Spanish Words Without a One-Word English Equivalent

Few Are Tied Specifically to Spanish or Latin American Culture

Entrecejo for article on Spanish words
El entrecejo y una mariquita. (The area between the eyebrows and a ladybug.). Hamed Saber/Creative Commons.

Here are some Spanish words for which there is no good one-word English equivalent:


This word is fairly new and has various meanings dependent on context, but it often refers to a live-in girlfriend or boyfriend, or a friend with benefits. Katrina era mi amigovia, pero desde que estoy con Belén no la vi más. (Katrina was my friend with benefits, but since I've been with Belén I don't see her any more.)


The day before yesterday, formed by combining ante (before) and ayer (yesterday). Ese es el restaurante al que fuimos anteayer. (That is the restaurant we went to the day before yesterday.)


Although this verb can often be translated simply as "to use," it often carries a strong connotation of getting the most out of something. No pude aprovechar de la piscina del hotel porque prefiero la playa. (I couldn't take advantage of the hotel's swimming pool because I prefer the beach.)


As a noun, a bimestre is a period of two months. El ahorro en un bimestre fue de 2,500 euros. (There was a savings of 2,500 euros in two months.) As an adjective, bimestre means "bimonthly" (every two months).


A type of protest in which participants bang on pots and pans. Los cacerolazos comenzaron ayer temprano en Buenos Aires. (The pots-and-pans protest began early yesterday in Buenos Aires.)


A group of 100. The word is often used as an approximation for a large group. Un centenar de inmigrantes de origen subsahariano han intentado saltar la valla de Melilla. (About 100 sub-Saharan immigrants have tried to jump the fence at Melilla.)


Someone married to a sibling of your spouse is a concuñado or concuñada. La esposa del hermano de mi esposa is mi concuñada. My wife's brother's wife is my concuñada.


If you have a child, his or her spouse's parents are your consuegros. For example, your son's wife's mother would be your consuegra. No sé si mi consuegra es mi amiga or mi enemiga. (I don't know if my child's spouse's mother is friend or foe.)


Just as a docena is a dozen or group of 12, a decena is a group of 10. Puedes comprar flores por decena. (You can buy flowers 10 at a time.)


This reflexive verb refers to not getting sufficient sleep. Cuando nos desvelamos, el cuerpo obtiene energía de una fuente más accesible: la comida. (When we don't get enough sleep, the body gets energy from the most accessible source: food.) Someone who is sleep-deprived is desvelado.


To be excessively sweet, either literally (as of some candy) or figuratively (as with personality). Te voy a enseñar mi receta particular, por causa de que la original me empalaga. (I'm going to send you my own recipe, because the original is too sweet for me.)


The area above the nose, below the forehead and between the eyebrows. Quiero quitarme sin dolor los pelos del entrecejo. (I want to painlessly remove the hairs between my eyebrows.)


To wear, use, perform or display something for the first time. Estrené las zapatillas que mi marido me había regalado. (For the first time, I put on the slippers that my husband had given me.) A noun form, estreno, can refer to a movie or play premiere or similar events.


Sensitive to cold. Era friolento y se cubría los hombros con un suéter. (She was sensitive to the cold and covered her shoulders with a sweater.) Friolero has the same meaning.


From or of the United States. "American" is a common equivalent but is sometimes ambiguous as it can also refer to someone or something from the Americas. La cultura estadounidense está construida por la clase media. (U.S. culture was built by the middle class.)


Internet user. Internauta is not capitalized and can be masculine or feminine. El acceso a Internet para la población mexicana representa al menos 55.3 millones de internautas. (Internet access for the Mexican population is available to at least 55.3 million Internet users.)


Having one arm, either from birth or as an amputee. Un día conocí una muchacha manca. (One day I met a one-armed girl.)


This is a period of 15 days or two weeks. British English has "fortnight," which is seldom used in American English. Esta quincena es la más tranquila del año en Pamplona. (This two-week period is the quietest of the year in Pamplona.) The word can also refer to the 15th of the month, when many workers in some countries get paid.


After-meal conversation, from sobre (over) and mesa (table). Con poco tiempo para la sobremesa volvemos a la carretera. (With little time to chat after eating, we went back to the highway.)


To stay up all night or put in an all-nighter. Nos trasnochábamos jugando juegos como Islander y Super Mario. (We would stay up all night playing games such as Islander and Super Mario.)


Having only one eye, or seeing with only one eye. Se llama Pirata por ser tuerto. (He was called Pirate because he had one eye.)


To speak to someone using , the familiar form of "you." A cultural equivalent might be "to speak with someone on a first-name basis." Nunca había llegado al punto de tutear a alguien. (I never have reached the point of using with someone.)

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Erichsen, Gerald. "Spanish Words Without a One-Word English Equivalent." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Erichsen, Gerald. (2020, August 27). Spanish Words Without a One-Word English Equivalent. Retrieved from Erichsen, Gerald. "Spanish Words Without a One-Word English Equivalent." ThoughtCo. (accessed August 12, 2022).