My favorite Spanish words

Solo para variar un poco, I hereby present you some of my favorite words in Spanish. Some of them because they’re beautiful, others because they’re fun to say, others because I like how they’re used or their meaning, and others because they just have a je ne sais quoi about them.

inmiscuirse (to interfere, meddle)

amanecer (to dawn; wake up; spend the night somewhere)

tiquismiquis (fussy, finicky)

papeleo (paperwork; red tape)

cachimba (smoking pipe)

pecueca (stinky feet smell)

ensimismado (lost in thought; into yourself)

friolento (cold-natured)

gordinflón (fatty, fatso)

mojigato (prudish; prude)

noctámbulo (night owl)

flojera (laziness)

tinieblo (secret boyfriend)

acuarela (watercolor)

tulipán (tulip)

acuatizaje (water landing)

tertulia (get-together, gathering)

diluir (to dilute)

murciélago (bat)

tampoco (neither; come on)

ya (already; yet; no more; right)

tararear (to la-la-la; to sing to oneself)

imagínate (just imagine)

pues (well; um; then; because)

maracuyá (passionfruit)

vaina (thingamajig, whatchamacallit; headache, drag; pod)

kumis (kumis- kind of yogurt)

colindar (to adjoin, abut)

floripondio (gaudy decorative flower, great flowery thing)

ojalá (I hope, let’s hope so)

pluviosidad (rainfall)

apenas (barely, hardly; as soon as)

ay (oh; ow, ouch)

mijo/mija (my son, my daughter; sweetie, darling)

quiubo (what’s up?, hey; what is it?)

What are your favorite words in Spanish? Surely you’ve fallen in love with several, just as I have. These are just the tip of the iceberg, la punta del iceberg, of my favorite words. I’m kind of longing to buy a Spanish dictionary and just read it de cabo a rabo. There are so many words whose acquaintance I’ve yet to meet, and others that I’ve certainly forgotten. Whether you’re a learner as well or a native speaker, please share the ones that have sent you swooning. I shared 35 (!)– surely you can think of a handful that have caught your fancy.

Native speakers, are there any words in the list that you’ve never heard or seen before? A few are Colombian Spanish; others might be highly literary or old-fashioned. We don’t discriminate around here. Also, feel free to comment on your favorite English words. My favorite is “colloquial” and my second favorite perhaps “insouciantly.” I’m just brimming with word lust over here–who needs a boyfriend?

Update, October 2013: Want more words? See part two here.

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42 responses to “My favorite Spanish words

  1. I have a fondness for Desafortunadamente!

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  2. That’s a good one. I felt like I tended to hear lamentablemente much more in Colombia, so I always stuck with that.

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  3. I like many words on your list. Some other words I like are “almohada”, “mismísimo/a”, “amarillento/a”, “esperanza”, “susurrar”.

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    • I just learned mismísimo the other day. Or maybe I re-learned it after having forgotten it. In any case, it seemed new to me when I saw it. I remember when I learned the word susurrus in college (from the book The Unbearable Lightness of Being) and found it so beautiful. Almohada is also nice– but you have to pronounce it right. The Spanish “d” is not the same as how “d” is pronounced in English, and most English speakers get it wrong. It’s so slight, like a feather’s touch, and you just barely hear it. The word for inkpad is also fun– almohadilla. Little pillow!

      Thanks for the comment!

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  4. Ok, I’m game. I love so many Spanish words, but these are the first 10 favorites that just came to mind: chicha, tortuga, ronronear, hipopotamo, aunque, Pitufina, cola, pulgada, chirimoya, & oceano. =-)

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  5. me gusta chueco y lo usamos para insultar a alguien. No exactamente un insulto pero como decimos en ingles “he’s a little off”, en español “es un poco chueco, no?” ajilimójili y encachimbado me gustan como suenan.

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    • Gracias! Chueco, eh? Yo la conocía para decir cojo, pero desconocía ese uso el que compartiste. Sí, me gusta cómo suena.

      Ajilimójili– jaja.

      Encachimbado– es una palabra que usas? En el diccionario, dice que significa enojado. Me llama la atención porque contiene “cachimba”, una de mis palabras de arriba, la cual quiere decir pipa. (bueno, es uno de los muchos significados que tiene)

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      • encachimbado a mi es mas parecida a enfadado, annoyed, grumpy, etc. digo -no te pones tan encachimbado- escucho esta palabra con mis amigos hondureños.

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        • Ahh. Sabes, yo ni siquiera sabía que había una diferencia entre enojado y enfadado. Es que enfadado no se usa en Colombia, así que desconocía sus matices. Pero vaya, me has enseñado algo muy útil! Gracias, Grace. Siempre me ayudas mucho :)

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  6. De tu lista, elijo 3:

    Maracuyá
    Friolento (informal, por lo menos acá)
    Inmiscuirse (Jaja, ¡¡me gusta usarla!! Es sofisticada).

    Algunas palabras en inglés que me gustan:

    Cajole, patronizing, eschew, flippant (I learned this one a month ago and I love it!), listless, mind-blowing, obnoxious, sloppy (it’s so funny!), succint, swift(ly), (un)biased (I love it too :P)

    Éstas son las que me gustan en español:

    Pulcro, puritano/a, escueto, minucioso, susceptible, obsoleto, lánguido, amplio.

    ¡Saludos amiga!

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    • Súper, gracias por compartir algunas de tus palabras favoritas del inglés. Pero no estás en clase ahora???

      Yo diría que todas son útiles menos cajole, eschew y listless. Sí, flippant (y flippantly) y sloppy (y sloppily y sloppiness) son bacanas.

      Me parece que succint y swiftly tienen algo de onomatopeya. Es decir, sus sonidos se asemejan a sus significados, no te parece?

      Pulcro y escueto– son útiles? Las usás?

      Saludos :)

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  7. ¿En clase? No…Hice el comentario un rato después de haber llegado…¿por qué te pareció que estaba en clase? :P

    Pulcro sí es útil; escueto es sofisticada, pero creo que mucha gente la conoce

    :)

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    • Un rato después de haber llegado a dónde? A clase? O a casa? Bueno, estoy patas arriba hoy, toda enredada, cómo es tu horario pues? Supuse que era igual al horario de los colegios acá, pero por lo visto me equivoqué. Eso o capaste clase hoy (así se dice en Colombia para “to cut class”/ “to skip school”) :p

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  8. Lunes y Martes: 7.15 — 12.45
    Miércoles, Jueves y Viernes: 7.15 — 11.40

    ¿Allá cómo es?

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  9. ¡ojala! is a word that has often been useful for me in conversation…
    My absolute favourite word is Rico as in ¡Que rico! That and Claro replace so many other words… so direct and to the point.
    also Sabroso/a, sabrosita, fuerte, sauve, I think you know where I´m going with this… ;)
    amable, guapo, bonita, hermosa, dulce, cariñoso, sympatico…
    I also love the way they add “isimo” when something is particularly good or strong as in “ricisimo”
    Pretty much any sentence sounds better in Spanish. I used to listen to latin music long before I understood the words and they always sounded so beautiful. Now that I understand the words it’s better of course but sometimes the meaning is something negative… but from the melody you would never guess… I guess you can tell I learned a lot of my Spanish from listening to the music… hehe I love Cumbia!

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    • Hey Angela,

      I love cumbia, too! Do you like to dance? Dancing is my main hobby- I go out every weekend :)

      Yes, it’s great to be able to actually understand the words to the songs you’re listening/dancing to. And, yes, you’re right– sometimes you wish you didn’t understand! Ignorance is bliss.

      They say qué rico a lot in Colombia, and also use it as an adverb, like Anoche la pasamos muy rico. Very useful!

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  10. I love to dance. I used to go every weekend when I was younger. But now… ¡ojala! There’s no place to go around here anymore to hear Cumbia. Nowadays there’s just the odd latin dance at a hall where 3/4 of the music is reggaeton, the crowd is very young and the atmosphere is just not for me.
    So until I’m able to finally move to a latin country, I listen to my own collection, sing along in my car and dance in my livingroom.

    Another word I like is “chévere” as in “¡que chévere!” but it’s only used in a few countries as far as I know. I heard it a lot in a Columbian telenovela.

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  11. I’ve always loved the emotion that can come with “la mantequilla de cacahuate”, mucho mas interesante que peanut butter!

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  12. Pingback: The language of scents | Vocabat

  13. Pingback: Amanecer for all seasons | Vocabat

  14. Cosiampirar, cosiampiro usado para remplazar casi todos los verbos al menos aquí en Medellín, o para cosas de las cuales no recuerdas el nombre.
    Ejm: cuando va a calentar una arepa puede decir cosiampira el desayuno pués, o traeme ese cosiampiro

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  15. Mi favorito: refunfuñar, to murmur, or the best, in the imperfect nosotros tense: refunfuñábamos.

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    • Nice! The word refunfuñar always reminds me of fufurufa– prostitute. (in Colombia) A fun sentence to say would be, ¡Cómo refunfuñaba la fufurufa! :)

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  16. Murciélago has an interesting history. The form of the word before the current one was murciégalo, with the g and the l reversed. Murciégalo had developed from Old Spanish mur ciego, literally ‘blind mouse’. Mur has dropped out of modern Spanish, but its cognate is alive in native English mouse.

    As for quiubo, that’s just a quick pronunciation of ¿Qué hubo?

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  17. You’re right that I’ve never heard of chimbilá.

    Vocabat, by the way, happens to be a Latin word. It’s the third person singular imperfect of vocare ‘to call’.

    Happy browsing.

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  18. desamor is my favorite. introduced to it by pablo neruda

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  19. Pingback: More favorite words in Spanish | Vocabat

  20. Burbujas. (Bubbles)

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  21. Tengo dos palabras favoritas: cacahuete y melocoton; peanut and peach! They are just fun to say!

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  22. Pingback: You ring a bell | Vocabat

  23. When someone says “Quiubo” to you, do you treat it like it is a question or a statement? Do you answer the question Que hubo or do you just say hola back to them?

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    • No, you don’t answer it. As my teacher said the other day, practically all of the greeting questions (¿Quiubo?, ¿Qué hay?, ¿Qué más?, and maybe even more straightforward ones like ¿Cómo estás?, ¿Cómo vas?, and ¿Qué has hecho?) have become desemantizadas. That is, they’ve lost their meaning, and essentially just fill a space to fulfill certain conversation protocols and keep it moving along. She said this because sometimes foreigners will think that Colombians are rude or insincere, asking, for example, ¿Qué hay? but then as the foreigner formulates an answer and begins to share qué hay, the Colombian keeps talking, showing that they were never really interested. I imagine that these kinds of greeting phrases exist in every language, but I’m sure certain languages are much more literal, sincere, and non-superfluous than others!

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  24. I have not found “amigovio”, which is by the way a recent addition to the RAE dictionary, top arbiter of the Spanish language all over the Spanish-speaking countries… Check it out…

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    • It is a nice word, but not one of my favorites. I had heard that it had made its way into the DRAE, which I’m planning to buy in the next few days with birthday money from my parents. I tried looking it up on their website, but it says that the electronic dictionary isn’t updated yet.

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  25. I’ve never heard of ”tinieblO” (in that context) and ”tiquismiquis” although, maybe those are just slangs. :D

    Some of my favourite spanish words:
    Menester
    Arrebol
    Dulcinea
    Ponzoña
    Inamovible (I like how it sounds)
    Azur (a darker shade of blue)
    Etc, etc, etc. (It’s hard to remember them all)

    And some venezuelan slang words that I like:
    Caligüeva (laziness)
    Guayoyo (diluted coffee)
    Chévere (cool)
    Cambúr (Banana)
    Quiquirigüiqui (This one sounds funny as hell)

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    • Yes, this was a slang-friendly list! Tinieblo is Colombian- I once blogged about it here.

      Tiquismiquis isn’t slang, but I think it’s only common in certain countries.

      Your words were great! I had to look several of them up. Thanks for sharing the word love :)

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