The Spanish N on a keyboard

Everything You Need to Know About Ñ in Spanish

The Ñ  is a completely separate letter that is independent of the ene (letter N) in the Spanish dictionary, according to the Real Academia Española (Royal Spanish Academy), the language authority in Spain.

This post will show you how to pronounce the letter, how to type it on your non-Spanish keyboard, tell you where it came from and also we’ll give you a list of common words that contain the Spanish Ñ.

Contents

How Do You Pronounce Ñ?

This unique letter is similar to the /ny/ sound in the English word “canyon.”

Two of the most common Spanish words that contain the letter are señor (sir) and señora (madam). 

Say these words out loud slowly and you’ll notice that you have to make an N sound first, followed quickly by a Y sound.

To make the “ñ” sound, follow these three simple steps:

1. Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth, right behind your upper, front teeth.

2. Now say the letter “n.”

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3. Bring your tongue down and say “yay.”

Here’s a great pronunciation guide:

How to Type Ñ on Your Keyboard

In Spanish-speaking countries, computers come with an Ñ key just to the right of the L, but if you have an English keyboard (or some other system), you’ll have to know the trick to typing the letter.

Mac:

  • Hold down Option key + N
  • Type N again for lowercase ñ or Shift + N for uppercase Ñ.

Windows:

  • Toggle NumLock on.
  • Hold down Alt key and type 164 (lowercase ñ) or 165 (uppercase Ñ).

iPhone and Android Phones:

  • Hold down the N or n
  • Select Ñ or ñ from the options that appear above the letter.

What Is Ñ and Where Did It Come From?

The Ñ has its origins in the evolution of the Spanish language from Latin. In medieval Spanish manuscripts, scribes used to write the letter N with a tilde (~) above it to indicate that it was a palatalized (meaning that your tongue touches the roof of your mouth when saying it) version of the regular N sound.

Over time, this modified N became a distinct letter in its own right, known as ene con tilde, and it was officially recognized as such. The Royal Spanish Academy incorporated the Ñ into the Spanish alphabet in the 18th century.

The inclusion of the Ñ in the alphabet distinguishes Spanish from many other Romance languages and contributes to the distinct phonological characteristics of the Spanish language. 

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Words that Contain Ñ

Try saying this Spanish sentence: Mi niña pequeña baña a su pequeño pato en la fuente mientras sueña con un montón de piñatas en la montaña.  (My little girl bathes her little duck in the fountain while dreaming of a bunch of piñatas on the mountain.)

Here are some key words that need this letter:

Spanish Word (with Audio)English Word
España Spain
mañana tomorrow, morning
señor Mr., sir
señora Mrs., madam
señorita Miss
baño bathroom
compañía company
señal sign
niño boy, child
niña girl
señalar to signal
cañón canyon
extrañar to miss
montaña mountain
niñez childhood
añadir to add
añejo aged
ñoño silly
año year
señuelo bait, decoy
piñata piñata
piñón pine nut
jalapeño jalapeño
bañera bathtub
doña lady
tamaño size
compañero partner, companion
araña spider
arañar to scratch
castañas chestnuts
moño bow
sueño dream, sleepiness
pañuelo handkerchief, paper tissue
leña firewood
piña pineapple
uña (finger)nail
riñón kidney
dañar to damage

To find more words that start with Ñ, check out this helpful post:

How to Practice Pronouncing the Spanish Ñ

Practicing the pronunciation of the Spanish Ñ can be fun. Here are some tips and exercises:

  • Listen and Imitate

    Listen to native speakers pronouncing words with the ñ. You can find videos, podcasts or songs where this sound is prevalent. Repeat the words and phrases after the native speakers, trying to mimic their pronunciation closely.

    Try starting with this children’s video.

  • Isolate the Sound

    Focus specifically on the ñ sound. Try saying the sound on its own, without any surrounding vowels or consonants. This helps you concentrate on the unique sound of ñ.

  • Start with Common Words

    Practice with common Spanish words that contain the ñ, such as mañana, señor or niño. Repeat these words until you feel comfortable with the pronunciation.

  • Pay Attention to Tongue Placement

    Pay attention to the position of your tongue. The ñ sound is a nasalized sound, produced by placing the back of your tongue against the soft palate (the roof of your mouth). Practice the sound while being mindful of your tongue’s position.

  • Work with Minimal Pairs

    Work with minimal pairs, which are pairs of words that only differ in one sound. For example, practice distinguishing between niño and nino. This helps you focus on the specific sound you’re trying to master. Here’s a thorough list of Spanish minimal pairs.

  • Do Tongue Twisters

    Challenge yourself with Spanish tongue twisters that contain the ñ sound. This helps improve your fluency and accuracy. For example, El niño con el niño quiere jugar al niño (The child with the child wants to play with the child).

  • Record Yourself

    Use a recording device like your phone to record yourself practicing the sound. Listen to the recordings and compare them to native speakers. This can help you identify areas for improvement.

  • Use Online Pronunciation Tools

    Take advantage of online resources and pronunciation tools designed for language learners. Many websites and apps provide audio examples and exercises for Spanish pronunciation. Easy Pronunciation works well.

The Ñ Quiz: Test Yourself!

0%
What does "señal" mean in English?
Correct! Wrong!

What does "niño" mean in English?
Correct! Wrong!

In English, what does "baño" mean?
Correct! Wrong!

How to you say "Mr." in Spanish?
Correct! Wrong!

What's the meaning of the verb "añadir"?
Correct! Wrong!

What is a "bañera"?
Correct! Wrong!

What are "castañas"?
Correct! Wrong!

What is the adjective "ñoño" in English?
Correct! Wrong!

What's the English word for "sueño"?
Correct! Wrong!

What is a "compañía"?
Correct! Wrong!

And One More Thing…

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