Friday, August 3, 2007


empower: potenciar, apoderar, empoderar

The dictionary says to empower is to give someone else power (I empower you to do it). In that sense I would use apoderar. I am all about neologisms, and yes, empoderar is catching on - but I don't get how it's better than than the long existing apoderar. Unless maybe it squeamishness about those other definitions of apoderar carrying over. See this definition.

Or maybe it's that people feel uncomfortable with it when empower is actually being used more like to own your own power (the dictionary would say having the confidence to do something), which is the sense in which you're more likely to see it in a social justice context (as in We can fight our landlord, we know our rights, we are empowered tenants). Ok, so in that context I could live with empoderados, but I like potenciados alot too.

I've heard potenciar from several different social justice 'terps now, so I'm not just making this one up. It's not an exaaaact match though. See this definition.

Thoughts? Votes?

(Oh, and if you don't have the word ref searches in your firefox toolbar scrolldown to the bottom of those definition pages and get them. Amazing tool.)


d said...

Sara! So great that you got your blog going. Very interesting and useful.

About apoderar, I don't know. It worries me that it also means to make one the owner of something. As used by Pinky and the Brain in "apoderarse del mundo". But potenciar works depending on the context, and yes, empoderar is being used a lot as well.

Any takes on how to translate accountability?

Andrea Parra said...

el problema con apoderar es que se usa para referirse a alguien que te ha dado un poder (power of attorney) apoderarse es tener el poder (power of attorney) yo soy apoderada de alguien.
Así que yo me quedo con empoderar que ya está bastante usado y su significado es ya un lugar común. Y me parece chévere que el idioma evolucione en términos referidos a justicia social.
un abrazo

Sara Koopman said...

yes, just to reiterate - the sense of empower as apoderar is NOT the way you would normally hear empower used in a social justice context in English. empower has different definitions in English, and the social justice one is usually empoderar or potenciar.

Raul said...

Empoderamiento se ha utilizado bastante.

My sense is that you could say empoderar. Just a thought :)

Anonymous said...

The direct translation is "facultar". "Potenciar" can be used too. Sometimes the use of anglicisms, such as "empoderar", is unnecessary