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"Just" in Spanish

How do you say "just" in Spanish? To answer that question, we should first examine some of the many meanings of the word "just" in English. We could, for example, have "just" completed some action or might speak about something being "just" right... all while working for a "just" cause. With this in mind, let's explore many of the most common meanings of the English word "just," then find out how to express them in Spanish.


1. Morally right or fair

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the English adjective "just" can mean "Based or behaving according to what is morally right or fair." One Spanish equivalent of this meaning of the word "just" sounds very much like its English counterpart: justo/a. Let's see an example:


Y una ciudad, un pueblo, una sociedad más sensible es una socied'... una sociedad mucho más justa.

And a city, a town, a more sensitive society is a societ'... a much more just society.

Captions 37-38, Otavalo Claudia y sus pinturas

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Other Spanish adjectives that share similar meanings and can sometimes be translated as "just" in different contexts include justificado/a, legítimo/a, razonado/alógico/a, exacto/a, and preciso/a.


2. Exactly

The English word "just" can also function as an adverb meaning "exactly" or "precisely." To convey this meaning, Spanish adverbs like justo, justamente, and precisamente can be utilized. Let's look at some examples:


Precisamente es lo que iba a mencionar.

That's just what I was going to mention.

Caption 80, Arturo Vega Entrevista - Part 1

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Justo lo que yo necesitaba,

Just what I needed,

Caption 27, X6 1 - La banda - Part 11

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By extension, like the English word "just," the aforementioned Spanish words can also mean "exactly" or "almost exactly at that moment," as in the following examples:


Precisamente le iba a contar a Amalia que por cierto, vaya novia más guapa tienes,

I was just about to tell Amalia that indeed, what a beautiful girlfriend you have;

Captions 56-57, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa Capítulo 5 - Part 10

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"Justo antes de ir a acostarte, 

"Just before you go to bed,

Caption 5, Aprendiendo con Silvia Consejos para dormir mejor - Part 2

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3. Very recently/in the immediate past

In English, we often use the word "just" to describe something that happened in the immediate past. One way to convey this meaning of the word "just" in Spanish is with the formula acabar de + infinitive. Let's look at two examples of this construction, one in the present tense and one in the preterite:


Acabo de llegar a Barcelona 

I just got to Barcelona

Caption 7, Raquel Oficina de Turismo

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La azafata acabó de salir del hotel y Zárate va tras ella. 

The flight attendant just left the hotel, and Zarate is behind her.

Caption 21, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa Capítulo 4 - Part 10

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An alternative way to get across this meaning of the English word "just" in Spanish is with the word recién:


¿Vos no estuviste en la oficina recién? 

Weren't you just at the office?

Caption 70, Muñeca Brava 2 Venganza - Part 6

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4. Barely/by a little

The word "just" can also communicate the idea of "barely" or "by a narrow margin," for which Spanish phrases like por poco or the colloquial por un pelo function similarly:


Perdimos el avión por poco/por un pelo.

We just missed the bus.


In certain cases, the Spanish phrase un poco may also communicate this idea of "just" as in a slim margin, as in the following example:


con un poco más de tres millones de habitantes.

with just over three million inhabitants.

Caption 7, Aprendiendo con Zulbany Visitando Madrid

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5. Simply/only/no more than

The English word "just" can also function like "simply" or "only," for which the Spanish words solo and solamente are viable translations:


No solo practico kitesurf, también tengo un hobby de ser DJ; 

I don't just do kitesurfing, I also have a hobby of being a DJ;

Caption 56, Adícora, Venezuela La Posada Sea Club - Part 1

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Es una oportunidad de entrenar no solamente en nuestro cuerpo, sino también en nuestra mente,

It's an opportunity to train, not just our bodies, but also our minds,

Captions 26-27, Víctor en Caracas La natación

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The Spanish word apenas, whose translations include "barely" and "scarcely," can also be used to say "just" in the sense of "only":


No tienes. ¿Y cuánto tiempo tienes con tu esposo o tu pareja? Un año. Un año apenas. -Apenas

You don't have. And how long have you have been with your husband or your boyfriend? A year. Just a year. -Just.

Captions 88-90, Adícora, Venezuela El tatuaje de Rosana

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6. Positively

And finally, Spanish adverbs like realmente and simplemente can get across the idea of the English word "just" with the meaning of "positively":


Realmente me encanta ser profesor, me encanta mi...

I just love being a teacher, I love my...

Caption 35, Profesor de matemática Entrevista

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No sé, mamá, simplemente me... me mató, me mató...

I don't know, Mom, it just... it killed me, it killed me...

Captions 5-6, Yago 11 Prisión - Part 8

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As you can see, there is no one-size-fits-all translation for the English word "just" since it can mean so many different things, most of which are said in different ways in Spanish. Can you think of any additional meanings of the word "just" in English and/or ways to express them in Spanish? Let us know with your comments and suggestions


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