How we “save a file” in Spanish

Link here for Spanish/Enlace al español 

Dear reader,

It’s something yours truly will do in a few minutes, you will likely do more than once today… and forgetting to do it can sometimes bring real headaches.

Guardar archivo Word inglés españolWe’re talking about one of the most common, ordinary acts of contemporary life: preserving what you’ve written or changed in a computer document: “saving a file”. This term has no single, accepted Spanish translation; rather, there are various options.

When you stop to think about it, “file” is a strange noun to use for a single document; its ordinary, non-computing meanings are a device, drawer, or piece of furniture where documents are kept; or a folder holding papers on a matter or topic. The computing sense of “file” is usually rendered as Spanish documento or archivo, with the latter increasingly dominant.

Archivo, whose standard meanings include a cabinet or archive (a room or building where many documents are held), is also a curious thing to call a letter or other simple document.

And “to save”? Here, also, there are two main possibilities: salvar or guardar.  The first directly translates “save”, but with a discordant connotation of rescue that the English word can shed. The second conveys well the notion of preserving, but with the added sense of putting away—which doesn’t quite fit, as we “save a file” frequently while working on it.

Both languages struggle with the novelty of computing: what we do when we “save a file” has no exact analogy in the world of pen and paper, or even typewriter.

¡Buenas palabras!


Copyright © 2013 by Pablo Julián Davis. All rights reserved. A version of this essay was originally written for the 5-11 May 2013 edition of La Prensa Latina (Memphis, Tennessee) as part of the weekly bilingual column “Mysteries and Enigmas of Translation. Pablo Julián Davis ( is an ATA Certified Translator (Eng>Spa) and a Supreme Court of Tennessee Certified Court Interpreter (Eng<>Spa).


About Pablo Julián Davis
Pablo Julián Davis, PhD, ATA Certified Translator (Engl>Span) and Supreme Court of Tennessee Certified Interpreter (EnglSpan), offers world-class Spanish/English language services including translation, interpreting, copywriting, and editing in both languages. His specialties are legal, business, medical, and humanities/education; he has wide experience in other fields as well. Also offered: interactive and transformative cultural-awareness training for companies, non-profits, communities, government agencies, institutions of faith, and other audiences. (See just a small sampling of testimonials from happy and satisfied clients: The ability to move effectively from language to language - which necessarily also means moving between cultures - has likely never been at a greater premium than it is in today's world. That ability is what we mean by Interfluency TM.

One Response to How we “save a file” in Spanish

  1. Pingback: ¿Salvar o guardar? ¿Documento o archivo? | Interfluency: Translation+Culture

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