Spanish is the world’s most widely spoken Romance language, and its expansion in different countries presents its own set of translation challenges. For this reason, we present you six unique Spanish words that do not exist in English.
Every language has its own unique words that might not have a direct translation or exist in other languages. That is what makes every language special and interesting, especially when you are learning a new one. These words are sometimes called “untranslatables”, though that is not entirely accurate. You can translate them, but there is not a single word in English that is equivalent to the Spanish one. When you learn about them, you might wish that there were!
You will not need Spanish knowledge to teach as a Language Assistant, but you can take a look at 7 tips to start learning Spanish and other best ways to improve your skills in this language. Now, here is our guide to 6 of our favorite unique Spanish words that do not exist in English.
Definition: bridge –used in a literal sense¬. In other contexts, it refers to an extended weekend that arises when a public holiday falls near, but not directly adjacent to, a weekend.
If you were ever a student, worker, or perhaps just an architecture enthusiast in Spain, you no doubt rejoiced upon hearing this term. Used in a literal sense, puente simply means “bridge”. When it refers to an extended weekend that arises when a public holiday falls near, it is the gap or the day/s off between the holiday and the weekend.
Example: El jueves es el Día de la Constitución, por lo que el viernes tengo puente y no tengo que ir al colegio a trabajar. / Thursday is Constitution Day, so I have a long weekend on Friday and I don’t have to go to school for work.
Definition: to wake up and get out of bed early in the morning.
“Get up early” is the phrase often used in English. You can also say “wake up”, but that is much more general, while “get up early” and madrugar have to do with getting up at a specific time of the day.
Example: Mañana tengo que madrugar porque tengo clase a las 7 de la mañana. / Tomorrow, I have to get up early because I have class at 7AM.
Definition: to stay up late at night.
This one is the exact inverse of madrugar, which makes you wonder why Spanish is so specific about sleeping hours. “Pull an all-nighter” or “stay up all night” are a few expressions used in English, but there is not just one word that covers the act of staying awake at night.
Example: El viernes trabajo, así que el jueves no puedo trasnochar. / I work on Friday, so I can’t stay up late on Thursday.
Definition: the day before yesterday.
This is one of the most concise Spanish words for expressing a time-related idea. Since there is no single word for it, it is translated in English rather clumsily as the four-word phrase “the day before yesterday.” In English, another way to say it is “two days ago,” which is shorter and more common but still a phrase rather than a word. You could also use “ere yesterday” to investigate out-of-date expressions, but people might give you strange looks.
Example: Anteayer fue el cumpleaños de uno de mis alumnos. / The day before yesterday was the birthday of one of my students.
Definition: to wear something for the first time.
Estrenar is one of the Spanish words that does not exist in English, and it refers to the fact of wearing/using/showing off something for the first time. Maybe we Spaniards like to show off the new things we buy that we have even created a word to express that!
Example: Ayer estrené mis zapatillas nuevas para ir a clase. / Yesterday, I first-time-wore my new sneakers to go to class.
Definition: the conversation that takes place at the table after a meal.
Translated as over the table, sobremesa refers to the conversation that takes place at the dining table long after the meal has finished. It is about savoring the company of your guests over drinks. The importance of catching up with family and friends after a meal is such that it is reflected in the language as one of the unique Spanish words! And get ready, because Spanish people will stay at the table talking for at least an hour or two.
Example: El domingo tuvimos una comida familiar y la sobremesa se alargó hasta las 18:00h. / We had a family meal on Sunday and the after-lunch conversation lasted until 6PM.
It is your turn: Share unique Spanish words you know!
These are some of the most common words used in the daily life of any Spaniard that does not have a direct and literal translation into English. But there are many more useful phrases, not to mention expressions, idioms, and sayings. Take a look at this video, where some of the words are already covered in the blog, but others are not!
Do you know some other unique Spanish words? Write them in the comments, and let’s all learn!