Popular Spanish Words with No English Equivalents
The beauty of learning a second language is that you often learn words for emotions, sensations, and feelings where there weren’t previously words in your native language. Spanish has a plethora of these words, which we can describe in English, but are really sin traducción directa , or without a direct translation. In this article, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite words that are lacking an equivalent one-word English translation.
Have you ever left writing a term paper for the night before it’s due? If so, you’re probably going to trasnochar , or stay up late into the night writing it. Trasnochar can be translated as to stay up late or to stay up all night in English, and it doesn’t have to be used only to describe staying up late to finish laborious school essays; you can use it even if you plan on staying up for fun!
Not a night owl? This next one is for you early birds. Madrugar describes the act of waking up in the early morning, usually before sunrise. Just as trasnochar has the word noche (or night) in it, madrugar, contains the word madrugada (meaning dawn or early morning) to give you a hint as to its meaning. Spanish speakers also use this word figuratively, to mean that something is arriving ahead of schedule.
If you find yourself reaching for a blanket or your jacket the minute you feel a draft, you would most likely describe yourself as friolento . In English, friolento is used to describe someone who is sensitive to the cold.
Of all the words on this list, you’re likely to hear soler with the most frequency. That’s because soler is a Spanish verb that can be roughly translated as usually or tends to in English. Because this verb describes the ongoing nature of another action, you’ll exclusively see soler paired up with another verb in the infinitive.
Since soler is a verb that describes the habit of another action, it is always conjugated in the past tense with the imperfect and never with the preterite. In the past tense, soler can be translated as used to.
Tocayo or tocaya is a fun Spanish word that refers to someone who shares the same first name as you! In English, some close translations would be name twin, or even namesake would work in certain contexts, but generally we wouldn’t use a single English word to translate this useful Spanish term.
Social interactions, especially around food, are paramount in Hispanic culture. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that the Spanish language has a word that specifically refers to a conversation that takes place with food. The word sobremesa is a Spanish noun that means the time spent socializing with family or friends after a meal. Typically, such a conversation will happen sobre la mesa , or over the table, which is how this word came into being. Next time you find yourself at the dinner table with Spanish speakers, try not to get up right after you finish eating; stay for the sobremesa!
Have you ever wondered what the space between someone’s eyebrows is called? While there might not be a colloquial word in English for this inconspicuous anatomical feature, Spanish has you covered! In Spanish, un entrecejo literally refers to the space between someone’s two eyebrows. Like sobremesa, this word is another Spanish portmanteau of entre las cejas , or between the eyebrows.
Empalagarse is a word that Spanish speakers use to describe the feeling they get when they’ve just had a food or beverage that is too sweet to continue eating or drinking. But watch out! Empalagarse is used with only the most sickly sweet of confections. It’s also a good idea to notice that this verb is reflexive and is used with the item that you are describing as too sweet as the verb’s subject.
Have you been dating someone casually for a while and then overhear them refer to you as their amigovio ? If you’re not on the same page, it might be a good time to define your relationship. Amigovio or amigovia refers to a friend that you also have a steady romantic relationship with, also colloquially known in English as a friend with benefits. Another common synonym for amigovio in Spanish is amigo con derechos , literally translated as friend with rights.
The final word on our list truly has no English equivalent translation due to its meaning being intertwined with the Spanish language’s grammatical rules on formality and informality. Tutear literally means to address someone using the informal tú pronoun or conjugation instead of the more formal usted pronoun or conjugation. If we really wanted to squeeze an English translation out of tutear, the best way would be to translate it as to address someone informally.
Need to brush up on some of these pronouns? Check out our article on all the Spanish pronouns that could mean you in English!
There you have it! Keep these useful words in your back pocket and whip them out when you want impress your Spanish speaking friends or relatives! To explore more words, check out our bilingual dictionary here.