Multiple meanings of “board” (and how they translate into Spanish)

Legal Terms with Multiple Meanings

When “board” denotes a group of persons exercising managerial or supervisory powers the term can have several different Spanish renderings. For example, in business law contexts “board of directors” is consejo de administración, while the “board of trustees” of a foundation is its patronato.

“Board” is also used in the context of alternative dispute resolution (resolución extrajudicial de conflictos), in which arbitration (arbitraje) may be conducted by a single arbitrator (árbitro) or by a panel of arbitrators commonly known as an “arbitration board” (tribunal arbitral).

In the US, a state or local entity that governs and manages the public school system is commonly know as the “board of education,” while persons appointed to supervise institutions of higher education such as colleges and universities are often known as the “board of regents.”

And “board” may likewise designate a type of governmental body or entity. In that regard, what in Spain are collectively termed organismos administrativos (generically, “governmental agencies”) receive several different names within the US Government. One of these is “board” (Federal Reserve Board; National Labor Relations Board), but also include “agencies” (Central Intelligence Agency—CIA; Environmental Protection Agency—EPA), “bureaus” (Federal Bureau of Investigation—FBI) and “commissions” (Securities and Exchange Commission—SEC; International Trade Commission—ITC).

Multiple Meanings of paro in Labor Law Contexts

Legal Terms with Multiple Meanings

Paro has several legal meanings, many of them in the context of labor law. In one sense, paro is an informal synonym of desempleo (“unemployment”), as in estar en (el) paro (“to be unemployed,” “to be out of work”—also, estar desempleado), or cobrar el paro (“to receive/to draw unemployment benefits;” “to receive/to collect an unemployment check”). In this sense tasa de paro is tasa de desempleo (“unemployment rate”), and paro is used with this meaning in a number of expressions such as paro estacional (“seasonal unemployment”); paro estructural (“structural unemployment”); paro cíclico (“cyclical unemployment”); paro temporal (“temporary unemployment”); paro coyuntural (“contextual unemployment”) or paro de larga duración (“long-term unemployment”).

Paro is likewise used in two different expressions in the context of labor disputes. In that regard, paro may designate a concerted “work stoppage,” a labor action that may fall short of a formal strike: El comité de empresa convocó un paro de 24 horas (“The workers’ committee called a 24-hour work stoppage”). And, in other respects, paro patronal (more often termed cierre patronal) is the Spanish equivalent of what is known in English as a “lockout” (or less often a “shut out”), an action taken by management, preventing employees from working or even entering workplace premises as means of pressuring them to accept employer demands.

Multiple Meanings of delación


Legal Terms with Multiple Meanings

Delación has at least two “legal” meanings, one used in criminal law contexts that would likely be familiar to non-lawyers, and one whose meaning is clearly limited to inheritance law (Derecho de sucesiones). As a criminal law term delación is a synonym of acusación or denuncia, being defined in the Diccionario del español jurídico (DEJ) as revelación de datos que permiten identificar al culpable.

But in inheritance law its meaning is quite different, delación referring to the offer of an inheritance to prospective heirs so that they may accept or reject it. Quoting a Spanish Supreme Court opinion, the DEJ explains that delación is an ofrecimiento de la herencia al heredero, que da lugar a un derecho subjetivo, ius delationis, que faculta la adquisición por la aceptación. In that regard ius delationis denotes an heir’s right to accept or reject an inheritance and, in the meantime, to take measures to preserve the deceased’s estate.

Multiple Meanings of aportación

Legal Terms with Multiple Meanings

In the terminology of business organizations (Derecho societario), a partner or member’s contributions to partnership or company assets are known as aportaciones, which may include aportaciones dinerarias (“cash contributions”), aportaciones no dinerarias (“non-cash contributions”) or aportaciones en especie (“contributions in kind”), also known as aportaciones in natura. Likewise, aportaciones al capital are “capital contributions,” while the expression aportaciones pendientes often denotes “uncalled share capital.” Aportación has the same meaning in the context of social security law (Derecho de la Seguridad Social): aportaciones sociales (“social security contributions”); aportaciones al plan de pensiones (“pension plan contributions”), etc.

But in the context of procedural law (Derecho procesal) and with respect to the rules of evidence (normas probatorias; normas sobre la prueba), aportación is “production,” as in aportación de prueba (“production of evidence”). Thus, for example, here the expression carga de la aportación refers to a party’s duty to present sufficient evidence in support of a fact or issue asserted at trial. In English this is known as the “burden of production,” and is also often termed “burden of going forward with the evidence.”

Multiple Meanings of letrado

Legal Terms with Multiple Meanings

Because letrado has at least three different meanings in Spanish legal usage, this term is sometimes a source of confusion and translation mistakes. Letrado is most often simply a synonym for abogado (“lawyer,” “attorney,” “counsel”) and derecho a la asistencia letrada is the “right to counsel,” while letrado de oficio is “assigned (or) appointed counsel,” sometimes referred to as a “public defender” or “legal aid lawyer.” In England and Wales the preferred term for a letrado (or) abogado de oficio is “duty solicitor,” while in Canada “duty counsel” is used.

Secondly, letrado may also denote a lawyer who “clerks” for a judge, conducting legal research and drafting initial opinions. This is the case, for example, of the Letrados del Tribunal Constitucional and Letrados del Tribunal de Justicia de la Unión Europea, who may be described respectively as “legal counsel” (or “law clerks, “judicial clerks” or “judicial assistants”) to the (Spanish) Constitutional Court and the Court of Justice of the European Union. And in a third meaning, Letrados de las Cortes Generales refers to lawyers who provide legal services to the Spanish Parliament and, as such, may perhaps be described as “parliamentary counsel” or “legal counsel/legal advisors to Parliament.”

Multiple Meanings of cuota

Legal Terms with Multiple Meanings

Cuota has no simple correspondence in English and often can’t be translated simply as “quota.” The term may denote “membership fees” or “dues” as in cuota de afiliación or cuota de socio (“membership fee”) or cuota sindical (“union dues”). In the context of social security law, cuota de cotización a la seguridad social is “social security contribution,” and refers either to a worker’s social security contribution (cuota personal) or an employer’s social security contribution (cuota patronal/empresarial). In criminal law contexts, in a day fine system (sistema de días-multa), cuota diaria is a “day-fine unit,” while in the context of tax law cuota often refers generically to “taxes due” as in cuota tributaria, cuota del gravamen or cuota del impuesto. Thus, in Spain deducciones en la cuota are “tax credits” and cuota a devolver denotes “tax refund.” When referring to a lawyer’s contingency fee, the expression is cuota litis, and pacto de cuota litis is a “contingency fee agreement” (or a “no win, no fee agreement”). And the expression cuota de mercado is simply “market share.” Finally, in many expressions cuota may certainly be translated directly as “quota” as in cuota de producción (“production quota”) and cuota de importaciones (“import quota”).

Multiple Meanings: pago al contado

Legal Terms with Multiple Meanings

When pago al contado refers to pago en dinero contante, it may be appropriately  translated as “cash payment” or “payment in cash.” But often the expression actually denotes making “immediate payment,” as opposed to pago a plazos (“payment in installments”). Thus, in this context a pago al contado can be made in cash (en efectivo), by credit or debit card (con tarjeta de crédito o débito) or by bank transfer (por transferencia bancaria). As an example, in my work as a freelance translator, when billing my clients my invoices show “contado” as my payment terms. Rather than expecting payment in cash, this denotes my preference for immediate payment, something that I may not get but, hey, as they say, “wishing is free.” In other respects, “payment in cash” may be rendered as pago en efectivo, pago en numerario or pago en metálico.