Every language is a world as it reflects a way of thinking and behaving. Therefore, each language has its own idiosyncrasies, like words that do not have perfect equivalents in other languages.

In this post our Spanish school El Rincón del Tándem, aims at analyzing a list of Spanish words that do not have a one-word translation in English. In most of the cases, these words express culturally influenced peculiarities or habits.

So, if you want to know more about this topic, read the list below 🙂


It refers to “the day before yesterday”.


Anteayer me fui al mercado = I went to the market the day before yesterday.


It refers to a “botched job”. In other words, a not accurate work, something that has been done roughly and hastily.


Tu redacción de literatura es una auténtica chapuza = Your literary homework is a real botched job.


It means “make me sick”. This verb usually uses to describe the unpleasant feeling we have when eating too much sweets.

Furthermore, it can also have a figurative meaning, when referring to someone that makes you sick because of its behavior of excessive affection.


Esta tarta lleva demasiado chocolate y empalaga = There is too much chocolate in this cake; it makes me sick.

Mi tía me emplaga con tantos besos y abrazo = My aunt is kissing and hugging me all the time; she tires me out.


Estrenar means “wear or use something for the first time”.

This word is also used with regard to movies or theatre. For instance, when a theater company performs a work or a movie is projected in cinemas for the first time.


Ayer Daniel estrenó su nueva chaqueta de cuero = Yesterday Daniel wore his new leather jacket for the first time.

La última película de Almodovar se estrenó en España la semana pasada = The last Almodovar’s movie was projected for the first time in Spain last week.


A “friolero” or a “friolera” is a person who is very sensitive to the cold.


Soy muy friolera, per eso prefiero no viajar a Islandia en invierno = I am very sensitive to the cod, therefore I prefer not to travel to Iceland in winter.


Sobremesa” refers to a typical Spanish habit of spending hours talking, sitting at a table after eating.

During this time, people just chat, have some drinks and enjoy family and friends’ company. This word can be also translated as “table talk”.


La sobremesa del domingo pasado fue muy larga = On last Sunday, the table talk was too long.


This verb means “get up early”.


Por trabajo tengo que madrugar: me levanto todoslos días a las seis = Beacuse of my job, I get up early, every day at 6.00 a.m.


It means “have a snack or something to eat in the afternoon”.


Mi sobrina suele merendar a las 17.00 = My niece uses to have a snack at 5.00p.m. in the afternoon.


It means to “show off” or “parade around”. This verb proceeds from the noun “pavo real” (peacock) and its smug attitude to show off its colored beautiful plumage to draw the attention of the female.


Pilar se pavoneaba por todo el patio, enseñando sus botas nuevas = Pilar was parading around in the courtyard, showing off her new boots.


Picoteo refers to a meal made of small portions of different appetizers and food.

The corresponding verb is PICOTEAR, meaning “Picking at” or “sampling”. Furthermore, the same verb is also used to mean the action of eating for birds (peck).


Hemos preparado un picoteo para la reunión de hoy = We prepared a small taste of different appetizers for the meeting.


This word refers to the action of “eating tapas”.


El restaurante ofrece un espectáculo de música con tapeo = The resturant offers a music show with “Tapeo”.


This word expresses a very typical Spanish concept. It refers to the habit of spending time with friends and other people for fun till evening. In a tardeo, people meet in a bar or other places, have some drink, chat, dance or listen to the music.


Mañana me voy de tardeo con mis amigas = Tomorrow I will have a tardeo with my friends.


It expresses the feeling of embarrassment because of someone’s behavior.


Siento vergüenza ajena cuando gastas bromas tontas = I feel embarrassed for you when you make stupid jokes.

Finally, there are some other Spanish words that are not translated in other languages. In fact, they became part of other languages vocabulary and usage. For example:

Fiesta, siesta, tapas, paella, guerrilla, embargo, macho, matador, patio, mosquito, alcázar, arroyo.

We hope this post will help you get new insights of the Spanish language and enrich your Spanish vocabulary.

Weekly, our Spanish school El Rincón del Tándem in Valencia publishes posts on Spanish grammar and language to make your learning process easier 🙂

Till the next blog!