As a beginner Spanish student, the word bajo may well be among the first words one learns, typically as an adjective meaning “short.” However, like many words in Spanish, this word has a whole plethora of meanings and can additionally function as a preposition, adverb, noun, and even a verb!
Let’s start by examining the use of the word bajo as a preposition. Although its translation is almost always “under” or “below,” like its English equivalent, this could refer not only to physical location, but also to the state of being subject to some influence. Let’s take a look at the following examples from our Yabla Spanish library.
One possible meaning of the preposition bajo is "in a position below something else":
Pero no entiendo qué hace mi amiga un día de semana bajo este árbol tan maravilloso.
But I don't understand what is my friend doing on a weekday under this wonderful tree.Play Caption
Another, similar meaning of “bajo,” which also involves location, suggests that something is beneath the surface or covered by something:
Tengo aquí bajo mi almohada tu fotografía
I have your picture here under my pillow
Caption 20, La Oreja de Van Gogh - InmortalPlay Caption
Moving on to uses of the preposition bajo not involving location, like “under” in English, bajo could also express the concept of being less than:
Congelando lo que es la punta de la botella en una solución que está a diez o quince grados bajo cero.
Freezing the tip of the bottle in a solution that is ten or fifteen degrees below zero.
Captions 33-34, Europa Abierta - Champagne en AndalucíaPlay Caption
The Spanish preposition bajo could additionally mean "in accordance with" or "subject to the terms of," for example, some agreement:
Algunos clientes bajo contrato, le pre-maduramos la fruta.
[For] some customers under contract, we pre-ripen the fruit.
Caption 99, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesaPlay Caption
And finally, although we have only touched on some of its many nuanced meanings, we’ll take a look at an example in which the preposition bajo entails being managed or governed by something:
Para su información, todo el personal de servicio está bajo mi mando, ¿sí?
For your information, all the service staff is under my authority, right?
Caption 49, Muñeca Brava - 3 Nueva CasaPlay Caption
Now, let’s look at bajo as an adjective. Its most common translations are “short” or “low,” both in terms of height or level and in reference to intensity or morality. Here are some examples from the Yabla Spanish video library:
Y es muy gracioso porque Pedro es todo lo contrario de Carolina.
And it's very funny because Pedro is totally the opposite of Carolina.
Es bajo, es gordo...
He's short, he's fat...
Captions 32-33, El Aula Azul - Mis PrimosPlay Caption
Desde chiquito el bajo mundo conocía
Since he was a child, he knew the underworld
Caption 4, La Secta - ConsejoPlay Caption
Se manifestaban porque el sueldo era muy bajo.
They were on strike because their salary was very low.
Caption 33, Con ánimo de lucro - CortometrajePlay Caption
As an adverb, bajo could also be translated as “low” in some cases (for example, when describing a helicopter flying “low”) or “softly” or “quietly” when referring to one’s speech:
¡Que le quede claro! -¡Shhhhh, habla bajo!
Let that be clear to you! -Shhhhh, speak quietly!
Caption 42, Yago - 7 EncuentrosPlay Caption
Much more straightforwardly, as a noun, the word bajo refers to the musical instrument, the bass:
Entonces yo dije: "Yo... yo puedo tocar... Yo puedo tocar el bajo."
So, I said, "I... I can play... I can play the bass."
Caption 50, Carli Muñoz - NiñezPlay Caption
And finally, it is worth noting that bajo is the first person singular, present tense conjugation of the verb “bajar” (to go or come down or get off or out).
Ya está, la comida... -Sí, sí, sí, ya, yo ya bajo.
It's ready, the food... -Yes, yes, yes, now, I'm coming down now.
Caption 72, Muñeca Brava - 44 El encuentroPlay Caption
We hope that this lesson has shed light on some of the ways the word bajo can function as a preposition - in addition to a noun, verb, adjective or adverb! If you would like to see many additional examples in context, simply enter the word bajo in the search bar at the top of the Videos page to find matches in the transcripts of the Yabla Spanish library. And don’t forget to send us your feedback and suggestions.