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Ultimate Guide of Untranslatable Spanish Words

Have you ever thought about untranslatable Spanish words? What about words like this in your native language? Every language has plenty of words that can’t be translated into English; there are even some words that just can’t be translated into any other language.

Maybe there aren’t that many Spanish words that are untranslatable, as most of them can probably be translated into other languages, but we definitely have plenty of Spanish words with no English equivalent.

That’s actually ironic, because English has a lot more words than Spanish. What do we mean when we say “a lot”? Well, thousands! The official dictionaries of each language list 150,000 words in Spanish and 600,000 words in English. However, it’s true that many of those English words aren’t currently in use and don’t even include definitions. In fact, there are only about 230,000 words with definitions in the Oxford Dictionary. That’s still 80,000 more words than there are in the Spanish dictionary. So yes, English has more words. Despite that, Spanish has many words that can’t be expressed in only one word in English. Most of them are basic concepts that do exist in English, but there’s just not a word for them.

That’s why we’ve prepared, specifically for you, the ultimate guide of Spanish untranslatable words that don’t exist in English, but should. Let’s get started with our list of untranslatable words in Spanish!

Table of Contents

  1. Ten Untranslatable Spanish Nouns
  2. Five Untranslatable Spanish Verbs
  3. Five Untranslatable Spanish Adjectives
  4. Three Extra Untranslatable Words in Other Languages Spoken in Spain
  5. How SpanishPod101.com Can Help You Learn More Spanish

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1. Ten Untranslatable Spanish Nouns

1- Anteayer

Meaning: The day before yesterday.

Example Situation: This word is pretty easy to understand, as it actually has a basic meaning and does exist in languages other than English. The concept obviously exists in English, but we can’t express it in a single word.

Usage in a Sentence: Mi cumpleaños fue anteayer. → “My birthday was anteayer.”

2- Botellón

Meaning: Party in the street. (Literal translation: “big bottle.”)

Example Situation: In Spain, it’s rather common for young people to get together to get drunk in a quiet street (well, we can’t say it’s quiet after they get there) or in a park, because it’s a lot cheaper than going to bars or clubs. It’s not something we Spaniards are proud of, as in most cases these people don’t pick up the bottles after they’re done and leave their mess behind.

Usage in a Sentence: ¿Te vienes al botellón de esta noche en el parque? → “Are you coming to the botellón in the park tonight?”

3- Chapuza

Meaning: Something that’s badly made or fixed.

Example Situation: This can refer to a lot of things. The most common is something that’s been built or fixed either really fast, without the proper equipment, or without having any idea how to do it. You know, like those times something in your house broke down and your dad tried to fix it. And hey, maybe he managed, maybe he didn’t, but it just doesn’t look that neat. It can be a machine, a car, some sort of object, the new floor… Well, those are all examples of chapuzas.

Usage in a Sentence: Esta cocina es una chapuza. No hay nada que funcione. → “This kitchen is a chapuza. Nothing works.”

Man

4- Consuegro

Meaning: Your son or daughter’s parent-in-law.

Example Situation: Instead of saying, for example, “my daughter Anna’s husband’s parents,” all you need to say is mis consuegros. It makes your whole life easier, doesn’t it?

Usage in a Sentence: Mis consuegros vienen esta noche a cenar. → “My consuegros are coming over for dinner tonight.”

5- Entrecejo

Meaning: The space between both eyebrows.

Example Situation: We don’t use this word that much, unless we want to point out to someone that they have something between their eyebrows. As we’ll mention soon, we also have a couple of different words for those who don’t have an entrecejo, which are cejijunto and unicejo.

Usage in a Sentence: Ey, perdona, tienes una mancha en el entrecejo. → “Hey, excuse me, there’s a stain on your entrecejo.”

6- Puente

Meaning: Long weekend. (Literal translation: “bridge.”)

Example Situation: When there are only one or two days between a holiday and the weekend, or another holiday, we call it a puente. People sometimes take those days off to make a longer holiday.

Usage in a Sentence: Este puente de cuatro días me lo voy a pasar en la playa. → “I’m going to spend this four-day puente at the beach.”

7- Resol

Meaning: The reflection of the sun.

Example Situation: We use this word when the sun’s reflected in a mirror or in a glass, for example. You can use it to say that the reflection is bothering you, as in the following example, but it isn’t necessarily negative.

Usage in a Sentence: Me voy a cambiar de asiento, porque aquí me da el resol en los ojos. → “I’m going to switch seats, because here I get the resol on my eyes.”

8- Sobremesa

Meaning: When everyone stays seated after a meal just to keep chatting.

Example Situation: It’s very common when having a meal with friends or family, especially when there’s a lot of people (but not necessarily), to stay seated and talk to everyone. They can go on for hours and there is often drinking involved.

Usage in a Sentence: Cada vez que vamos a cenar a casa de Pablo y Marta la sobremesa se alarga durante horas. → “Every time we go to Pablo and Marta’s for dinner the sobremesa lasts for hours.”

9- Tocayo

Meaning: A person who has the same name as you.

Example Situation: This word isn’t as widely used as it used to be. It’s used to refer to someone who shares a first name with someone else.

Usage in a Sentence: Creo que te confundes con mi tocayo: yo soy Juan García y me parece que buscas a Juan López. → “I think you’re mistaking me with my tocayo: I’m Juan García and I think you’re looking for Juan López.”

10- Vergüenza ajena

Meaning: When you’re embarrassed by someone else’s actions.

Example Situation: Do you know that feeling when you’re with someone and they do something so embarrassing that it makes you wish you could run away from them, even though it might have nothing to do with you? That feeling, that’s exactly what vergüenza ajena is.

Usage in a Sentence: Mamá, ¡deja de bailar! Te está mirando todo el mundo y me das vergüenza ajena. → “Mom, stop dancing! Everyone is looking at you and you’re giving me vergüenza ajena.”


2. Five Untranslatable Spanish Verbs

1- Estrenar

Meaning: To wear something new for the first time.

Example Situation: You can use this verb when you want to tell someone you want to wear something you just bought for the first time, but it’s also used when talking about movies or books being released.

Usage in a Sentence: Me he comprado un vestido precioso y tengo muchas ganas de estrenarlo. → “I bought myself a beautiful dress and I can’t wait to estrenar it.”

Girl

2- Madrugar

Meaning: To wake up early.

Example Situation: You’ll use this verb when you want to tell someone that you woke up early that day, or that you wake up early every day.

Usage in a Sentence: Madrugo todos los días: a las 5 de la mañana ya estoy despierto. → “I madrugo every day: I’m always up by 5 a.m.”

Note: A person who always wakes up early is called a madrugador.

Man

3- Merendar

Meaning: To eat a snack in the afternoon.

Example Situation: In Spain, we have a meal between lunch and dinner which is called merienda and it usually consists of a snack. This snack can be either sweet or savory, and is usually had with a cup of coffee, tea, or maybe just milk. A common merienda for kids, for example, is to have cookies and milk, but it could also be a sandwich. The act of eating your merienda is the verb merendar.

Usage in a Sentence: Hoy he ido a una cafetería nueva a merendar y me he comido un cruasán buenísimo. → “Today I went to a new café to merendar and I ate a delicious croissant.”

4- Trasnochar

Meaning: To stay up all night.

Example Situation: It can be used any time someone’s up during the night. That means it includes people who work night shifts, people who have insomnia, people who go out to party, etc.

Usage in a Sentence: Tengo que terminar un proyecto para mañana por la mañana; parece que me va a tocar trasnochar. → I need to finish a project for tomorrow morning; I think I’m going to have to trasnochar.

Note: A person who tends to stay up most nights is called a trasnochador.

5- Tutear

Meaning: To use the common pronoun tú instead of the formal usted and conjugate verbs accordingly.

Example Situation: We only use the form usted in formal situations, for example, when talking to someone who’s more important than us. While we’re talking to this person, maybe they decide that the conversation doesn’t require this form, and might ask you to use the common to refer to them.

Usage in a Sentence: No hace falta que me hables de usted: puedes tutearme. → “You don’t need to use the form usted: you can tutearme.”


3. Five Untranslatable Spanish Adjectives

1- Cejijunto/a

Meaning: To have both eyebrows connected.

Example Situation: You can use this word to describe someone who has such hairy eyebrows that they meet or nearly meet in the middle.

Usage in a Sentence: Mi marido es cejijunto de toda la vida y parece que nuestro hijo también empieza a tener las cejas pobladas. → “My husband has been cejijunto all his life and it looks like our son is starting to get hairy eyebrows too.”

Note: It’s also called unicejo.

2- Estadounidense

Meaning: Demonym for a person from the United States of America.

Example Situation: Isn’t it unbelievable that people from the U.S. just call themselves Americans and don’t have an actual demonym for their own country? America is the continent, not the country! What if Germans decided to ditch the word “German” and exclusively called themselves Europeans? Anyway, Spanish, just like most languages probably do, does have a word for it: estadounidense.

Usage in a Sentence: Mi nuevo jefe es estadounidense, creo que es de Seattle. → “My new boss is estadounidense, I think he’s from Seattle.”

3- Friolero/a

Meaning: Sensitive to the cold.

Example Situation: This adjective can be used to describe yourself or somebody else who’s sensitive to the cold, or someone who’s always cold, even in the summer.

Usage in a Sentence: Soy muy friolera, así que nunca salgo de casa sin una chaqueta. → “I’m very friolera, so I never leave my house without a jacket.”

Note: There’s also a word that describes someone who’s sensitive to the heat, which is caluroso/a.

Little

4- Manco/a

Meaning: A person who’s missing a hand or an arm.

Example Situation: Just like the meaning of this word states, it’s used to describe a person who only has one hand or arm.

Usage in a Sentence: Mi abuelo se quedó manco tras un accidente en la fábrica donde trabajaba. → “My grandfather was left manco after having an accident in the factory he used to work at.”

5- Tuerto/a

Meaning: A person who can only see with one eye.

Example Situation: You can use this adjective when you want to describe someone who’s blind in one eye.

Usage in a Sentence: Mi hermano es tuerto: perdió la visión en el ojo derecho cuando era muy pequeño. → “My brother is tuerto: he lost his sight in his right eye when he was very little.”


4. Three Extra Untranslatable Words in Other Languages Spoken in Spain

You might not know this, but Spanish isn’t the only language spoken in Spain. There are a few regions that have co-official languages. But no need to worry; everyone speaks Spanish, no matter where you travel in Spain.

All you need to know is that if you travel to cities like Bilbao, Valencia, Barcelona, Santiago de Compostela, or San Sebastián, you might hear people speaking a different language, or you might see signs written in those languages. Again, there’s nothing to be scared of.

Out of these three words, which are also untranslatable in Spanish, the first and the third words are sometimes used in Spanish. The second word, somiatruites, has probably never been used in Spanish, and it might never be, except for in the example we’re going to give you—but we love this word too much not to include it. You’ll know why very soon.

1- Morriña (Galician)

Meaning: The feeling you have when you miss your homeland.

Example Situation: Galicians use this word when they travel out of their homeland and feel homesick.

Usage in a Sentence: Hace una semana que salí de Galicia y ya empiezo a sentir morriña. → “It’s been a week since I left Galicia and I’m already starting to feel morriña.”

2- Somiatruites (Catalan and Valencian)

Meaning: A person who gets overly excited over anything, even if it’s impossible. (Literal meaning: omelette dreamer.)

Example Situation: We all have that one friend (or hey, maybe YOU’RE that friend) that gets way too excited over every little thing. For example, a girl who sees a cute boy for the first time and she’s already imagining what their wedding would look like, or someone who’s always daydreaming about things that might never happen.

Usage in a Sentence: ¿Pero no ves que nunca te va a hacer caso? Eres una somiatruites. → “Can’t you see he’s never going to pay attention to you? You’re a somiatruites.”

Note: If we wanted to translate this word into Spanish, it would be sueñatortillas. Sadly, it doesn’t exist.

3- Zirimiri (Basque)

Meaning: Very soft but constant rain, typical in the Basque Country (region in the North of Spain).

Example Situation: They say that when you visit the Basque Country, in the North of Spain, there’s often this kind of rain that they call zirimiri, which is constant, but very soft. You might not even realize it’s raining until it’s been a few minutes and you’re starting to get wet.

Usage in a Sentence: Aún no voy a sacar el paraguas, esto solo es zirimiri. → “I’m not going to take my umbrella out yet, this is just zirimiri.”

Note: In Spanish, it has been accepted as sirimiri.

Kid

5. How SpanishPod101.com Can Help You Learn More Spanish

We truly hope our list of untranslatable words from Spanish to English helped grow your interest for both languages!

After learning all these untranslatable Spanish words, we’re sure you wish some of them did exist in English! All of these words will make a huge difference in your conversations and will make you sound more fluent in Spanish. We suggest that you also think of untranslatable words in your native language. It’s not as easy as it seems, but it’s definitely very interesting to think of.

There’s so much more you can learn at SpanishPod101.com, no matter your current skill level or what you’re interested in. If you just can’t live without knowing what to call all the different bugs and insects in Spanish, then this list is made for you. Check out our lessons and our vocabulary lists and get learning!

Start with a bonus, and download the Must-Know Beginner Vocabulary PDF for FREE! (Logged-In Member Only)

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