Slang Word of the Day: Degeaba

Many years ago, I was in Brasov with a mixed company of native English and Romanian speakers at a bar.

An associate of mine, a man from Ireland, was telling the group about how he had set up an elaborate fancy dinner in town for his then wife (now divorced). He had pre-paid for the meal, arranged everything with the wait staff and done his best to make the whole thing a romantic surprise.

It ended up not working out at all as the wife barely ate anything and was largely displeased. The simultaneous word out of all of our mouths at the table was degeaba (day-jobbah) as we sighed in unison as the conclusion of his tale.

Not speaking Romanian, he didn’t know what this word meant and it took us 10 minutes to explain it to him.

Depending on usage, in English it can mean “in vain”, “not worth it”, “useless”, “pointless”, “senseless”, “ineffectual”, “aimless”, “fruitless”, “futile” or “not worth it”.

A few examples, to illustrate:

Trying to point out to a Romanian some good things about life in Romania? Degeaba.

Complaining about gypsies or wishing they would just “go away”? Degeaba.

Explaining why you moved to Romania voluntarily? Degeaba.

Deconstructing manele and expecting anyone to like you for it? Degeaba.

Learning the Romanian language, including its 512 dialects, regional slang, euphemisms and discombobulated syntax? Degeaba :P


By the way, there’s a lesser used synonym in Romanian for this word: zadar, used hilariously in the Communist-era expression “Cooperativa Munca in Zadar” :D

4 thoughts on “Slang Word of the Day: Degeaba

  1. I think that it also has a meaning like gift or gratious… have a look at this :

    Vreau o ţară sănătoasă,
    Că degeaba e frumoasă.

    Considering the first line as well, the second line is :
    1) Just beauty is not enough ..? or ,
    2) As a gift, it is already beautiful …? or,
    3) Gratiously it is beautiful ?

    I incline to number 2, but what is your understanding of degeaba here ?


  2. It can also mean “for free” in the expression “pe degeaba”, as in “Am primit haina asta pe degeaba”. For informal use only.


  3. Thank you for this by the way! I had the perfect moment to use degeaba the other day, and did, feeling pretty proud of myself >:D<


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