False Friends: Pay me but don’t take retribution!

Oh, no! False Friends

retribución; retribution

These terms are true false cognates. Retribución denotes recompensa o pago de algo. In contrast, “retribution” only rarely has the meaning of recompense or reward, and is usually associated with punishment (castigo) or taking vengeance (venganza) for wrongdoing, often being used in that sense in criminal law contexts (“retributive justice,” the “retributive theory of punishment,” etc.).

Thus in corporate law contexts, retribución de los administradores (or) consejeros refers to “directors’ remuneration (or) compensation,”* rather than “directors’ retribution,” as the expression has sometimes been mistranslated in Spanish sources. In that regard, the boards of directors of large Spanish corporations often have a Comité de Nombramientos y Retribuciones (“Appointments and Remuneration (or) Compensation Committee”). And in this context, retribución en especie refers to “non-cash compensation” or “compensation in kind,” while retribución por horas extraordinarias is “overtime pay.” Other examples include política de retribuciones (“remuneration policy;” “compensation policy”); paquete de retribuciones (“pay package”) and retribución por vacaciones (“vacation/holiday pay”).

*“Compensation” would perhaps be the preferred term in the US, while “remuneration” is more often used in the UK.


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