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Popular Spanish Words and Phrases with No English Equivalent

Spanish, the fourth most spoken language, has 534 million native speakers around the world. The Spanish language and its numerous dialects have a sizeable number of speakers in Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Spain, and the United States.

It is a widely distributed Romance language from the Indo-European language family. Spanish is an official language in the following countries:

  • Equatorial Guinea, Africa
  • Spain
  • Puerto Rico
  • Venezuela
  • Uruguay
  • Nicaragua
  • Honduras
  • Peru
  • Mexico
  • Guatemala
  • Paraguay
  • El Salvador
  • Cuba
  • Panama
  • Ecuador
  • Dominican Republic
  • Costa Rica
  • Colombia
  • Chile
  • Bolivia
  • Argentina

Spanish is one of the six official languages of the United Nations.

A brief history of the Spanish language

The language translates to Español in Spanish. However, when you’re in Spain, it is more common to hear people say they speak Castilian, mainly when you are in Latin America. Castilian used to be a dialect, but it came into prominence as the origin of the Modern Standard Spanish.

Castilian, as a dialect, came from the Cantabrian town of Burgos in the 9th century. Spain’s north-central town was known then as Old Castile. When the Moors recaptured Spain in the 11th century, the dialect spread towards central Spain, which became known as New Castile. The speakers were mostly in the towns of Toledo and Madrid.

Castilian became Spain’s official language when the kingdoms of Leon and Castile merged with the kingdom of Aragon. Castilian eased out the regional dialects of Santander, Asturias, Leon, Navarra, and Aragon. Speakers of the old dialects are now located in the remote areas of these regions. But Catalan and Galician, which are also regional dialects, are enjoying a resurgence.

Spanish as a language

Spanish is a regulated language, with the Royal Spanish Academy or the Real Academia Española tasked to manage the language. The academy was established in the 18th century to ensure the consistency of the language by producing authoritative grammar guides and dictionaries.

Spanish is a phonetic language. You pronounce the word by the way it is spelled. Its roots came from Latin, but Arabic heavily influenced the development of the language. In modern times, Spanish adopted many English words to increase its lexicon.

Speakers of Spanish generally understand one another, although there are minor differences in pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar between the Spanish variant in Latin America and the variant spoken in Spain.

In the United States, Spanish is one of the languages that enjoy a huge demand for translation services. The Spanish community in the U.S. keeps on increasing due to migration. There are already more Spanish speakers in the United States than in Spain and Colombia. The projection is that the number of Spanish speakers in the U.S. will be more than the Spanish speakers in Mexico by 2050.

Common Spanish words, phrases, and verbs

If you live in California, Florida, or Texas, where 55 percent of the total Spanish population in the United States is found, chances are you have friends, neighbors, and colleagues who speak Spanish. It is likely that you have heard or even learned some of the Spanish words speakers commonly use in their daily communication.

For people who have limited contact with Spanish speakers, but still want to learn some Spanish words, here are some of the more common:

  • Hola – hello
  • Amor – love
  • Gato – cat
  • Perro – dog
  • Sonreír – smile
  • Sí – yes
  • Gracias – Thank you
  • Adiós – Goodbye
  • Semana – week
  • Hoy – today
  • Año – year
  • Ayer – yesterday
  • Mañana – tomorrow
  • Hora – hour
  • Bueno (Buena) – good
  • Hermoso (Hermosa) – beautiful
  • Malo – bad
  • Fácil – easy
  • Dificil – difficult
  • Buenos días – Good morning
  • Buenas tardes – Good afternoon
  • Buenas noches – Good evening
  • ¿Cómo estás? – How are you? (informal)
  • ¿Cómo está usted? – How are you? (formal)
  • Bien, gracias. / Muy bien. – Well, thanks / Very well.
  • Como siempre – As always
  • Más o menos. – Okay, so-so.
  • Todo bien – All good
  • Nada – nothing
  • ¿Cómo te va? – How’s it going?
  • ¿Cómo has ido? – How have you been?
  • ¿Qué tal? – What’s up?
  • ¿Qué pasa? – What’s happening?
  • ¿Qué haces? – What are you doing?
  • ¡Delicioso! – delicious
  • Café – coffee
  • Cerveza – beer
  • Té – tea
  • Vino – wine
  • Agua – water
  • Pie –foot
  • Mano – hand
  • Cabeza – head
  • Brazo – arm
  • Dedo – finger
  • Cuerpo – body
  • Enfermera (Enfermero) – nurse
  • Empleado – employee
  • Cocinero – cook
  • Médico – doctor
  • Encargado – manager
  • Lo siento. – I’m sorry
  • ¡Perdón! / Con permiso. – Excuse me!
  • Te amo – I love you
  • Necesito ayuda. – I need help
  • Hasta luego – Later
  • Hasta pronto – See you soon
  • Hasta la vista – Until we see each other again
  • Nos vemos – See ya
  • ¡Buena suerte! – Good luck!
  • ¡Buen viaje! – Have a good trip!
  • ¡Salud! – Cheers!
  • ¡Muy bien! – Well done!
  • ¡Cuídate! – Take care!
  • ¡Felicitaciones! – Congratulations!
  • ¡Bienvenidos! (¡Bienvenidas!) – Welcome!
  • ¡Feliz Cumpleaños! – Happy birthday!

Do you know of other Spanish words that are difficult to translate into English? Please let us know.

Spanish words with no exact equivalent in English

As mentioned, Spanish is easy to pronounce because you speak it as it is written. However, the language has many words and phrases that are difficult to translate. Either they do not have equivalents in English, or it will take more words to explain their meanings fully. Here are some of them.

  • Anteayer – the day before yesterday
  • Botellón – party in the street
  • Chapuza – something that was badly repaired or made
  • Consuegro – the parent-in-law of your daughter or son
  • Entrecejo – the space between the eyebrows
  • Puente – long weekend
  • Resol – the sun’s reflection
  • Sobremesa – (situation) when people still stay seated after their meal to continue chatting
  • Vergüenza ajena – your feeling of embarrassment due to the action of another person
  • Estrenar – wearing or using something new for the first time
  • Madrugar – to wake up early (in the morning)
  • Trasnochar – to stay awake all night
  • Friolero/friolera – a person who is sensitive to the cold
  • Caluroso/calurosa- a person who is sensitive to the heat

If you need professional Spanish translations, contact us!

You do not have to search elsewhere to avail of professional Spanish translations. At eTranslation Services, we have a network of native-speaking translators located in different parts of the world. We can quickly connect you to one of our translators who can handle the type of translation you need, such as document translation, medical translation, business translation, or legal translation. You can get in touch with us through email at [email protected] or give us a call at (800) 882-6058, whichever is more convenient for you.


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