This page presents some of the vocabulary particular to Spain and to the area covered by the Spain Bilbao Mission. It also emphasizes the difference between the Spanish that is typically taught in United States schools and the Spanish actually spoken in Spain.
If you know of a Spanish word or phrase that should be added to this page, please send it in!
- boli or bolígrafo - pen
- The shortened form of this word confuses many at first.
- chapa - name tag
- Although this word has other meanings, it is most often used by missionaries to indicate the name tag they all wear.
- duro - nickel
- This word literally means hard or tough, but the Spanish also use it to say five pesetas. Veinte duros (20 nickels) is often used instead of 100 pesetas.
- estar constipado/a - to be congested
- In Spain, this means that your nose is stuffed up. In Mexico and the US border regions, well ... you figure it out!
- frigo or frigorífico - fridge or refrigerator
- You are more likely to have learned the word refrigeradora, which isn't used in Spain.
- guay - groovy, cool, hip (or modern equivalent)
- This is a slang word used to say something is acceptable, as in ¡Qué guay!
- majo - nice
- This adjective is most often used to describe people. You wouldn't say that a car is majo.
- manzana - block
- Okay, so it means apple, too. But don't be surprised when you hear people use it to refer to a city block. (Is that why New York is called the Big Apple?)
- melocotón - peach
- Melocotón is used in Spain in place of durazno.
- patata - potato
- You probably learned the word papa, which only means the Pope in Spain.
- piso - flat (apartment)
- Just like Americans are more likely to say apartment and English to say flat, so too is it more likely in American Spanish to say apartamento and in European Spanish to say piso.
- pues - um, well, uh...
- Whenever you have to pause in your speech because of a mental block, or change of subject...pues...throw this word in to keep the sentence flowing.
- ¡qué va! - no way! (roughly translated)
- This is a popular phrase in Spain, used to show disagreement in a polite way.
- sello - postage stamp
- Estampilla is not used in Spain for a postage stamp.
- tío - dude
- Although it literally means "uncle," tío is a slang word used much like the English word dude.
- tomarse el pelo - to pull one's leg, deceive
- Used exactly like the English phrase "pulling your leg"
- This is an interjection used to show astonishment. As an example, if the weather is changing from one day to the next, you might say, "Vaya weather we're having!"
- zumo - fruit juice
- Don't make the mistake of saying jugo, the term that is most often taught in schools.
Do you have a word or phrase to add to this list? Send it in!
10 January 2000 by Webmaster@SpainBilbaoMission.com