“…her hairs are gold, her forehead Elysian fields, her eyebrows rainbows, her eyes suns, her cheeks roses, her lips coral, her teeth pearls, her neck alabaster…” —Don Quixote
Dulcinea del Toboso is unseen throughout the classic novel, Don Quixote, but generations of readers recognize her by the physical adjectives author Miguel de Cervantes used to describe her.
Cejas arcoíris (rainbow eyebrows) may have been a “thing” in 1605 and while we can’t discount the trend making a comeback, most of us don’t describe facial features this way.
But even with rainbow eyebrows, Dulcinea is undoubtedly beautiful.
Cervantes hit the mark—he used physical adjectives so well that she’s drop-dead gorgeous. Even without anyone ever seeing her, we know this is true.
Neat trick, isn’t it?
So how do we do the same thing that Cervantes did? How do we use adjectives to vividly describe people (though perhaps without likening their teeth to particles that have been trapped in mollusks)?
Fortunately, there are loads of options to turn boring to brilliant.
We may not be Cervantes but we can certainly use adjectives to our advantage and describe physical characteristics in epic detail!
What Are Spanish Descriptive Adjectives?
Adjectives are used to describe (or “modify”) nouns or pronouns. They add interest to writing and conversations (think about how rainbow eyebrows liven up that description!) and describe behavior, physical characteristics or personality traits.
They’re perfectly suited to describe people so vividly that anyone will recognize them!
Spanish descriptive adjectives are exactly what they sound like: They’re used to describe the physical characteristics of a person (or place or thing).
Descriptive adjectives are how you’d differentiate between the cute little dog and the large menacing dog.
Using descriptive adjectives is really handy because they can help you clarify things. Nothing should be unclear if you use the correct adjective.
Adjectives also make things more interesting—so toss them around, both in conversation and in your writing!
How to Use Descriptive Spanish Adjectives
Most Spanish adjectives have at least two forms: singular and plural. If you’re describing one dog, you say “El perro es Fuerte.“ (“The dog is strong.”) Two or more dogs? “Los perros son Fuertes.“ (“The dogs are strong.”)
When an adjective ends in -o or -a, though, it has four forms: masculine singular / plural and feminine singular / plural. Which form you use depends on the number and gender of the things being described.
It sounds more complicated than it really is so we’ll use an example to sort it out. Let’s consider a classroom filled with children. We have the:
chico simpático (nice boy)
chicos simpáticos (nice boys)
chica simpática (nice girl)
chicas simpáticas (nice girls)
Notice how the adjectives agree with the nouns they’re modifying. See? Pretty straightforward! Just pay attention to the gender and the number of people being described and you’ll be fine!
Typically, adjectives follow the nouns they modify. For example:
ojos verdes (green eyes)
vestido caro (expensive dress)
hipopótamos felices (happy hippopotamuses)
To get even more practice, hear adjectives used “in the wild” thanks to FluentU. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
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 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.
Review a complete interactive transcript under the Dialogue tab, and find words and phrases listed under Vocab.
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.
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.
Now that you have an idea of how to use them, let’s check out some must-have physical adjectives that are sure to make your descriptions stand out!
40+ Colorful Spanish Physical Adjectives to Describe Anyone
Joven — Young
La camarera es joven. (The waitress is young.)
Viejo — Old
Su abuelo es muy viejo. (His grandfather is very old.)
Pequeño — Small
Él tiene un niño pequeño. (He has a toddler [literally: small child].)
Rubio — Blond
El bebé es rubio. (The baby is blond.)
Negro — Black
Mi hijo tiene cabello negro. (My son has black hair.)
Canas — Gray hairs
Tengo canas. (I have gray hairs.)
Marrón — Brown
El cabello lo tiño de marrón. (I dye my hair brown.)
Rojo — Red
Mi bebé tiene el pelo rojo. (My baby has red hair.)
Note: Check out more Spanish color words, perfect for describing everything from your friend’s purple highlights to the rainbow itself!
Calvo — Bald
Yo soy calvo. (I am bald.)
Redonda — Round
Ella tiene una cara redonda. (She has a round face.)
Azul oscuro — Dark blue
El hombre tiene ojos azul oscuro. (The man has dark blue eyes.)
Verde — Green
El vestido verde es mi favorito. (The green dress is my favorite.)
Azul — Blue
Ella tiene un ojo verde y un ojo azul. (She has one green eye and one blue eye.)
Marrón — Brown
Sus ojos son marrónes. (Her eyes are brown.)
Gran — Great
Él tiene una gran sonrisa. (He has a great smile.)
Grande — Big
¡Tiene una nariz grande! (He has a big nose!)
Delgada — Slim
Ella es delgada. (She is slim.)
Gordito — Chubby
El hombre es gordito. (The man is chubby.)
Gordo — Fat
Me he vuelto muy gordo. (I have gotten very fat.)
Flaco — Skinny
¡Él es muy flaco! (He is very skinny!)
Bajo — Short
Todos los chicos son bajos. (All the boys are short.)
Alta — Tall
Tu hermana es muy alta. (Your sister is very tall.)
Altura media — Medium height
El tendero es de altura media. (The shopkeeper is medium height.)
Hermoso — Handsome
Los actores de cine son hermosos. (The actors are handsome.)
Bonita — Pretty
Mi madre es bonita. (My mother is pretty.)
Feo — Ugly
Ese es un bebé feo. (That is an ugly baby.)
Note: This is, quite obviously, not very nice! Please don’t tell this to a mother. We’re not responsible for any actions she takes in retaliation!
Ojo morado — Black eye (lit. Purple eye)
¡Él tiene un ojo morado! (He has a black eye!)
Solemne — Solemn
El maestro es solemne. (The teacher is solemn.)
Enojado — Angry
Su hijo parece enojado. (Her son looks angry.)
Tranquilo — Calm, relaxed
La madre está tranquila. (The mother is calm.)
Sorprendido — Surprised
El niño parece sorprendido. (The child looks surprised.)
Animado — Lively
Esa chica es muy animada. (That girl is very lively.)
Él se ve desinteresado. (He looks disinterested.)
Fuerte — Strong
Ella es fuerte. (She is strong.)
Enamorado — In love
Ella sonríe como alguien que está enamorado. (She smiles like someone who is in love.)
Asustado — Frightened
Mírale a los ojos. Ella parece asustada. (Look at her eyes. She seems frightened.)
Frunciendo el ceño — Frowning
¿Por qué está frunciendo el ceño? (Why is she frowning?)
Triste — Sad
Su hermana tiene una cara triste. (Her sister has a sad face.)
Check out some unique characteristics you might mention when describing someone and some descriptive adjectives to accompany them!
We’ve highlighted both the features and the adjectives describing them so they’re easy to spot.
Me gustaría tener un novio con hoyuelos lindos. (I would like to have a boyfriend with cute dimples.)
Su nuevo esposo tiene barba negra. (Her new husband has a black beard.)
Hay un lunar feo en su barbilla. (There is an ugly mole on her chin.)
¡Amo mis bonitas pecas! (I love my pretty freckles!)
Compró dientes postizos caros. (He bought expensive false teeth.)
Él tiene un gran orobado. (He has a large hunchback.)
El doctor tiene las cejas blancas pobladas. (The doctor has bushy white eyebrows.)
Tengo una pequeña marca de nacimiento en el brazo. (I have a small birthmark on my arm.)
Descriptions for when physicality is covered by clothing are also useful:
Un hombre con sombrero negro conduce el camión. (A man wearing a black hat is driving the truck.)
La mujer de pies grandes lleva zapatillas. (The lady with big feet is wearing sneakers.)
Una niña de vestido azul se está riendo. (A little girl in a blue dress is laughing.)
Ella es una mujer con hijab. (She’s a woman with a hijab.)
El chico usa una kipá gris. (The boy wears a gray kippah.)
Busque una anciana de suéter rojo. (Look for an old woman in a red sweater.)
Descriptive adjectives are the key to describing the physical attributes of those around us. Make them count!
Strive to make your descriptions come to life the way the characters in the Cervantes’ masterpiece do.
Create a mental image of a person using adjectives to make them instantly recognizable to someone meeting them for the first time!
Just leave the cejas arcoíris to Dulcinea.
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