition and a PhD dissertation in the same field, both at the University of Calgary in Canada and currently working as an Assistant Professor at the Universidad de Concepción in Concepción, Chile.

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