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  5. "Borrón y cuenta nueva."

"Borrón y cuenta nueva."

Translation:Let bygones be bygones.

December 18, 2013



I didn't know what "Borrón y cuenta nueva" and "Let bygones be bygones" mean.

It helped me a lot to read all the comments and read all these sentences:

"blot and count again" "smudge and check again" "let's erase and start over" "let's wipe the slate clean and start over" "start from scratch" "back to the drawing board" "don't cry over spilt milk" "let things that have happened in the past, stay in the past" "It's all in the past"


'smudge and new account' was accepted as correct. I like it as a literal translation. Thank you, Grace-Georgia, for listing all of the alternatives in one place.

EDIT: The purpose of this comment was simply to post the literal translation for anyone who might be interested to know how the phrase is constructed in Spanish. The literal translation I posted is what DL suggests as the correct answer for whomever attempts the literal translation. Some have taken offense for whatever reason.


Thank you! Learning the literal translations of idioms really helps me. Plus, it's pretty interesting to see how Spanish speakers word things differently than English speakers.


Thank you for phrasing that much better than I would have! I've been restraining myself from posting to complain about how I'd rather learn the actual Spanish idioms than be forced to use a similar English idiom as the "translation" (when in many cases they both have different meanings). You put it much more eloquently


I second that!


Waisay I am amazed how intelligent, well mannered and helpful the people on duolingo are, from all around the world...not to mention witty.


That's because Duolingo is place for people that genuinely want to learn. And people that love to study, tend to be well educated and behave :).


I am impressed, too! I am impressed, also, with the knowledge of grammar so many have.


It hasn't been long since I started taking lessons on Duolingo. And I had a preset image of commentbox in my mind, which is no way near as polite as it is here, thanks to social media. So I was genuinely surprized too..


I didn't have time to read the insanely long rants below this, but I, for one, like to know the literal translation in addition to the logical translation. I don't know why everyone felt the need to make cases against literal translations, because it is still very useful knowledge. So...thank you!


Does Lo pasado, pasado está carry about the same meaning?


Alright, I have read the packed comment section downrange and the sentence quite literally copies the meaning of the English idiom.


Seems to me that "Wipe the slate clean." should work.
It is closer to the Spanish and is a real English proverbial phrase meaning the same thing.


Oh dear you will find it so hard to learn a language believing that their are no literall transalations it is virtually all spoken differently!


"Smudge and new account" is incorrect english. If Duolingo accepted that as an answer, that is part of the problem with computer generating phrases & translations. Smudge & new account makes no sence to an english person. The English phrase is "Let bygones be bygones", which is a short way of saying let's forget what has happened, bear each other no grudges & move on. Is it more important to find a phrase that Duolungo, with all its faults, will "accept", so we can move to the next unit? OR should we be concentrating on translating, any given example, into real phrases that native spanish or native english people would actually speak?


I know that 'smudge and new account' is not how we say it in English. That is not the point of my comment. I posted the literal translation to show what the phrase is actually saying in Spanish, as an approximation of what a Spanish speaker might be thinking when he says it.

When I learn a new language I want to know how they think in their words, not mine. So it is important to learn their literal version/translation. In order to think in Spanish, I need to learn the meaning of the Spanish words. I need to know that 'borrón' means 'smudge', that 'nueva' means 'new', and that 'cuenta' means 'count'. I need to know those translations in my brain automatically without having to think about it. If I followed your suggestion (to focus on 'Let bygones be bygones'), I might think that 'borrón' means 'let', that 'cuenta' means 'bygones', and that 'nueva' means 'be'.

I agree that it is important to know how to change word order when necessary, and how it might be said another way in another language, but it is also important to know what the native language is saying "literally" in order to learn how to think in their language. At least for me that is my goal.

I realize that this is a challenge and stumbling block for lots of language learners. I realize that many people tend to obsess on "how they would say it in English". For me, how I would say it in English is irrelevant. I am not learning English. I already know English. I want to learn Spanish. I want to learn how the phrase is said in Spanish. I want to learn how to think in Spanish and carry on conversations in Spanish. Conversation is different from Translation.

If Translation is your only goal, then fine, go ahead and swap phrase for phrase without integrating the meaning of the words. But as for me, I want to learn to carry on conversations with Spanish speakers and connect with them on a personal level. The only way I see doing that is to fully embrace their language, their word order, and word choice. But as they say, cada loco con su tema. (Each crazy with his theme :-)


+1 for the kick butt answer. You're absolutely right. Learning a language is about way more that translation. I personally like to know the word for word translations as well as any comparable idioms that I might already be familiar with. It gives me a more in depth understanding of the language.


Crikey! That's quite a rant, but I totally agree with you. "Bury the hatchet" might be difficult for a Spanish speaker to suss, but he will need "bury" and "hatchet" to speak English well.


And speaking as a translator, if translation is your goal, you're doing it well. Good translations don't just swap phrase for phrase; they use the source language to enrich and create beauty in the target language.


"When I learn a new language I want to know how they think in their words, not mine." This is very true. As a non english-speaker, this helped me greatly when i was studying English in 9th grade.


I completely agree that we should learn what the words and phrases literally mean. But I don't think duolingo should accept the literal translations. We can use the discussions for that.

Maybe duolingo should update the idioms section to also have ordinary sentences using the words from the idioms, so we can learn borrón etc, and then they could remove all the accepted "translations" that don't make any sense.

I don't so much mind it accepting "smudge and new account" as I mind it accepting something like "todo ladrido y no mordisco", which would allow us to think "hey, they have the same idiom in Spanish".


This ("in a nutshell ",--to use an English idiomatic phrase) is what I have been thinking and trying to put into words since I started this program. Well done! And a service to us all.


Tnanks DeanG6 that's what I, and I would wager most of us, came to the comments section to find out.


I also agree, the word meaning should have been given by duolingo.


A great answer Dean. These idioms take a more earnest study than the other daily goal stuff.


I understand your point, but to be able to do this you already have to have achieved a fairly high level of Spanish and to have cast away the support. Currently we are simply translating phrases and expressions and at that level I'd like them to make sense in both Spanish and English. Spanish speakers using DL will not be aided by poor translations into non-idiomatic English. Perhaps if I was living among Spanish speakers I might absorb the language and idioms without needing to translate, but then I probably would not be using DL.


Well said. I couldn't agree with you more.


I agree with you. I find comment page soo useful but do find some people get bogged down in the mechanics rather than just taking each sentence as an exercise and this is the the idiom section


Nicely said. Kudos!


I believe you missed Angel_G's point, which is that the accepted phrase "smudge and new account" makes no sense at all in English (idiomatic or otherwise), despite its being technically a direct (but incorrect) translation of the Spanish. The only places that even suggest that as a possible translation are other language learning sites, and each notes that this is an incorrect and meaningless translation of the Spanish.*

And I have to agree with Angel_G. If we are to gain any sense of the phrase's meaning then why would we want duolingo to accept that particularly terrible and meaningless word salad when there are other, far more sensible word-for-word translations that do make some sense in English (most listed elsewhere in this comment thread)?

I will also suggest that if your stated goal is to learn Spanish, then your purpose should be to learn the meanings of words in context and in Spanish. And with that goal in mind then this "smudge and new account" translation gets you no where nearer to that goal. Indeed it is a step sideways into a place where your Spanish knowledge is parsed through English equivalents. That is not fluency, that is the opposite of fluency. I know that you claim that the English meaning is irrelevant, yet you are arguing for having the entire universe of possible word combinations as possible correct answers. These are points in contradiction. That you are even trying to learn Spanish on a site that presents its lessons in English is by itself a forceful argument for accurate and meaningful translations. Otherwise you would be learning from Spanish sources (which does work BTW).

  • Borrón y cuenta nueva. is literally a phrase meaning that one has dropped ink on their accounts and needs to start over (which is why the best translation for meaning of this phrase is "let's wipe the slate clean"). What I can only assume happened is some worthless translation bot got at it and migrated the meaning of blot to smudge (which is not the same as an ink blot) and failed to correct the order of the last two words. This then was the translation adopted by a fly-by-night (translate that idiom!) online language service, and from there spread onto this site. Why would you want to waste time on that?


Please limit comments to under 10,000 words,thanks


This (literal translation) was actually helpful to me, a native English speaker (American), ("smudge and new account") (or, if you prefer, ink blot) because it helps me relate the phrase "let bygones be bygones" to what I need to remember in Spanish. I agree that we would never say that, but it helps me remember the translation into Spanish, until it becomes automatic when I see it or need to write it.


Idioms can be either figurative or literal...or both. It makes sense to know the literal translation to learn the words. You must remember, however, that the figurative meaning will often differ greatly.


Love this! Right on!!


But it's not English lessons. And it lets me 1. Learn a new word 2. Stretch my brain to find an idiom that correlates in regular English


It makes sense to me. Smudge (make a mistake) and new account (start over) - imagine you are literally writing in an account book or doing homework. "Inkblot" and "count again" makes perfect sense. (Those were the literal translations of the single words provided.)

Maddeningly, I have found that Duolingo does NOT accept an answer that is literally correct, even if it does make perfect sense (yesterday, "términos y condiciones" was translated as "terms of service," when "terms and conditions" not only translates literally, it makes perfect sense in both English and Spanish and even sounds like the English.)

Things like "I am called" instead of "my name is" also make much more sense when translated literally. You just have to learn that Spanish speakers don't say what their name is usually. They say how they are called. Now you can remember the words and also understand how Spanish speakers think. It's not the name that's important - it's how you call something that is. I have not tested this instance - does Duolingo accept "mi nombre es" for "my name is?" I think you will find that Duolingo usually only accepts the usually-used language, not the literal translation, so you don't have to worry about that. Which is too bad - the literal translation (even of the idioms) makes more sense.


It made sense to me. Besides, why worry over one incorrect translation when it has already been posted and there's nothing you can do about it. You spelt sense sence, which shows how much you know. Or was it just a typo? Either way, while you proved a valid point, I'm not sure it mattered too much, to be honest. Besides, there's more to this world than English, you know.


Not sure why you have so many downvotes..


DL accepted 'Let's turn over a new leaf', as an alternative.


Yes, but not "Turn over a new leaf".


Because that would be likened to a command, which -would start the feud all over again, si or no?


But it didn't accept "The past is in the past"...?


That is almost exactly what "Let bygones be bygones" means.


'clean the slate', 'start from scratch' and 'back to the drawing board' all seem quite suitable as correct meanings for this one. 'But let bygones, be bygones' (which i was forcd to choose) and those similar seem like too big of a stretch. And I'm wondering if there's not another spanish idiom that better exemplifies those.


It seems like "Blot and count again" is the best phrase that preserves the meaning of the original Spanish, while also making sense in English.

Update: I just had this same problem, and submitted "Blot and count again." and got it wrong. I've reported that my answer should be accepted, and that the "correct" solution is unnatural (in that it is too far a stretch in meaning).


Blot and count again: the most helpful comment of all, shows the connection between the spanish words and the not so obvious idiom meaning


It's good to understand the meaning of the words, but it's not good to think that the literal translation is a good translation. I hope Duolingo never accepts these literal translations, since it would do a disservice to students taking this course later if their translation was accepted.


I suggested to Duolingo that they always provide a literal meaning of a phrase. After all we need to know what the individual words mean as they may be encountered again individually. They didn't take me up on that advice.


I would also like to see a more or less literal translation of idioms. It's ok, that they try to pair the idiom with closely related ones in English, but I would also like to see the actual context. I always have to check the comments on the idiom lessons to get better understanding.


The literal translating was just not clicking with me until you gave all of those examples. Now I can see how it would mean "let bygones be bygones". Thank you.


"Borrón y cuenta nueva" significa perdonar o liquidar la deudas antiguas para empezar un nuevo negocio o unas cuentas nuevas del negocio. También podemos decir "empezar de cero".

I think is better "Agua pasada no mueve el molino" for "Let bygones be bygones".

que quiere decir que las oportunidades del pasado ya no están disponibles

or the past no work now.


There is another English expression for "Agua pasada no mueve el molino", and that is "That's water under the bridge". Both expressions mean an incident or offense is past and should be forgotten.


Thanks for this comment, saved me from having to google translate the sentence! Think I still prefer the dutch one: do not pull old cows out of the ditch (geen oude koeien uit de sloot trekken).


This helped me so much. Gracias!!


Thanks! I was having trouble with the literal translation as well.


Thank you for this wonderful summary. It was very helpful!


Is it just me or does "let bygones be bygones" sound to casual? I feel like i would say "borrón y cuenta nueva" to someone after a loss (losing a game, breaking up with someone etc.) And i wouldn't use "let bygones be bygones" in the same context. Thoughts?


The thing is that in English when we say, "Let bygones be bygones" we are usually indicating that we are forgiving someone for something that happened in the past, "what's past is past". The Spanish phrase literally translated as blot or smudge and a new account is admonishing to blot out the past and start again. It's not exactly the same, and so to simply have what someone thinks is a similar idiom in English but doesn't get to the gist of exactly what it means, literally, is not fully learning. And we should all further consider that a word or phrase in one Spainish culture may mean something very different is a different Spanish speaking culture, just as an idiom used frequently in one English speaking country may mean something different in another, or may not be used at all in another, or may be considered extremely rude in another. In fact, the cultural context of most idioms that are not literal translations really makes impossible to find an idiom in another language that means exactly the same. For example, one previous comment suggested "Let's bury the hatchet" as a better translation and in some ways it is, but many English speaking cultures it's an unknown idiom, and in others it's potentially offensive because of the comic way the phrase has been used in the past.


Thank you Grace-Georgia! Your help was very useful for me!


omg thank you I was so lost.


I would think that the literal translation would be "an inkblot and a new check"


Don't cry over split milk, let things that have happenes in the past, stay in the past :)


Thank you Grace-Gergia I've now understood


Forgive and forget also was accepted


We have a common saying in Arabic for it: "اللي فات مات" Which literally translates to: "What hapened in the past is dead"


I agree. The one that felt closest to the phrase as a whole as well as each individual word was a "clean slate."


so i guess bygones means mistakes...?


Bygones could be past mistakes. It is things in the past, whether an old grudge, disagreement or regret. However, the word itself does not have to be used for negative, it can instead be simply outmoded. Ex. She missed the bygone days before cell phones. He studied the bygone age of horse and buggy. When you agree to let bygones be bygones, you are choosing to ignore someone's outmoded way of thinking. Rather than try to argue and change their mind, you accept that person as is. If you both agree to let bygones be bygones, you are acknowledging that you both have a different way of thinking about something, but rather than hash it out or tossing away the relationship, you agree to disagree. Hence you let bygones be bygones.


I was also quite new with that concept, thanks for helping me understand more with your comment and everyone else's comments :)


DL didn't accept "Blot and count again." Mar. 2015


Should "blot and recount" be accepted?


And perhaps the esiest just: Forget about it...


I was watching the new batman movie in spanish and they use this phrase (borrón y cuenta nueva) for the computer program Catwoman is trying to get. Helps give some context if you've seen that movie.


Borrón means inkblot or smudge. In english the movie called the program clean slate, i guess that was the refrence


Wow, that's cool. How fun that you understood it!


I know. When i go somewhere and hear people speaking spanish, it's always wwwaaaaaayyyyy too fast for me to translate it to english in my head.


I remember reading a book when I was in around sixth grade or so (can't remember the name) about a man new to the USA and his difficulty in understanding English, His primary language was Spanish. He said his father had even greater difficulty because we all spoke so fast. In the book his father never understood a certain store owner who kept yelling what sounded to him like "guerrarajia"--one word. All he knew was that the man always seemed angry and since he couldn't explain himself he walked away. The author explains that when he finally learned English he understood that the (rude) man was actually saying four words: "Get out of here."

That has stuck with me all my life and is a life lesson I remember when I think the same thing about someone speaking a language I don't know. Every language sounds fast when you're unfamiliar with it :).

Well that lesson and also that people should have better manners toward others, lol. (referring to the rude store owner in the book not your good self of course).


I dunno. Admittedly I've forgotten most of the French I learned in school, but it never sounded nearly as fast as Spanish. Also the word breaks seem more distinguishable in other euro languages. I feel like the real challenge of Spanish is indeed the speed at which it's spoken.


For me I've noticed some people from different Spanish speaking regions or countries speak faster or slower. It is true in the US too, in some regions of the Southeast people speak more slowly, some regions of say, NYC people speak very fast. And in some regions people use more slang or idioms that also make it harder.


LOL. Same for me. That's why I also do Rosetta Stone.


Rosetta Stone is to boring for me


Did you know: that they are not really speaking fast you just think they are because you sont speak the language!


Exactly. It's not that Spanish speakers speak too fast, rather it's our speed of comprehension


I thought this was an interesting idiom, so I looked into its usage a bit more.

"borrón" is literally a smudge or an ink-blot, and "cuenta nueva" means "new account", so it's similar to our English idiom of "wipe the slate clean". (For those who don't know a "slate" is like a small blackboard, which you can write on with chalk.)

In the English idiom, the idea is that the slate has been used to keep a record of your mistakes, indiscretions, wrongdoings, etc. So when all of that is forgiven and forgotten, we "wipe the slate clean".

The Spanish version relates to accounting, from the days when accounts were written in ink. If a mistake was made there was no way to correct it, so a "borrón" was made to show that the account was no longer valid.

A more complete phrase is "hacer un borrón y cuenta nueva", so you might see expressions like "Hagamos un borrón y cuenta nueva" = "Let's wipe the slate clean".

It's also common to use it with either the definite or indefinite article.

Here are some examples taken from Spanish literature (try to figure out what they mean)...

  • ¿Quién no intenta un borrón y cuenta nueva?
  • Pero aquí no se ha producido el borrón y cuenta nueva.
  • No estamos pidiendo un borrón y cuenta nueva, no es olvidar lo que se hizo con corrupción.


Let's not forget the most widely-read literature in all of Catholic Spain, the Reina-Valera translation of the Bible. "Borrar" is the verb used throughout it to describe how God "blots out" our sins and remembers them no more. It has the same meaning here: to blot out any record of a debt and to start over.

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but this sounds like the sense of another proverb in this section, "Cuenta corta, amistad larga", meaning that our friendships last when we "cancel debts" (in other words, hold no grudges and keep no record of wrongs).


The slate in the english idiom refers to a blackboard behind a bar or restaurant counter which is used to "chalk up" your spending ("put it on the slate please") until you pay, when the slate is wiped clean. In that respect it is very similar to the spanish idiom, which likens erasing the bill to wiping away past transgressions.


I typed "forgive and forget" and it accepted it.


Water under the bridge is also accepted.


Because it basicly means the same thing!


So the correct answer is 'Let bygones be bygones' I have no idea what this even means in English. Help?


A "bygone" is a very archaic word, it's only generally used in this phrase. If you think of a "bygone" as something that has "been and gone" or something that has happened in the past, the phrase means "Let things that have happened in the past, stay in the past" - don't dwell on the past, move on, look to the future etc.


You might hear "a bygone era" as well, meaning from a time long ago. E.g. That butter churn is from a bygone era.


An easier way of understanding it might be "That thing has passed by and gone." I'm guessing that's how the original word came about, as a contraction of the phrase.


Maybe something like "What's past is past".


Forgive and forget


"Let the past be in the past." It is darned good advice, actually. smile


Usually in English, when people say let bygones be bygones they are encourage two people to forget past arguments and be friends again. It's not the perfect translation of this Spanish idiom, which is more about starting fresh or as a previous commenter indicated, start with a clean slate.


I think I'll remember this one as: Erase and count anew.

Anyway, the comments on all these idioms is really helpful. Thanks guys.


I tried that and duolingo marked me wrong. I can't get it to accept any literal translation that I've tried. I just want to know what it actually means. This is driving me (further) around the bend.


"Inkblot and new check" - Just so you know, if yoy said that in england or amerixa people wouldnt have a clue what you.are saying. If it is pirely for learning purposes then fair enough. But it doesnt make any sense if you said it.


I think because this is the idiom section, they don't really accept literal translations (unless it is also an idiom in English). A reasonably close to literal translation is "a clean slate", which is commonly referred to in English meaning that past transgressions/mistakes will be forgiven/forgotten. I give a more detailed explanation above.


I understand the idiom, I am trying to build my vocabulary, which means I need to understand each word. I've managed to get literal translations accepted for every other idiom, but I cannot find the phrasing for this one. It seems unlikely to me that this is the only one that doesn't have a literal translation. It is possible that's an oversight on DL's part, but I think I just have not found the precise words yet.


That may be because the first half is missing the verb. The full phrase would be "hacer borrón y cuenta nueva".

In this case, a literal translation of "borrón y cuenta nueva" would be "blot/blemish and count again". With "hacer" in front it becomes "make a mistake and count again".


Thanks, I will try that. I've tried "erase and count again," "erase and count anew," "smudge and count again," and "smudge and count anew." I am a stubborn, stubborn girl, and will not rest until I understand fully. smile


Why do you want to get literal translations accepted? I understand that you want to learn the literal translations, but often (as in this case) the literal translations don't make any sense.

I don't think it serves anyone trying to learn another language for duolingo to accept literal translations for idioms (or for any sentence). Many people use the "reverse course" to get additional study in the language. I am currently taking the "I speak Spanish and I want to learn English". Some of the idioms in that course are different, so when I do the idioms in that course, I don't want it to accept literal translations. If I was a Spanish speaker taking this course, I wouldn't want it to accept "Inkblot and new check" because if it did accept it, I might not bother to read the discussion, and I might think it was a real English idiom.


Different learning styles, perhaps. It is certainly not hurting me to know that borron means inkblot. I'm happy with what I learned and for the help I received from the community.


Amen to that!


I tried a literal translation "Inkblot and check new" DL didn't accept and suggested "inkblot and new check"


Hi, this is to "megustamivida", SyedNaveed2 and others included in this conversation... "megustamivida" I agree with you in that it is important to know the literal translation, because those words take us closer to the origin of that saying, resulting in us (myself, at least) fully understanding the idiom. If it really means and was first used to say "if there is an inkblot on your cheque, write a new one", I am over the moon, I am so happy to finally understand this, after having read so many of your comments I finally think I know where this idion came from... I mean I can imagine the situations the idiom was used in, originally.... thank you for all your conversation here! also, check this out: http://www.nosabesnada.com/cultura/44646/el-origen-de-la-expresion-borron-y-cuenta-nueva-se-debe-a-los-monjes-medievales/


@xtempore, "check" is the correct spelling in the U.S. Double :p

Here in Canada, both "check" and "cheque" are used; probably a gradual drift to the U.S. spelling from the British spelling. I guess elsewhere, only "cheque" is used.

Aside from that, I don't think the "la cuenta, por favor" meaning is correct for this idiom either. I think the idiom predates restaurant bills. From what I've read, it seems more likely to be a "sum" in an arithmetic class, or maybe an "account".


I understand it as if you have an inkblot on your cheque/check take a new one - no point in crying over spilt milk - inkblot/check


Inkblot and new check worked! I am so pleased to finally have a literal translation. Thank you very much!


Some clarification here is needed on the meaning of "cuenta", because it appears to be confusing some from the US.

"cuenta" can refer to the bill (which you call a "check") that you receive in a restaurant - "La cuenta, por favor".

"cuenta" cannot refer to a bank order (which you also call a "check"). The word for that in Spanish is "cheque".

I can see where the confusion comes from, and can only suggest that you start using the correct spelling of a bank order - C H E Q U E.



I think 'Blot out and count anew.' And 'Scratch out and count anew' are pretty close literal translations but DL still doesn't like them.


this sentence means : let it go, like forgive someone


Or move on in general, such as from a difficult period in your life.


When you click on the words for the definition it just repeats the sentence in spanish. Very unhelpful. And if the word bygones is used twice it should stay the same word, shouldn't it?


"Let bygones be bygones", is not a literal translation of the Spanish. It just means the same thing.


Wipe the slate clean, is about as close a match to a more literal match. And accepted! Yay, go Owl!


let bygones be bygones and Zygons be Zygons!


What does zygones mean?????


Zygons are aliens in Dr Who. "Let Zygons be Zygons" is a common phrase among Dr Who fans.


Zygons are big red aliens that are covered in suckers and can shape shift. and yes BarbraMorris, It is a common phrase among my friends and I.


Whats a bygone???


A bygone is something that has "gone by" or "happened" in the past. "Let bygones be bygones" is an idiom that means "Forget about the past, and start over." Here's a more detailed explanation:



Idioms accentuate the essential truth that languages are never literal translations of each other. I wonder what Spanish speakers would do with, "You are the apple of my eye."


I think that "back to the drawing board" is very close to the original Spanish, with its idea of starting with a clean slate.


I disagree. Having a "clean slate" refers to forgetting about past offences. Going "back to the drawing board" refers to a plan that did not work, and so a new idea is needed.


Literal (from google translate): Inkblot and new account


google translate is not a good source for idioms as it translates word by word. Please scroll up for more better information.


Borrar is to erase. So, if you erase stuff then it's a new account, as in a new ledger.

  • Borrar is a verb meaning "to erase"

  • Borrón is a noun meaning "ink spot". The accent matters, and there is no conjugation of borrar that gets you borrón.

So the actual meaning is from bookkeeping with ink pens. If you spilled ink and ruined a page, you would need to start over with your accounts.


They seem to be related concepts and roots.


They are related. Here's a Wikipedia page about "borrón." https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/borr%C3%B3n


I enjoy coming to these Discussion pages. I usually find other people to be helpful and supportive. Grace-Georgia, thank you. I was truly lost on this one, until I read your comment. Also, DeanG6, I agree with you that it is interesting to discover and think about the actual literal translation. Sometimes it helps, sometimes it is actually more confusing, but I find it is always something I am drawn to do.


You put the right answer, then you head to the comments to see what it really means. The community here makes the learning so much easier, thanks everyone for your explanations (and jokes) !


I get the sense that "cuenta" implies keeping score. So it would be something like Smudge (out the old score) and start a new count/score although I realize that borron is a noun and not an imperative.


It is an account or an accounting. It could be your bank account, your savings account, Santa Claus' list if who is naughty or nice, or your FaceBook account. Borron is an inkblot that could wipe out the current value of your account.


I was just now looking at WordReference's forum, and a question from a user (from Spain, native language Spanish) asked this:

'How would you say this spanish expression [in English] "Borron y cuenta nueva"? It means that nothing from the past matters, a new life starts now!'

So, here is a Spanish speaker giving what he/she understands it to mean and wants to know how to express the same sentiment in English.



She and DL both seem correct, but it is a bit like ordering tapas and being brought a hamburger. It just lacks a Spanish flavor. It is the difference between translating a news report vs translating poetry. It is also the difference between speaking Spanish and translating to English. I love the Spanish "sabor."


Estoy de acuerdo! Mucho más fácil para traducir un informe que un poema! :-)


what is a bygone


Something that has gone by; it's in the past. Let bygones be bygones == let things in the past stay in the past.


"Water under the bridge" is also accepted. Blot out the old accounts and start new seems like a slightly literal translation.


I wanted to write 'To turn over a new leaf'. Did anyone try that?


That seems like a good match to me.

This German (!) site lists "turn over a new leaf" as an equivalent English idiom: http://translate.deacademic.com/hacer%20borr%C3%B3n%20y%20cuenta%20nueva/es/en/1

It also mentions "cut your losses" which also seems like a good match.


Wipe the slate clean is a closer translation


Blot and new check.. apparently thats a thing


I feel that description fails to explain the use of the word "cuenta". I found another explanation of the origin here... http://diegogomezojeda.blogspot.com.au/2011/04/borron-y-cuenta-nueva.html

Here's what it says...

  • The origin of the term "borrón y cuenta nueva" comes from the old accounting houses, when writing with pen and ink. There was no way to correct an account, because the ink was indelible and could not be deleted, so it was necessary to make a "borrón", a spot to indicate that the account was no longer valid.


Thanx, it's also an interesting article :) I realize for some proverbs and idioms people come up with different explanations, equally logical and possible. :)


Great link, thanks! Have a lingot :)


Can someone please translate what it means literally?


I believe it's erase and start a new account, like, erase and start a new


Rip it up and start again.


What's wrong with "put the past behind you"?


Hm... I'm not sure if this is considered an idiom but did anyone else think of "tabula rasa" (blank slate)? (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tabula_rasa)


It would really help with the idioms to get a literal translation first--otherwise, it's just confusing and any nuances are totally lost.


"Start with a clean slate" was accepted for me on 4/27/16.


"Wipe the slate clean", might be closer to the Spanish idiom.


Really, 'let bygones be bygones' means to 'forgive and forget'. This phrase has more of a 'move on from mistakes' feel to it - rub out and start afresh! Much closer to the actual translation


According to this article, the Spanish phrase means to forgive and forget, but can also mean to start with a clean slate. https://expresionesyrefranes.com/2007/06/05/hacer-borron-y-cuenta-nueva/

It says (rough translation, I'm using "borrón" instead of "smudge" or "blot")

"The Spanish expression for today makes reference to the fact that we don't need to be spiteful in life, but rather we have to know how to pardon and forget bad feelings and although I have already revealed the essence of the meaning of today's phrase, I don't want to continue without defining what one of the words in this expression means that you may not know.

A "borrón" is originally a spot of ink that is made on the paper. As writing was formerly done with pen and ink, it was common to occasionally make a "borrón", even without realizing, on the paper on which we were writing, but since they invented pens with BIC tips, borróns are much more intentional. So nowadays we say that we make a borrón when we correct something repeatedly with many lines of the pen.

Well, "hacer borrón y cuenta nueva" means to forget debts, errors committed by other people, fights with other people, etc and continue as if they had never existed (forget them, not keeping rancor for it). It would be like starting from zero forgetting the bad past. As if we reset our computer (the computer has problems, it hangs, and to start from zero, we restart it), but with ourselves (if my grandmother was reading this this she would be scandalized).

An example: When Maria arrived in the city she had many problems integrating because of the language, her coworkers, the new culture. But she has decided to hacer borrón y cuenta nueva and undertake a new stage in that city with much more enthusiasm.

So sometimes it is better to hacer borrón y cuenta nueva than to be keeping rancor eternally, since as we said that day "a vivir que son dos días" (live as there are only two days, make hay while the sun shines)."


Wouldn't "clean the slate" be more accurate?


I think the phrase "start with a clean slate" is probably a better match.


I think "erase and start again" captures the essence of the expression. Certainly making up some metaphor that isn't even in the Spanish is not appropriate.


The point of this whole section is to match a Spanish idiom with an English idiom that conveys the same idea. The intention is not to just translate the words. "Start with a clean slate" is an English idiom that is used metaphorically, but "erase and start again" isn't used metaphorically, at least as far as I know.


I like knowing the literal translations of idioms. I think much can be gleaned from knowing how a language forms its idioms. I don't see why people are getting so worked up.


Borrar means rub out or erase. One of the Spanish meanings of borrón is rubber or eraser. The expression means Use the rubber and start a new account.


To Duolingo, I think this method of giving english phrase as an answer to the meaning of a spanish phrase is wrong. It is quite possible that there is no exact english phrase. The correct metnod would be to give the literal translation in english and explain its origin or rationale. You can add an english phrase as an extra help to draw a parallel if an exact one exits.


It seems like one could say "sea lo que sea" easier than this. Before seeing the correct answer I believed it to be some sort of "start from scratch" or "back to the drawing board" equivalent. Apparently, I was way off.


I don't think you're way off at all. One of the translations of this idiom is "wipe the slate clean", which is similar to "start from scratch", although I guess the former implies a past misdeed that needs to be forgotten about and moved on from, rather than just a plan or idea that didn't work out.


After further research, it seems you're right; I wasn't that far off. I took the word "bygone" for granted when I wrote my question. I myself have never used the idiom "let bygones be bygones." In fact, I find myself saying "It's all in the past" or something similar. Regardless, the closest translation I can think of now is coming to a truce, or make up.


I wonder when DL will start offering Swahili :)


i found the other meaning : "Clean slate" or "Fresh start"? in general meaning "Flawless reputation" which is not very close to the "Let bygones be bygones"? Please explain :)


The related expression is "Wipe the slate clean". A "slate" is like a small blackboard for writing with chalk. Students used to use them for their lessons. When they messed up a calculation too badly, they would "wipe the slate clean" and start again. The words are not exactly close to "Let bygones be bygones", but they are quite close to "borrón y cuenta nuevo". But the underlying meaning is the same; if you mess up a relationship too badly, you want to make the past go away and start fresh.

I haven't heard of the meaning of "flawless reputation" being used for "clean slate".


Not a school slate in this example, but one used by shop-keepers and bar-tenders to keep a "tally" of what the customer owed, to be paid (hopefully) on payday. "Put it on the slate" was a request to have it added to your account. Sometimes the debt was forgiven and the slate wiped clean. A version of the Lord's Prayer used in Scotland has "forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors".


I think it is closest to 'Turn a new leaf' as in a a new page in your note book to start over.


Sorry, but I disagree. "Wiping the clean slate clean" refers to forgiving/forgetting past offences or insults. "Turning over a new leaf" refers to changing the way you live. The former is something that happens between two (or more people), whereas the latter is usually just a personal choice to live a better life.


"Wiping the slate clean" could refer to changing your plans, too, though! And why no "turn over a new leaf" on top of the past offenses?


my dictionary gave let's start over again or let's start with a clean slate--you marked that wrong


i thought 'borron' meant 'eraser'. But that is a 'goma de borrar'. not being a native speaker of english i had never heard of inkblot or smudge.


Can anyone explain the interchange of sounds between 'b' and 'v'? One often sounds like the other.


We can discuss here but I don't know what's the big deal about DuoLingo not literally translating Spanish idioms to English. It wouldn't make sense if they did that. I wish DuoLingo could explain when and how each idiom is used. But please don't complain about not getting the right answer in order to move on, just drag the mouse over to the Spanish idiom, they have the translation and just take a guess!


What confuses me most with Spanish idioms is that why don't Spanish speakers use words CLOSER rather than FARTHER from a direct translation?


Because they are not translating from English. They have their own histories. Language develops our if experiences.


I have to say, I have a really hard time following these translations. To me it doesn't seem as though they translate well. Im very new to the Spanish language so it could be me, but does anyone else feel this way?


Does anyone know if these phrases are widely accepted or only in some Spanish speaking countries?


These phrases are just as widely known and spoken as their English equivalents. Also, just like English idioms, no one really thinks too much about the literal meanings of the phrases.


"Wipe the slate clean" would seem a closer approximation of the English idiom equivalent.


I love the comments because the Spanish to English dictionary I have loaded in my iphone does not even have some words such as "barron". I guess I need a better one.


What's wrong with "Live and let live"? As an English speaker, I always thought the two were basically the same, forget the past, start a new. Forgiveness etc.


Wow.. This thread is immense.. Half the reason i like duo is to trawl through interesting comments :)


Think of white out You made a mistake then you white out and start new


Borrón y cuenta nueva no es así alguien se lo ha inventado creo yo vaya.


As someone who is not a native English speaker (I am danish), it is really interesting how proverbs tranlate from Spanish to English. Sometimes it makes more sense to do a literal translation from Spanish to Danish! :-)


For anyone curious i tried "water under the bridge" and it was accepted


"Smudge it and call it new" is how I think of it in Spanish.


wait i still don't understand what "let bygones be bygones" means. can someone tell it to me in a nutshell please? Thank you!


"a bygone" is "something that happened in the past" or "something that has gone by". "Let bygones be bygones" means "Let what has happened in the past stay in the past".


I love that explanation that BarbaraMorris made, I would also say in addition to the explanation of "Letting what has happened in the past, stay in the past", you can also look at it as if you had an argument with someone and you two stopped talking for years, only to see each other again years later and meet again and one will often say, "Let bygones be bygones?" as a way of saying sorry, and the other will usually agree :)


I put "Erase and rewind." It's even more literal than "Let bygones be bygones," and sounds more natural. I nominate this as the translation that should be used. I'm stumping for up votes here!


First, you underestimate the logical understanding of most people. I understood the intent even without grammatical perfection. Second, knowing the literal translation of idioms helps to deepen one's cultural understanding. If that is not your motivation in learning a new language, then so be it, but it is for many people. Cada loco con su tema.


As my mother always says "what's done is done"


I don't think anyone can understand how they come up with the translations for these idioms. Easiest just to memorize the phrase and ignore the literal translations, as the idioms are usually quite skewed from both the literal translations and english phrasing. If anyone has any pointers that would help me get these, I'd really appreciate it.


I actually love this one because of how literally it translates. lets erase and count new. What a crazy language :-)


Obviously each spanish speaking country has their own slang, but does anyone know which country's slang/dialect duolingo primarily teaches? Because we've all seen the word they use for sandwich (Cant recall it off the top of my head cus its that forgettable and random) which i dont think any country actually uses...


They use Spanish from Spain and Latin America. I honestly think they do a very good job of offering a standardized version of Spanish while still being very inclusive of regional differences. Like any language, though, there are too many colloquialisms for them to accept everything.


This basically means "Let what is past be past"


This must be one of the biggest comments sections on DL for any of the translations. ! Muy complicado!


Thanks for all the definitions of "let bygones be be bygone" I wasnt expecting to learn english while learning spanish , but thanks to everyone !


I don't know what bygones are


Has anyone else noticed the glitch with Duolingo? If you rotate your phone sideways, it gives you the answers.


wait really i didnt know that


Deja pasar lo pasado.


In word reference it is listed as hacer borrón y cuenta nueva. The literal translation could be (make) smudge and recount. As in retell.


I am not english nor spanish ,but l am thankful to all comments .l've got great knowledge.thanks to all who joined the discussion.


I'm only going to write down the ones that I'd use in daily life and practice them because I find the literal translations are seriously confusing....


My husband who is a native Spanish speaker is confused by so many of these idioms. I really dont think if i was to say these sayings to anyone would they understand what i was saying.


Wow so "smudg/or/inkblot and new check" means all that o neat cause i thought it was a mosh-pit of random words


what does bygone mean


A bygone is something that happened in the past. The saying means people should let things that happened in the past stay in the past.


We say "write them on the ice". :-)

Finally people have affinities.


What is bygones


Something in the past that has already happened and thus has thus "gone by" hence called a bygone.


This is the right definition; I'm not sure who downvoted it.


anti-mosquito solution of Bayer.


The heck is a bygone


A bygone is something that happened in the past.


A bygone is an action that happened in the past.


For me, I don't understand the Spanish sentences nor the English translations. By I guess in Chinese, it probably means 让过去成为过去, which happens to be a song title by Yuan Zheng, lol.


Что было, то прошло.


But the words means something different when seen separately!


But the words mean something different when seen separately!


I think its also common way for people to convey the same(ish) idiom is to say say "lo pasado, pasado está," literally translated to: "The past, the past is."


it literally means "Smudge and check tidings".


No, that's not the literal meaning. "nueva" can be a noun meaning "news" or "tidings", but it can also be a feminine adjective meaning "new". And "cuenta" can be the verb "check" or the noun "account". So, by itself, "cuenta nueva" could be "check tidings" or "new account".

But "borrón y cuenta nueva" is a set Spanish expression, so the "new account" meaning is the only possible on.


Who is byognes?!


I think you mean, what are bygones. I understand that bygones are unpleasant events that happened in the past. So when they say "let bygones be bygones," they usually (if not always) mean to let a grudge go.


"bygones" aren't necessarily unpleasant events in the past. They're any events in the past.

But I think you're right that "Let bygones be bygones" refers to unpleasant events from the past.


Yes, that's true, thank you for clarifying.


It was impossible to get this answer right because dl put the first two words as Let Be in the answer field. Also I would say "wipe the slate clean" is a closer idiom in english anyway as it has a similar meaning both literally and idiomatically.


These absolutely confuse me when none of the translated words in English make any sense. How are you supposed to learn these other than memorizing the phrase? The grammar and structure doesn't seem to make sense.


blot and check new? blemish and new check?


Leave past at past and start over


Question: How could this say, "Let bygones be bygones," when in Spanish it doesnt use the same word twice, please? Thank you!


Traci116, it's what is called an idiomatic expression and as such wouldn't translate exactly word for word. It's the acceptable phrase of the region or country wherein it is used to convey the idea of a new beginning of relations (forgiveness).


I didn't tap on anything but it clicd the dun boton




Let bygones be bygones. significado Que lo pasado sea pasado.

esta mal


thankyou! does anyone know what a bygones is as a literal translation?


A bygone is something that passed by you and now is gone. It just means something that happened in the past and doesn't exist anymore.


In English since the 1400s, the phrase "Let Bygones Be Bygones" has meant let us forget about the differences or arguments which we have had in the past. Shakespeare used the phrase "The by-gone-day" in the play "A Winter's Tale referring to that which is in the past.


It doesn't offer me the option to write what i think the provrb means., ..i can only select from the words given below.


Google said that this sentence means 'clean slate' ??


This phrase sounds like a sacrifice. I'm scared.


I don't understand Spanish idioms at all- The fact that the words are completely different from what they translate to be is so confusing-


I don't understand Spanish idioms at all- The fact that the actual words are completely different from the translation throws me off so much.


I don't understand Spanish idioms at all. The fact that the actual words are different from the translation of the idiom is extremely confusing and throws me off so much-


I was unfamiliar with borrón and my thinking was erase and count anew, but can blot out work? Cuenta isn't a verb so new account. Borrón is a noun also. But let is a verb.


Please do not swear in the comments


Couldn't place the words in the correct order!


How about "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas"? ;-D


"Don't keep tabs" would be a better English equivalent


Borrón y cuenta nueve = Let bygones be bygones is the wrong meaning please make it correct


"bygone" - imagine someone trying to learn English. What a strange words we use sometimes. I think Spanish often makes more sense


I thought "borrón y cuenta nueva" translated to "clean slate"


I don't think "clean slate" by itself is a match. But I think it accepts "start with a clean slate".


It did not accept "start with a clean slate" when I entered it, but it offered "To start with a clean slate" as an acceptable answer. Since there is no verb in the Spanish, let alone an infinitive, I think it's kind of picky. :)


I would report that. It's an idiom anyway, so there's really no difference between "start with a clean slate" and "to start with a clean slate."


What does "bygone" mean?


A "bygone" is something from the past, something that has gone by. Nowadays, I think it's usually only used as an adjective, "from a bygone era". But we still have the noun form in this idiom.


I put "build a bridge and get over it" ie. Let it go..... as we can also in english no?


"Build a bridge and get over it" is more aggressive.

Let bygones be bygone means: let's forget the thing we argued about and be friends again.

Build a bridge and get over it means: I don't care about this argument anymore, and I don't care about you anymore. Let's just leave each other alone.


It didnt accept "back to square onw.


"Wipe, and start anew" would be a hell of a lot more effective for remembering this idiom, and learning the meanings of the words, than "let bygones be bygones".


Okay but what is a bygone?


Think, "Gone by". An instance in the past. Even, loosely, a memory. In bygone ages we ate more healthy foods. It's an archaic term used mostly in the phrase, "let bygones be bygones."


I answered, "It's water under the bridge." I anticipated that it would be counted wrong and that I would report it because I believe my idiom conveys the same idea. That's the problem with idioms. Just wanted DL to consider another possibility.


Literal translations would be more helpful than English idioms.


What does it mean bygones in English


Bygones are things that have already happened. "Let bygones be bygones" means to forget about the past, since it's over and you can't change it now.


It also translates to mean "fresh start."


hmmm... i thought borron meant eraser. can somebody explain the connection?


I knew borrón to mean erase, and my native Spanish-speaking wife defined it this way to me when I asked... Of course this is probably an old expression from well before pencils or indeed erasable ink existed. So blotting is the proper transliteration.


Forget and start anew?


Delete and count new. The concept helped me solve the English translation. Its like a riddle.


Wax on, wax off... similar meaning but not a direct/correct translation of vocabulary!


"Blot and count anew" is wrong?


smudge and check new. literal translation is crazy lol


Why wasn't. "I didnt like the sonigram lets abort and try again" not accepted


I tried "live and let live" but was rejected.


According to Spanish dictionary,,,"Olvidemos lo pasado, o lo pasado pasado." This is the translation for "Let bygones be bygones." Your wecome to use this DuoLingo


I wish it would let us write the literal translation and not the closest english idiom


Is the more appropriate English idiom maybe "wipe the slate clean"?


A bygone is something that happened in the past.


Hey why didn't you say anything?


Erase and start again is a far better translation than Let bygones be bygones


Would "let's wipe the slate clean" work I wonder?


"Let bygones be bygones" the crap?!?! I'm lost


A "bygone" is something that has "gone by". It's somewhat archaic, to be sure. But a bygone is something that is in the past. So to "let bygones be bygones" is to recognize that the past is in the past, take a deep breath, and move on.


Bridge over troubled water?


"Water under the bridge" fits this idiom, but "Bridge over troubled water" doesn't mean the same thing.


It means to cross it out and count again.


What is bygones?


See replies above.


What does let bygones be bygones mean???


What´s a bygone?


A bygone is something that has gone by. It's a term for things that have already happened, or times that have passed.


I don't know either


I had never seen the word bygones spelt out so when I saw it I thout it was giberish. I ges you do lern new stuf every day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


It didn't accept, "it's no use crying over spilt milk." >:-(


I just don't get this one at, the translation bare no resemblance to the spanish


What the heck do bygones mean


See replies above.


It's an english idiom meaning something in the past. "In byegone times" equals "In times gone by". What is over and done is over and done.

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