Spanish Language Blog

The Meaning of “Ahorita” Posted by on Dec 18, 2007 in Spanish Vocabulary


I have learned a curious thing about the word ahorita since living in Mexico for a couple of years.It has two seemingly contradictory meanings: “right now” and “in a minute.”

When I first studied abroad, I found that when my host mother asked my host sister to do something “ahorita,” she jumped to attention and performed whatever it was in that moment.Yet, years later, when my boyfriend would tell me he would do the dishes “ahorita”, I would stare at him, perplexed, as he continued to play a couple more rounds of Xbox.What was going on?

I soon realized that ahorita has a different meaning depending on the intention of the speaker. My boyfriend was not lying when he promised to do the dishes “ahorita” – he just meant it in the “in a little while” sense of the word.My host mother was equally clear when she demanded a chore be completed “ahorita” – referring to the “at this very moment” meaning.

So, how are you to know which is which?Should you expect that email right now, or within the next hour?Is your friend around the corner, or just leaving her house?Sometimes, one can tell the difference from the tone of voice.Additionally, an “in a while” ahorita can be accompanied by a particular hand gesture: thumb and forefinger held up about a centimeter apart, similar to the sign Americans make when they exclaim “I was this close to…” (This hand gesture is also used to mean “Hold on” or “Give me a minute,” such as you might see when you try to speak someone and he or she is on the phone.)

Many times, however, it is difficult to know which meaning the speaker intends.Perhaps your best bet is to clarify with ahora mismo, unequivocally “right now.”

Some common phrases using ahorita:

Necesito que lo hagas ahorita. I need you to do it right now.

¿Dónde estás ahorita?Where are you right now?

Ahorita le atiendo.I will attend to you in a minute.

Ahorita regreso.I will be back in a minute.

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  1. Loretta Rowe:

    I find it impossible to print the information from this web site without cutting off the last five to six words of each paragraph. Ei. “on the intention of the speaker”;”he just meant it.”

  2. rosa:

    thanks for the advice on ahorita, it seems unnecessarily complicated but good to know im not the only one that was getting confused!

  3. Alex:

    Hahahaha… I’m Puerto Rican, and all across the Caribbean, “Ahorita” means a “Little later.” I grew up with this ingrained as a unshakable tennet of my spanish.

    Fast Forward to present day and you’ll find me teaching Central American immigrants life skills at the Latin American Youth Center. For them, “Ahorita” means “right this second.”

    You can imagine the frustration as my students and fellow Central American teachers asked me to do things “ahorita” and watched me as I said “sure” and walked away non-chalantly!

  4. Pepe:

    Haha, I had a similar experience. When I learned it in school it always meant “right now”. I recently studied in Mexico and they always use it for “soon” or “in a minute”. Some people would wave their index finger as they said it. I guess all languages have words like that though.

  5. Sam Pfanstiel:

    In English we may use “right away” in similar fashion. If my wife says “do the dishes right away” I know she means right now, but if I say “I will do the dishes right away” it means I’ll get to it soon. I don’t think this is a variation of the meaning of the word, only the depth of the sense of obligation to which the speaker is bound (or to which they bind others). Such ambiguities are part of why all forms of communication are so difficult because the speaker and hearer hold different values about the message being sent/received.

  6. J G Charbo:

    Not to make this more complicated, “Ahorita” has different meanings depending on the country you’re on. In Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, “Ahorita” means a little later, while “Ahora” means right now. In Mexico, Columbia and other countries “Ahorita” always means “right now”. So, you need to know whom you’re talking to (what country he’s from).

  7. Chris Glynn:

    in Wales: “I’ll do that now in a minute”

  8. J.J.:

    Well, as a variation, in Mexico I always assumed that “ahorita” could mean several things: besides the two above, it can also be a polite way of indicating something between “a long time” and “never.” Once a women told me she would dance with me ahorita. I am still waiting.

  9. Elise:

    This reminds me of “presently”, in English. “Presently” literally translates into French as “at the present moment”. So it took me a while to get that in English it’s used to mean “in a moment”.

  10. Kenny:

    I lived in Colombia for 7 years and we use the word “ahorita” to refer to something we are going to do or already did. For example:
    “Te acuerdas lo que hicismos ahorita?”
    This is referring to something we did not to long ago.
    “Ahorita vamos!”
    Meaning that we are going to do it, but doesnt meant that is going to be done right now.

    My girlfriend is from central america, and they have a different meaning for the word “ahorita”. To them it means that “at this exact moment”

    If i want to refer to something i want to get done at this exact moment i use the word “ahora”.
    All depends where you from or where you go.

  11. Landy Perez:

    In the Castillian Spanish dictionary the meaning of the word ahora if you look it up it means immediately, right away. In Spain and most of the later colonies of Spain to win independence in the caribbean it has the same meaning. Cuba, D. Repub.P. Rico were the last to become independent from Spain. So, ahorita means in a while and has nothing whatsoever to do with the clock. if you listen to the newscasters in the spanish networks they are educated to use the correct form of castellano. Ahora sucedio means it took place now. Ahorita va a llover means it will rain soon not immediately.

  12. Cynthia:

    Does the word ahorita exist in the Spanish dictionary or is it a word that people made up to shorten a saying???

    • David Carmona:

      @Cynthia “Ahorita” is a diminutive of “ahora”, which means “now”.

  13. Andrea:

    In fact “ahorita” has 3 different meanings:
    1. Right now
    2. In a minute
    3. A moment ago

    for example

    1. “Quiero que laves los trastes ahorita” (I want you to wash the dishes right now)

    2. “Los lavo ahorita” (I will wash the dishes in a minute)

    3. “Ahorita compré un dulce en la tienda” (I bought a candy in the corner-store a moment ago)

  14. Frank:

    Mexicans, Central Americans and caribbeans Spanish speakers say “ahorita” non-stop. Believe or not, until a couple of year ago “ahorita” was not recognized in the Spanish diccionary (RAE). Where I’m coming from, we say “ahora” (now).

  15. ana:

    “ahorita” can be used as a synonym for soon, right now, or something in the vicinity of near time. Also language is manipulated in the way that it is expressed, changing its meaning with each use, so a word can have several meanings in any language.

  16. Danielle:

    Elise- actually no, prensently means you are doing it as you say the word. I presently live in California. It does not mean in a moment.

  17. Julieta, March 3, 2014:

    I was born in México City, we always used the word ‘ahorita’ for right this instant; my mother used to say: I want you to come and eat ‘ahorita’ because the food will get cold.

  18. audra:

    My husband is from michiachan Mexico and he uses the word “ahorita” constantly. It was so confusing, we would get into an argument because I thought he said he would do anything right. Got even worse when I realized he also could mean in a while. I’ve finally just asked him to try not to use it so much. Lol

  19. Luis Suarez:

    This just made my day.made me smile like an idiot.
    Beautiful thing, language.

    My autocorrect just does not like this word it gives me grief each time I use it.
    It’s a contraction sure, but an informal one.
    I believe the correct term is “apócope” -not really a diminutive, more of a shortening/bastardization.
    Other example of apócope is “Muy” for “mucho”

    I agree with Sam pfanstiel:
    it is a measure on obligation binding.
    I think we have all used ” yeah mom, i’ll be home right away ” meaning “who knows when” – Regardless of your country

  20. sinagua:

    ahorit-t-t-a translates: a little, little, little wait.
    ahorita: right away
    ahora: now!
    We always said ahorit-t-t-a in Mexico City.