Last September I took a trip from my home in Spain to the Santa Cruz department of Bolivia.
The weather on the Mediterranean was already mild, so I didn’t think much about it.
As soon as I walked out of the airport, the oppressive heat of the Bolivian jungle made me realize my mistake.
Luckily, it isn’t so hard to take clothes off, but it wasn’t until my 12-hour layover in Santiago de Chile that I really paid the price for my lack of foresight: It was bitter cold, and I had nothing to put on.
If you’re learning Spanish, the seasons are essential words because Spanish-speaking countries span so much of the globe.
There are tropical climates without the four traditional seasons, and there are reversed seasons in the different hemispheres.
You’ll probably be saying these words a lot, so it’s worth it to study them.
Lucky for you, your complete guide to the seasons in Spanish is right here.
Winter is Coming… and so Are the Seasons in Spanish! Learn Them All Now
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And now, to get started, let’s take a look at each of the four seasons in Spanish:
la primavera (spring)
el verano (summer)
el otoño (autumn/fall)
el invierno (winter)
Primavera is the Spanish word for spring. It technically begins with the spring equinox, which occurs between March 19-21 in the Northern Hemisphere. Because the start and end dates are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere, spring begins September 21-24 there. It ends with the start of the summer solstice, June 20-22 in the Northern Hemisphere and December 20-23 in the Southern Hemisphere.
That said, most people do not go strictly by the dates but rather the weather. Like spring in English, primavera refers to the time of year when the temperature begins to increase and plants begin to grow and bloom after their winter hibernation. Therefore, it might vary year to year when you hear people refer to primavera, but it’s most often March-May in the Northern Hemisphere and September-December in the Southern Hemisphere.
Primavera has an etymology that makes it easy to remember. Prima is related to the Spanish word primero (first) while vera comes from the Latin root for the warm season. Therefore, primavera refers to the “first warm season,” or the season before summer.
Verano is the Spanish word for summer. This has its official dates as well. In the Northern Hemisphere, it begins with the summer solstice between June 20-22 and ends with the autumn equinox between September 21-24. In the Southern Hemisphere, this is December 20-23 until March 19-21.
It’s important to consider that many Spanish-speaking countries are located near the equator. As a result, they don’t have the four temperate seasons that people in higher latitudes are used to. Instead, they have wet and dry seasons. These terms translate into Spanish as la estación lluviosa (the rainy season) and la estación seca (the dry season).
Verano simply comes from the Latin veranum, which referred to the hot time of year on the Mediterranean. The adjective vernal in English comes from the same root.
If you’re studying Spanish literature, you may see the word estío used for summer. This word is similar to the word for summer in many other Romantic languages, so it may seem familiar. In Spanish, though, it’s hardly ever used these days. Just stick with verano.
Otoño is the Spanish word for autumn or fall. This season begins between September 21-24 in the Northern Hemisphere and March 19-21 in the Southern Hemisphere. It ends between December 20-23 in the Northern Hemisphere and June 20-22 in the Southern Hemisphere. Unlike in North America and northern Europe, many Spanish-speaking countries do not experience a very defined autumn, so you may not hear the word as often as the other seasons.
As you may guess, otoño is a cognate of the English word autumn, both of which are descended from the Latin autumnus. Mysteriously, unlike the other Latinate words for the seasons, this one doesn’t appear to come from a common Indo-European ancestor. Linguists are unsure, but the Latins may have borrowed it from the Etruscans.
Invierno is the Spanish word for winter. In the Northern Hemisphere, it technically begins December 20-23 and ends March 19-21. In the Southern Hemisphere, these dates are reversed to June 20-22 and September 21-24. Spanish-speaking countries span many latitudes, and winter weather varies from the cold temperatures I experienced in Chile to mild, tropical winters in Mexico.
Though you might not recognize it at first glance, the word invierno is related to the English word hibernate. Of course, this reflects the tendency of many animals—as well as a few humans—to pass the winter sleeping.
How to Use the Seasons in Spanish
The Definite Article
The definite article is used with the seasons more often than in English. This is true in both singular and plural forms. Note the definite articles el, la, los and las—all equivalent to English the—in these examples:
El otoño es mi estación favorita. (Fall is my favorite season.)
El invierno ya viene. (Winter is coming.)
Los veranos en el Mediterráneo son muy suaves. (Summers on the Mediterranean are very mild.)
Don’t worry. There are exceptions, specifically after the verb ser (to be) or the prepositions en or de—usually in or of in English. Note these examples:
Es verano en España pero invierno en Argentina. (It’s summer in Spain but winter in Argentina.)
Siempre tengo sueño en otoño. (I’m always sleepy in the fall.)
Los días de invierno son muy cortos. (Winter days are too short.)
In English, the season nouns become the following adjectives: spring, summery, autumnal/fall and wintery. Spanish also has these adjective forms: primaveral, veraniego, otoñal and invernal. Like most adjectives in Spanish, they go after the noun. Take a look at these sentences:
El tiempo primaveral es agradable. (Spring weather is comfortable.)
El sol veraniego puede ser peligroso. (The summery sun can be dangerous.)
Hay muchas tradiciones durante las fiestas otoñales. (There are many traditions during the fall holidays.)
Este tiempo invernal es perfecto para Navidad. (This wintery weather is perfect for Christmas.)
Summer and winter are also verbs in English. If that sounds strange, consider the sentence, “My family always summers in the south of France.” Similarly, verano and invierno have verb forms in Spanish: veranear and invernar. They’re both -ar verbs and conjugated accordingly. Read through some examples:
Ella normalmente veranea junto a su familia. (She usually summers together with her family.)
Desaría poder invernar en Cancún. (I wish I could winter in Cancún.)
Estación vs. Temporada
The English word season has two distinct translations in Spanish. If you’re talking about a part of the year like winter or summer, the word is la estación.
However, if you mean a set period of time during which an event takes place or something is available, like a sports or TV show season, you use the word la temporada.
It might seem strange, but look at these examples to get a better idea:
Un año tiene cuatro estaciones diferentes. (A year has four different seasons.)
Las verduras son mejores de temporada. (Vegetables are better in season.)
La temporada de caza empieza en octubre. (Hunting season starts in October.)
Other Important Spanish Season Phrases
Before we wrap up, consider these other phrases related to the seasons in Spanish:
Las estaciones cambian. (The seasons change.)
Las golondrinas emigran cada primavera. (The swallows migrate every spring.)
¿Qué frutas son de temporada? (What fruit is in season?)
La temporada de fútbol termina en primavera. (Football season ends in the spring.)
Las hojas caen en otoño. (The leaves fall in the autumn.)
Las flores se abren en primavera. (The flowers bloom in the spring.)
No hay insectos en invierno. (There aren’t any bugs in the winter.)
Tenemos bastantes tormentas en primavera. (We have a lot of storms in the spring.)
Estoy emocionado por las fiestas de verano. (I’m excited for summer vacation.)
Knowing how to talk about the seasons in Spanish opens up a whole world to you. Spanish-speaking countries aren’t just summer vacation spots anymore. Now you can communicate all year round, from icy winters in the Andes mountains to flowery springs in Andalusia.
Whenever and wherever you decide to go, just take this vocabulary with you. Have a good trip!
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