Before you can have a house, you need to start with the individual bricks.
In the same way, before you can have Spanish fluency, you need to start with the individual words.
Introducing the wonderful world of Spanish word lists!
Word lists are amazing!
when you first start learning Spanish, you probably learn a few grammar rules: a ser and estar here, a present simple there… A couple of classes in and you are already all excited and ready to start the journey of your life.
But then you decide to say something in Spanish and you are at a loss for words. Your vocabulary is still limited and there are only so many words you can add the ending -o to and pretend they are Spanish.
Your first instinct is to start learning every word you get into contact with regardless of whether it is an animal, a color, an irregular verb or an abstract noun.
You are doing it wrong, mate.
The best way to learn vocabulary is with the use of lists, and here’s why…
Word Lists: Do They Work? How Can I Use Them?
During my 18 years of teaching languages, I have come to the realization that, yes, even though almost everything you do to learn a new language does work, there are some techniques that work better than others.
You can listen to podcasts, read bilingual books, watch movies in Spanish, learn grammar rules by heart and even read the dictionary (I do that just for fun, don’t judge me), and each of those actions will bring you different results depending on how you use them and whether you combine them with other techniques or not.
When it comes to learning vocabulary, I have seen from amazing flashcards to never-ending lists of words. I have personally used vocabulary apps, illustrated dictionaries for kids and once I even post-it’ed my whole house, making my mum go into mental breakdown mode.
But there is one thing that has helped me more than any of those techniques, and that is short lists of words categorized by topic.
When you break down big groups of words into smaller ones, you make it easier for yourself to memorize more words at a time. You focus on one piece at a time. You finish. You move on.
So how and why can short lists of words help you learn faster and better? Here you have some reasons:
- Everything is organized by topic. You can choose the area you want to learn about and focus on that. There is no need to learn vocabulary you are not likely to ever use (at least for now).
- It is a great way to start your learning journey if you are a real beginner. The first couple of weeks can be very overwhelming when it comes to learning a new language. There is just too much information and, if you don’t have anyone to guide you, it can get really messy. Having short lists of words helps you to keep your vocabulary organized.
- It gives you a sense of accomplishment. Granted, when you finish learning the words included in a short list, you will only have learned a fraction of all the vocabulary in existence, but you will have finished something. Every step toward your goal counts!
- It actually saves you time. As you will see in this post, there are lists of Spanish-English cognates, words that are written identically or very similarly, words that have been borrowed between both languages, etc. There is a lot of Spanish you already know!
- It allows you to manage your own path. If you are learning Spanish by yourself, making lists is a good idea because you can decide how much you want to learn each day. You can add more topics as you progress, or add new words to the lists you already have. Once you create the base, all you have to do is update your knowledge!
These five reasons should give you a hint of how amazing word lists are and how you can use them to your advantage.
If you are still not convinced, give them a try and choose a couple of lists from this post. Then decide for yourself.
What Will I Find in This Post?
I have arranged the post into nine categories and one additional “bag.”
Each of the categories includes around 10-15 words related to the topic, most of them with translations and sample sentences. In each topic, you will find a link to a bigger list where you can learn more words related to it.
The final bag includes more topics and links to word lists on them.
You can also click on any word to hear it pronounced on Forvo.
This post is just an example of what you can do with word lists. You can use my examples as a way of getting started and continue on your own.
Enjoy the ride!
Learn with Spanish Word Lists: 101+ Themed Words Every Spanish Learner Should Know
Every language has words that are used more often or that are more necessary than others.
This post includes 101 words that you definitely need to know in order to start your adventure with Spanish, but that is not all!
You will find links to bigger lists of words if you feel the need to learn more about a specific category. Feel free to add your personal flavor to the lists and add or remove words that you think will be useful to you!
Core Spanish Words
Do you know what core words are?
Simply put, core words are words that are used so often that they have become the core of a language. Their main trait is their versatility, i.e. how easy it is to adapt them to different situations and use them in different contexts.
Each language has its own set of core words, and this group should always be one of the first group you learn when starting to mingle with a new language.
The following 12+ words are all Spanish core words:
1. el / la — the (masculine / feminine singular definite article)
El coche de mi hermano es rojo. (My brother’s car is red.)
La niña está en el parque con su prima. (The girl is in the park with her cousin.)
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to see numbers as part of the core word list of any language.
Tengo dos hermanos y tres hermanas. (I have two brothers and three sisters.)
Necesito cuatro bolígrafos negros. (I need four black pens.)
Personal pronouns are not compulsory in Spanish, but they are the way we have to refer to people, so they have to be on this list.
(Yo) te quiero. (I love you.)
(Ella) dice que no tiene hambre. (She says she is not hungry.)
No hemos podido vender la casa este año. (We haven’t been able to sell the house this year.)
Esta mesa es muy bonita. (This table is very beautiful.)
If you are just starting your Spanish adventure, you probably still don’t know these two little verbs can give you a real headache sometimes. Learn their difference early on in order to avoid confusion later.
María es lista. (María is clever.)
María está lista. (María is ready.)
Juan es rico. (Juan is rich.)
El perrito caliente está rico. (The hot-dog is tasty.)
6. poder — to be able to
Poder is an irregular verb. It changes -o- into -ue-, just like doler (to hurt), mover (to move) and oler (to smell).
No puedo ir a la fiesta. (I can’t go to the party.)
¿Puedes pasarme la sal? (Can you pass me the salt?)
7. tener — to have
Tener is another irregular verb very commonly used in Spanish. It changes -e- into -ie-, and the first person singular has an additional -g-.
Tengo mucha sed. (I am very thirsty.)
Nunca tiene hambre. (He is never hungry.)
Mi mamá tiene miedo de las arañas. (My mum is afraid of spiders.)
8. día — day
This is one of the very few nouns included in the 100 most often used words in Spanish.
Buenos días. (Good morning.)
Que tengas un buen día. (Have a nice day.)
¡Qué día más bonito! (What a beautiful day!)
These two little fellas are another example of very common words we natives love using and foreigners tend to detest.
Hazlo por la mañana. (Do it in the morning.)
Hazlo para mañana. (Do it for tomorrow.)
The two easiest ways of answering closed questions in Spanish.
¿Te gusta el pollo? Sí. (Do you like chicken? Yes, I do.)
¿Quieres más sopa? No, gracias. (Would you like some more soup? No, thanks.)
Cognates are words that look identical or very similar in two or more languages and share a common meaning.
English and Spanish were in close contact in the past, so there are literally thousands of words that look so similar you will not even have to learn them (or almost).
The following are 10 of my favorite Spanish-English cognates:
11. actor — actor
Mi hermano es actor. (My brother is an actor.)
Actor significa actor en español. (Actor means actor in Spanish.)
12. alcohol — alcohol
Different pronunciation, identical spelling.
No bebo alcohol. (I don’t drink alcohol.)
13. bar — bar
Hay un pequeño bar a la vuelta de la esquina. (There’s a small bar around the corner.)
14. color — color
El amarillo es mi color favorito. (Yellow is my favorite color.)
15. doctor — doctor
The accent is on a different syllable, but the spelling is the same.
El doctor me ha dicho que debo hacer más ejercicio. (The doctor has told me I should exercise more.)
16. hospital — hospital
Remember the letter h has no sound in Spanish!
Mi hermana trabaja en un hospital. (My sister works in a hospital.)
17. océano — ocean
Me encanta el Océano Atlántico. (I love the Atlantic Ocean.)
18. problema — problem
¿Tienes algún problema? (Do you have any problem?)
19. secreto — secret
Cuéntame todos tus secretos. (Tell me all your secrets.)
20. silencio — silence
El silencio es oro. (Silence is golden.)
21. universidad — university
Esa es la mejor universidad de los alrededores. (That is the best university around.)
We all love animals, so why not learn their names in Spanish from the onset?
22. gato — cat
Tengo un gato negro. (I have a black cat.)
23. perro — dog
A mi padre le encantan los perros. (My dad adores dogs.)
24. conejo — rabbit
Los conejos son muy rápidos. (Rabbits are very fast.)
25. pájaro — bird
No me dejan tener pájaros en casa. (I am not allowed to have birds at home.)
26. elefante — elephant
Los elefantes tienen trompa. (Elephants have a trunk.)
27. caballo — horse
Creo que el caballo es uno de los animales más bellos. (I think the horse is one of the most beautiful animals.)
28. tiburón — shark
¿Has visto alguna vez un tiburón? (Have you ever seen a shark?)
29. mariposa — butterfly
¡Mira esa mariposa! (Look at that butterfly!)
30. gallina — hen
Tenemos 20 gallinas. (We have 20 hens.)
31. toro — bull
El toro es un símbolo español. (The bull is a Spanish symbol.)
Our lives would be so boring without color.
Have a look at this awesome FluentU set of flashcards in order to learn their names in Spanish.
FluentU is a fantastic place to find more Spanish word lists and even make your own. That’s because FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
The authentic videos allow you to see how the language is used by real native Spanish speakers. Then, use the multimedia quizzes and flashcards to help you remember the vocabulary for good. Check out FluentU in your browser or download the iOS or Android apps and take your learning on the go!
32. azul — blue
33. verde — green
34. blanco — white
35. amarillo — yellow
36. rojo — red
37. marrón — brown
38. naranja — orange
39. morado — purple
40. negro — black
Because you will probably need more than just “hello” and “bye” in your day-to-day conversations in Spanish…
41. hola — hello
42. buenos días — good morning
43. buenas tardes — good afternoon
44. buenas noches — good evening / goodnight
45. adiós — bye
46. hasta luego — see you later
47. hasta pronto — see you soon
48. hasta mañana — see you tomorrow
49. ¿qué tal? — how’s it going?
50. ¿cómo estás / está? — how are you? (informal / formal)
51. ¿qué pasa? — what’s up?
52. ¿qué hubo? — what happened?
Around the House
Your house is your temple. You know it like the palm of your hand in your native language. It’s time to learn some words related to it in Spanish, as well!
53. cocina — kitchen
Hay un gato en la cocina. (There is a cat in the kitchen.)
54. cuarto de baño — bathroom
Pon las toallas en el cuarto de baño. (Put the towels in the bathroom.)
55. salón / sala de estar — living-room
Los niños están en el salón. (The kids are in the living-room.)
56. dormitorio — bedroom
Mi casa tiene tres dormitorios. (My house has three bedrooms.)
57. ático — attic
Esta casa no tiene ático. (This house has no attic.)
58. sótano — basement
Este sótano está muy oscuro. (This basement is very dark.)
59. vestíbulo — hall
La casa de María tiene un vestíbulo enorme. (María’s house has a huge hall.)
60. garaje — garage
Hay dos coches en el garaje. (There are two cars in the garage.)
61. jardín — garden
Es una casa con jardín y piscina. (It’s a house with a garden and a swimming pool.)
62. lavadero — laundry room
¡Ojalá esta casa tuviera lavadero! (I wish this house had a laundry room!)
Whether you are going on a trip abroad, you are spending your vacation in Argentina or just you enjoy traveling in general and want to know everything related to this topic, you will make good use of this list.
63. maleta — suitcase
Ayer compré una maleta nueva. (I bought a new suitcase yesterday.)
64. regalo — present
Ana siempre me trae regalos. (Ana always brings me presents.)
65. avión — plane
No me gusta viajar en avión. (I don’t like traveling by plane.)
67. gafas de sol — sunglasses
No te olvides las gafas de sol cuando vayas de vacaciones. (Don’t forget your sunglasses when you go on holiday.)
68. escala — stopover
Haremos escala en Londres. (We will be stopping over in London.)
69. viajar — to travel
Voy a viajar a Sevilla. (I am going to travel to Seville.)
70. descansar — to rest
Necesito descansar. (I need to rest.)
71. dar un paseo — to go for a walk
Me encanta dar paseos por la mañana. (I love going for walks in the morning.)
72. playa — beach
¡Vamos a la playa! (Let’s go to the beach!)
73. habitación individual — single room
Normalmente reservo una habitación individual. (I normally book a single room.)
Do you need to know everything there is to know about jobs and occupations? This list is definitely for you, then.
74. agricultor — farmer
75. contable — accountant
76. médico — doctor
77. fontanero — plumber
78. dentista — dentist
79. enfermera — nurse
80. escritor — writer
81. bombero — firefighter
82. sacerdote — priest
83. traductor — translator
84. maestro — teacher
85. profesor — professor
86. electricista — electrician
87. cantante — singer
88. veterinario — vet
89. piloto — pilot
90. zapatero — shoemaker
In case you get hungry or thirsty when abroad, make sure to always keep this list close!
91. comer — to eat
Vamos a comer en este restaurante. (We are going to eat in this restaurant.)
92. beber — to drink
¿Que desea beber? (What would you like to drink?)
93. pedir — to order
¿Están listos para pedir? (Are you ready to order?)
94. cuenta — bill
La cuenta, por favor. (The bill, please.)
95. mesa — table
Una mesa para dos, por favor. (A table for two, please.)
96. vino — wine
Me encanta el vino blanco. (I love white wine.)
97. pan — bread
En España se come mucho pan. (They eat a lot of bread in Spain.)
98. sopa — soup
Para mí, la sopa del día, por favor. (For me, the soup of the day, please.)
99. verduras — vegetables
Mi hermana no come verduras. (My sister doesn’t eat vegetables.)
100. chocolate — chocolate
Cuando estoy a dieta no puedo comer chocolate. (When I am on a diet, I can’t eat chocolate.)
101. pastel — cake
Siempre tomo pastel de postre. (I always eat cake for dessert.)
Once you are done with these first nine lists, you can start making your own.
Pick the topics you are more interested in and start making lists. You will love it!
Here you have some lists you can start with if you don’t feel like thinking too much:
Learning new vocabulary with the help of Spanish word lists can be fun and efficient.
Having the words classified into different topics allows you to mentally see what you know already and where you have to work a little bit harder.
Stay loquacious, my friends, and as always, happy learning!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Spanish with real-world videos.