43 Weird and Unique Spanish Words With No Direct English Translations
Numerous words exist in Spanish that don’t have direct English translations.
Some words may mean something in English literally, but they mean something completely different in Spanish.
Knowing these weird Spanish words won’t just help you understand native speakers but also give you tons of new ways to express ideas.
In this post, you’ll learn 43 unique Spanish words and how to use them.
- 1. Pardo
- 2. Lampiño
- 3. Manco / Manca
- 4. Tuerto / Tuerta
- 5. Vergüenza Ajena
- 6. Morbo
- 7. Empalagar
- 8. Quincena
- 9. Duende
- 10. Aturdir
- 11. Enmadrarse
- 12. Concuñado / Concuñada
- 13. Consuegro / Consuegra
- 14. Resol
- 15. Recogerse
- 16. Estrenar
- 17. Merendar
- 18. Sobremesa
- 19. Puente
- 20. Antier
- 21. Friolento / Friolenta
- 22. Desvelado / Desvelada
- 23. Te quiero
- 24. Tutear
- 25. Estadounidense
- 26. Entrecejo
- 27. Chapuza
- 28. Dar un toque
- 29. Golpista
- 30. Mimoso / Mimosa
- 31. Pavonearse
- 32. Soler
- 33. Tocayo / Tocaya
- 34. Amigovio / Amigovia
- 35. Madrugar
- 36. Dominguero / Dominguera
- 37. Picotear
- 38. Gentilicio
- 39. Arroba
- 40. Botellón
- 41. Sesear
- 42. Manía
- 43. Trámite
- And One More Thing…
Meaning: The color between gray and brown.
Some of the first things we teach our children are the colors, right?
Have you ever seen a car that isn’t quite gray but it isn’t quite brown either? I have one, actually, and whenever English-speaking people ask me what color my car is I just shrug. When Spanish-speaking people ask me, I’ve got an answer.
Meaning: Hairless, but more specifically a man who cannot grow facial hair or has very thin facial hair. A person who is clean-shaven.
Do you know someone like this? I have a friend who looks like he’s twelve even though he’s in his thirties. He doesn’t really have substantial facial hair, can’t grow a beard and has evidently found the fountain of youth.
3. Manco / Manca
Meaning: A one-armed person.
Interestingly, we don’t have this word in the English vocabulary. We have words that come close, but most of them are derogatory.
4. Tuerto / Tuerta
Meaning: A one-eyed person. A person who is blind in one eye.
To say that someone has one eye or is blind in one eye, you can use the word tuerto/tuerta in Spanish.
5. Vergüenza Ajena
Meaning: To feel embarrassed for someone even if they don’t feel embarrassed themselves; “second-hand embarrassment.”
Have you ever heard of the trope of “people of Walmart”? The idea is that people decided to go to Walmart with no shame. Most are wearing clothes that are too inappropriate or downright scary.
This is an example of vergüenza ajena, when you feel embarrassed for someone else.
Meaning: A morbid fascination.
Do you love Tim Burton? Or the sight of blood? Maybe you enjoyed reading “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allen Poe. You love something dark, and you aren’t sure why because it’s creepy or gross.
Meaning: When something’s sickening or nauseating because it’s too sweet.
On a rare occasion, I’ll take a bite of chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and think to myself, “Wow! That’s sweet!” Minutes later I’ll regret that chocolate cake because my head is pulsing from sweetness overload.
Have you ever felt a little nauseated after seeing a couple be overly affectionate with each other? This verb works for that, too.
Meaning: A period of 15 days, biweekly pay.
Everyone is waiting for the quincena! That’s the payment that many employees receive in the Spanish-speaking world: once on the 15th of the month, and once at the end of the month.
For people awaiting paychecks, that first payment of the month always falls on the 15th.
Meaning: The feeling of awe and inspiration. The overwhelming sense of beauty and magic.
In Spanish literature, this word is often used to describe how a person feels about nature.
However, especially in Spain, it can be used to describe an indescribable charm or magic that isn’t limited to nature. You might hear about the duende of flamenco singing.
Meaning: When something overwhelms, bewilders, or stuns you to the point that you can’t focus and think straight.
I often felt this way when I was in college, and I had two papers, an exam, a project and twenty pages of reading due the next day.
We can also use this verb when we hear any news that dumbfounds or stuns us, leaving us speechless or bothered.
Meaning: When a child is very attached (emotionally) to their mother.
This word is often used in Spanish to describe children who are very emotionally attached to their mothers.
12. Concuñado / Concuñada
Meaning: The sibling or spouse of your brother- or sister-in-law.
This summer my husband was shadowing a doctor to learn more about his practice. When people asked how we knew the doctor it became confusing fast. If only concuñado were a word in English.
13. Consuegro / Consuegra
Meaning: The relationship between two sets of in-laws. The parent-in-law of your daughter or son.
This word is used in Spanish to describe the father-in-law or mother-in-law of your son or daughter. The in-laws of your child are your consuegros.
Meaning: The reflection of the sun off of a surface or the glare of the sun.
Have you ever held a mirror in your hand, caught the sun’s glare just right and shined it in your older brother’s eyes? Who hasn’t?
Meaning: To go indoors in the evening once the day is over or to go home to rest or go to bed.
You’ve been sitting on the porch enjoying the evening. But now the sun has set. The evening’s coming to an end and you all decide to go indoors.
Meaning: To wear something for the first time or to break something in.
After you go shopping, you’re beyond excited to wear your new clothes for the first time. At least, that’s how I always feel.
Meaning: Going out to have a snack, coffee, brunch or some other small meal.
In English, we often call this “going out for coffee.” But that’s very limiting to just getting coffee. Merendar widens that idea up quite a bit.
Meaning: The conversation at the dinner table after the meal is over.
Do you ever stay long after finishing a meal talking to those you are dining with?
This is such a key part of the culture in many Spanish-speaking countries, so much so that there is a word to describe this after-dinner conversation: sobremesa.
Meaning: When Thursday is a holiday, and you take off Friday to bridge the holiday to the weekend.
Or, when Tuesday is a holiday and you take off Monday to extend your weekend.
Meaning: The day before yesterday.
Technically this word can be translated directly into English, but it’s a lengthy, wordy phrase. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a single word?
Antier is a bit antiquated, and anteayer is the more common phrase in modern day.
21. Friolento / Friolenta
Meaning: A person who is sensitive to the cold (in terms of weather, drinks or food).
We all know someone who is always cold, even in the middle of a heatwave. The word to describe someone who is sensitive to the cold in Spanish is friolento/friolenta.
22. Desvelado / Desvelada
Meaning: Unable to sleep or sleep-deprived.
We’ve all had those nights when we’ve tossed and turned and tried to sleep but couldn’t convince the sandman to stop at our mattress.
23. Te quiero
Meaning: More than “I like you,” but not quite “I love you.”
You’re in a new relationship. You’re starting to fall for this guy/girl. You like them as more than a friend, but jumping from friend to “I love you” is like trying to jump across a vast lake.
Meaning: When you speak to someone in the informal tú form.
Usted versus tú is a confusing concept for someone who’s just learning Spanish or for someone who speaks no Spanish at all. We don’t have formal and informal speeches in English.
Meaning: Someone who’s from the United States.
In Spanish, there is a specific word for someone from the United States. In English, the word is “American,” but if you say this translated literally into Spanish (americano) it refers to the American continent and you’ll often be asked to clarify exactly where (e.g., North America or South America).
To say that you are from the United States, the correct demonym in Spanish is: estadounidense.
Meaning: The space between your eyebrows.
Do you remember Bert and Ernie from “Sesame Street”? Bert had that fabulous unibrow, a fuzzy line across his puppet face. He didn’t have an entrecejo.
Meaning: A lousy job, a shabby piece of work. When something’s put together poorly.
Have you ever seen a car held together by zip ties and duct tape? Or maybe someone has made a cake and it looks awful?
28. Dar un toque
Meaning: Calling someone, letting it ring once, then hanging up so the person knows to call you back.
This phrase was probably more applicable before texting was so widely used.
But it’s still something I find myself doing when I want someone to call me back and I know they won’t answer my initial call.
Meaning: The leader of a military coup.
Perhaps it’s good that we haven’t needed this word in English.
30. Mimoso / Mimosa
Meaning: Someone who enjoys being given affection or wants to give affection through physical contact.
From your grandma to your cat, we all know that person who loves hugs, kisses, and affection. They may even like to be fussed over.
Meaning: Strutting around like a peacock, acting like they own the place.
Sometimes, the mimosos in our lives enjoy pavonearse.
Meaning: Doing something out of habit, doing something that you’re used to doing.
Everyone does this a million times a day without even realizing it—tying our shoes, washing our hands a certain way, pouring our cereal first then the milk, etc.
33. Tocayo / Tocaya
Meaning: Someone who has the same name as you.
If we had a fun word in English like this, children would stop being annoyed when someone else has the same name.
34. Amigovio / Amigovia
Meaning: Friend with benefits.
This isn’t a concept that’s uncommon in any culture worldwide. However, Spanish has consolidated another wordy English phrase into a single word.
Meaning: To wake up at sunrise, to get up very early.
Madrugar is commonly used to say “to get up early” in Spanish.
This word is also featured in the wise Spanish proverb:
“No por mucho madrugar amanece más temprano.” (Waking up early doesn’t make the sun rise earlier.)
36. Dominguero / Dominguera
Meaning: A person who leaves the city on weekends and holidays to go to the countryside.
This word refers to that specific person who leaves the city on weekends and holidays and heads out to the countryside with their family.
The word dominguero can also be an adjective, which refers to something typical of Sunday. For example, the phrase ropa dominguera (Sunday clothes) is the equivalent of the English phrase “Sunday best.”
Meaning: To peck, nibble on, snack on.
Are you the type of person who hovers by the snack table at a party?
You’ll find many uses for the verb picotear. There’s also a noun form to describe the type of social event where one can picotear: un picoteo .
Meaning: An adjective that describes where someone comes from.
Examples of gentilicios:
- uruguayo/uruguaya (Uruguayan)
- madrileño/madrileña (person from Madrid)
- andaluz/andaluza (person from Andalucía)
- neoyorquino/neoyorquina (New Yorker)
Meaning: @ sign
A useful word for when you need to give your email address over the phone or in person.
The arroba also accomplishes a unique function in Spanish: it allows Spanish speakers to be gender-neutral in their writing.
For example, a Spanish speaker might start a group email with “¡Hola a tod@s!” (Hello everyone!). When apartment hunting in Spain, I frequently saw listings that read “se busca compañer@ de piso” (seeking male or female roommate).
Meaning: Mass outdoor drinking session.
If you wander through a park or plaza in a Spanish city at about 11:30 p.m. on a Friday there’s a good chance you’ll see a group of young people holding liters of beer and various plastic bottles of indeterminable content.
This is a botellón, a thrifty social practice common among Spanish teenagers and university students.
Meaning: Speaking with Latin American pronunciation.
There are many differences between Latin American and European Spanish. Perhaps the most noticeable difference is in how the two continents pronounce their c’s and z’s.
In Spain, these two letters are pronounced with a lisped “th” sound. In Latin America, on the other hand, these letters sound identical to an “s.”
For example: zapato (shoe)
Zapato (Spanish “th” pronunciation)
Zapato (Latin American “s” pronunciation)
Meaning: Compulsion, obsession, fixation.
The versatile word manía covers all sorts of things: bad habits, superstitions, pet peeves, obsessions, and so on.
Often, people will talk about their manías with a hint of irony or self-deprecation. They know their fixation is silly or unreasonable, but they obsess nonetheless!
Meaning: “Annoying bureaucratic stuff”—the many little tasks you must complete to get something done.
If you have tried to apply for foreign residency in a Spanish-speaking country, I can almost guarantee that you are familiar with the term trámite.
Some similar English phrases are errands, arrangements or red tape.
There are even more unique Spanish words not on this list. You’re likely to spot them by listening to conversations between native speakers.
If you can’t chat with a native speaker, you can read Spanish books or watch Spanish TV and movies. There are also thousands of videos on FluentU.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
The more unique Spanish words you know, the higher your chances of properly expressing your thoughts in modern Spanish.
And One More Thing…
If you've made it this far that means you probably enjoy learning Spanish with engaging material and will then love FluentU.
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FluentU has a wide variety of videos, as you can see here:
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Review a complete interactive transcript under the Dialogue tab, and find words and phrases listed under Vocab.
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