80+ Essential Nouns in Spanish—Plus the 9 Noun Types
Nouns are our guiding force when learning Spanish.
Without them, we wouldn’t be able to name the objects, places, people and ideas we interact with daily.
In a world without nouns, everything would be “it” and every person would be “he,” “she” or “them.” Catch my drift?
In this post, you’ll learn 85 common Spanish nouns and how to use them, plus explore the nine noun types.
- What’s a Noun in Spanish?
- Spanish Noun Agreement
- The 9 Types of Spanish Nouns
- 80 Common Spanish Nouns You Should Know
What’s a Noun in Spanish?
Nouns are used to name physical objects, people, places, animals, and invisible things such as ideas, qualities or actions.
They’re also typically the subject or the object in a sentence and can be the object of a preposition.
Let’s have a look at all this in action:
María come helado en el parque. (María eats ice cream in the park.)
If we break this sentence down, we can see that:
- María is a person and the subject
- helado is a thing and the object
- el parque is a thing and place, making it a prepositional object
Let’s try one more:
Los perros no comen carne en Madrid. (Dogs don’t eat meat in Madrid.)
In this sentence,
- Los perros is the plural form of an animal and the subject
- carne is a thing and the object
- Madrid is a place and the prepositional object
As in any other language, nouns in Spanish can be classified into different groups depending on their nature.
In English, we have proper nouns, abstract nouns, countable nouns, collective nouns, etc—and it’s very similar in Spanish. Let’s take a look!
Spanish Noun Agreement
You already know Spanish nouns are either masculine or feminine. But nouns must also match the adjectives and quantities before and after them.
For example, let’s take the feminine noun la manzana (the apple).
If you want to say, “the red apple,” you’d say:
La manzana roja. (The red apple.)
Because apple (manzana) is feminine, red (rojo/a) must be feminine, too.
If you want to make the noun plural to say “the three red apples,” you’d say:
Las tres manzanas rojas. (The three red apples.)
You probably also noticed that the adjective (rojo/a) comes after the noun rather than before (like it would in English). That’s a whole other topic, so if you want to learn more about Spanish adjective placement, check out our in-depth post about it here.
The 9 Types of Spanish Nouns
1. Proper Nouns
A proper noun refers to a specific and unique entity. When I say entity, I mean people, animals, buildings, oceans, cities, etc.
Proper nouns are usually written in capital letters. Here you have some examples:
el Océano Atlántico (the Atlantic Ocean)
However, this isn’t always the case in Spanish.
Take as an example the days of the week. In English, you always capitalize them (i.e. Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday, etc.).
But in Spanish, you don’t capitalize them. For example:
There are a few exceptions though, mostly related to festivities like Miércoles Santo (Holy Wednesday) and Domingo de Ramos (Palm Sunday).
The months of the year also aren’t capitalized in Spanish.
But like the days of the week, there are also exceptions—like when the month is part of an important historical event. This is the case with El Levantamiento del Dos de Mayo (The Dos de Mayo Uprising).
Apart from those exceptions, you’ll mainly see sentences like the following:
Mi cumpleaños es el 27 de agosto. (My birthday is August 27.)
Viviré aquí hasta marzo. (I will live here until March.)
Lastly, names of languages are capitalized in English, while in Spanish they are written in lowercase:
Estamos aprendiendo español. (We are learning Spanish.)
El inglés es mi idioma favorito. (English is my favorite language.)
Important note! Not capitalizing the days of the week, months of the year or names of languages in English is considered a spelling error. Similarly, capitalizing them in Spanish is equally an error and something you should definitely avoid, especially if you’re studying for a language test or exam.
2. Common Nouns
A common noun is used to name people, animals, things, places, abstract ideas and feelings, etc.
The difference with proper nouns is that a common noun is not the name of a specific and unique entity.
Have a look at the following examples:
- el hombre (man)
- la hermana (sister)
- el cartero (postman)
- el estudiante (student)
- el futbolista (footballer)
- el gato (cat)
- el perro (dog)
- el pájaro (bird)
- el pez (fish)
- la ardilla (squirrel)
- la serpiente (snake)
- el pan (bread)
- el ordenador (computer)
- el sofá (sofa)
- el libro (book)
- la mesa (table)
- la silla (chair)
Abstract ideas and feelings
Remember one very important thing: a common noun is always written in lowercase (unless of course it’s the first word in a sentence).
3. Concrete Nouns
Remembering your five senses is the easiest way to understand what concrete nouns are: if you can see, hear, smell, taste and/or touch something or someone, you have a concrete noun. Likewise, it’s not a concrete noun if you cannot see, hear, smell, taste, or touch it.
Inside the concrete nouns category, you’ll have other categories like common nouns, proper nouns, countable nouns, uncountable nouns and collective nouns.
To see this more clearly, I’ll give some examples of concrete nouns and the various noun categories they belong to:
La televisión (the television)
Concrete noun (you can see it, hear it and touch it)
Common noun (not the name of any specific entity, like a Phillips TV)
Countable (una televisión, dos televisiones)
Concrete noun (you can see, hear and touch this person)
Proper noun (this person’s name is Antonio)
Countable (Yes! You can count proper names and say “hay tres Antonios en esta clase,” meaning “there are three Antonios in this class.”)
El elefante (the elephant)
Concrete noun (oh boy, you can definitely see and hear an elephant when it is around)
Common noun (not the name of a specific and unique entity, like Dumbo)
Countable (un elefante, dos elefantes)
La sal (the salt)
Concrete noun (you can see, touch and taste it)
Common noun (not the name of any specific entity)
Uncountable (una sal, dos sales – have a look at uncountable nouns below to understand them better)
El amor (love)
Not a concrete noun (you can feel love, but you cannot physically interact with the abstract concept of love)
This last example is an instance of an abstract noun, which we’ll discuss now.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t worry! The more you’re exposed to Spanish, the more natural these noun rules will come to you.
Talking with native speakers, listening to Spanish music, consuming Spanish media—all these methods are perfect for tuning your ear to Spanish and picking up on these “rules” in their natural context.
Immersion programs like FluentU are perfect for this, too. FluentU lets you watch authentic Spanish videos (like music videos, inspiring talks and news reports) with interactive subtitles, which help show you how native speakers use noun rules in different contexts.
The language learning program is also available as iOS and Android apps, so you can take your learning on the go with you.
4. Abstract Nouns
On the other side of the coin, we have abstract nouns.
We can’t interact with these in any way. We can’t see, hear, smell, taste, or touch them.
However, you can feel them and think about them, so please don’t think they’re useless!
Here are some examples of abstract nouns:
- el amor (love)
- el alma (soul)
- la verdad (truth)
- la amistad (friendship)
- la felicidad (happiness)
- la idea (idea)
- el pensamiento (thought)
- la soledad (loneliness)
5. Animate Nouns
This group is easy. Animate nouns refer to living beings (people, animals and other living creatures).
Examples of animate nouns are:
- el hermano (brother)
- el perro (dog)
- el vecino (neighbor)
- los amigos (friends)
- el dragón (dragon)
- el elfo (elf)
There are times when we personify objects, giving them life. This kind of noun is called an animate inanimate noun.
Examples of these can be seen in almost every cartoon or Disney-like movie, or in fantasy books and books about the supernatural.
For example, the characters from “Beauty and the Beast” and our beloved Pinocchio are animate inanimate nouns. Also, any toy a child treats like a living thing and gives a “voice” to is equally animate for them!
6. Inanimate Nouns
As you might have already guessed, inanimate nouns are those used to refer to lifeless things.
It can be an object, a place, a thought, an idea, a feeling and so on. Remember, though, that inanimate nouns can become animate! (See the last section.)
Examples of inanimate nouns are:
- el tostador (toaster)
- el libro (book)
- el vaso (glass)
- la tristeza (sadness)
- el parque (park)
- el limón (lemon)
- Madrid (Madrid)
- la ansiedad (anxiety)
- la pared (wall)
Here you have an example of an inanimate noun that has been “brought to life” by me:
Mi muñeca me dijo que tenía frío. (My doll told me she was cold.)
7. Individual Nouns vs Collective Nouns
Individual and collective nouns are easier to understand when explained together.
Individual nouns refer to a single entity (person, animal or thing).
On the other hand, collective nouns refer to a single group composed of multiple entities (people, animals or things).
There’s one very important thing you need to understand before moving on.
Individual/collective does not mean singular/plural, nor does it mean uncountable/countable! You’ll have collective names in both the singular and the plural, and you’ll have uncountable nouns, paradoxically!
The best way to understand and see this is by using some examples:
(student bodies) – rarely used
As you can see, the word abeja is a common, individual noun with a plural form because it’s countable.
If you want to refer to the “group” formed by bees, you must use the common, collective noun, enjambre, which is also countable—hence the plural form, enjambres.
On the other hand, when referring to the institution of “the police,” the word policía is uncountable, so this is a collective uncountable noun.
8. Countable Nouns vs Uncountable Nouns
These two are really easy to understand.
Countable nouns can be counted. A great number of nouns both in Spanish and English are countable.
If you have a singular noun and can count it, like un árbol, dos árboles, tres árboles (one tree, two trees, three trees), then the noun is countable.
Some examples of Spanish countable nouns are:
- coche (car) (un coche, dos coches, tres coches, etc.)
- lápiz (pencil) (un lápiz, dos lápices, tres lápices, etc.)
- mesa (table) (una mesa, dos mesas, tres mesas, etc.)
Not just things can be countable. People and animals can be countable too!
- hermano (brother) (un hermano, dos hermanos, tres hermanos, etc.)
- gato (cat) (un gato, dos gatos, tres gatos, etc.)
Uncountable nouns are those nouns that can’t be counted.
This group includes liquids (agua — water), powders and spices (azúcar — sugar, sal — salt), a lot of abstract nouns (inteligencia — intelligence), feelings and sensations (frío — coldness) and some food (queso — cheese).
Other examples of uncountable nouns are:
- vino (wine)
- café (coffee)
- harina (flour)
- detergente (detergent)
- pimienta (pepper)
- leche (milk)
- ketchup (ketchup)
- sangre (blood)
- política (politics)
As you can see in the last examples, the fact that a noun is uncountable does not mean it can’t end in -s.
Normally, an uncountable noun ending in -s in English will also be uncountable in Spanish, though the Spanish translation will often have a different ending:
- noticias (news)
- bolos (bowling)
- billar (billiards)
- lingüística (linguistics)
- estadística (statistics)
Then what do we do if we want “more” of any uncountable thing?
In this case, we’ll have to use unidades (units) in Spanish.
You already use units in your everyday life, so this will be easier than you may think.
There are thousands of different units you could use. Here are some of the most common ones:
- un vaso (glass) (un vaso de agua — one glass of water, dos vasos de agua — two glasses of water)
- una pizca (pinch) (una pizca de sal — one pinch of salt, dos pizcas de sal — two pinches of salt)
- un kilo (kilo) (un kilo de harina — one kilo of flour, dos kilos de harina — two kilos of flour)
- una botella (bottle) (una botella de vino — one bottle of wine, dos botellas de vino — two bottles of wine)
- una barra (bar, loaf) (una barra de jabón — one bar of soap, dos barras de jabón — two bars of soap)
Here you have some other useful Spanish units:
- lata (can)
- paquete (package)
- rebanada (slice)
- cucharada (tablespoon)
- tonelada (ton)
- jarra (pitcher)
- bolsa (bag)
- puñado (handful)
- tableta (tablet)
9. Compound Nouns
Compound nouns are made up of two or more words. There are different ways to form compound nouns, but the most common ones, both in Spanish and in English, are combinations of:
a noun + a noun
a noun + an adjective
a verb + a noun
You’ll find some common Spanish compound nouns in the following examples, but remember that they won’t necessarily be compound nouns in English.
- paraguas (umbrella) — parar (verb) + aguas (noun)
- sacacorchos (corkscrew) — sacar (verb) + corchos (noun)
- pelirrojo (redhead) — pelo (noun) + rojo (adjective)
- mapamundi (world map) — mapa (noun) + mundo (noun)
One difference between Spanish and English compound nouns has always caught my attention: Most of them end in -s in their singular form!
Here are some examples of Spanish compound nouns ending in -s and their plural forms:
- el abrelatas / los abrelatas (can opener) — abrir + latas
- el cascanueces / los cascanueces (nutcracker) — cascar + nueces
- el pararrayos / los pararrayos (lightning rod) — parar + rayos
- el rompecabezas / los rompecabezas (jigsaw puzzle) — romper + cabezas
- el salvavidas / los salvavidas (life jacket) — salvar + vidas
See? Both singular and plural are the same. Just remember to use the correct form of the article.
80 Common Spanish Nouns You Should Know
- El amor — love
- El perro — dog
- El gato — cat
- La persona — person
- El amigo — friend
- El grupo — group
- La gente — people
- La madre — mother
- El padre — father
- El hermano — brother
- La hermana — sister
- El primo / La prima — cousin
- La familia — family
- La casa — house
- La ciudad — city
- El país — country
- El agua — water
- La carne — meat
- La comida — food
- La bebida — drink
- El tiempo — time
- La mujer — woman
- El hombre — man
- El niño — boy
- La niña — girl
- El animal — animal
- La vida — life
- El mundo — world
- El problema — problem
- La pregunta — question
- La respuesta — answer
- La mañana — morning
- La noche — night
- La tarde — afternoon, evening
- El número — number
- El teléfono — phone
- El trabajo — job
- El aeropuerto — airport
- El hotel — hotel
- El restaurante — restaurant
- El lugar — place
- La calle — street
- El coche — car
- La escuela — school
- La universidad — university
- El mes — month
- El año — year
- El día — day
- La semana — week
- El libro — book
- El bolígrafo — pen
- La lápiz — pencil
- El papel — paper
- El cuaderno — notebook
- La policía — police
- El doctor — doctor
- El ingeniero — engineer
- El taxista — taxi driver
- El casero — landlord
- El negocio — business
- La empresa — company
- La salud — health
- La palabra — word
- El ejemplo — example
- La fiesta — party
- La música — music
- La llamada — (phone) call
- La película — movie
- La tienda — shop, store
- El mercado — market, store
- La biblioteca — library
- El centro comercial — shopping center, mall
- La esposa — wife
- El esposo — husband
- El novio — boyfriend
- La novia — girlfriend
- La seguridad — security
- La cámara — camera
- El cambio — change, (currency) exchange
- El equipaje — luggage
Our existence would be boring and meaningless without nouns to name the people, animals and things around us!
Spanish nouns are very similar to English nouns. And with a little practice, using Spanish nouns can become just as easy.
Stay smart, and keep on learning!