Are questions about a definition easily findable in google or RAE acceptable for the site?

Give me your opinions :)

4 Answers 4


I agree with Flimzy and I wanted to add something of my own too.

I think you should ask for research efforts for every type of translation you see, apparently banal or not. For example, I've asked on German SE about a very simple word "Identity Card" and I received 4 up-votes (so far).

You would say that's a very basic question, but it turned out it wasn't, because I searched 3 dictionaries before posting. This is what you should ask to users, not only as Mods, but also as users part of this community.

I would agree that idioms are harder to research but even on EL&U questions like "what's this in English" that show no effort are closed and commented.


English Language & Usage has a general reference close reason:

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.

If the answer to a question is easily found in a dictionary or encyclopedia, then there is no added value in having the answer on Stack Exchange, where it will be less easy to find. Therefore such questions should be closed. On French Language & Usage, which does not have the “general reference” close reason, we tend to close such questions as too localized, because they are “unlikely to ever help any future visitors”.

See also Introduce a “general reference” close reason on the main meta site.

Note that Google is a poor way to check if a question is general reference. Often, your search will return many hits, some of them relevant, but it is hard to evaluate how reliable those hits are, especially for the asker who does not know the answer in the first place. Dictionaries can generally be presumed to be reliable.


In my opinion, such questions are, at best, poor-quality questions. At worst, they're off-topic.

Let me pick on one specific example that is, in my opinion, border-line:

This is clearly not asking for a straight-out dictionary translation, since it's clearly an idiomatic expression (unless you mean to say you're literally inside of a pickle; seems unlikely).

However, I think it's a low-quality question, simply because it shows no research effort. In the case of translations, "research effort" ought to include at least a simple effort at circumlocution.

The question cites several equivalent English expressions:

  • in a pickle
  • in a quandary
  • in a predicament
  • in between a rock and a hard place

Which tells me the OP understands the phrase sufficiently to circumlocute in English, so doing it in Spanish should not be difficult.

But, on the other hand, it is not a simple dictionary translation. So I do see it as a border-line question.

My preference is to close such questions as "not constructive" or "not a real question", unless it's clear the OP has tried and failed at circumlocution (example: "I said 'Estoy en un escabeche', and got laughed at!"). So, upvote this answer if you're in favor of closing such border-line questions.

If you prefer to keep such questions open, please vote for an answer that makes this case (perhaps after providing one, if necessary).


My guidelines (which I admit I haven't been following perfectly in the questions I ask) would be:

  1. Definition questions are off-topic if they be can found in a standard dictionary and the question is asking for the definition, nothing else.

    • What does "arreglar" mean?
    • How do you say "computer" in Spanish?
  2. Translation questions are off-topic if they appear to be using the site as a translation service or if they don't address any aspects of the Spanish language other than asking for the translation.

    • How would you translate this poem to Spanish?
    • What does this paragraph in a Spanish book mean?
  3. Definition or translation questions become on topic if there is more to the answer than a simple dictionary definition or translation. For example:

    • They are asking about a rare word or word specific to a particular region (where a dictionary would be of less help)
    • They are asking a specific question about how a word or phrase is used or how it differs from similar words or phrases (which couldn't be easily answered with a dictionary)
    • They are asking about an idiom that doesn't have a clear, direct translation

There will naturally be gray areas and disagreement about specific cases, but through votes to close, comments, and meta threads, these things will slowly become more defined. For the general issue of when a question is too simple to make sense on this site, see the StackExchange Blog post Are Some Questions Too Simple?.

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