Word of the Day: Neapărat

I’ve had a little fun with this before but one of the most interesting things about the Romanian language is how it takes twists and turns from the Latin.

If you’ve been around Romanian long enough, you’ve heard of the MAPN, the acronym for one of the great tongue twisters (for English speakers) of all time, Ministerul Apărării. That translates to the “Ministry of Defense” (or defenCe in UKEnglish).

So perhaps you might wonder if apărat (the past participle of the verb) has any relation to today’s Word of the Day neapărat or un-apărat.

Actually it does. But before we get into that, let’s discuss what neapărat means, because it’s an incredibly useful word. The gist is that anything neapărat is essential, mandatory, necessary, obligatory or a prerequisite for something else.

Romanians can freely use it without necessarily identifying what this word is modifying or addressing, as long as it’s understood contextually.

Me: Chiar tre sa platesc chirie? (Do I really have to pay the rent?)
Landlord: Neapărat!

Therefore his response means “yes you do, absolutely and without question or discussion” or “certainly” or “yes, you do this time I really mean it, not like last month when I let you slide”. As you can see, it’s a very useful word!

Apărat on the other hand doesn’t just mean “to defend” but also “to sustain” something or someone, including in the legal sense of the word. So anything that’s supported, defended, sustained, established by, defended or shielded is apărat.

And therefore (by loose association) neapărat is something that’s mandatory without any discussion. In other words, it doesn’t need to be explained, defended, shielded or established, only that it must be done.

About the closest word in English with the same inherent connotation to the literal meaning of neapărat is the verb to stipulate.

Therefore we can translate the exchange this way in English as well:

Me: Do I really have to pay the rent?
Landlord: As stipulated!