The Meaning of De Nada: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know what the Spanish phrase de nada means? This article will provide you with all of the necessary knowledge on the Spanish term de nada, including its definition, usage, origin, useful examples, and more!

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What does the Spanish term de nada mean?

According to Merriam-Webster, the direct translation of the Spanish phrase “de nada” or “por nada” is “for nothing.” This term is used to mean “you’re welcome,” and is usually a response to “gracias,” which means “thank you.” Spanish Stack Exchange states that the term is used to mean something similar to “no problem,” or “not at all.” It literally means that one is saying there is nothing to be thankful about, but is used to mean you’re welcome. This is a polite phrase that can be used in a variety of different circumstances.

Spanish Dict states that de nada has a variety of meanings, including “it’s nothing” and “don’t mention it.” All of these are synonyms for the English phrase “you’re welcome.” Spanish Dict also lists other Spanish synonyms for the phrases “you’re welcome” and “no problem.” In place of “you’re welcome,” one can say “no hay de qué,” “eres bienvenido” or “eres bienvenida”,  or “puede.” To literally say “no problem,” one can say “no hay problema.”

This form of nada should not be confused with the conjugation of the Spanish word “nadar.” According to Spanish Dict, the Spanish verb “nadar” means “to swim.” “Nada” is the third person present form of the verb nadar. This means that one would use the word “nada” to say, “he, she, it, or the formal you swims.” In Spanish, one could say “ella nada,” which means “she swims.”

What is the origin of the Spanish term de nada?

According to Word Sense, the Spanish term de nada has been used in American English as a phrase since 1976, where it was published for the first time in The American Review: The Magazine of New Writing, Issue 25. From there, It has gained popularity in the English vernacular, and many English speakers, particularly those in countries that border Spanish-speaking countries, know what the phrase “de nada” means and use it in their everyday vernacular.

According to Etymonline, the Spanish word “nada” comes from the Latin (res) nata, meaning “small or insignificant thing” or “thing born.” This comes from natus, which was the past participle form of the Latin nasci, meaning “to be born.” From this same root, we get many other words relating to birth, including natal, neonatal, nativity, and more.

Also according to Etymonline, the Spanish word “de” is a direct usage of the Latin adverb and preposition de, which meant “down from” or “off of, or away from.” In spanish, the word de is often used to mean “from” or “of.” De is used in many other English phrases, like de facto or de jure.

How can de nada be used in a sentence?

De nada can be used in a variety of different circumstances and conversations in Spanish. This idiomatic interjection is very common, and one would see it frequently used in any Spanish-speaking country. In this first example, Roberto is home from college for a weekend visiting his mother Ana. She serves him a big dinner.

Ana: ¿Sabes qué tiempo es?

Roberto: ¿Es hora de comer?

Ana: ¡Pero claro! Tome algunos de estos tacos y más pollo a un lado; esto es lo mismo que lo que hay en la ensalada.

Roberto: Gracias, mamá.

Ana: De nada, chico. ¡Toma estos rolls también!

Roberto: Mamá, estoy bien. Ya he comido este día.

Ana: Lo sé, lo sé. Pero son las pequeñas cosas.

In English, this conversation translates to the below.

Ana: Do you know what time it is?

Roberto: Time to eat?

Ana: But of course! Take some of these tacos, and more chicken on the side – this is the same as what is in the salad.

Roberto: Thank you, mom.

Ana: You’re welcome my boy. Take these rolls, too!

Roberto: Mom, I’m good. I have already eaten today. 

Ana: I know, I know. But It’s the little things.

In this scenario, Ana uses the phrase de nada to tell her son that cooking for him is no problem. She is grateful to have him back in the house after being away at school. In this next example, Maria is a teacher and it is parent teacher night at the school. A parent of one of her more troublesome students approaches her.

Padre: ¿Maestra María?

María: ¿Sí?

Padre: Solo quería agradecerles por todo el trabajo que están haciendo con mi hijo. Sé que no es un niño fácil de tratar, nos ocupamos de nuestra parte justa de problemas de comportamiento en casa, pero siempre habla de cuánto ama a tu clase. Gracias por ser paciente con él.

María: De nada. Veo muchas cosas buenas en él: es muy inteligente, solo necesita una mano amable.

In English, this conversation translates to the below.

Parent: Teacher Maria?

Maria: Yes?

Parent: I just wanted to thank you for all of the work you are doing with my son. I know he is not an easy child to deal with – we deal with our fair share of behavioral issues at home – but he always talks about how much he loves your class. Thank you for being patient with him.

Maria: You’re welcome. I see a lot of good in him – he’s very smart, he just needs a gentle hand.

Overall, the Spanish phrase “de nada” means “you’re welcome” in English. The phrase directly translates to “of nothing,” but is used to mean “no problem” or “don’t worry about it.” This is considered a polite phrase in Spanish, and can be used in casual, professional, and formal contexts. 

Sources:

  1. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/de%20nada
  2. https://books.google.com/books?id=zcjZAAAAMAAJ&q=grassy+ass&dq=grassy+ass&hl=en&sa=X&ei=IXzaT_KFKIPg2gWrmoy8Bg
  3. https://spanish.stackexchange.com/questions/2685/why-is-de-nada-used-as-a-response-to-gracias
  4. https://www.spanishdict.com/translate/de%20nada
  5. https://www.spanishdict.com/translate/no%20problem
  6. https://www.etymonline.com/word/nada
  7. https://www.etymonline.com/word/de#etymonline_v_803