Spanish words without an English counterpart

Post date: Jul 21, 2014 10:39:56 PM

I find this article by Ana Maria Benedetti

on Spanish words without English counterparts intriguing. 

If you tango it's certainly useful to know a bit of Spanish for practical and social reasons. Knowing the lingo will greatly enhance the experience of visiting Buenos Aires, and it's great for bonding with Spanish speaking members of your local tango community, and guest tango teachers from Buenos Aires. For this reason many tango aficionados have learning Spanish on their list-of-things-to-do, along with ripping out the carpet in their living room!

When you start learning a new language  you quickly realise that you just can't translate foreign word for English word in a literal way, and that there is a unique grammatical structure to each language. You also encounter words that have no English equivalent. They cannot be replaced by one English word; rather they need several words to convey an equivalent meaning.

The thing that I love about foreign words that don't have an exact match in English is that they reveal so much about their culture of origin. For example, the Inuits have an unusually number of words for 'snow'. It's not surprising that the passionate latinos have two words for the verb 'to love' - each representing a different intensity of love!

As the article is from the Amercian-based Huffington Post, it may be based on Mexican dialect. I'm wondering  how many of these apply to Spanish as spoken in Argentina. Any help on this would be appreciated.

I have reproduced this article rather than just supplying a link to the article as am finding to my frustration that articles can disappear off cyberspace over time. All images used are from the original article. 

'Ever get that annoying feeling that you can't find the exact word to describe something? You may not be thinking in the right language. Here are 10 very specific words in Spanish that don't quite have an English counterpart.

1. Sobremesa

dinner friends

That moment after eating a meal when the food is gone but the conversation is still flowing at the table.

Llegué tarde porque la sobremesa del almuerzo se alargó. Rough translation: I was late because the time spent talking after eating went long.

2. Estrenar

new clothes

To wear or use something for the first time.

¿Te gustan mis zapatos nuevos? Me los estoy estrenando. Rough translation: Do you like my new shoes? I'm wearing them for the first time.

3. Pena Ajena/Verguenza Ajena


To be ashamed or embarrassed on behalf of someone else, even if they don't share the feeling.

Me dio pena ajena cuando le botó todo el vino encima a su suegra. Rough translation: I was really embarrassed for her when she spilled wine on her mother-in-law.

4. Antier/Anteayer


A one-word way of saying the day before yesterday. A shorter version of "antes de ayer."

Ella llegó de viaje antier. Rough translation: She got back from her trip the day before yesterday.

5. Desvelado

alarm clock

Unable to sleep or to be sleep deprived.

Estuve desvelado porque el perro no paró de ladrar toda la noche. Rough translation: I didn't get any sleep last night because the dog wouldn't stop barking.

6. Tuerto


A man with only one eye.

El pirata es tuerto. Rough translation: The pirate only has one eye.

7. Friolento/Friolero


Someone who is very sensitive to cold.

Él es muy friolento y siempre pide que apaguen el ventilador. Since the cold affects him so much, he always asks them to turn off the fan.

8. Te quiero

happy couple

A way to tell someone you care about them. Particularly when romance is involved, more meaningful than an "I like you" but less meaningful than an "I love you." May be used as "I love you" in non-romantic relationships.

Te quiero. Rough translation: I really care for you but don't quite love you.

9. Merendar

tea friends

To have a snack or to go out for an afternoon snack.

Invita a merendar a tus amigas la casa esta tarde. Rough translation: Invite your friends over to the house for an afternoon snack.

10. Tutear


To treat someone informally by addressing them as "tú" instead of the more formal "usted."

No vayas a tutear a tu suegra cuando la conozcas. Rough translation: Don't treat your mother-in-law informally when you meet her.'

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