False Friends (26): adjudicar; adjudicate

Oh, no! False Friends

adjudicar ; adjudicate / adjudicación ; adjudication

These pairs are clearly false cognates. In Spanish adjudicar generally has the meaning of “to award,” “to allocate” or “to allot.” Thus, for example, adjudicar un contrato is “to award a contract,” (not “adjudicate a contract”), while in the context of auctions (subastas) adjudicado al mejor postor may often be rendered simply as “sold to the highest bidder.”

In contrast, in English “to adjudicate” means “to rule upon or settle judicially; to adjudge,” while “adjudication” is “the legal process of resolving a dispute; the process of judicially deciding a case.”* Thus, “to adjudicate” is juzgar, fallar or resolver judicialmente, referring to the final ruling of a court or quasi-judicial body, a sense that adjudicar does not have in Spanish. In that regard, when referring to a judicial decision “adjudication” cannot be translated as adjudicación. “He was adjudicated guilty” means le declararon culpable (or) fue declarado culpable (being synonymous with “convicted” or “found guilty”). “Adjudication on the merits” refers to a court’s resolución sobre el fondo and “to adjudicate disputes” is resolver conflictos (en sede judicial). Likewise, in the context of court proceedings or hearings before quasi-judicial boards or tribunals, “adjudication of claims” might be translated as resolución de pretensiones, resolución de reclamaciones or, perhaps, resolución de demandas, depending on the context. As additional examples, “adjudication of incompetence” refers to a declaración judicial de incapacidad, and a person “adjudicated incompetent” has been judicialmente incapacitada. In summary, “adjudicate (or) adjudication” could not be appropriately rendered as adjudicar (or) adjudicación in any of these expressions.

The same may be said of the verb “to adjudge,” which likewise means “to award, grant or impose judicially.” Thus the expression “Ordered and adjudged” often appearing at the end of a court ruling does not mean Ordenado y adjudicado, as the expression has sometimes been rendered literally, but rather precedes a court’s disposal of a matter in dispute, denoting its “adjudication” (fallo). So, “It is therefore ordered and adjudged…” might actually be rendered as “Se ordena y falla…”.

*Black’s Law Dictionary, 8th ed.

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