Is ‘Email’ a Spanish Word?

And if it is, what’s the plural?

Man outdoors with computer.
A man composes email along the Mexican Caribbean.

Quavondo / Getty Images

You may have noticed some Spanish speakers and writers using the word emails, in which case you may be wondering: Why doesn't Spanish seem to have its own word for "e-mail"? And, if email is a Spanish word, why isn't the plural emailes instead of emails?

Indeed, Email Is Commonly Used in Spanish

For all practical purposes, believe it or not, email (or e-mail) is a Spanish word. That doesn't mean it's officially recognized, however. It has not been not been recognized by the Spanish Royal Academy and is considered by many to be an Anglicism.

It even has a verb form, emailear, that is sometimes used. It is one of those English words that has been adopted into Spanish even though some perfectly good "real" Spanish alternatives exist. In Spanish, email is often pronounced pretty much as it is in English, although the final l sound is more like the "l" in "light" than like the "l" in "mail."

The Spanish Royal Academy is the closest thing the Spanish language has to an official body charged with maintaining the stability of the language. Although the RAE, as it is known, is a creature of Spanish royalty, it has official affiliates throughout the Spanish-speaking world. Unlike in some countries where governments have taken official steps to protect local languages, and in particularly to prevent infusions from outside languages such as English, the decisions of the Academy don't have the force of law.

The Official Term for ‘Email’ Is ...

The Academy does much of its work these days through its support for Fundéu BBVA, a nonprofit organization that works with publishers, academics, and others interested in maintaining the purity of the Spanish language. (Fundéu is an acronym for Fundación del Español Urgente, or Foundation for Emerging Spanish.) Fundéu's constantly updated guides to Spanish vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation are frequently consulted by editors and publishers, although its role is advisory.

Here's a translated, abridged version of what Fundéu has to say about the use of email as a word:

Is it correct to use the word email to refer to a message sent by Internet?
To specify this means of communication, the recommendation is to use the Spanish form correo eléctronico (or simply correo) and avoid the English term e-mail. This name works well for the messaging system.

Despite the Fundéu's advice and the lack of a listing for email in the influential dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy, the word email remains extremely popular in Spanish. In fact, a check with the Google search engine shows the existence of more pages using the phrase "enviar por email" (to send by email) than ones using the phrase "enviar por correo eléctronico."

In any case, both the "official" term correo eléctronico and the colloquial email will be understood wherever you go and use your Spanish.

The term correo-e also gets limited use, but less than correo (the word for mail) by itself. Fundéu recommends using correo e. as the abbreviated form in writing.

English Words Are Popular in Spanish

The example of email isn't an unusual one. Many Internet and other technology-related terms as well as words from popular culture have been borrowed from English and are used along with "pure" Spanish counterparts. You'll hear both browser and navegador used, for example, as well as both tráiler and avance for a movie trailer or preview, with the former being more common (although the written accent isn't always used).

Fundéu, by the way, recognizes the word browser, although it recommends putting it in italics to show its foreign origins. And tráiler is just fine—but don't forget that accent mark.

Why the Plural of Email Isn't Emailes

As for plurals, it is very common in Spanish for words that are imported from foreign languages, usually English, to follow the same rules of pluralization as they do in the original language. For many words taken from English, then, the plurals are formed simply by adding an -s even if an -es would normally be called for according to the rules of Spanish orthography. One common example, at least in Spain, is that the Spanish currency, el euro, is divided into 100 cents, not the centes you might expect.

Key Takeaways

  • Both email and correo eléctronico are widely used in Spanish to refer to email.
  • Despite its popularity, the word email isn't recognized by the leading official authority on the Spanish language.