Some Spanish words are simply untranslatable…
Spanish is a fun and unique language, filled with words that have no direct translation in English.
Sometimes, an idea can be expressed with a single word in Spanish, but requires a long sentence to convey its meaning in another language.
More often than not, if there’s a word for something in a language, it means it’s important enough for that culture to need a name for it.
So, learning untranslatable words enriches our experience of another culture as they often tell us about concepts and ideas that do not exist in the English-speaking world.
I’ve gathered some of my favourite untranslatable Spanish words and explained what they mean.
Here are six unique Spanish words with no English translation:
In many Spanish-speaking countries, most people stay at the table for hours after a meal just talking, having a coffee and joking.
In Spanish culture, there isn’t a greater pleasure than sharing a table with family and friends, chatting nonsense or trying to sort out the world’s problems. So we’ve got a word to describe that.
Translation: the time spent leisurely chatting at the table after having a meal.
Example: La sobremesa se alargó hasta las seis de la tarde. (The time spent talking at the table after eating went on until 6pm.)
Have you got a new outfit and can’t wait to show it off? There’s a verb in Spanish you can use when wearing an outfit for the first time.
It doesn’t just apply to clothes. We also say it to describe anything we use for the first time.
Translation: to use something for the first time.
Example: Hoy estreno la falda que me compré ayer. (Today I’m wearing for the first time the skirt that I bought yesterday.)
Are you an early bird? Then you will love this word! The verb “madrugar” describes the action of getting up very early in the morning.
“La madrugada” is the term we use in Spanish to refer to the wee hours in the morning, and a person who gets up during that time period is a “madrugador” or a “madrugadora” (something that I am definitely not…).
Translation: to get up very early in the morning.
Example: Ayer madrugué para salir a correr. (Yesterday I got up very early in the morning to go for a run.)
On the other hand, if you’re a night owl who likes to go to bed late, then there’s a Spanish word for you too.
You can use this word to say that you stayed up late (or even all night), no matter what the reason is. Maybe you had work to do, you were watching TV, or you were out all night with friends.
A person who goes to bed very late or stays up all night is a “trasnochador” or “trasnochadora”.
Translation: To stay up late or to stay up all night.
Example: No me gusta trasnochar los domingos porque los lunes madrugo. (I don’t like staying up late on Sundays because I get up early on Mondays.)
Public holidays are great for the odd day off. But when a holiday falls on a Tuesday or Thursday, you can turn it into a four-day weekend with a “puente”.
Translation: the day or days you take off between two bank holidays or a bank holiday and a weekend.
Example: La semana que viene hago puente y me voy a esquiar de jueves a domingo. (Next week I take a day off between the bank holiday and the weekend and I’ll go skiing from Thursday to Sunday.)
If you never take your coat off, even indoors, or you’re always under a blanket when you’re on the sofa watching TV, then you might be a “friolero” or “friolera”.
Translation: a person who is especially sensitive to cold temperatures.
Example: Siempre pongo la calefacción al máximo porque soy muy friolero. (I always have the heating on full because I am very sensitive to cold temperatures.)