Posted by: janecronin | September 23, 2018


“Volar” means “to fly”.  It can also mean “to blow up” in the sense of “explode” and presumably there is some connection between these two meanings.   It is a root-changing verb in the present tense, which therefore goes:  “vuelo, vuelas, vuela, volamos, voláis, vuelan” – meaning I fly, you fly, he,she or it flies, we fly, you (plural) fly and they fly.  Whilst we’re talking about verb conjunctions, I should also remind you that “vuela” can also mean “you fly” if I am addressing you in a formal way.

Having said all of that, none of us actually “volar” a great deal.  When you “fly” somewhere, it is more usual in Spanish to use the expression “ir en avion” (to go in, or by, plane):  “volar” is mostly left to birds and the plane itself.  However, you will have come across a form of “volar” when you are booking a flight, or at the airport, as the word for “flight” is “vuelo”.  There is also a budget Spanish airline called “Vueling” which is based on a Spanglish mixture of “vuelo” and the English gerund – ing ending.

There are quite a lot of words in Spanish which are related, loosely or otherwise, to the verb “volar”.  For example we have “volante” which means “steering wheel” in a car, but “fly wheel “ in a mechanical context.  If you ever have to make a sudden swerve when you are driving, this is called a “volantazo”.  The suffix “-azo” is often added to words to mean something big, sudden or violent.  In the same way “portazo” means the slamming of a door and “puñetazo” is a punch made with the “puño” (fist).  The same word “volante” is also used to means “frill”, such as you might find on the sleeve or neck of a blouse or hem of a skirt.

A “flying fish” is a “pez volador” which I’m sure you always wanted to know, and perhaps more curiously the word “volador” appears in the acronym “OVNI” which stands for “objeto volante no identificado” (unidentified flying object, that is a UFO).

A word that is similar to English that comes from the same root is “volátil”.  This can refer to physical properties in the same way as in English we can talk about a “volatile” chemical for example.  Also, as in English, this word can describe someone’s personality: someone who is unstable or likely to “fly” off the handle at short notice.

If we add the prefix “re” to make the word “revuelo” we create a word that I rather like.  When referring to birds it means a big flutter or flight of many birds together.  In the old days of pigeons in Trafalgar Square you could create a “revuelo” by running towards them – not that I ever did that of course.  However, the word “revuelo” is also used to describe a commotion or rumpus. In English we also call this setting the cat amongst the pigeons.

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