Can someone explain why Key words is "palabras clave" and not "palabras claves"? What is the difference in meaning? Thanks!

  • Posted Mar 27, 2013
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3 Answers



Well, this is a very interesting question... In "palabra clave", the second word is a noun working as an adjective, so the plural is not applied to it. Here are other examples:

  • Pez globo (blowfish) => Peces globo (blowfishes)
  • Hombre araña (spiderman) => Hombres araña (spidermen)
  • Perro lobo (wolfhound) => Perros lobo (wolfhounds)
  • Sofá cama (sofa bed) => Sofás cama (sofa beds)
  • Falda pantalón (a kind of skirt) => Faldas pantalón

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  • Mar 28, 2013
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  • Excellent! Thank you! - --Mariana-- Mar 28, 2013
  • Great list! Thanks for giving some examples! - editorkt Mar 28, 2013
  • And I was thinking a little more: Most of that words are used to name thinks that look like other things. F.e.: "Pez globo" - A fish that looks like a baloon. So you could say "pez globos" if you were talking about a fish that looks like many baloons. - Belldjin Mar 28, 2013
  • So I think that's why you can't use plural: You were saying something different. - Belldjin Mar 28, 2013


Well, this is a very interesting question... In "palabra clave", the second word is a noun working as an adjective, so the plural is not applied to it.

Great answer. We have a few of those in English, but not many - One Sergeant Major Two Sergeants Major

There are other terms, especially in areas of military and hierarchy, that exist too.

I've always suspected that that for-English-unusual construct, filtered down from military terms in Latin and from ancient Rome directly into English, and thus that, for us, unusual word order.

  • Mar 28, 2013
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  • That is a great example and will help me to give an explanation to others as to "why" this is used this way. Is it too simplistic to say that "palabras clave" is literally "Words key"? At least I have some English examples now to help me. Thanks all! - editorkt Mar 28, 2013
  • No, I don´t think that is too simplistic. I think that´s just right. The trick is for we English speakers to recognize when we have a noun acting as an adjective like that in Spanish, so we don´t automatically make it match in gender-number to the noun - rogspax Apr 3, 2013


Hi. I'm not sure where you found that, but in the dictionary here the adjective matches the noun.

Palabra clave = keyword

  • Mar 27, 2013
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  • Yes, "key word" is singular, so it would be palabra clave, but when there is a box of words published in a course, for example, it is often "palabras clave". - editorkt Mar 27, 2013
  • Here is a great explanation, but I don't really still understand it.http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=1539905 - editorkt Mar 27, 2013
  • Interesting...I learned something new! - --Mariana-- Mar 28, 2013
  • Yes, thanks for following up with that. I´d meant to look more up on it, and just now got back here, and found your helpful link. - rogspax Apr 3, 2013
  • ... though frankly, it´s a bit above my level of Spanish, and so I only learned that in some cases, both forms can be valid. More justification than a full explanation given my level of understanding, but still welcome. Thanks! - rogspax Apr 3, 2013