Traditional Costume Austria © Österreich Werbung / Niederstrasser
Yes. No. Maybe? The Meanings of "Na"
"Na" (pronounced "nah") is one of the most versatile Austrian expressions. Austrians use it in many different ways, be it in an affirmative sense or as an all-round question.
"Na" is derived from "nein", the German word for no, but has assumed many different meanings within Austrian vernacular. A drawn-out "naaa" means "no", for example, but a short, incredulous "Na!" implies "That can't be true!".
It gets confusing when people use "na" in an affirmative sense. "Na, eh" literally means "No, exactly", a common expression of approval in Austria. Then there is the linguistic gem of "na ja", which translates as "no yes" and is used to express a certain indifference, comparable to "oh well, I'm not really bothered".
"Na" can also be used as an all-round question. Depending on the situation, it could be a request to explain who you are, why you are here, what you are doing, how you are feeling or what you are thinking. It can also be a call to action, comparable to "well, are you just going to stand there?".
Finally, there is also the beautifully rythmic "na net na na", which literally means "no not no no", and can be loosely translated as "you are pointing out the obvious, my friend".