Grammar Guide
Vocabulary
Popular Spanish Words with No English Equivalents

Popular Spanish Words with No English Equivalents

Quick Answer

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.

Trasnochar

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!

Julia y yo vamos a trasnochar para ir al estreno de medianoche de la nueva película de Star Wars.
Julia and I are going to stay up late to go to the midnight premiere of the new Star Wars movie.
 

Madrugar

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.

He tenido que madrugar tres días seguidos y ahora estoy muerto.
I have had to get up early three days in a row and now I’m dead tired.
 

Friolento

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.

¿Cierras la ventana? Entra una corriente y abuela es friolenta.
Would you close the window? There’s a draft coming in and grandma is sensitive to the cold.
 

Soler

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.

Marco suele ir al café los lunes para asistir a una reunión de su club de lectura.
Marco usually goes to the café on Mondays to attend his book club meeting.
 

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.

En España, solíamos cenar a las diez de la noche.
In Spain, we used to eat dinner at ten at night.

 


Tocayo

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.

No lo vas a creer, pero en mi clase de literatura, ¡ya he conocido tres de mis tocayas!
You’re not going to believe this, but in my literature class I’ve already met three people that have the same name as me!
 

Sobremesa

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!

La última vez que almorzamos con tus papás, ¡la sobremesa se alargó hasta casi llegar la hora de cenar!
The last time we had lunch with your parents, we stayed at the table talking until almost dinner time!
 

Entrecejo

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.

Mi estrategia para ganar una competencia de miradas es mirar directamente al entrecejo del oponente.
My strategy for winning a staring contest is to look directly at the space between my opponent’s eyebrows.
 

Empalagarse

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.

Tras un año de no tomar Coca Cola, tomé un trago y me empalagó.
After a year of not drinking Coca Cola, I took a swig of it and it tasted way too sweet.
 

Don’t restrict yourself just to verbs! You can also use the adjective empalagoso  to describe the next piece of candy, spoonful of ice cream, or slurp of soda that is just too sugary for your tastebuds to handle.


Amigovio

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.

Isabel me confesó que ahora mismo no busca nada seria y entonces sugirió que sigamos siendo amigovios.
Isabel confessed to me that right now she’s not looking for anything serious and then suggested that we continue as friends with benefits.
 

Does this word look like two other related words? You guessed it! Like sobremesa and entrecejo, amigovio/amigovia is another blend of the two words amigo  (meaning friend) and novio /novia  (meaning boyfriend/girlfriend).


Tutear

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   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.

¡No me tutees, niño! ¿Has olvidado que le estás hablando a tu madre?
Don’t use when speaking to me, boy! Have you forgotten that you’re talking to your mother?
 

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.

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