Si Dios Quiere

July 18, 2007 By: erik Category: Religion, Spain 8,735 views

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Learning a foreign language gives you a perspective on that language that the native speakers don’t have. Some phrases become so ingrained into the language, that their original, literal meaning fades. For instance, saying, “Catch you later!” when departing from someone might be a little confusing or frightening for a foreigner who didn’t understand all the intricacies of the verb “to catch”, even though the phrase is simply meant to say “goodbye”. Even the word “goodbye”, in English, French, and Spanish, no longer carries the original “go with God” meaning. And so I turn to the Spanish phrase, “si Dios quiere”.

It literally means “if God wants”, but a more meaningful translation would be “if it be God’s will”. I’ve only ever heard it tacked on to the end of “Hasta mañana”, which means “Until tomorrow” or “See you tomorrow”. I’ve heard it primarily used by Marga’s mother and grandfather. So, imagine my thoughts upon hearing it the first few times.

Me: Hasta mañana.
Grandpa: Hasta mañana, si Dios quiere.

Or, in English:

Me: See you tomorrow.
Grandpa: See you tomorrow, if it be God’s will.

How horribly morbid to remind me as I’m heading off for bed that an omnipotent, capricious, sky deity might strike me dead between now and tomorrow morning! That’s like saying, “See you tomorrow…if one of us doesn’t die first.” While I think it’s healthy to occasionally be reminded that life is short and getting shorter every second and we should carpe diem and all that, it initially struck me as a terribly distasteful thing to say in parting.

I have since come to understand that “si Dios quiere” is one of those phrases whose original meaning has become so watered down with regular use that it’s simply a matter of unthinking habit. A similar example in English is saying “Bless you!” when someone sneezes. The speaker isn’t literally implying that you’ve been possessed with demons and need God’s help, even though that’s what it literally means. People have just heard others say it so much, like the sound of it, and repeat it out of habit. Personally, I make a conscious effort to avoid saying “si Dios quiere” and “bless you”, trying to do my part to rid the world of unnecessary superstition, but I can’t say that I always succeed.

I leave you on a humorous note, humorous, at least, to a native English speaker. The Spanish equivalent of saying “Bless you!” is to say “Jesus!” So next time someone sneezes, turn to them and shout “Jesus!”

See you tomorrow…if we survive the night……..

  • “See you tomorrow” if one of us doesn’t die first.

    I don’t think it needs to be interpreted quite so morbidly. My take on such phrases (and I’m thinking mainly of the Arabic insha’ allah) is more along the lines of, “yeah, maybe, but god might have some other stuff for me to do tomorrow”.

    Doing my part to rid the world of unnecessary superstition.

    • Linda Garza

      I agree.

  • Okay. So, to secularize it, it means “unless something beyond our control prevents us from meeting tomorrow”. That’s way more reasonable.

    I like your interpretation better, even though the phrase is still unnecessary due to it always being true.

  • Paul at Work

    Unlike me, you weren’t taught as a young child to end each day’s thoughts with “If I should die before I wake . . .”

  • Betsy

    I was just saying goodbye to one of my Latino customers and I said “adios” (showing off my mastery of his language). It dawned on me that that probably means “to God” or “with God” or something similar to our goodbye which I learned as a child means “God be with you”. Not too profound, but it was a bit of the proverbial lightbulb over the head.

    With reference to Paul’s memory of the childrens’ bedtime prayer that includes the scary line about dying in your sleep: I learned an alternate version which replaced that line with “Thy love guard me through the night, and wake me with the morning light”. Somewhat more comforting . . .

  • Yep. Like “Adieu” in French, right?

  • sabio

    Hi! I am a spaniard from Cantabria living in Bilbao and just tripped with your blog. I have found myself a bit awkward here when I said some words or expressions unknown here.

    Since I was a child I heard the word ‘esquilar’ o ‘esquilarse’ meaning to climb.
    – Chuté el balón al tejado y me tuve que esquilar para cogerlo
    – I kicked the ball to the roof and I had to climb to take it

    The awkwardness comes when you think of the meaning of esquilar: cut the hair to sheep. Seems a word only used in Cantabria. Like ‘baza’ meaning the toilet, or the ‘throne’.

    There’s also a word unique in Cantabria, used as a ‘reply’ to a sneeze. Instead of ‘Jesus!’, if it’s been a small kid who sneezed, it’s said ‘Santines!’
    I suppose orignally had its religious meaning but lost it through years of misuse. (santines is the way we would call to ‘small saints’)

    my 50 cent!

    • Very interesting! Thank you, sabio!

  • Yes, I got the creeps the first time I heard it. I was very taken aback. We were only talking about seeing each other again next week. At first I thought it was a habit that belonged to the older generation, but then I heard it also from somebody my age. I think that even though the younger generations don’t practise religion the same way as their parents, religion is still very embedded in the culture, and to a certain extent, everyday life.

  • Linda Garza

    My dad used to say “Si Dios quiere” when I would tell him my plans for something. He just meant that my plans were good, but they would happen if it was God’s will. Saying “si Dios quiere” does just mean that if it’s God’s will, and circumstances are right, you will see each other tomorrow. More like what sgazzeti said. That’s how my family always took it. We never associated it with dying.

  • Lily

    Yes, nothing creepy there.
    I have my plans and the Whole may have other plans.
    The Entirity may have an entirely different picture!
    just an acknowledgement by the finite self
    of the larger Self

  • Jenn

    i dont think its morbid, humans beings are the only beings on earth with a healthy conscious of afterlife, no animal, plants, insects,etc think of death. and i have also heard my family use it at the end of other phrases, such as when we say someones birthday is coming up, sometimes we will say “vamos a celebrar mis cumplianos a las cinco de la tarde si dios quiere” which i dont see as morbid, no one knows the time or place of our death except God, and i dont think it should be taken out of use! this is just my two cents!

  • Meiko

    I totally disagree with the simplistic interpretation of “Si Dios quiere”. It’s true some people might use it out of habit and not necessarily are religious. However, we need to take into account the cultural context of this phrase and be respectful of other people’s cultural values and customs. It is definitely not a morbid expression or underpinned by fear to God. On the contrary, it is to wish you well whilst being reminded of a higher will. Of course, this is hard to grasp for non-believers, and if we try to make literal translations we end up with a very simplistic outlook on the phrase and its uses.

    Now, in Mexico we also have a saying when parting “Que te vaya bien, que te machuque el tren y que te machaque bien” which literally means “I wish you well, I hope a train runs over you and runs over well” Is it morbid? most likely if taken literally, but it is used for wishing people good luck.

    How about when people say “break a leg” on a theatre opening to wish good luck? do people seriously wish others to get a leg broken?

    That’s all! Return to your business ‘si Dios quiere’!

  • Blas de Lezo

    LOL, this article is very funny! My mother also used to tell me, when I was a child, “hasta mañana si Dios quiere”, I remember I thought it as a whole word “hasta mañana sidiosquiere”, thinking it was more like a auxiliar word added to a common sentence. When I realized the creepy meaning of it, I just stopped using it!

    Thanks for your blog and see you in next post… if Death doesn’t come to us first… jajaj

  • In_cubusx

    Hello. This phrase is not limited to mortality or anything like that.
    Some people might have the wrong meaning of this phrase, which could be confusing if you are not a native spanish-speaker. It can also mean something similar like saying “knock on wood.If God permits/God’s will, for example: you are 20years old and you say, when I finish college I want to work for SONY, “if it is God will.” because you might end up not actually dead, but God will’s was that you might end up working for DELL instead or in a different career. know what I mean? I still use the phrase, i am 27years old. ” Hope you understand the meaning, if its God’s will of course.

  • Aldana Scitech

    Actually, “si dios quiere” in the context of saying hasta mañana would be more like taking into account other things that may happen. I may be held up somewhere and not see my friend while I’m walking through the hall.
    And as for sneezing, the only response I’ve ever heard is “salud” which quite obviously does not mean Jesus.

  • Gnmurillo

    At least in
    Mexico it is a good manner to say “Salud” literally “Health” when someone sneezes
    and it is not an unnecessary superstition. To say  “Jesus” is no longer in use because people don´t
    believe in Him anymore

    You surely
    know there is a true story behind this  “superstition”
    , don\’t you.

    You surely
    know there is a true story behind this  “superstition”
    , don\’t you.

    You surely
    know there is a true story behind this  “superstition”
    , don\’t you.