The words we say express what we think, what we are, and what we believe in. At the CEU Cardenal Herrera University, we have set ourselves the task of reclaiming some of these words – words with senses that can improve society. In these times in which people talk about there being a loss or crisis in values, we believe that words have a greater worth than ever. And it is important to turn these words into actions.

Reclaiming a few words may seem trivial, but it is a beginning. And we because we believe that small gestures matter, these are the six Spanish words that we want to give real meaning to again: tenacidad, propósito, coherencia, generosidad, mérito, and escuchar. Some of these have close counterparts in English – others less so. Let’s see what they are.


In English, this would be a “purpose”, a “goal” or an “aim” – it is the thing that makes what we do meaningful.

To have a propósito means that you are not just doing something for the sake of doing it. It means that there’s a motivation – a goal – for what you are doing. There’s a rhyme and reason to it because you have principles to guide you. When these principles are positive rather than negative, they can give your life real meaning. It is only when you find your purpose – your propósito – that you stop drifting and you find out who you really are.

Let’s reclaim propósito because having a purpose makes you stronger. A worthy goal gives you hope.


Coherencia transmits two closely related concepts:

“coherence”, i.e. when a group of things have a logical relationship between them; and “consistency”, i.e. when people behave in a way which corresponds to the principles or ideas which they claim to have. 
Coherencia is about backing what you say with action. Some people think that coherencia is a weakness because it makes you predictable, yet the people who have coherencia stick to the values they have and they strive to fulfil them. And that makes them strong. Being coherente in life is not easy, because you have to stick to your guns and be consistent in what you do.

Let’s reclaim coherencia. Let’s create a society that recognizes the value of people who are coherentes.


Escuchar – listening – is about paying attention to what you hear.

Paying attention enables you to understand other people. Only those who listen can then analyse and reflect on what they have heard. Listening enables you to capture the real sense of a particular idea, instead of only focusing on superficial aspects of it: doing so enables you to detect any attempt to deceive. We need to avoid reacting to our emotions or sensations. If we listen, then we can speak rationally.

Let’s reclaim escuchar. Listening encourages thinking and thinking encourages freedom.


Generosidad – generosity – is about wanting to help.

And it’s also about wanting to share.
Sharing knowledge, sharing time and sharing opportunities – all of this is generosity. Being willing to put the interest of others before your own is also generosity. Generosity is always offered, never imposed. A fair society is a generous one. Generosity is the antithesis of individualism. It’s the opposite of exclusive self-interest. It’s about rejecting ‘me, me, me’ as your outlook on life.

Let’s reclaim generosidad. Let’s work for a society that gives rather than takes – a society that is full of meaning, rather than vacuous.   


Mérito refers to the personal qualities which make someone worthy of praise or of a reward.

It can also refer to the recognition given to someone who performs a laudable act.
Mérito can only be achieved through hard work, through perseverance. Mérito cannot be gained by someone handing it to you, or by paying for it. Mérito is all down to you and what you do. Mérito cannot be achieved by doing nothing – you have to deserve it.

Let’s reclaim mérito. Let’s create a society in which those who achieve mérito are held up as role-models to be admired.


Tenacidad has a close English counterpart in “tenacity”: those who have this quality are determined to achieve their goals. They are not easily deterred – they won’t give up.

To achieve any personal or professional goal requires determination, encouragement and the desire to challenge oneself. A society which makes us believe we have rights to everything merely because we form part of that society cannot be a good one. In that kind of society, people will give up when they meet the first obstacle. Those who think they can have almost anything while doing almost nothing delude themselves.

Let’s reclaim tenacidad. Let’s build a society that teaches us that rewards only come through hard work. Let’s make society stronger.