advanced spanish words

10 Advanced Spanish Words to Help You Clear the Vocabulary Gap

Do you find you’re always using the same old words?

Tired of trying to leap over those glaring gaps in your Spanish vocabulary?

Sometimes it feels like a huge canyon separates you from the vocabulary you need—and you can tell by the distance it’s going to take a lot of energy to get across there.

Do you find yourself often having to use long and overly-complicated sentences to explain Spanish words that you can’t quite remember learning?

This sample situation in the hardware store might feel all to familiar: “I’m looking for…you know, the thing you use to clean the floor? With the handle?”

¿Una escoba?

Oh yes, broom. Or it’s even worse if it turns out that the word was really similar to English…

¿Una mopa?

D’oh.

The ability to explain your way around missing words is really important, as this trains your brain to scope out relevant and useful words that are stored away. You get more creative by explaining your missing word rather than looking it up in a dictionary.

However, you and I both know that it’ll be quicker and easier to just use the specific word you want. Your Spanish will become richer, more colorful, more expressive and will be better able to describe your thoughts, feelings and opinions.

That’s why we’ve compiled a list of 10 useful words that are guaranteed to improve your vocabulary right away. These commonly used (but still relatively advanced) Spanish words are ones that most often slip through the cracks. As soon as you learn them, you’ll start to notice Spanish speakers saying them all the time! Then you’ll be left wondering how you ever got by without them.

Learn a foreign language with videos

Why You Should Always Be Building Your Spanish Vocabulary

You may think, “hey, I can get the message across. Why not be content with that?”

Well, the purpose of learning Spanish is to communicate with other people. And when you communicate, you really want to capture what you’re thinking or feeling. I mean, why use the most basic word when you could use something more interesting? Think about all the different words you use in English to describe something you like: great, awesome, fantastic, excellent, amazing. The list goes on. What do you say in Spanish?

Just bueno? You can do better at this level. Try genial, asombroso, fantástico, excelente, increíble, maravilloso.

Of course, this is true for many words. For any basic word you’re using, there’s likely a range of similar or synonymous words that could be used in its stead—and that more advanced version might have the specific connotation or sound that you need to fully capture an idea.

If you often find yourself tongue-tied while searching for the right word, then you need tons more Spanish input to become exposed to the advanced vocabulary that’s out there and being used constantly by natives. Try reading more widely, watching TV or listening to podcasts in Spanish.

You should also try out FluentU! FluentU takes real-world videos, like music videos, commercials, news and inspiring talks, and turns them into Spanish learning experiences.

Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the Spanish language and culture over time. You’ll learn Spanish as it’s actually spoken by real people.

FluentU has a wide variety of videos—topics like soccer, TV shows, business, movies and even magical realism, as you can see here:

FluentU App Browse Screen

FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts. You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used. If you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.

FluentU Videos with Interactive Captions

Review a complete interactive transcript under the Dialogue tab, and find words and phrases listed under Vocab.

Interactive Transcripts on FluentU

Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s robust learning engine. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.

FluentU Has Quizzes for Every Video

The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and it recommends you examples and videos based on the words you’ve already learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning the same video.

Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store for iOS and Android devices.

Before you head off to practice even more, learn these 10 advanced Spanish words that will impress your friends and make you sound much more sophisticated.

10 Advanced Spanish Words to Help You Clear the Vocabulary Gap

1. Semejante

Part of speech: Adjective

Meaning: Similar

This word is one way to say something is similar to something else, and it’s a good alternative to saying the more basic phrases “es lo mismo” (it’s the same) or “es parecido.” If you need to brush up on ways to compare things in Spanish, check out this post.

So how would you use it?

Well, imagine you’re choosing between two restaurants. You want to eat Mexican food but you can’t decide between the long list of joints Google is throwing back at you. There are two options here. You pick one at random because son semejantes. Or maybe no son muy semejantes, and you need to pick carefully to avoid getting a soggy quesadilla and some cold black beans.

Or maybe you have no idea if they’re semejantes or not, in which case you should probably call someone who knows about Mexican food in your area and ask them if all the Mexican joints are semejantes or not. You should probably ask if they’re any good while you’re at it.

2. Dispuesto(a)

Part of speech: Adjective

Meaning: Available

If someone is “dispuesto a ayudarte,” you should probably be their friend. This means they’re there and willing to help you. If your friend who knows about Mexican restaurants is dispuesto/a to help you out, you’re in luck. Dispuesto means willing, ready, available or prepared, a fine quality in any friend, I think you’ll agree.

3. Huelga

Part of speech: Noun (feminine)

Meaning: Strike

This word can be extremely useful depending on where you live. If you live in a place with a lot of strikes—we mean the kind of strikes with activists protesting, not striking people over the head or anything to do with bowling—then this word is absolute gold. If not, well, it’s still a useful one to store in your Spanish bank of knowledge, ready for the day when a huelga does grind the transport system to a halt. It’s also good to know when watching the news in Spanish.

Huelga collocates with the verbs estar or hacer, so you can say “los obreros están en huelga” (note that the preposition here is en) or “los obreros hacen huelga.” Either sentence means “the workers are on strike.”

4. Tasa

Part of speech: Noun (feminine)

Meaning: Rate

Not to be confused with the word for “cup” which has a z (taza de té, for example), tasa with an s means “rate.”

This is a useful word when you’re changing money, but is one that seems to be left out of most textbooks and classes at school. So when you want out to figure out how many Chilean pesos/Euros/whatever other currency you’re looking for you’ll get for your dollars, you can say:

“¿Cuál es la tasa de cambio?” — What’s the exchange rate?

You can also talk about the tasa de desempleo, the unemployment rate, which will make you sound much more sophisticated than talking about people sin trabajo. 

5. Personaje

Part of speech: Noun (masculine)

Meaning: Character

The Spanish word carácter is a false friend which misleads many learners, as it’s not used in the same context as personaje.

You’ll use personaje when talking about plays, books or films. You can talk about the personaje principal, the main character, for example.

If you want to say that someone has a strong personality, like when you say “he/she is a bit of a character” in English, you can pretty much translate directly from English and say “es un personaje.” As calling someone a personaje could be negative or positive, this can be a particularly useful way of politely describing someone you don’t like.

In this case, the listener will know from the context, your intonation and your expression whether you’re giving a compliment, admiring someone’s uniqueness or saying that they’re a bit weird and should probably be avoided.

6. Elenco

Part of speech: Noun (masculine)

Meaning: Cast

Another word that’s handy when seeing plays or films, elenco means “the cast.” This is a very specific word and you’ll probably only use it when you want to say that a film or play has an “excellent cast”—el elenco es excelente. But it’s much better and easier than saying “todos los actores fueron muy buenos” (all the actors were very good).

7. Fondo

Part of speech: Noun (masculine)

Meaning: Bottom

El fondo means “the bottom,” “the depths” or “the back,” and it’s another surprisingly useful word that’s often left out of textbooks. For example, when asking for directions, someone might say something is “al fondo a la derecha,” which means “at the back on your right.”

At a bar or club, you might find your peers suddenly screaming “al fondo” at you, which isn’t a request for you to move to the back of the club—they’re telling you to down your drink and get to the bottom of that bottle.

If something is en el fondo, this means “deep down”or “far back.” This could refer to hidden or buried feelings (useful in a therapy session, perhaps?) or mean that something is literally buried deeply, for example, el tesoro está en el fondo del mar (the treasure is at the bottom of the sea).

8. Apenas

Part of speech: Adverb or conjunction

Meaning: Hardly/scarcely/barely (adverb), as soon as (conjunction)

The conjunction form of this word is used a lot with the subjunctive. For example, when a friend says “apenas sepa, te llamo,” you now know that this means: “as soon as I know, I’ll call you.” You could even say the same thing yourself next time.

The former meaning is used very much like in English, so you could say “Apenas la conozco” (I hardly know her) or “Apenas voy a ese lugar (I hardly ever go to that place).

9. Ojalá (interjection)

This word means “I hope so!” or “I wish!” and is a really useful way to respond. You could use it in either of these situations:

A: “Espero que todo se arregle.” (I hope everything works out.)

B: “¡Ojalá!” (I hope so too!)

OR

A: ¿Hoy salimos a las cinco? (Are we leaving at five today?)

B: ¡Ojalá! (I wish!)

In the second situation, the person is wishing about something that is unlikely to happen (leaving work on time in this case), whereas in the first, the person is expressing a more general hope. We don’t know from the context whether or not this is likely to happen, but let’s hope that ojalá in this context is more of an “I hope so,” than an “I wish!”

10. Propósito

Part of speech: Noun (masculine)

Meaning: Purpose

If you do something a propósito, then you do it on purpose. So you can say “Lo hice a propósito” to indicate that you had the intention of doing something—and you did it. This could be a good or bad thing to say, depending on what it is you’ve done. Done someone a good deed? Definitely own up. Just crashed your mom’s car? Maybe let her sit down first.

To say the opposite, that you did something without meaning to, use “sin querer.” If you accidentally stand on someone’s foot for example, you could say “lo siento! Lo hice sin querer” if they’re throwing daggers at you (either metaphorically or literally).

I know what you’re thinking.

It’s a shame this maravillosa list had to come to an end.

In the mood for learning more asombroso vocabulary? Why not check out this post on spicing up your verbs?

Yup. I put that link in a propósito. 

You’re welcome!

Oh, and in case you were still wondering, the word for mop is trapeador.

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